Thursday, July 28, 2011

Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions had just lost 24-20 to the Chicago Bears in early December last year to fall to 2-10 and, due to a daunting remaining schedule, there wasn't much hope on the horizon.
That's why fans and media were taken aback when Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said this on the Monday after the loss to the Bears: "Nothing is going to take away from where we're going as a team. This team has great things ahead of it. There's no question in any one of our minds that this team has great things ahead.''
Schwartz has repeated that refrain a couple of times in the interim. During Thursday's press conference to open the 2011 training camp, Schwartz reflected on his initial statement.
"That wasn't on my list of pre-press conference briefings from (public relations director Bill Keenist). It wasn't on my list of things to say or whatever, but I just got sort of tired of the negativity and the doom and gloom,'' Schwartz said. "I had a good feel for where the football team was and where we were going. It not like I was calling a shot or predicting anything, it's just how I honestly felt. I still feel that way.
"People in Detroit and people around the country are very optimistic about the Lions. We're the same way. Our optimism and feeling about the team - it might not be coming from the same place, we still have a lot of work to do - but I felt that way then and I still feel that way now.''
At the time, Schwartz also made it clear that Detroit's fortunes would be tied to quarterback Matthew Stafford and that hasn't changed, either.
"Matt's very key to what were going to do,'' Schwartz said. "The pieces we've put around him on offense were done very specifically to complement different players' strengths and things like that, including Matt.''
Schwartz isn't the only one who believes in great things ahead for the Lions - respected national football writer Peter King recently picked the Lions to be his surprise choice for a Super Bowl appearance. Schwartz said the Lions can't focus on the Super Bowl - not yet.
"(King's prediction) doesn't change the way we feel and it doesn't change the way we go about our business,'' Schwartz said. "That's why I feel strong about our team because of our ability to stay focused. That can be distracting for some teams, that can be distracting for some players. It's our job as leaders of the team to make sure that doesn't happen.
"I'll go back to what I told the team two years ago and I'll probably say it to the team every year and it's a cliché, but that stuff doesn't matter and we don't need to worry about that stuff. We need to worry about having a good practice today and a good meeting tonight. If we work the process, then the result will take care of itself.''