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Lions RB coach Duce Staley challenges D’Andre Swift to fight through being hurt vs. injured

D’Andre Swift has missed several games through his first two seasons and has been given a limited role. Now his RB coach is challenging him to fight through some physical ails in 2022.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Detroit Lions running backs/assistant head coach Duce Stately was asked last week how excited he is to have a healthy D’Andre Swift for 2022. Staley wasn’t ready to count his chickens before they hatched.

“Staying healthy will definitely be the challenge,” Staley said.

Swift is entering his third season in the NFL after the Lions took him in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. In each of his first two seasons, he played 13 games but started only four. He’s dealt with a concussion, a lingering groin injury, and a shoulder injury. He’s missed training camp time, been given a limited role in games, and has rarely been the heavily-used weapon you’d expect from a high second-round pick. He’s had 20 or more touches in just four games in his career.

So this offseason, Staley gave Swift a challenge:

“Hey man, you’ve got to fight through some things.”

The objective is clear. Staley needs Swift to stay as healthy as possible, but he can’t back down when the relatively minor bumps and bruises come.

“We all know there’s a difference in being injured and hurt,” Staley explained. “As soon as you step in this building as a running back—Day 1 of training camp—you’re not going to feel the same. So there are going to be some things he’s going to have to fight through, and he’s going to have to work through that.”

This offseason, it appears Swift added some strength—especially to his upper body. Last month, Swift mentioned that he was feeling physically good and focused much of his offseason on getting stronger.

“My groin’s fine, shoulder fine, been in the weight room, been in training room, been working, been running routes,” Swift said. “Feelin’ good.”

And while that’s likely to help, Staley admitted some of staying healthy is just pure luck.

“You’ve got to remember, this is a game of violent car wrecks. That’s how I see it,” Staley said. “You’ve got guys that are running 20, 19, 18 miles per hour and running into each other. So sometimes that injury bug hits a player one time, two times, three times—a lot in a year. Over a course of a career, sometimes like that.

“You’ve got to be lucky, but the thing is, you’ve still got to let it go. You can’t let that hold you back as a running back anyway. We’ve had those type of conversations. He has to be smart in certain situations, of course, but he has to leave it all out there on the field.”

Despite the challenge for this upcoming year, Staley admitted this is a conversation he has with all of his backs. He also stopped short of saying that Swift had previously failed to fight through playable injuries.

“I don’t know right now, and I’ll probably never know,” Staley said. “But just speaking from my history (as a player), just back in those days, the dinosaur days, you didn’t want to miss any time unless you were injured. And a guy like Swift, man, he’s a unique player. He has the ability to change the game, as we all have seen. Of course, you don’t want to lose that.”

Obviously, a conversation like this with a prideful player should be sensitive. Challenging a player to fight through injuries can be thorny, as some may take it as an insult to their mental toughness. However, Staley says Swift took the challenge well.

“Super positive,” Staley said of the conversations. “And he knows it, which is good. Playing running back, you’re going to take your fair share of hits. You’re going to give some, too. So you’ve just got to make sure you’re protecting yourself when it’s time to protect yourself, and there are going to be times where you’ve got to put it out there.”