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How a missed photo opportunity drives Lions DE Darryl Tapp

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Darryl Tapp was with the Detroit Lions for all but three days last season. That three-day absence explains everything Tapp has done since.

So Tapp missed nothing on the field in those three days. He missed one important thing off of it -- the thing that drove him all offseason: He missed the team photo.

The veteran defensive end was part of the franchise’s final cuts before the 2014 season. At the time, the Lions told him they planned on bringing him back once they moved Kyle Van Noy to short-term injured reserve -- something the team did before the first game of the season.

“I came back and looked on the website one day and was like, ‘Y’all took a team picture?’ Cut me to my soul,” Tapp said. “So everything this whole offseason is ‘Get into the team picture, Tapp.’

“Do everything you’ve got to do to get into the team picture.”

It was the first time in Tapp’s career -- from pee wee football through NFL stops with Seattle, Philadelphia and Washington -- he had ever not been photographed with the team he played on. And even though he was a key member of the Lions last season, playing in every game and making 17 tackles as a rotational defensive end and sometimes defensive tackle, being left out of the photo bothered him.

So if you’re looking for an ulterior motive why Tapp is having one of the best camps of his career and has been with the first unit consistently as Jason Jones remains on the PUP list, FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is a big reason why.

“As silly as it may sound to you, that was my first time really experience that in my career,” Tapp said. “I took it personal.

“Everything I’ve been trying to do and work at has been to get into that team picture.”

This became his main football focus this offseason. He spent time working with Devin Taylor -- another Detroit defensive end having a very strong camp -- and the two pushed each other.

The 30-year-old Tapp -- he’ll turn 31 in September -- believes he’s more comfortable now stopping the run in the Lions’ aggressive 4-3 defensive scheme. This is critical considering the franchise had the top run defense in the league last season but are replacing their top four interior defensive linemen and another rotational end, George Johnson

Part of the renewed ability against the run is due to familiarity with the scheme and the position. Tapp, a defensive end the majority of his career, played outside linebacker in Washington’s 3-4 defense in 2013 before signing with the Lions in 2014. It might not sound like much, but playing linebacker for a year actually slowed his adjustment to the Detroit defensive front.

“Last year during this time, I was still figuring out how to get in my stance and be comfortable,” Tapp said. “Like when teams rush the ball, getting into my stance and getting my aiming point together and seeing what the offense is doing and trying to get my footwork together.”

Tapp said he didn’t feel comfortable there until the fourth or fifth week of the season -- something that explains his uptick in snaps starting in Week 6 last year, when he had three tackles in 22 plays against Minnesota.

So Tapp is banking on his year of experience in Detroit’s scheme and a strong camp on the Lions' defensive line to help carry him to what he missed last season.

Sitting there, likely smiling, in the Detroit Lions' 2015 team photograph.