All offseason, Detroit Lions safety Tracy Walker has looked like a new kind of player. After clearly having some disagreements in the way the previous regime was using him, he’s praised the current coaching staff non-stop this offseason.
“Honestly, I just get to be myself,” Walker said back in June. “Let’s just say it like that. I get to walk around and be myself and I can’t ask for much else.”
During Sunday’s season opener, Walker had one of the few good defensive plays against the San Francisco 49ers, picking up the team’s sole sack of the day on a designed blitz that left him untouched on his way to Jimmy Garoppolo. According to defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, that play only happened because Walker approached the coaching staff, having seen something and wanting to dial-up a pressure to counter it.
“When he had the sack, he said, ‘Man, coach, I’m ready to pressure,’” Glenn recalled. “‘Okay, I’ma pressure you then.’ And there you go, he makes a sack. We put him in a position to go make a play.”
That, to Glenn, is a perfect example of why he prefers to be on the field, as opposed to being up in the coordinator's booth calling plays.
“That communication, it’s vital to me as a play-caller to know exactly how your players are operating or how they’re feeling at that time,” Glenn said.
For Walker, it’s just further proof that this coaching staff cares about its players and is willing to communicate and collaborate with them.
“I just love that he’s more able to listen. He’s more direct,” Walker said. “He’s willing to work with us as players. He’s willing to understand what we see out there because we’re out there playing, and he’s willing to listen.”
It may seem like a simple concept. Coaches trusting players to share their perceptions of the game and give their input into the game plan going forward should be a no-brainer for the coaching staff. But for Walker, he has never been afforded that responsibility. Even with the two previous defensive coordinators, he’s had at the NFL level—Paul Pasqualoni and Cory Undlin—he didn’t have this kind of input on the game plan.
“I really didn’t have that throughout my career,” Walker said. “Whether it’s college, high school, even in the NFL. So, I think that’s a big blessing.”