The last we saw of Dan Campbell and his Lions, they were knocking Green Bay from the playoffs and ruining Aaron Rodgers career finale at Lambeau Field.
Detroit finished on a hot streak, winning eight of their final 10 games. Because of a tie breaker, Campbell’s bunch got knocked out of the playoffs hours before the Lions met the Packers. But with nothing on the line for the team but bragging rights on a bitterly cold night, Detroit bowed up to Rodgers and the Packers. The outcome was a perfect snapshot of the surging Lions and their passionately authentic head coach.
Color the networks impressed. When the NFL dropped its schedule Thursday night, the Lions found themselves in a league highlight game. They’ll take on the Chiefs, the defending Super Bowl champions, in a special Thursday Night Football game to usher in the 2023 season.
Dan Campbell says of the Lions season opener ‘it’s going to be great’
Dan Campbell, the over-caffeinated, always upbeat coach, doesn’t think his Lions will be a used as a sacrifice to the mighty Chiefs. And he talked about the honor of opening the season during an early Friday appearance on Good Morning Football.
“First of all, I had told (offensive coordinator) Ben Johnson, (defensive coordinator) Aaron Glenn, I was like, man, the day before it came out, if we could pull off, somehow, some way, Thursday night game, the opener, opening of the season, man, that would be unbelievable,” Dan Campbell raved. “Just because you get good work in, you play that game, you get 10 days to recover, game plan, get ready for the next opponent, and I’ll be danged if we didn’t draw it.”
Wait, there’s more. “And not only that, but we get Kansas City, the heavyweight champ. So we’re excited. I can’t tell you (how excited). The staff’s excited. I know our players are excited. I think everybody wants an opportunity to play the champ and see where you stack up. (And) I know what (Chiefs coach) Andy Reid’s about. We know what that team’s about. Highly competitive, they’re a champ. Year in and year out, they’re gonna be in the running. We’re looking forward to it. It’s gonna be great.”
Head coach knows it’s time for his team to live up to expectations
So if you’re in Campbell’s shoes, how do you spin this to the Lions? You could view it as a no-lose situation since no one expects a Detroit team to win against the Super Bowl champs at their house. But since the Lions finished so strongly last season, if they slip up early … well, Dan Campbell doesn’t like that option, either. Up the expectations, then exceed them.
“Certainly we’re beginning to get noticed. That’s what it means,” Dan Campbell said. “Now I’ll say this: Here’s my first thought, if I’m being totally honest with you, as to why they would give us Kansas City. OK, well you finished the year a certain way, but it also means they’re betting on we won’t get our ass kicked, alright? You may get beat, but you’re not getting your ass kicked. That’s what they’re saying.”
He added: “So we gotta block all that out. It’s the next game. It’s the one in front of us. We gotta prepare.”