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Dan Campbell explains Detroit Lions’ player-led practice: ‘It’s their team’

Dan Campbell offered a simple but powerful reason why he chose to let players run Monday’s practice without the aid of coaches.

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

In his Monday press conference, Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell slyly omitted the fact that practice later that day was going to be led completely by the players—something that players on the team had never experienced. Campbell was unavailable after practice, but he texted with Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated to offer a quick explanation of why he made the unorthodox decision to keep the entire coaching staff—save himself—off the field.

“It’s their team,” Campbell told Breer. “I want them to have ownership in it.”

It’s a simple but powerful message to the team. And it’s one that has clearly resonated with the team, as they both appreciated—and didn’t abuse—that trust.

“They trust us to go out here and work like professionals and not be stupid,” Taylor Decker said on Monday. “Offensive vs. defensive line, we’re out here in shells, and like we’re not going to cut somebody because the coaches aren’t out here. It’s just a good trust all around. I’ve said it multiple times before throughout camp there’s just been a good atmosphere established for open communication. I think that builds trust.”

Per Breer, most people in the Lions facility didn’t know about Campbell’s plans until early on Monday, but the SI reporter is buying into the Lions coach’s methods.

“I think the Lions are going to be a pretty tough out when the season starts,” Breer wrote. “You can see the togetherness in the group on Hard Knocks—just go watch the way the auditorium exploded during Aidan Hutchinson’s performance at the rookie show—and the composition of the roster, with strength along the lines of scrimmage, sets up the team to be really competitive and steady week to week.”

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