Detroit Lions defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant has taken some fire for a heated confrontation on the sidelines with cornerback Jeff Okudah during the Lions’ Week 1 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Many critics, including former NFL wide receiver Steve Smith, have slammed Pleasant and claimed the Lions staff is out of control.
That’s not the internal view of the situation at all. Head coach Dan Campbell made that clear during a press conference, and two of Pleasant’s direct underlings did so on Wednesday, too. Cornerback Amani Oruwariye had some very pointed words for those criticizing the situation from the outside, attempting to correct their ignorance.
“I’m going to make it real clear,” Oruwariye said. “Everyone has particular relationships with Coach Pleasant. He’s come here and really challenged everyone because he sees the potential in everyone and he really wants to just light that fire under every single guy. And he has different relationships, different ways of going about that with everyone. But at the end of the day, it’s two guys just wanting to be great.”
Oruwariye also noted how much Pleasant has helped him and adapted to the third-year cornerback’s particular set of skills.
“He’s challenged me in ways that I haven’t had in the past with film study, with my technique,” Oruwariye said. “Me being longer, maybe not as shifty as some of the smaller guys, but challenging me to work my footwork, work my technique and I can do the same things as some of the smaller guys can do, but still with my length. He’s challenged me in so many different ways mentally and it’s been great so far. I can’t wait to keep going.”
Rookie CB Ifeatu Melifonwu echoed a similar sentiment and understands the coaching approach.
“It’s tough love sometimes, but you know it’s coming from a good place,” Melifonwu said. “It’s not anything ego or anything, he just wants us to be great.”
Pleasant offered up a warm embrace with Okudah after a later play in the game, something that has been widely ignored by the national angles on the story. That is the Pleasant we see in Allen Park, a passionate coach trying to show respect and love while also pushing them to become better players.