Sat, 08 Oct 2022

Mike OHara

The Detroit Lions won the day in the Family Fest at Ford Field Saturday. No, they didn't win a game or a series, or even get the better of an opponent on a fourth and one.

Pro football is back in the stadiums with the start of the preseason schedule, and the Detroit Lions are being regarded by their loyal fans in a way that is different - and far more meaningful -- than in recent seasons.

There is hope for better days, but it's hope with belief that head coach Dan Campbell and General Manager Brad Holmes have the formula and the acumen for building the Lions into contenders. That's what we learned from the reaction at Family Fest.

Among the other things we learned include the following: Campbell goes into practices and games with plans - he doesn't just wing it; he also doesn't wear the motto he and Holmes brought to Detroit in 2021 just on his sleeve; signing free agent DJ Chark gives the offense a player who elevates the threat level of the receiver position.

We start with the Family Fest fan reaction:

As Campbell stressed when he talked to the media before the game, it was a practice. Players played hard, but nothing approaching the regular season.

Still, there was a distinct edge from the announced crowd of 18,000. It started when the players went out early to warm up and continued to build. It reached a crescendo at the end, after Chark made a circus catch in the end zone.

With music blaring from the stadium's sound system, fans continued to cheer while players threw miniature autographed footballs into the stands.

It was a cool scene, with football players acting like kids, and fans acting like loyal fans - only not really acting. It was real emotion.

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Chark attack: Having watched Chark in practice throughout the offseason and in the first two weeks of training camp with the tempo ramped up, it wasn't surprising that he would show good hands, speed and range at Family Fest.

However, he exceeded expectations with a diving catch on the first offensive play of the day and two TD catches.

Chark exploded off the line and cut to the middle on a four-yard TD catch on a crisp throw from quarterback Jared Goff, then closed out the day with a leaping 33-yard TD catch in the front left corner of the end zone.

Check list: Campbell was alone in the middle of the field reading notes while players started to warm up before practice.

"Just a couple things about guys I want to look for," he said. "What I'm looking for in some of these players. Key notes for our coordinators. Special teams. Just a check list for myself as it pertains to practice."

True grit: Campbell has preached grit as the foundation for building the franchise, and it extends to all areas of the franchise.

He wore a hat Saturday with the word "Grit" on the front.

"I got these in the spring," he said. "I got these for the coaches. It's part of who we are. It's what we embody. It's what we're about. It's what Brad and I were going to do from Day 1.

"This is the vision of who we are. It's our foundation. It's where everything starts. We branch out from there."

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