Practice tempo shifts into a higher gear today with players practicing in pads for the first time in training camp.
Breaking out the pads usually is a sign that the time has arrived to get down to the real business of playing football for keeps.
With no disrespect to traditions and anyone's practice plan, one of the things we've already learned in this training camp is that head coach Dan Campbell expects his team to compete in 2022.
Campbell made that clear at the start of camp.
Among the other things we've learned include the following: Running back D'Andre Swift looks primed for his breakout season; Amon-Ra St. Brown made sure he recovered from his rookie workload, and the reaction of his teammates to former Lions safety William White's passing is a prime example of how teammates valuate each other in ways that do not show up on stats sheets or highlight reels.
We start with Campbell's 'compete' comments:
It might surprise some that Campbell would make a statement that seems so bold with a team that went 3-13-1 in his first season as head coach.
Actually, the surprise is that anyone would be surprised that Campbell would think the Lions are on the right track.
The Lions of 2022 are a different team than the 2021 model he and his staff inherited. The personnel is better, through the draft and free-agent signings, and the 2021 Lions did not deteriorate steadily as they did in the previous two seasons.
Campbell was not making a hell-fire, rouse-the-troops speech with his expectations about competing.
For one thing, it is logical to assume he gave his players the same message before telling the media.
It's also logical to assume he sees how far the team has developed to separate itself from the 2021 team. At the start of that season, Campbell said the roster was so limited that "we have to be almost perfect" to compete.
It's a different message this year.
"I can't put wins and losses on that," Campbell said. "We've got the pieces here to mix it up with just about anybody."
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Rookie wall: If St. Brown faced a rookie wall in 2021, he ran around it, over it or through it.
Nothing slowed him down in what was a remarkable rookie season. Playing all 17 games, he had 67 of his 119 targets in the last five games and 51 of his 90 receptions.
That was a heavy load for a player used to the 12-game college schedule.
When asked what he did to recover after the season, St. Brown said he took a month and a half off before going back to work to get ready for the season.
He looks ready for another big season.
Swift: His production hasn't matched his talent level in his first two seasons. He had 521 yards rushing and 357 receiving as a rookie in 2021 and 617 rushing and 457 receiving in 2022.
Swift has the ability to do more in 2022. Injuries have limited him somewhat in his first two seasons. The Lions are being smart with Swift in training camp and the preseason to have him fresh for the regular season, Campbell said.
We haven't seen the best of Swift. That could come in 2022.
Tribute: The death of William White hit his teammates hard. He was a good player, and equally good as a teammate and friend.
A fourth-round draft pick out of Ohio State in 1988, White played six seasons with the Lions before moving on to Kansas City for three seasons and the final two with the Atlanta Falcons.
White fought a long battle with Lou Gehrig's Disease. He passed away last week.
White was respected by teammates for the high-character demeanor he displayed on and off the field. He played his role with little fanfare and was often overshadowed by teammates with higher profiles.
That did not diminish White's value with teammates.
Former Lions offensive tackle Lomas Brown summed up White this way: "He was the glue."