ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — The Detroit Lions challenged running back D’Andre Swift this offseason: fight through bumps and bruises and play in all 17 games in 2022.
Swift, an injury-plagued running back in each of his first two seasons, is now healthy and the team expects him to be one of the offense’s top players.
“We all know there’s a difference between being hurt and being hurt,” assistant coach and running backs coach Duce Staley said. “Once you walk into that building as a running back — on the first day of training camp — you’re not going to feel the same. So there’s going to be some things he’s going to have to contend with and he’s going to have to work with that.”
That’s a direct statement from Staley, but it’s the kind of honesty Swift and the rest of the Lions’ roster have come to expect from the coaching staff. The words of Staley, who played in the NFL for 10 seasons, carry more weight.
“Duce will tell me what I need to hear, and that’s what you need,” Swift said. “That’s the type of guy I want to play for.”
The 23-year-old is taking the challenge head-on, hitting the gym in the offseason and arriving at camp noticeably bigger and stronger.
“All body strength,” Swift said of his offseason regimen. “Putting my body in order.”
The Lions also take responsibility for making sure Swift can stay healthy. They plan to increase the burden on fees, but they will not overload either.
“Maybe a little bit, we build it up for a couple of days, back it off on the third day,” coach Dan Campbell said. “But we’ll be smart with him.”
Swift has shown to be a potent weapon for the Lions offense. He improved his all-purpose yardage from 878 in his rookie season to 1,069 last year. But sharing the backfield with Jamal Williams and nagging injuries limited him to just 151 rushes last year, which ranked him 30th among NFL quarterbacks.
Campbell saw plenty of potential in the 2020 second-round pick and admitted it will be tough to keep Swift off the field when the season begins.
“Swift is one of our most explosive players on offense,” Campbell said. “Kind of literally, we’re like, ‘Okay, man, if we get it set up right and there’s an open spot, this guy can take it in the house.’ He’s got that ability, and that’s why, oh my god, you want those guys out there every game.”
Swift could also benefit from high expectations from the offensive line. Although left tackle Taylor Decker missed the first eight games of the season and Pro Bowl center Frank Ragnow the final 13 games last season due to injuries, all five starters are currently healthy.
Swift said “it would mean the world” if it stays that way.
NOTES: The Lions removed backup offensive lineman Dan Skipper from the non-football illness list Saturday … Former Ohio State quarterback Jay T. Barrett, now a cornerback assistant on the Lions’ coaching staff, has been an extra hand in practice, helping during individual drills.
The headline of this story has been corrected to indicate that D’Andre Swift is the running back.
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