Barry Sanders is a Detroit sports legend in the truest sense of the word, having retired as the NFL’s third all-time leading rusher with 15,269 yards.
Sanders and the Lions were led by Head Coach Wayne Fontes during his playing days, a charismatic and jovial father figure who led the Lions to some of their best years since the 1950s, including their unforgettable last playoff win back in 1991.
Recently, Sanders was asked about Detroit’s new head man, Dan Campbell, at a celebrity golf scramble in Detroit.
As chants of “Barry, Barry, Barry” filled the air, the NFL legend began to speak candidly about his thoughts on Campbell, and the Lions’ chances moving forward.
Sanders on Lion’s Chances: “Different Feel” to New Regime
During the recent Matt Patricia days in Detroit and Allen Park, the Lions seemed to stage a low-key mutiny in front of our very eyes.
Patricia’s hard-headed ways may have won over third-tier free agents familiar with his grating Patriots-infused leadership style, but the bulk of the team did not seem to want to play for the former Bill Belichick discipline and defensive coordinator for long stretches of the season, or at least didn’t seem as if they were loose enough and motivated to do so.
According to Sanders, who helped in the coaching search that brought Campbell to Detroit, the new regime “feel(s) different,” and the former All-Pro running back has high hopes that the current crop of Lions players and coaches is going to turn it around.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us, but hopefully [new Lions coach Dan] Campbell is the man,” Sanders said to ESPN. “He definitely came in and made an announcement, a big entry so yeah, I think we’re excited about him.”
Sanders said that the city is hungry for another winning team, and these Lions could be the ones to get the job done.
“Well, it’s a great opportunity for the new regime. So many great sports moments have happened here in Detroit. There’s been hockey championships, baseball championships, basketball championships, but Detroit is definitely a football town,” Sanders said.
“And there’s a thirst and a hunger to win and hopefully they are the guys that can get it done. I know the town is excited and we know that their work is cut out for them, but if it was easy, everyone would be able to do it. So hopefully they’re the guys.”
The running game could be an area of focus this year, as it was under Patricia to little success.
But the Lions still have talented second-year running back D’Andre Swift, who rushed for 4.6 yards per carry last season and notched over 500 yards and 8 touchdowns.
“I’m definitely hoping the best for Swift,” Sanders said.
The Lions’ offensive line added Penei Sewell, a high first-round offensive tackle from Oregon State, and is poised to pave the way for both Swift and new QB Jared Goff.
The line was ranked as the 10th best in the NFL recently according to Pro Football Focus’ rankings of the best such units in the league.
Considering the lack of respect the Lions typically get in such rankings, it says a lot about the type of talent Detroit possesses up front.
“Sewell has the tools and production to become one of the better all-around tackles in the league very soon,” PFF wrote.
While Swift has a long way to go to come close to Sanders’ production, the Lions do figure to be more balanced this upcoming season — a welcome potential development for a Lions franchise that often saw its fortunes rise, and ultimately fall, on Matt Stafford’s right arm.
Check out the full video of Sanders’ comments below from ESPN.com: