Dan Campbell's quest to empower his Lions players has reached a new level.
The Lions coach handed Monday's practice over to the players, with no assistant coaches on the field. Campbell was there observing, but it was a player-run session.
"It's their team," Campbell said in a text to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated. "I want them to have ownership in it."
The Lions were set to give a host of players the day off to nurse their injuries following Saturday's preseason game in Indy, so Campbell used what would have been a lighter practice to empower his leaders.
"He just told us (in our team meeting), he was like this is like the periods we want out of practice and the coaches won't be out there," veteran left tackle Taylor Decker said, via the Detroit Free Press. "He pretty much just left it at that so we're like, 'Uh, OK.' But like I said, we come out here and we work every day. It doesn't matter if the coaches are out here or not, we know what to do and how to do it. Obviously, we need coaches, but we shouldn't need them out here to be able to get good work in because we're professionals. I don't need a cheerleader to get me to go. It was pretty cool. I've never seen anything like it, so it was fun to get out here."
The unique practice will surely be something HBO's Hard Knocks keys on in a later episode.
Campbell's staff didn't just toss its players on the field blind. While players were left to lead individual drills, they were given scripts to run in team portions of practice. Backup quarterbacks David Blough and Tim Boyle took turns calling in plays to starter Jared Goff.
"That was fun today," Boyle said. "David and I really enjoy doing that. We hear it all the time, and it's not as easy, obviously, as it looks. Conceptualizing the play and kind of spitting it out calmly and not doing it too fast is definitely an art, so give all the offensive coordinators around the league definitely a shout out."
The experiment is Campbell's latest maneuver to put the club's future in the hands of its players. The motivation stems from the belief that a player-led team will perform better than a coach-led team. Given that Campbell's staff is littered with former players -- from himself to Aaron Glenn to Duce Staley to Mark Brunell to Hank Fraley to Antwaan Randle El to Kelvin Sheppard -- the approach stems from experience on the gridiron.
Whether Campbell's moves this offseason will turn into Ws this fall remains to be seen, but it's hard not to like the trajectory the Lions are on at this stage of the rebuild.
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