Does Detroit Lions receiver Denzel Mims have a chip on his shoulder?
“(Expletive) yeah,” he said Monday after he finished practicing with his new team in Allen Park. “(expletive) yes.”
It’s a start, right?
Little for Dan Campbell and Ben Johnson and Jared Goff to work with?
Then again, most professional athletes who don’t fulfill their potential with the team that drafted them — especially high in the draft — say similar things upon arriving at their next team, especially when the destination is seen as a second chance, which the Lions certainly are for Mims.
So what he said Monday afternoon at the Lions’ practice facility in Allen Park is hardly groundbreaking or surprising. But that doesn’t mean what he said wasn’t sincere – or true.
WHY TRADE WITH MIMS?Lions believe that his ‘traits’ are worthy of taking a chance
Whether he finds his way now that he’s out of New Jersey, where he played for the New York Jets, is another question. At least the Lions gave up a little to get him; a late-round swap in the 2025 NFL draft, and a contingent one at that.
And if he doesn’t train here in Detroit? The lions have risked almost nothing.
But if he does?
Well, the Brad Holmes-Dan Campbell machine keeps spinning and the general manager and head coach further prove their eye for talent, especially talent that fits the kind of locker room they continue to build.
“We know the kid wants to work,” Campbell said. “We’ve heard that. He’s got a level of toughness about him, so let’s see where we can take it.”
Every team in the league believes they can provide the culture that unlocks a talented but struggling player, much in the same way that every struggling but talented player believes they just need a chance. Mims gets that chance here.
With Jameson Williams suspended for the first six games of the season, the Lions could use a threat down the field. Although Mims insisted he’s more than just a fly-type guy.
When asked what his best asset was on Monday, he said:
Mims believes the Lions won’t put him in a narrow role like the Jets did. Oh, he didn’t say the Jets did, not outright, but he hinted at it when he met with reporters after practice.
“I finally get to go out there and do everything I want to do,” he said.
Definitely a loaded word in this context. And if you ask the Jets, they’d have a different idea of what “finally” means, at least privately.
“I appreciate Denzel. We wish him the best of luck. He’s big, long, strong and fast. He’ll get an opportunity to play for another team and show why everyone is so excited about him.”
Hard to blame Saleh for taking the high road here. Obviously, though, a team wouldn’t send a player of this description for a late-round conditional trade pick if there weren’t any problems. The good news is that one team’s problems are often not another’s.
Thus the (small) bet.
Again, teams love to bank on their own informal psychology departments, their culture, as it were. That’s what Campbell means when he says Mims could benefit from a “change in scenery.”
Mims did his best Monday — more or less — to avoid hounding his former franchise, saying a couple of times that he was determined to focus on his new team, his new home, his new opportunity. He even said he was grateful the Jets gave him a chance.
Still, there were moments when his frustration came through. Like when he described his reaction to the news he had been traded last week.
“I was pretty happy,” he said. “(It’s) a fresh start, a new start for me. I was excited to come here. I wanted to come here right away so I could get used to the team, get used to the team … I love Detroit. I love the coaches. I love the players. The atmosphere here is much better.”
Vibes are important, no doubt. Heck, they can be anything. If you don’t vibe, you don’t connect, and if you don’t connect, you’re most likely getting in the way—of yourself and those around you.
As for the “vibes” being better in Detroit? Mims is not the first to say this. So that gives his words a little more power.
It also speaks to a developing pattern and, more critically, a burgeoning reputation that the Lions are led by people that players might want to suit up. This is a relatively new development for this franchise and to keep perception moving, the franchise will need to win some games this fall on the bigger stages it has been given.
It takes talent as well as vibes. And the lions can never get enough of it.
The Jets took Mims with a second-round pick in 2020. It’s not hard to see why he was so highly thought of coming out of Baylor. He is 6-foot-3 and ran a 4.3-second 40-yard dash in the NFL combine.
“He’s a guy who has tools,” Campbell said. “This guy has the skills, let’s see if we can do something.”
Mims thinks he is ready, he has grown and learned and hardly lacks motivation. That chip on his shoulder? The Lions hope to capitalize on that. It started when they traded for him and told him they wanted him here.
“They believe in me,” Mims said. “And (it gives) me a lot of confidence.”