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'You've Got to Talk': Goff Encourages Sewell to Take Leadership Role

Penei Sewell is taking on more of a leadership role in the locker room.

The Detroit Lions have high expectations surrounding their performance in 2023. 

After the unit finished in the top-5 in a number of statistical categories, many believe they will remain among the league's best moving forward. 

Penei Sewell holds a big role in that success. As the team's starting right tackle, he will be responsible for creating holes in the run game and keeping Jared Goff upright in pass protection. 

Detroit has one of the best offensive lines in the league. Along with plenty of talent at the skill positions, the group as a whole is bound for success. 

If all goes well, Sewell believes something special is brewing in Motown.

"Sky's the limit, to be honest," the tackle said. "Whatever's out there, like awards, Super Bowl, I believe that we have the right guys to accomplish that goal. So sky's the limit, and I can't wait to see what we do this year."

The team has faced increased expectations as a result of last season's success. Talk of making the playoffs is not far-fetched, as they are viewed as the team to beat in the NFC North. 

Rather than shy away from what's ahead of them, Sewell stated that the team is confident in their ability and approaching this season in a different light than years past.

"Definitely, off the bat, expectations are way higher than last year. We're coming out with a different intent, a different purpose than we were here last year. Attention to detail has to go up, room for error shortens down a lot. It's definitely tougher, but with the guys coming in and the guys we had last year, I think we can handle it." 

Vocal leadership

In his third professional season, Sewell is focused on becoming a more vocal leader. 

Viewed as one of the best offensive tackles in football, the Oregon product sets an example for others to follow with his play. However, down the stretch of the 2022 season, he took a step forward with his voice. 

He detailed an experience from last season during Detroit's rout of Jacksonville in which he stepped up and spoke to the team. 

"As the season went along, I felt like my body was trying to say something and I didn't know whether it was to myself, whether it was to a specific person or whether it was to the whole team," Sewell explained. "Actually, one of my teammates came up to me and was like, 'You've got to talk.' It was actually Jared (Goff). I just kind of stepped into that role and let my heart speak and ran from there." 

The young player said he's focused on connecting with his teammates inside the locker room. This, in turn, will create the bonds that carry them through the rigor of the season

He's part of the 2021 draft class, which has become pivotal. It was the first under the leadership of Brad Holmes and Dan Campbell and brought the team stars such as Sewell and Amon-Ra St. Brown

As these players enter their third seasons, they're stepping to the forefront of a team on the rise. 

"It's kind of unspoken," the Oregon product said of the team's bond. "Everyone has expectations for each other, so we just come out here and work and let my heart speak for itself. I'm not trying to force nothing out here, I'm just trying to be me and I just want everybody else to be themselves too." 

Vaitai's impact

With Halapoulivaati Vaitai missing all of last season, the Lions missed one of their key offensive linemen. 

Now, the veteran is back in action. He briefly considered retirement after suffering the injury last year, but noted that Sewell played a big role in his decision to return. 

The third-year lineman was made aware of his teammate's sentiment and reciprocated the feeling of appreciation.

"We joke around all the time, but that's damn-near my uncle," Sewell quipped. "For him to say that, appreciate you unc, love you man. I can't wait to hopefully put the helmet and jersey on with him again, because when we're out there together, it's something special."