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Dan Campbell earns players’ respect with 40 up-downs to start training camp

Dan Campbell looked like one of the guys out there to start camp.

Via Erik Schlitt

The Detroit Lions opened training camp on Wednesday morning. For most players, this represents the most grueling, hard-working part of the season. But on opening day of camp, head coach Dan Campbell showed he would be right there beside his players putting in the work.

After the players finished their warm-ups, the entire defensive roster took half the field with 40 up-down exercises. Right there next to them doing the same up-downs was Campbell. While some of the larger players on the roster struggled through the final 15 up-downs, Campbell didn’t skip a single one.

While some may view this as yet another silly antic from Campbell, he’s already caught the attention and respect of some of his players.

“To players, it just shows he’ll get on the grind, too,” veteran defensive tackle Michael Brockers said after practice. “You gain a lot of respect for a guy that can get on that grind, get on this turf and do the same exercise as you, because some of the players wonder, ‘Man, if you was doing this, what would happen?’ For a coach to get down there and show you, ‘Hey, I”m about this life.’ We definitely gained a lot of respect for him.”

This speaks to a larger culture change Campbell and his staff are bringing to Allen Park this year. During OTAs and minicamp, we saw competitive, fun drills for the players and coaching staff—full of former NFL players—bring energy and excitement to practice. It’s all for the purpose of making this experience fun, while still putting in the work.

“It’s fun,” Campbell said of the training camp culture. “It just is to know you put in the work, you got it done, and now you can push your teammates and just poke at them a little bit and it’s just about the comradery. It’s about being around the guys.”

Edge defender Romeo Okwara also took note of the on-field gesture from Campbell and the energy he brought to practice.

“He’s out there doing up-downs with us in practice,” Okwara said. “You can see his excitement, just the way he addresses the team in meetings and all that.”

And while Brockers and Okwara are veterans who can appreciate a guy like Campbell, the Lions head coach is apparently making a huge impression with the young players, as well.

“Every player—you can see it right now—a lot of young players are buying because he came in with the right attitude,” Brockers said. “He expects a lot from us, but at the same time he understands as a player, ‘I know what this grind is all about.’ So we love that aspect of him.”