ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The nerves are gone now, disappearing when Theo Riddick showed up for offseason workouts earlier this spring. The daily anxiety he faced from not knowing what would be next no longer had a place in his football life.
It was not something that consumed Riddick last season, but everything was new to the 2013 rookie. There were new people to meet, a new coach to play for, a new system to learn and a new role to have. It all turned into a decent amount for him to handle as he established a role on special teams last season.
It lasted all year.
“It’s your first go-round. You’re going to naturally have anxiety,” Riddick said. “If you don’t, then something is definitely wrong. You’re excited, amped up, living out your dream so you’re bound to have anxiety.”
Riddick would actually talk to himself in an attempt to calm his nerves on a daily basis. It worked enough for him to become a valuable special teams performer and to earn a small role in the offense with nine carries for 25 yards and four catches for 26 yards his first season out of Notre Dame.
His first season helped to set up now, where Riddick is actually competing for a larger role when training camp begins Monday. He spent the majority of the spring impressing coaches and receiving more reps than he would have due to an injury to Joique Bell, one of Detroit’s main running backs.
Riddick took advantage of that, also knowing new coordinator Joe Lombardi’s offense uses multiple running backs and there could be more carries and catches for the taking. While his strong performances came without pads on, he now has an opportunity to show his growth can continue in more game-like situations.
“He is a lot more decisive now,” said Lions rookie receiver TJ Jones, who played with Riddick at Notre Dame. “There wasn’t as much hesitation. When he made his cut, he was going. There wasn’t any second-guessing, even if there wasn’t the wide hole that he was hitting, he was going to hit it full speed.”
This was part of Riddick’s plan during the offseason. He focused on his reads in pass protection and hitting his running lanes in the offseason along with catching the ball cleaner. Having the same running backs coach despite the turnover in head coach and offensive coordinator, Curtis Modkins, also helped Riddick become acclimated faster in his second season.
Last season, he was just trying to catch up with everything. Now, with Modkins assisting, he is actually trying to learn as he attempts to increase his role.
“Watch a little more film. Every time you’re not in, take a mental rep. I did that last year but I wasn’t as, I didn’t do it every day,” Riddick said. “Now, every second, every play I’m always by coach asking him ‘Did you see this? Did you see that?’
“Just trying to relay that everything I’m seeing is accurate and everything that he’s seeing is accurate.”
How that accuracy will pay off for Riddick will be determined over the next six weeks.