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Team USA falls to France at Tokyo Games for first Olympic men’s basketball loss since 2004

Team USA’s invincibility in men’s basketball is long gone, and the journey to a fourth successive gold medal is already fraught with adversity.

France gut-punched the Americans with a brilliant finish for an 83-76 triumph to open the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday. It snapped a 25-game Olympic winning streak dating back to 2004 for Team USA.

The final blow came when Evan Fournier drilled a 3-pointer with a minute to play to give the French the lead for good, completing their comeback after the U.S. had an eight-point lead with four minutes to play. It was the biggest of his 28 points in one of the finest games he has played in his career.

It was followed by an amazing possession in which the Americans managed to get five shots off and missed them all. The final three were wide-open 3-point attempts by Zach LaVine, Kevin Durant and Jrue Holiday.

“I got to lead the team because I know these guys,” Fournier said. “It’s a hell of a win. Our country is going to be extremely proud. But it’s just one game, to be honest.”

If there was a moment in this match that best encapsulated the situation between these two teams, it came at the end, when the French calmly shook the Americans’ hands and left the floor with the same business-as-usual demeanor Fournier displayed. Two years ago at the World Cup in China, France celebrated wildly after defeating a much-less-talented Team USA.

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“There’s nothing to be surprised about,” Team USA coach Gregg Popovich said before launching into what has become his go-to statement after losses.

“When you lose a game, you’re not surprised. You’re disappointed, but I don’t understand the word surprised. That sort of disses the French team, so to speak, as if we’re supposed to beat them by 30 or something. That’s a hell of a team.”

The French won the bronze at that World Cup, but their talent does not compare to that of the Americans.

And it does not explain how a U.S. team built for scoring and shooting went an unexplainable four and a half minutes without a basket down the stretch.

Fatigue was a factor. Three players didn’t get to the team hotel until 1 a.m. on gameday, an unusual set of circumstances. But one of them, Jrue Holiday, was masterful in the fourth quarter as he scored 12 of his 18 points and contributed several other energy plays to help the U.S. build a lead.

The Americans then had a host of stars to lean on such as Durant, Jayson Tatum and Damian Lillard. But they failed as the French ran an execution clinic.

Popovich seemed annoyed by media questions about the upset, as has been his custom. He has overseen losses in five of the past eight games he has coached for the national team dating back to 2019. There were some who admitted the loss was a disappointment, however.

“I think we have a history of dominance and maybe not always blowing people out, but we have a history of winning. And it’s not often that you see Team USA go out there and lose, especially to start,” stated Lillard, who shot just 3-of-10 and had two critical turnovers late in the game.

Popovich said he’d been thinking about this rematch for two years and daily since the game was drawn in February. But he never figured out how to slow down Fournier as he repeatedly got free for open looks on the perimeter. Even Holiday, who was brilliant in the NBA Finals, helping the Bucks clinch the title Tuesday, couldn’t stem the tide.

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Team USA rebounds from back-to-back losses with blowout of Argentina

Team USA stabilized itself by putting together its most complete match of its Olympic preparation schedule, defeating Argentina 108-80 on Tuesday night.

After back-to-back losses that saw the Americans struggle with offensive execution and defensive stamina, they showed more traction on both fronts 12 days before their Olympic opener in Tokyo.

“I thought we sustained our [stamina] pretty well,” Team USA manager Gregg Popovich said. “Against Australia we competed well, rebounded, played defense, ran the floor and had good pace for a half and then it dissipated for a half. Tonight, we maintained that pretty much throughout the game. Hopefully that’s a sign we’re getting better.”

Kevin Durant, the unquestioned engine of the national team’s offense, had shown some rust after taking some time off following the Brooklyn Nets’ seven-game series loss last month in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Like many of his Team USA teammates, he looked a little flat in the first two exhibitions, which both ended in unexpected defeat. He was just 10-of-26 shooting in those defeats to Nigeria and Australia.

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Durant came out with a purpose Tuesday, swishing a 3-pointer on the game’s first possession.

He scored eight points in the first quarter and ended with 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting.

