In a normal offseason, this week would have been the beginning of Phase 3 of the NFL offseason. In this phase, teams would begin implementing their schemes and have mandatory minicamp for the players. The coronavirus pandemic has essentially cancelled any hopes for a minicamp, but teams were still permitted this week to enter Phase 3 virtually.
However, the Detroit Lions have decided to put that on hold for the time being. Given the recent protests sprung by police brutality—specifically the killing of George Floyd—head coach Matt Patricia and the rest of the Lions coaching staff decided that team meetings this week would be better served as a conversation forum about race. The football talk could wait.
So Monday, the Lions spent their virtual meeting—with over 120 people on it—allowing anyone who wanted to speak up tell their story or share their feelings. On Tuesday, they broke into smaller, more intimate groups and did it again.
“It was just about listening and making sure we tried to get on and open it up for conversation, real conversation, truthful conversation, honest conversation, heartfelt conversation,” Patricia told Breer. “And really, honestly, credit to my players for leading that. They’re the ones that really were able to get it to where it became so powerful.”
Patricia, himself, desired to simply be a listener. A football team provides an array of different backgrounds and cultures that many aren’t privy to. As someone who typically leads and directs, Patricia isn’t built to stand back and listen, but he stressed the importance of it when it comes to these issues.
“The hardest thing for me is to ever walk into a meeting and say, ‘I don’t understand and I don’t have the answers on this. What do we do?’
“That’s the truth. You walk in there and say, ‘Fellas, listen, I love you and I’m here for you. But I’m here to listen right now, and just know that I have your back. And I support you and I’m here for you because I love you. But I really think I gotta listen.’”
Going forward, the plan isn’t clear for the Lions. Patricia told Breer that football talk will continue only when everyone is ready. And even then, the conversation won’t end, it’ll just be supplemented with football talk.
“I think the one thing to understand there—we won’t move away from the conversation. It’s just, at some point, you’re having the conversation and then you’re also working on what we do, which is football.”
The Detroit Lions have yet to release any sort of public statement this week regarding systemic racism or police brutality, but a response is expected in the near future.