Detroit Lions John Penisini’s big difference between college and NFL: ‘They yell at you’

Like a lot of rookies, Detroit Lions defensive tackle John Penisini didn’t know what to expect when it came to the demanding nature of the NFL.

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But the sixth-round pick from Utah quickly learned that in the NFL every single minute, technical detail matters. And coaches aren’t shy about reminding him of that.

“They focus on everything, even the little things,” Penisini said Thursday. “If like my elbows are out, like I start getting my elbows out and not tucked in. Footwork, hand placement.

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“And It’s like little things that in college if I did get knocked back, crappy hand placement, they would be like, ‘Oh, it’s OK.’ Over here, you do that and oh, they yell at you.”

Penisini laughed about the harsh chastisement he sometimes receives. Perhaps because he’s heard it so often. But then, it might be easier for Penisini to take his coaches’ abuse since they’re high on him and he has seen his playing time increase.

a baseball player wearing a helmet: Detroit Lions defensive tackle John Penisini hits a tackling dummy during drills at practice, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020, in Allen Park.

© Carlos Osorio, AP
Detroit Lions defensive tackle John Penisini hits a tackling dummy during drills at practice, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020, in Allen Park.

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In the Lions’ last game, Penisini played a season-high 22 snaps on defense and made five tackles, including one for loss.

“He has done a nice job for us,” defensive coordinator Cory Undlin said Monday. “I think just like any rookie coming in no matter what position you play, it takes a little bit of time to get into the scheme and he, what he has done is just put his head down and keep working.”

Even though he’s just four games into his career, Penisini said he feels more comfortable on the field as his reps increase.

“I think it just helps with the experience, the experience part of the game,” he said. “I mean, now I’m just getting used to it and getting in the groove. With more reps coming, hopefully pick up my game.”

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As for those technique issues? He’s getting in the groove with that, too.

“We do the same drills every day: striking coming off footwork,” he said. “I think it’s just building that muscle memory. Like now, it’s what, three, four months, probably three months into football? And it’s already in my mind: ‘I’ve got to strike like this, I’ve got to move my feet this way. Wherever this guy goes, I’m going.’ But yeah, it just builds with the reps during practice.”

In his limited action so far, Penisini has been effective as a run-stuffing nose tackle. It’s how the Lions envision him playing.

“He’s got lower-body power,” defensive line coach Bo Davis said Monday. “He plays with low pad level and that’s the thing that

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