It was a similar story for Bradley Beal, who shot just 38% and averaged just seven points in the first two games while trying to regain rhythm. Beal made his first four shots, two of them 3-pointers, and ended with 17 points for easily his best game of the exhibitions.

“A sense of urgency is what we’re kind of preaching,” Beal said. “Today we got better, but there’s still a lot more we can improve on. We’re moving in the right direction.”

Despite it being the second game of a back-to-back and a comfortable victory, Popovich played Beal 30 of the game’s 40 minutes in an attempt to help him round into form.

Popovich cited conditioning as a reason the Americans faded down the stretch in the two losses. After a heavy calendar for most of the players over the previous 12 months, players taking time to rest was expected after their seasons ended, but it seems to have contributed to the slow start.

Tuesday’s game also featured a strong performance from Zach LaVine, a late addition to Team USA who has been building a case for more playing time this week. LaVine was in Popovich’s starting lineup for the Jayson Tatum, who sat out to rest a sore knee, and made a statement with 15 points, five rebounds and three assists.

“Somebody’s got to take Tatum’s place,” Popovich said. “So you choose one, simple as that.”

LaVine, who has had more time off as the Chicago Bulls missed the playoffs, is one of the players who seems to be in better rhythm. He had a spectacular highlight dunk in the fourth quarter, rising over a defender and slamming it despite a foul.

It must be said the Argentinians, who came in ranked No. 4 in the world after taking the silver at the 2019 World Cup, were the weakest team the Americans have yet faced. They are 0-3 in the games at Mandalay Bay this week and are an older team. Former NBA player Luis Scola, who is 41, led them with 16 points.

A better test for Team USA’s development will come Friday in a rematch with the Aussies. It will come after two days off to allow for some practice and film work.

“The last thing we want to do is overwork people to the point where we get injuries, but the first priority is we have to get back in shape,” Popovich. “We’re going to continue to work hard like we need to. … Without the condition we can’t get this done.”

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Team USA falls to 0-2 in Olympic exhibitions after loss to Australia

Team USA might indeed win its fourth successive Olympic gold next month in Tokyo. But if they do, it will be a story of overcoming adversity.

The Americans lost their second consecutive exhibition Monday, this time bested by Australia 91-83 in Las Vegas. Dating to the 2019 World Cup, where they concluded seventh, Team USA has lost four of their past five matches.

It also has lost two in a row now to Australia, a team expected to contend for the gold in Japan.

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It was a better showing than the loss to Nigeria on Saturday but just reading those words is a little mind-boggling considering the pedigree of this roster and coaching staff. Damian Lillard, who had 22 points, and Kevin Durant, who had 17 points, definitely looked more like All-Stars. But in the end, they weren’t able to deliver clutch shots.

The final indignity came with one minute to play and the U.S. down five as Jayson Tatum tossed up an air ball on a corner 3-point try. It was better than the next possession, which resulted in a turnover.

The execution differential between the teams was glaring.

Over and over and over the Aussies were able to throw passes into the middle to players either wide open from great cuts or in an advantageous matchup.

Maybe it’s a little early in this process for heavy game planning but it was clear that Australia felt it could take advantage of a relatively small U.S. roster.

Patty Mills, who has long been a star for his national team, had 22 points. Joe Ingles had 17 and the Aussies concluded shooting 53% for the game.

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Jacob Steinmetz selected by Arizona Diamondbacks, becomes 1st known drafted practicing Orthodox Jew

Jacob Steinmetz’s blazing fastball helped make him a baseball draft trailblazer.

The New York native is considered to be the first known practicing Orthodox Jewish player to be selected by a major league team, going in the third round — 77th overall — to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday.

The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Steinmetz, from the hamlet of Woodmere in Long Island, New York, is a 17-year-old right-hander whose repertoire features a fastball that sits in the mid-to-upper 90s and a knee-buckling curveball.

He elevated his draft stock considerably while playing for the Elev8 Baseball Academy in Delray Beach, Florida, this year after previously competing for his high school team, The Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway of Long Island.

