Maybe it would be different if they weren’t friends and next-door locker-room neighbors, or if they weren’t in the same boat, aching for more playing time.

But Jason Fox and Corey Hilliard can’t help it. They like each other.

Even as they’ve tried their hardest to outdo each other this off-season and prepare to battle in the NFL’s yearly Darwinian experiment known as training camp, Fox and Hilliard can’t help but cheer for each other as they both try to win the Lions’ starting job at right tackle.

“Me and Corey are great friends,” Fox said. “I root for him when he’s in, he roots for me when I’m in. We’re pushing each other and we’ll see what happens in training camp. …

“That’s a long process. We don’t know what’s going to happen. Just go out, do your best and compete.”

But competing hasn’t been easy for Fox or Hilliard. Neither has seen much playing time over the past three seasons and last year they barely saw the field. According to footballoutsiders.com, Fox played six snaps on special teams and Hilliard didn’t play a single snap.

Now, they’re on the cusp of becoming an NFL starter.

“I think that’s every athlete’s dream,” Fox said. “I want to contribute to this team any way possible.”

But first he has to beat out Hilliard, who also knows what he has to do.

“Jason’s good,” Hilliard said, “and he’s doing real good.”

Something else that’s good? Their rapport. Fox is a sly needler and Hilliard is a great straight man who knows how to give it right back.

“You’ve just got to know Fox,” Hilliard said. “He’s always giving people a hard time about whatever, it don’t matter what.”