The Detroit Lions made one of the biggest additions in free agency when they added safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson.
Gardner-Johnson was one of the bigger-time free agents left on the market, and the kind of player who may not have looked at Detroit before and elected to make a move to the team. That’s starting to change, though, relative to how the team is evolving in the future.
After signing in Detroit, Gardner-Johnson was asked his impressions of the Lions team, and what he felt about the way Detroit was able to rally late in the season to win the finale in spite of being eliminated earlier in the day.
Speaking to Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com on the Twentyman in the Huddle podcast, Gardner-Johnson admitted to being very impressed by the way the Lions conducted themselves in the final game of the year with nothing left to play for.
(They’re) true football players. Like a lot of football players would tuck their tail. ‘Alright, let’s prepare for next year.’ Bur a lot of these guys understood the magnitute of what every game meant. I think me watching them at home last year, I think it was Green Bay when Kerby caught the first pick, called back. Sometimes players respond and the offense responds. To see a defense respond, he caught the second, he caught a pick. Again it as like that fight, okay I’m not going to let someone push me over.’ Because everybody knows it’s hard. Green Bay in the division, at the time Aaron (Rodgers) was here, and how he was playing, it’s hard not to be the pushover. I think seeing that game right there and seeing how they fought in the cold, nighttime, everybody watching, I think that solidified who they really were. I think it’s time for a change,” Gardner-Johnson said on the show.
The Lions feel the same way, and want to usher in a change now as they begin to try and open their contention window into the future.
Coming into the offseason, it was assumed that Detroit’s big push from 1-6 to 9-8 might make them a popular free agency destination when all was said and done. That was especially true when balanced with head coach Dan Campbell.
Gardner-Johnson’s words help prove why this could be the case when all is said and done.
Lions vs. Packers Finale Was Impressive
In terms of the game that caught Gardner-Johnson’s attention, Detroit’s Week 18 battle in Green Bay was a very impressive showing for the team, and a good barometer of where the Lions were going.
Detroit cruised into the battle one of the hottest teams in the league. Through the years, they have also struggled to win at Lambeau Field, so many might have seen the game as a lost cause.
Instead, the Lions went out and punched Green Bay in the mouth. They battled to a 9-6 deficit at halftime, and exploded in the second half. Detroit matched the Packers’ touchdown with one of their own, and then got a score in the fourth quarter to take a 20-16 lead.
Detroit then got an interception from Kerby Joseph and some major fourth-down conversions in the fourth quarter to put away the clutch victory.
The game is likely to be the last Aaron Rodgers plays as quarterback for the Packers at his home stadium, and could usher in a new era in the NFC North division.
C.J. Gardner-Johnson Praises Lions’ Rebuild
What else does Gardner-Johnson see in the Lions? In his own words, he believes the team has already established a great culture, and has some solid talent they they have developed the last few years.
Speaking with the media on Monday, March 20, Gardner-Johnson explained that as he has watched the Lions, he has been impressed with what he has seen from the outside, and it’s a good situation for him to be joining.
“Just watching from the outside looking in, a lot of great young talent. I played against it Week 1 last year. Obviously, they have identity already established. It took a couple years to get it going, but being here and seeing it in the front office, you can see it when you see watch it on tape, watch it on TV, watch it on film. I think this place here I (can) call like another home almost. I can say I’m familiar with everybody, comfortable and I’m ready to get going,” Gardner-Johnson told the media.
Boosted by his hope for the future, Gardner-Johnson seems ready to go for the Lions, and looks ready to join a team that is on the way up in the NFL.