Steinmetz recently told the New York Post he keeps the Sabbath and eats only kosher food, but plays during the Sabbath and on Jewish holidays — although he walks to games during the Sabbath rather than taking transportation. No practicing Orthodox Jewish player has made it to the big leagues.

The selections during the nine rounds Monday were made by teams on a conference call after the first night was a prime-time event at Denver’s Bellco Theater with MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announcing the picks.

Major League Baseball moved the draft from June to July, including it in the All-Star festivities.

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The Pittsburgh Pirates took Louisville slugging catcher Henry Davis with the No. 1 overall pick Sunday night and got him a potential future batterymate to lead off Day 2 by selecting New Jersey high school lefty Anthony Solometo at No. 37.

The Pirates picked athletic Pennsylvania high school outfielder Lonnie White Jr., who signed a letter of intent to play both baseball and football at Penn State, in the competitive balance round between the second and third rounds. Pittsburgh went back to pitching in the third round, taking Georgia high school pitcher and shortstop Bubba Chandler — who has a scholarship offer from Clemson to play quarterback.

The Washington Nationals used their 10th-round pick on Cal infielder Darren Baker, the son of former Washington and current Houston manager Dusty Baker.

Darren Baker was memorably swooped away from home plate by Giants player J.T. Snow during the 2002 World Series, when the 3-year-old Baker was a bat boy. The Nationals also selected Darren Baker in the 27th round of the 2017 draft, but he did not sign and instead played for Cal. He hit .327 for the Golden Bears this campaign.

Arkansas closer Kevin Kopps, the Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year and a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award, was taken by the San Diego Padres in the third round.

The 24-year-old right-hander was a sixth-year senior after redshirting as a freshman and missing a year after having Tommy John surgery, but was dominant this season with a Division I-leading 0.90 ERA while winning 12 matches and saving 11.

The Houston Astros took Nevada high school outfielder Tyler Whitaker with their first pick of the draft, which didn’t come until the third round for the second consecutive year as punishment for the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal.

Both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels have taken pitchers exclusively through 10 rounds, while the Cleveland Indians grabbed pitchers with 10 of their 11 picks and the San Francisco Giants and Toronto Blue Jays grabbed nine pitchers through 10 rounds.

The Baltimore Orioles, meanwhile, selected just one pitcher among their first 11 picks. The draft will be completed Tuesday with Rounds 11 through 20 conducted via a conference call with teams.

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New York Jets signing RT Morgan Moses to one-year deal

The New York Jets are signing right tackle Morgan Moses to a one-year deal, sources confirmed to ESPN on Friday.

Moses, 30, released by the Washington Football Team on May 20 in a salary-cap move, will compete with incumbent George Fant at right tackle.

Not only do the Jets get a proven starter in Moses, but it increases their depth and flexibility. If Fant loses out to Moses, which is the likely scenario, he can be the backup/swing tackle.

This is another assertive move by general manager Joe Douglas, who made it a priority to rebuild one of the league’s worst offensive lines. Douglas used his 2020 first-round pick on left tackle Mekhi Becton, and he followed up by using a 2021 first-round choice on Alijah Vera-Tucker, who projects as the team’s starting left guard. The Jets liked Vera-Tucker so much that they traded up nine spots to take him.

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The Jets had planned on riding with Fant — $4.45 million of his $8.5 million salary is guaranteed — but they changed course when Moses became available. They hosted him on a free-agent visit.

“Morgan is a fantastic player. He’s played at a very high level,” coach Robert Saleh stated recently. “We’re not going to shy away from adding good football players.”

Tackle depth is important.

Becton, battling plantar fasciitis, missed most of the offseason program. He was hurt in the first practice and remained on the sideline. Saleh downplayed the injury, saying he’s “not worried about his availability” for training camp.

Still, there are concerns about Becton’s weight and durability, as he missed the equivalent of five games last campaign due to various injuries. When healthy, he was dominant at times.

Moses (6-foot-6, 330) is one of the most durable lineman in the league. He has started every game since 2015, all but one at right tackle.

