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Campbell: Penei Sewell Is ‘Adapting Quickly’

Lions head coach Dan Campbell shares stories of brawling as a rookie when the pads came on.

Penei Sewell, the Detroit Lions' first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, appears to be making steady progress, according to head coach Dan Campbell.

Sewell, an offensive tackle out of Oregon, was praised by Campbell Tuesday for his ability to adapt quickly.

“Man, he is adapting quickly,” Campbell said. “He’s starting to figure it out. He’s such a good athlete, he’s strong and he’s physical. But, that’s where I’m encouraged.”

Earlier in training camp, Campbell said Sewell would be tasked with going up against Romeo Okwara, a defensive end coming off a career year, every day in practice. It appears Sewell has been basking in the challenge.

Sewell is projected to start at right tackle in 2021 and be a staple of the organization for many years to come. As a result, updates like the one given from Campbell today are positive in the eyes of the team and its fans.

The rest of training camp will be used to help build trust in Sewell’s blocking abilities. As the pads come on, with Detroit having its first padded practice Tuesday, Sewell will be looked to as a source of confidence in the Lions’ running game.

“If we’re gonna run it to him, can he cover the defensive end and outside linebacker?”, Campbell said. “Like, can he stretch? Is he gonna be what we hope he is, athletically and power-wise? To move his feet and hit his targets.”

Campbell shares story about brawling

With padded practices beginning Tuesday, Campbell dipped into the archives, and told a story from his rookie year. 

Drafted in the third round of the 1999 draft by the New York Giants, Campbell entered training camp with significant expectations.

On his first day of training camp, Campbell said a brawl broke out. Now, in his first training camp as a head coach, he said he’s looking for the energy in practice to be right around there, while not getting to the point of a fight.

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“I want to see these guys compete,” Campbell said. “I want to see the guys get to the point where it’s almost an all-out brawl but there isn’t one.”

Campbell remembers the brawl in Giants practice well. While he doesn’t want his practice to get to the point of players throwing fists, he’d like to see a similar energy as far as competition goes.

“Like it’s so heated, it’s so hot, guys are trying to win so badly that we get better,” Campbell said. “Because that’s the only way we get better. There’s such a fine line between, ‘Oh we took it too far, guys are getting hurt.’ But yet, if you don’t push it almost to that point, you won’t get where you really need to get.”

Since Campbell was named head coach, he’s stressed competition and winning reps. As training camp progresses, the urgency on those things will be the same.

“I wanna see guys strain,” Campbell said. “Particularly I wanna see guys strain. I wanna see you strain to win in your gap. I wanna see you strain to get by your block as a defensive end or a nose. The receivers, I wanna see you strain and finish in the second level.”

Injury updates

The Lions activated defensive end Austin Bryant off the physically unable to perform list Tuesday. Bryant will participate only in individual drills for the time being, Campbell said.

“We’re gonna be smart with you as a staff,” Campbell said. “We’re gonna help get your comfort level back. We’re not just gonna throw you back out there to the wolves.”

Newly signed defensive back Quinton Dunbar is out with what Campbell called a personal matter. Dunbar missed practice Monday.

Meanwhile, rookie linebacker Derrick Barnes is dealing with a hamstring injury, and will be limited. Campbell said this first popped up in the spring, and as a result, he hopes it won’t get worse.

“It’s just kind of lingering a little bit,” Campbell said of Barnes. “So, that’s why we held him back.”