As the Detroit Lions come back together and get to work in training camp, head coach Dan Campbell is emphasizing to his players the importance of focusing on the task at hand, instead of getting lost in the offseason hype surrounding his team.
"I think as always, the thing that's going to worry you is the hype train," Campbell said to reporters Sunday. "I mean this thing has just taken off and it's out of control right now, and that's fine, as long as we stay focused on the job at hand and the work. I just keep going back to that. We've got to put the work in and earn it."
The Lions have been subjected to much higher expectations than the franchise usually entertains, with many pundits arguing that Detroit could have a chance at winning the NFC North for the first time ever and make its first playoff appearance since 2016.
The hype surrounding the team has reached such a level that the Lions even earned the coveted spot in the NFL's Kickoff Game, facing off against the reigning Super Bowl-champion Chiefs in prime time to open up the season.
But despite all the talk surrounding his team and the chances of success after such a long wait, Campbell said he has been reminding his players that they can't crown themselves champion prematurely, as offseason predictions are not enough to carry a team.
"It just goes back to the work. And when you see it not going that way, or we have some guys deviating a bit, or they think they've arrived and they haven't, you call them out on that," Campbell said. "Just as long as we do that as coaches and players, as teammates, we'll be fine. I think that's what you have to do. But if we all just turn a blind eye and think that 'Alright, everybody's saying we're going to be this, so we will be this,' that's not true."
And it appears the players are getting the message. Speaking Sunday, quarterback Jared Goff was quick to note that last year's accomplishments don't mean anything in the context of the upcoming season, and it will only be through actual wins that they can show themselves to be worthy.
"It's funny to me that you go 9-8, you don't make the playoffs and now you're all of a sudden a favorite," Goff said. "And yeah, of course we've got good players, we've got good coaches, we've got a good team, but we ain't done anything, and we have a lot of work to do."
While there are still higher heights the Lions could reach, the accomplishments the squad has achieved in the two years under Campbell are still notable when put into direct contrast with the struggles the Lions had before him. Though an 9-8 record can be improved upon, it was the team's highest win total since 2017, and they were only a Week 17 Seahawks loss away from a postseason berth.
"It can get to your head a little bit, but I think we're doing a good job of keeping our mentality and keeping what we've been doing and building off of it," defensive end Aidan Hutchinson said. "We haven't won anything yet, so obviously there's a lot of expectations, but we still feel like the underdogs."
But for now, Campbell and his players know there's a lot of work ahead before the team takes on the reigning champs on Sept. 7 at Arrowhead.