Dan Campbell on Lions roster: 'We are trying to avoid floaters'

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Last year, Dan Campbell humorously established a no-turd policy for the roster. This year, ahead of the second day of the Detroit Lions rookie minicamp, the coach was decrying "floaters."

Regardless of his colorful terminology, the message is consistent. The Lions only want players willing to give everything they have every day. 

“Listen, I can’t say enough great things about everyone here that has been involved in this process, but certainly (general manager) Brad (Holmes) — I couldn’t ask for more as a head coach than what Brad has done, last year and this year," Campbell said ahead of Saturday's minicamp practice. "We share the same vision. We said that from Day 1. We’ve always said we’re going to get the types of guys that match what we’re about, and that is a gritty group of guys that love ball.

Lions coach Dan Campbell speaks ahead of Saturday's rookie minicamp practice.

"We are trying to avoid floaters. We don’t want to draft floaters. Floaters are a guy who gets here and just kind of, there he goes, he’s just in the open ocean. We want guys that are highly competitive and they love ball. They’re not going to be perfect. They might not always say the right things. They mean well, but they love ball. They’ll do anything for it and do anything for their teammates. In that regard, I’m elated with the guys that we have and the vision."

First-round draft pick Aidan Hutchinson epitomizes the hard work and passion Campbell and Holmes covet. For a while, it didn't look like the Lions would have a shot to land the former Michigan standout, but he fell into their laps with the No. 2 pick of last month's draft after the Jacksonville Jaguars opted to take Georgia's Travon Walker first overall. 

"We were prepared for whatever move happened, but as you guys all know, we couldn’t get the call in fast enough once we knew they didn’t take Aidan," Campbell said. "It worked out great; it was perfect. He’s a perfect fit for us. I mean, he really is everything that we’re about and he matches us perfectly."

This first weekend for the rookies is essentially orientation. They're doing some light work on the field, but the bigger emphasis is on familiarizing them with the routine, schemes, facility and expectations that come with being a professional. 

True to that football-loving character, Hutchinson is thrilled to be back on the grind. 

"Yeah, it’s great," Hutchinson said. "This is what I do at the end of the day. All that talk, I hate the talk. It’s been a lot of months of talking, lot of rah-rah, but now we’re out here getting the work in, which is what I do."

Shopping local 

In addition to Hutchinson filling a notable roster need and being an ideal culture fit, Campbell loves the fact the rookie defender is a homegrown talent, having starred at Dearborn Divine Child prior to committing to Michigan. 

"I’ve said this before, but it just so happened to be that he was in the backyard," Campbell said. "It wasn’t because of that (he was drafted), but that’s icing on the cake there, that he was right down the road. I just feel like it was meant to be. He belongs here and when you’re going to pick guys, particularly that high, they better fit everything that you’re about, and he does that." 

Hutchinson is far from the only local connection at rookie minicamp. Several of the teams undrafted free agents and tryout players have local ties.

Offensive lineman Kevin Jarvis played for Michigan State, wide receiver Kalil Pimpleton is from Muskegon and attended Central Michigan, while wide receiver Hunter Rison (son of Andre Rison), tight end Nolan Givan, wide receiver Jalen Martin, offensive lineman Zein Obeid, quarterback Connor Sampson and cornerback Cedric Boswell all played high school football in Michigan. 

"Look, I just think that they understand what it’s like being around here," Campbell said. "They understand, I think, the community, they understand the weather. … They kind of understand this organization, somewhat, albeit from afar. I think there may be a little more (of a) level of pride to it, potentially, with those guys because it is kind of home base."

Hutchinson is certainly embracing the Lions' history and the role he could play helping them dig out of that decades-long hole. 

“I definitely feel inspired to get this team going again, but, again, it’s not just me," he said. "It’s going to be a group effort. It’s going to take all guys on this team to get this team back to winning. So if I can be a piece of that, I’d love to."

Picking up the tempo

It's still not clear who will be calling offensive plays for the Lions this season — Campbell or first-year offensive coordinator Ben Johnson — but the latter is putting his stamp on the scheme following his offseason promotion. 

"I would definitely say it's different than last year," wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown said last week. "Definitely new language. You got to kind of start over. Obviously there's a little bit of rollover from last year, but not much. He's revamped it, kind of made it his own. It's like a new language, it takes a minute, but once we get it all down, it's going to be easy for us."

The other big focus, according to Campbell, has been a simplification of the play calls, which has a specific purpose. 

"We’re going to be much more efficient, just on how we get things in and out of the huddle," Campbell said. "The ability to change our tempo will be big. Some of that just comes from verbiage alone, believe it or not. I just feel like everything is just going to be so much more streamlined. The ability to, shoot, get on the line if we need to and (make a) one word, one call. … That in itself puts stress on the defense."


Twitter: @Justin_Rogers