Can Dan Campbell Handle Players with 'Personality?'

Read more on how new Lions head man Dan Campbell plans on handling players with "personality" inside the Detroit locker room
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There's a new sheriff in Motown. His name is Dan Campbell

And if his introductory press conference Thursday was any sort of indication of things to come, his media sessions will be a lot more interesting and captivating than those of ex-Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia. 

It's a refreshing change of pace for fans and pundits alike that grew tired of Patricia's stuffy, tight-lipped ways and canned answers. 

Additionally, with Patricia, the players had to conform to his ways or risk being jettisoned out of town. Just ask Glover Quin and Quandre Diggs, to name a few.  

Campbell, meanwhile, conveyed Thursday that that's not going to be his approach when dealing with Lions players inside the locker room. 

Instead, he's going to allow them to express their personalities and be who they are, both on and off the field. 

"In New Orleans, we had all kinds of personalities out there. They’re all different. And look, there’s personalities that are easier to deal with than others. But, I know this, for example in New Orleans, no matter what was going on, when it came time to work as one unit, work together and be part of a unit, boy, those guys were on point. And, it’s no secret why we had success down there," he told reporters. "Like, my viewpoint is as long as it’s not distracting, as long as it’s not distracting from the team, or a distraction, and if the kid can play and he’s team-oriented, I’ve got no problem with that." 

At the end of the day, the 44-year-old Campbell, who had served as the Saints' tight ends coach/assistant head man since 2016, cares much more about every individual on the team coming together to achieve the same end goal: winning as many games as possible. 

On the surface, personalities will be more welcomed in a locker room with Campbell as the head man than Patricia. 

As the former Lions tight end indicated Thursday, having a strong "personality" doesn't mean you're a bad teammate and not trying to help your team win. 

"I’ll say this, the player, at the time when I was coming into Dallas as a free agent, was named Terry Glenn. And Terry had gotten a bad rep about some things about his past, what he was like, wasn’t a team guy, he’s disruptive, he’s had off-the-field (issues)," Campbell said. "And so, I didn’t know Terry Glenn. He came in as a free agent, just like I did in Dallas (in 2003). I didn’t know him, but I read that crap. And guess what? That was my first thought of him. I remember I met him in the hallway, at the same place we were staying (and) getting ready for the offseason. I remember I met him, I’m like, ‘Man, I like this guy.’ And you know what? He’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever played with after that season." 

Campbell and Glenn were teammates with the Cowboys from 2003-05.

Campbell added, "You talk about unselfish? Man, he (Glenn) just wanted to help the team. That dude, he’d block in the run game, now. He’d mix it up. He’d finish his blocks. He was outstanding. And I remember at the end of that year, I said, ‘I will never judge another book by its cover,’ because I mean, it was bad. He got beat up bad about his reputation, and I’m telling you, he was one of the best teammates I’ve ever had. So, I’m open to personalities. Now, sometimes it can be a hindrance. It can be a problem. But listen, man, I’ve got zero problem with personalities as long as we can keep them all in check and we’re all pulling the same way.”


His experience serving as interim head coach with Miami and as Sean Payton's right-hand man in New Orleans

Campbell served as the acting head man of the Dolphins in 2015, after Joe Philbin was dismissed after a 1-3 start to the campaign. 

It was Campbell's first and only opportunity as an NFL head coach until being hired to replace Patricia as Detroit head man. 

The experience left him with the feeling that he was "born to do" the job. 

"I’ll tell you exactly how I felt. A., I knew I could do this. I knew that this was something that I felt like I was born to do. And boy, I had a whole list of things that I wrote down and said, ‘I wish I’d done this better. Man, I should’ve learned from this. This would’ve been something that moving forward I would’ve done,’" Campbell said. 

It led to an opportunity to serve as the right-hand man of Super Bowl-winning head coach Sean Payton in New Orleans. 

Payton immediately took Campbell under his wings. 

"Sean Payton called me immediately, and he said, ‘Hey, I’d love to have you out here. Come out here with me.’ And I had a couple of other offers going on, but Sean was like, ‘Listen, you come out here, be my assistant head coach and I’ll fill in all the pieces for you. I’ll fill in everything you need and you need to know. And, I’ll show you exactly what it’s supposed to look like,'" Campbell commented. "He goes, ‘Look, I know you know how to coach the position. I know you know offense, and you can grow from this.’ But, he goes, ‘As a head coach, I’ll fill in this stuff for you. I’ll show you about the draft. I’ll show you about players. I’ll show you about the staff. I’ll show you about game situations. I’ll let you stand up in front of the room. I’ll let you lead these guys.’" 

All the while, Campbell was a "sponge," soaking up all the lessons handed down by Payton. 

"I trusted him, and I’ve always trusted him. And, he took me under his wing, and I was a sponge. That’s what I was. I was a sponge. I did exactly what he needed me to do, asked me to do," Campbell expressed. "You know, if I felt like there was some fires I needed to put out before they got to him, I would do that. I felt like that was one of my jobs, but he allowed me to grow. And that’s one of the best compliments a coach can ever give to another coach. He allowed me to grow into the role I’m about to take on right now.” 

A new era of Lions football has officially kicked off. 

And one thing can already be promised: With Campbell leading the way from the sidelines, it's about to be a lot more interesting than the "Quinntricia" era.

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