In 2020, he ranked 39th out of 62 qualifying tackles in pass block win rate, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Fant was 40th in the rankings. The Washington Football Team cut Moses with two years remaining on his contract.

He was due to make $7.75 million in 2021. Moses, a third-round pick out of Virginia in 2014, has played 104 games, including 97 starts.

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San Francisco 49ers DE Nick Bosa (ACL) expected to be ready for training camp

More than 80 of the players on the San Francisco 49ers’ 90-man roster participated in Tuesday’s organized team activity — but the most positive news of the day might have been about one of the few players who wasn’t there.

Defensive end Nick Bosa was not in attendance at the voluntary session as he works his way back from the torn left ACL he suffered on Sept. 20, 2020. But, after the roughly 75-minute OTA, coach Kyle Shanahan made it clear that Bosa’s rehabilitation is going well and the expectation is that when training camp opens on July 31, Bosa will be a part of it.

“Nick’s in Florida,” Shanahan said. “I’ve been talking to Nick since February on this. He came out in February for a while to get checked up on his knee and stuff. With him coming off the ACL and everything, it’s going great. … He’s got a good setup out there with his brother and the guy who works with his knee. They’re in contact with our guys all the time and just didn’t want to take him off his routine right now. I totally agree with him out there. He’s going to show up at some time during this, but he won’t be going out there doing anything coming off the ACL, but we fully expect him to be ready for training camp.”

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Getting Bosa back at full strength would be a big development for a defense that dropped from fifth in sacks in 2019 (48) to 22nd last year (30).

Bosa suffered the torn ACL early in a Week 2 win versus the New York Jets. It was the first of a series of season-destroying injuries for the Niners, who slumped to 6-10 after winning the NFC championship the previous campaign.

The 49ers’ pass rush would also benefit from the return of another key edge rusher if Dee Ford is able to recover from his persistent back issues. Ford, who appeared in just one game in 2020, also didn’t participate Tuesday, but Shanahan said Ford had been at the team’s facility since February and has made progress.

“Everyone knows the sensitivity of his injury with his back and stuff, but he’s been putting in a lot of work here and we feel it’s going the right direction,” Shanahan said.

“Last week, we sent him home because he had been here so long, to go back to his hometown, see his doctor and plan on coming back here in the next couple of weeks. But don’t expect to see him till training camp on the field.”

Also not participating Tuesday was running back Jeff Wilson Jr., who recently had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee, a league source told ESPN, confirming an NFL Network report. Wilson is expected to miss four to six months.

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Seattle Seahawks re-sign Damarious Randall, moving him to CB

The Seattle Seahawks have re-signed Damarious Randall and plan to move him back to cornerback, the team revealed Friday.

Randall played cornerback for his first three seasons with the Green Bay Packers, who drafted him 30th overall in 2015. He has also played safety and some nickelback.

Most of Randall’s 35 defensive snaps last campaign came at safety. He appeared in 10 matches with the Seahawks — mostly on special teams — after joining their practice squad in September.

It’s not clear if the Seahawks see Randall as an option at nickelback or on the outside.

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At 5-foot-11 and 196 pounds, the 28-year-old is smaller than what the Seahawks typically prefer in their perimeter cornerbacks. But D.J. Reed emerged for Seattle on the outside last season despite not having prototypical size.

The Seahawks’ other perimeter cornerbacks incorporate free-agent addition Ahkello Witherspoon and Tre Flowers, who has started 37 games for Seattle over the past three seasons.

Safety Ryan Neal has played cornerback in the past. Ugo Amadi and Marquise Blair are returning at nickelback, although Blair is coming off a torn ACL.

The Seahawks wanted to re-sign cornerback Quinton Dunbar, but he signed with the Detroit Lions instead.

Other Seahawks corners with starting experience are D.J. Reed, who can play multiple positions and who finished the season starting at right cornerback and free-agent addition Ahkello Witherspoon, who started 33 games in four seasons with the 49ers, playing on both the left and right side.

Randall has 14 interceptions and 47 passes defensed over six NFL seasons. He spent three with Green Bay and two with the Cleveland Browns before landing in Seattle last year.

