ALLEN PARK, Michigan — As the Detroit Lions head into the 2023 season, some high expectations were placed on the team that even head coach Dan Campbell couldn’t ignore.
“I think as always, the hype train is going to worry you,” Campbell said on Sunday, the first day of the Lions’ training camp. “I mean like most coaches things are just picking up steam and getting out of hand and that’s fine as long as we’re focused on the job at hand and the work at hand. I keep coming back to it. We have to put in the work and earn it.”
Though the organization hasn’t made the playoffs since 2016, the Lions are the consensus betting favorite to win the NFC North, having won eight of their last 10 games last season. Detroit hasn’t won the division since 1993, when it was called NFC Central and had five teams.
In addition to their annual Thanksgiving Day game, there are four prime-time games on the schedule.
Sophomore defensive end Aidan Hutchinson says it’s almost impossible to completely ignore outside chatter.
“It’s kind of hard not to see it,” he said. “We put the TVs on there and it just shows up for you to see and I think it’s wise for a lot of our guys to stay away from it just because it can get a little bit to your head, but I think we’re doing a good job of keeping our mentality and keeping what we did, especially even last year, and building on that. I think we’re doing a good job with our mentality. We keep this outsider mentality. We haven’t won anything yet, so obviously there is one.” We have a lot of expectations, but on the other hand we still feel like outsiders.
Campbell also tries not to put his players in the extra attention.
“I think you just keep the message consistent and call it what it is and it just goes back to work,” Campbell said. “And if you see it’s not going that way, or we have some people who are a little off, or they think they’ve arrived but haven’t, bring that to their attention.
“I think as long as we do that as coaches and players as teammates, we’ll be fine.”
Lions quarterback Jared Goff praises Campbell for being the “best” at keeping the dressing room level. Goff is also enjoying the hubbub surrounding the Lions this season.
The 2016 No. 1 pick knows what it takes to make it on the big stage, having led the Los Angeles Rams to a Super Bowl appearance in 2018. For the Lions to reach similar heights, he knows they mustn’t let outside distractions throw them off course.
“This so-called ‘hype train’. I think it’s funny that when you go 9-8 you don’t make the playoffs and suddenly you’re the favorite,” Goff said. “Of course we have good players, we have good coaches, we have a good team, but we haven’t done anything.”
“We still have a lot of work ahead of us. Minnesota won 13 games last year, Green Bay has won the division a couple of times in the last few years, so we still have some way to go to make our mark on who we want to be and we’re nowhere near there, but we’re on the way.”