NFL ‘Hard Knocks’: Dan Campbell’s player-run practice was as strange, and cool, as it sounded

The latest episode of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” gave us a look at the Detroit Lions’ player-only practice earlier this month, and it was as strange to see as it sounded initially.

Lions coach Dan Campbell, early in the fourth episode of the show on Tuesday night, was speaking to his team in a meeting room when he pulled up their practice schedule for the day.

The twist was that he’d be the only coach out on the field — but he wasn’t going to say anything. Instead of actually practicing himself this time, or giving his team a wild definition of “grit," Campbell was just going to watch.

[Set, hut, hike! Create or join a fantasy football league now!]

“You guys are running the practice,” he told his team. “The coaches, they’re working on Pittsburgh. They’re not going to be out there. So I’ll be the only one, and I’m not coaching … I’m not saying a word.”

Actually seeing an NFL team run itself like that was, well, extremely unusual to say the least.

Warning: This video contains language that is NSFW.

Now, it wasn’t a total free-for-all. Plays and drills were still scripted, but it was up to players to actually run them.

They seemed to love it, too.

“I think it’s awesome to do. Because honestly, on a game day, we’re out there, we gotta communicate, we have to be accountable to one another,” veteran left tackle Taylor Decker told MLive after practice. “So it was good, it was unique.

“I mean, I’ve never done that before. But it was good work.”

He's not likely to use this strategy as the season goes on, but it's safe to assume that Campbell will keep holding player-run practices during training camp considering how well this first one went.

Dan Campbell's player-run practice was featured on Hard Knocks this week.
Dan Campbell's player-run practice was featured on Hard Knocks this week. (Michael Hickey/Getty Images) (Michael Hickey via Getty Images)