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Sammy Watkins agrees to one-year contract with Baltimore Ravens

Sammy Watkins agreed to a one-year deal with the Baltimore Ravens, the team revealed. The team stated the contract is pending a physical.

Terms were not disclosed but sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter the deal is worth $6 million with $5 million guaranteed.

The addition of Watkins ended the Ravens’ difficult pursuit of an experienced wide receiver for quarterback Lamar Jackson and helps boost the NFL’s 32nd-ranked passing attack. Watkins’ 4,665 career receiving yards are more than double the combined career total of the Ravens’ current wide receivers (2,032).

If he can stay healthy, Watkins can team with Marquise “Hollywood” Brown as Baltimore’s starting wide receivers and complement him as a valuable underneath target for Jackson.

It has been a trying offseason for the Ravens to land a veteran wide receiver for Jackson, which further raises interrogations of whether wide receivers want to play in Baltimore’s run-first offense.

Desperately needing a wide receiver in a dwindling free-agent pool, the Ravens watched JuJu Smith-Schuster turn down a better offer to return to Pittsburgh last week and then lost out on T.Y. Hilton, who chose to go back to Indianapolis on Wednesday.

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Baltimore eventually went with Watkins, who had met with Ravens officials on Tuesday before leaving for a visit with the Colts. When Indianapolis retained Hilton, the Ravens struck a deal with Watkins.

By joining Baltimore, Watkins reunites with Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman and passing-game specialist Keith Williams. In Roman’s only full season as the Buffalo Bills’ offensive coordinator, Watkins produced career highs with 1,047 yards receiving and nine touchdowns in 2015. Before being hired by the Ravens this year, Williams recently served as Watkins’ personal receivers coach in the offseason.

This marks the first time Baltimore has signed a wide receiver this early in free agency since the Ravens added Michael Crabtree in 2018. The most significant free-agent wide receiver signings by the Ravens in the past two years were Seth Roberts and Dez Bryant.

One of the bigger surprises of the Ravens’ offseason was Baltimore not signing a wide receiver immediately when it was among the team’s top needs.

The Ravens’ wide receivers have ranked last in each of the past two campaigns in catches and receiving yards, and this group ranked among the youngest in the league because their two most experienced targets (Bryant and Willie Snead IV) are free agents.

Before bringing in Watkins, the Ravens’ top four wide receivers on their roster — Brown, Miles Boykin, Devin Duvernay and James Proche II — were all drafted in the past two years, and none are over the age of 24.

The signing of Watkins won’t preclude the Ravens from drafting a wide receiver, but it should decrease the necessity to select one in the first round. Watkins is only the Ravens’ second free agent signed from another team this offseason.

Earlier this month, Baltimore signed guard Kevin Zeitler to a three-year, $22.5 million contract.

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Sean Payton wants New Orleans Saints to re-sign QB Jameis Winston ‘sooner than later’

So much for Sean Payton’s poker face. The New Orleans Saints coach didn’t try to cloak the team’s desire to re-sign free-agent quarterback Jameis Winston if Drew Brees retires as expected.

Payton spoke glowingly about Winston to ESPN and other media outlets while doing some Super Bowl week appearances on Wednesday, saying the Saints would like to re-sign him “sooner than later.”

Payton also specifically told CBS Sports’ Pick Six Podcast that he believes Brees to make an announcement “in the next week or two.”

Payton has been saying for months that he thinks the Saints’ next quarterback is already “in the building” — a reference that contains both Winston and Taysom Hill. And he reiterated Wednesday that the Saints have a “pretty good vision” for both players.

It was notable that Payton mentioned Winston first and talked about him in greater detail when asked about the Saints’ future QB plans by ESPN’s Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin Show and by NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” show — saying it was an “easy” question.

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However, Payton stressed that the reason he mentioned Winston first was that he’s a free agent and Hill is already under contract for one more year.

“Jameis Winston, we know. We had a year with him. He was fantastic as a leader. He’s got tremendous arm talent. He’s a young prospect that we like a lot,” Payton said in his ESPN appearance.

