It’s only been a week, and NFL rules have prevented him from doing much hands-on coaching, but Matt Patricia has made a favorable first impression on his players — one of whom admits the new Detroit Lions coach wasn’t quite what he expected.
“There’s definitely a narrative that’s written about the Patriots that you think they’re just straight up suit-and-tie kind of people,” running back Ameer Abdullah said Saturday at a fundraiser for the Flint water crisis. “He’s relaxed and he’s a person.”
Patricia’s buoyant personality endeared him to players and colleagues during a 12-year run as an assistant with the New England Patriots, but few outside the walls got a chance to experience it firsthand.
Patricia said last week that he “came from a place where maybe no one really knew what was going on behind the curtain and people didn’t really talk to us very much.”
As such, many expected the man with the bushy beard and gruff sideline demeanor to be a Bill Belichick clone personality wise, but Patricia has been anything but in his 2 [1/2] months on the job.
Last week, the Lions opened offseason workouts with four days of strength and conditioning training, and Abdullah said it was apparent immediately that Patricia is “a straight up a guy.”
“I like him a lot,” Abdullah said. “I think he’s going to bring a special dynamic to the team.”
While former Lions coach Jim Caldwell also was well-liked by players, and seen as a fatherly figure by some, Patricia exudes an authenticity that isn’t always found in NFL locker rooms.
He’s been known to greet players with an assortment of hugs, handshakes and chestbumps, and in New England he surprised players with generous holiday gift cards and lightened the meeting room mood with Friday comedy clips.
“He has a lot of personality. A lot of personality,” Abdullah said. “I think that’s healthy. When you have a team of independent contractors, so to speak, guys who are from this place, this part of the country, this college, this background, you need a guy who’s kind of a combination of a lot of personality. He comes from a very knowledgeable background, very smart guy. He studied all different type of things in school and now he’s a football coach. So that brings a lot of personality, and I think he’s going to be cool.”
At his introductory team meeting last week, Patricia spoke about his expectations for the franchise and the need for players to be accountable to themselves and others.
In New England, Patricia won three Super Bowls as an assistant and never less than 10 games in a year, and he’s made clear he expects similar success in his time in Detroit.
“Know how hard you can work, know your threshold, know that this team is about winning,” Abdullah said. “We want to win more in the future. Nine-and-seven isn’t — that’s not us. We can be a lot better, so just holding yourself accountable. Being a professional. And I think his message was well received by the team.”
On a personal level, Abdullah said he and Patricia “haven’t really talked about” his role on offense yet. For now, the focus is on the offseason, with another set of workouts on tap this week.
“Right now it’s just work,” Abdullah said. “Just get better, get faster, get stronger. So I think that’s what’s most important. He focuses on the now, and he doesn’t really talk about what we need you to do because if you’re not taking care of the now then you won’t have that later.”