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Dan Campbell’s sets sink, Aidan Hutchinson’s moves shine

The long-awaited debut of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” featuring the Detroit Lions hit our screens Tuesday night. And it wouldn’t be a surprise if some brick walls are no longer standing up after Lions fans ran through them.

From Dan Campbell’s desire to drag teams into the deep water and Aidan Hutchinson’s journey to Jamaal Williams’ impassioned speech and the experience (and brotherhood) of the coaching staff, fans got a chance to see the men in Honolulu blue and silver like never before.

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Here are the five main highlights from the first episode of “Hard Knocks”:

Aidan Hutchinson moonwalks onto the spotlight

We have to start with the rookie hazing song of the year, brought to us by Aidan Hutchinson.

The No. 2 overall pick out of Michigan football became an overnight superstar with his rendition of a classic.

Like his rookie hazing, when he had to get up in front of the team in the meeting room and perform “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson. He didn’t even get five seconds into the song when he realized he’d messed up, sheepishly walks away, and gets booed by the entire room.

He made it up in a big way, performing an entertaining rendition of the song, getting the entire team to sing and clap along as he danced his way across the room.

Day Campbell’s culture

Campbell walks into the team’s main meeting room at the beginning of the episode and sets the tone for the season with his four rules: don’t be late, don’t be overweight, don’t disrespect teammates or the game.

Outside of that, he said, anything goes. He leans into the fact that the Lions were not good last year — and haven’t been for some time. Campbell discussed what his team will need to do in order to become one that’s a puncher and not a punch line.

“What are we? What makes us what we are?” he asked. “I think it’s that right there, it’s grit… it’s our core foundation. What does it mean? In a nutshell I think it means this: we will go a little longer, we’ll push a little longer, we’ll think a little deeper and a little sharper.”

To further his point, Campbell uses the ocean as a metaphor.

“There’s a number of teams that just barely get to the water, you got to get to the water to compete,” he said. “A number of teams that’s all they get to. Then there’s a number of teams they are in the shallows and they’re all over your ass … they strike and move and they’re dangerous.

“You just got to get a hold of them though, but if you get a hold of them, you start dragging them out to the deep dark abyss, you can drown them. And that’s what we got to be. That’s who we have to be. Because that’s our domain. Because we will tread water as long as it takes to bury you. Because we can, because we choose to.”

Lions head coach Dan Campbell on the field during training camp drills.
Lions head coach Dan Campbell on the field during training camp drills.

All Campbell wants is his staff and players to be themselves, too. It’s why Jamaal Williams is free to be as goofy as he’d like and why he told linebacker coach Kelvin Sheppard not to cut his hair.

“It’s a trickle down effect to be honest with you,” Sheppard said of Campbell’s authentic nature. “I thought about cutting my hair to be honest with you. Dan was one of the first people to say ‘absolutely not.'”

“I’m hiring Shep,” Campbell said. “I’m not hiring the guy that you think is supposed to fill that position.”

SEA: America is going to love Dan Campbell after ‘Hard Knocks’

More on Hutch

The episode touches on Hutchinson’s relationship with his family, like when Jared Goff introduced himself to Hutchinson’s father, Chris, at the practice facility and said he was doing a good job.

“Don’t be too nice to him now,” Chris joked.

Or earlier in the episode, when Hutchinson is sitting around a table with his siblings at what appears to be his parents’ house in Plymouth, Michigan.

“If he doesn’t get drafted by the Lions, I will be sobbing on camera,” said his mother, Melissa. “Everyone will think I’m so happy he went somewhere else, but no, it would be because I’m so depressed he’s not home.”

They discuss his signature eye black look streaked down one side of his face, to which he says he may need to switch it up because he worries it will mess up that side of his face.

He can’t, says one sister. “It’s part of the brand.”

From losing many battles to Penei Sewell on the first day of pads, to getting put on his rear from a chip block by TJ Hockenson, not everything Hutchinson did in the episode was flawless.

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Jamal Williams’ plea to teammates

At the end of the first day of pads, Williams is tasked with breaking down the team huddle.

He begins by talking about how one day was the bare minimum of effort and the team must give more. Normally a light-hearted guy on the team — he’s constantly dancing on the sideline, making jokes and talking about anime — his tone shifts.

“When you think you’re tired, think of last year and think of that (expletive) record,” he said. “Every time I think I get tired or I think I can’t go anymore, I think of that (expletive) record. That ain’t us! We can make it! … Have some heart. I get emotional about this, I I’m about to cry, because I care about y’all.

“Last year wasn’t it. Last year got me angry, pissed for this year. I’m trying to be better for y’all. … Remember your why, remember why you play football. I want y’all to give everything y’all got every day. Do your best!”

Aaron Glenn vs. Duke Staley

One of the most entertaining parts of the whole show (and throughout all of camp for that matter) has been the relationship between defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley.

Staley speaks in front of his team and tells them they need to be about three things in order to be successful: Grit, dream and love.

He then tells them it’s OK for men to tell one another they love each other because it means you care about them. The focus immediately turns to him and Glenn.

“I love you,” Staley begins. “I want to (expletive) you up between those white lines, but I love you.”

That’s pretty much the relationship between the two. Glenn calls Staley “his guy” and one of his “closest friends. Staley says of Glenn, “that’s my dog.”

Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn applauds for players during open practice at Family Fest at Ford Field on Saturday.
Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn applauds for players during open practice at Family Fest at Ford Field on Saturday.

And like brothers, the rivalry comes out on the field. The two are constantly jawing at each other, about how Glenn’s defense can’t stop Staley’s offense and vice versa.

“You want some, we’re gonna give you some,” Glenn said.

“We’re gonna take it, you ain’t gonna give us (expletive), we’re gonna take it,” Staley chirps back.

“We’re gonna give you everything you want,” Glenn yells.

Each time the respective coach’s unit does something well, he lets the other one know, like when rookie linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez made a big hit in the backfield.

“Oh you stopped a screen? I’m happy for you,” Staley said after Glenn got in his face. “I don’t even know you were here.”

Then, perhaps the highlight of the two interactions, came after the offense hit a deep pass to Tom Kennedy.

“You forgot to tell them we’re playing today!” Staley screams.

“You hit one play,” Glenn responds. “And now you want to (expletive) talk.”

Contact Tony Garcia at [email protected] Follow him on twitter at @realtonygarcia.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions on ‘Hard Knocks’: Dan Campbell, Aidan Hutchinson shine

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