“When you have a player for a season, he’s kind of giving you a chance to see what he’s about, and there’s a little bit of an audition there. But the same audition takes place for us. He’s getting a chance to see, ‘Hey, this is how they do it here. Does this fit me? Does this head coach, this position coach? Is this a place I feel comfortable playing?'”

Payton told “Good Morning Football”: “A lot of times you want to hold your cards closer to the vest [with a] free agent. But him along with Taysom Hill, we’ve said it all along, we’re gonna develop and coach those guys. And Jameis is one of those guys that we have a big interest in.”

Winston, who just turned 27 in January, signed a one-year contract with the Saints last spring for $1.1 million plus incentives because he specifically wanted to learn under Payton and Brees while trying to renew his career. He called it “a Harvard education in quarterback school.”

Winston didn’t get much on-field experience, since there was no preseason and Payton elected to start Hill while Brees was sidelined for four matches by broken ribs and a punctured lung.

However, Winston did make his best play of the season when he completed a 56-yard touchdown pass on a trick play in New Orleans’ playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Winston was 7-of-11 for 75 yards in the regular season with no touchdowns or turnovers.

Hill, 30, went 3-1 in those four starts, with some highs and some lows. But Payton explained that part of the reason he selected Hill over Winston was that Hill was in his fourth year in New Orleans — and Payton had made a promise to Hill that he would get such an opportunity when he re-signed last year as a restricted free agent.

It appears that this year would be more of an open competition between Winston and Hill, assuming the Saints don’t make any other big moves at the position.

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New Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell agrees to six-year contract

New Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell received a six-year contract from the team, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

The Lions informed Campbell’s hiring on Wednesday but did not disclose terms. The team will introduce him with a news conference on Thursday.

“With more than 20 years of experience as both a coach and player in the National Football League, Dan knows the rigors of professional football and what it takes to be successful. He will help promote the culture we want to establish across our organization, while also bringing with him high energy, a respect for the game and an identity with which everyone can align themselves,” Lions principal owner Sheila Ford Hamp said in a statement.

Campbell, the New Orleans Saints’ assistant head coach/tight ends coach, replaces Matt Patricia, who was released in November after less than three seasons with the Lions and a 13-29-1 record.

The Lions will now try to reset after concluding last in the NFC North the past three seasons. Campbell is expected to bring fellow Saints assistant coach Aaron Glenn with him as defensive coordinator. Glenn has a few other suitors, but Detroit is the favorite, the source told Fowler.

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The 44-year-old Campbell, who has never been a coordinator in the NFL, is viewed as a motivator and someone who can bring a team together, rather than an X’s-and-O’s guru. The Lions had been searching for people they considered unifiers as they identified qualities they deemed important to building a winner out of a franchise that has one playoff victory in the Super Bowl era and claimed its last division title in 1993.

Campbell doesn’t have much experience as a head coach — just 12 games as an interim head coach for the Miami Dolphins — but the Lions clearly saw enough to pair him with recently hired general manager Brad Holmes. Without experience calling plays on either side of the ball, whom Campbell brings in as coordinators will be paramount to his success.

During Holmes’ introductory news conference on Tuesday, the Lions stated all three of Holmes, Campbell and vice president of football administration Mike Disner will report to team president Rod Wood, creating a balanced structure. When asked whether Holmes or Campbell would have final say over the 53-man roster, Wood said it would be a collaborative process.

“Dan’s passion for this opportunity was evident throughout our interview process,” Wood said in a statement.

“When we began the search for a head coach, it was imperative that we find the right leader who values our commitment to building a winning culture based on organizational alignment and collaboration. The leadership Dan has exemplified throughout his football career has prepared him for this next step, and we are excited to support him as our new head coach.”

The Lions had conducted their searches for Holmes and Campbell simultaneously, often asking candidates whether they had people in mind for the other position they would want to work with. After Holmes was hired last week, Ford Hamp said Holmes spoke with some of their remaining candidates.

Campbell played 10 seasons in the NFL, including the final three years of his career for the Lions.

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