In effort to maximize potential, Lions plan to manage D'Andre Swift's camp workload
Allen Park — The Detroit Lions know they have one of the NFL's most dynamic dual-threat running back talents in D'Andre Swift. They also understand his availability, due to durability, has been an issue his first two seasons.
That's something the team is looking to rectify heading into the 2022 season, starting with managing Swift's workload in training camp.
"We have our eye on him," Lions head coach Dan Campbell said. "We’ve got to be smart with him. This first week (of camp), the reps are so much lighter that we weren’t really going to worry about it right now. But as we start next week, there’ll be things that we do with him, just to try to maximize what we can get, intensity and volume, in a week for him and be smart."
Swift, taken early in the second round of the 2020 draft, has been nearly everything the Lions could have hoped when he's been on the field. In 26 games, he's racked up 1,947 yards from scrimmage and found the end zone 17 times.
But injuries unquestionably have been an anchor. He's missed extended time each of his first two training camps, including more than a week with a groin injury last year. And while Campbell said the team had hoped to manage Swift's workload early in the season, they failed to do so, leaning heavier on him than they would have liked while trying to pull off a comeback in the season opener against San Francisco.
That decision resulted in an aggravation of an injury, which limited both his ability to practice and his production much of the next two months.
"He didn’t get the load in camp and here you go, first game out of the box, he’s got quite a load on him," Campbell said. "Then, it just starts to stack over time, we don’t make it through a season."
The Lions shot themselves in the foot with Swift's workload management again after the team's midseason bye week, when they gave him 33 carries against Pittsburgh, more than doubling his previous career-high. The next week, Swift suffered a shoulder injury that sidelined him the next four contests.
Finding a better balance to keep one of his best weapons on the field isn't new territory for Campbell. It's something his former employer, the New Orleans Saints, had to battle annually with Alvin Kamara, who averaged fewer than 13 carries per game his first four seasons. To compensate, the franchise utilized him more frequently in the pass game to limit the big hits.
And the Lions coaches and training staff aren't fully putting Swift's availability on themselves. Earlier this offseason, position coach Duce Staley noted he had challenged Swift to use the offseason to be better prepared for the grind of the regular season, while also being more mentally tough enough to play through the bumps and bruises that have hindered Swift early in his career.
Being called out like that publicly would irk many players, but Swift respects Staley's tough-love approach. That's easier to do knowing his coach has been there, playing 10 seasons in the NFL, half with the Philadelphia Eagles, Swift's hometown team growing up.
"It’s not all about what you think you should hear; Duce is going to tell me what I need to hear, and that’s kind of what you need," Swift said. "That’s the type of guy I want to play for."
Three days into camp, Swift is predictably looking good and feeling good. That's the way it should be. As he states, you should physically be at your best the day you report. Staying healthy is going to key to unlocking his full potential, which could push him into the conversation of the game's premier backfield talents, such as Kamara.
"It's time to take it to another level," Swift said.
Rookie running back Greg Bell suffered a back/hip injury on Thursday and is undergoing additional testing to determine the extent of the issue.
Meanwhile, former Michigan standout Devin Funchess, who is trying to make the roster as a tight end, was sidelined by a minor groin strain.