Lions look to get leg up with coach arriving at camp in cast
By LARRY LAGE
AP Sports Writer
ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — Matt Patricia took a hands-on approach during his debut season as an NFL head coach, getting close enough to the Detroit Lions during practices that they could easily hear him and see him demonstrate proper fundamentals and techniques.
To get his point across at least early in his second training camp, Patricia may have to shout from a cart. And, he may not be able to stand up much.
Patricia arrived at his season-opening news conference on a knee scooter and later roamed fields on a cart, elevating his surgically repaired left leg, during the team’s first practice Thursday.
“I’m a little bit caught 10, 15 yards further away from the action,” he said. “I’m a coach that likes to be in the middle of it. I enjoy the teaching process of the game.”
Patricia had surgery during the offseason to address issues with a tendon, muscle and bone in his lower leg.
“I’m honestly trying to be careful with it so I don’t have any setbacks,” he said. “Maybe a little overcautious, when I can be.
“It’s a long season.”
The Lions are hoping this season lasts longer than the previous one. They missed the playoffs last year for the 16th time this century.
Detroit finished 6-10 in Patricia’s first year, plummeting with seven losses over the last 10 games after getting off to a solid start under the former New England Patriots defensive coordinator.
The Lions attempted to address needs, drafting tight end T.J. Hockenson in the first round and signing free agents such as defensive end Trey Flowers, wide receiver Jermaine Kearse and cornerback Justin Coleman.
Patricia also made a significant coaching change, firing Jim Bob Cooter and hiring offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to try to move the ball and score in a new way.
“It’s definitely different,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “There’s a lot of things I like about it. There’s a lot of things I’m getting used to.”
Stafford is expected to be under center more often in Bevell’s system that strives for balance after often getting snaps in the shotgun as part of pass-heavy game plans.
“We’re not going to be dropping back every single play and throwing the ball,” Bevell said.
When opponents throw the ball, cornerback Darius Slay wants to pick off as many as possible. Slay insisted his desire to get a new contract won’t impact his play.
“I’m going out there to dominate,” he said.
Slay and defensive tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison reported to camp on Wednesday after missing the team’s mandatory minicamp last month, hoping their absences would help them get new contracts. Both were put on the non-football injury, as was defensive tackle Darius Kilgo, to give them more time to get into better shape before joining teammates for drills during practice.