ALLEN PARK -- Excitement is high in Detroit for the upcoming football season.
Fans, players and coaches alike all share the same optimism as the season’s opening kickoff approaches. Even the national media has been tabbing the Lions as a playoff team. The difference is, the players and coaches are reluctant to talk about it.
Don’t let the tight-lipped approach fool you. It’s not that the team doesn’t recognize their potential, rather it’s that they realize talk is cheap.
"How we feel about (the team’s potential) really doesn't mean anything,” said head coach Jim Schwartz. “It’s how we perform. All that stuff is on paper and there is a reason we play games. I'll reserve warm fuzzy feelings and stuff like that until we play games."
The Lions have built a team that deserves hype – especially in a city so starved of it.
It’s been 10 years since the Lions have had a winning season and 11 since they’ve made the playoffs. Ten years of blunders can best describe the first decade of the new millennium but a lot seems to be changing.
The Lions have amassed talent across the roster and seem to be ready to take a step towards contending.
"I feel like where this organization’s at, I feel like there are a lot of areas of strength and I don't think you can pick out an area of weakness,” said defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch. “That goes for offense, defense and special teams. And not just sides of the ball but individual units.”
Still, all the hype and expectations equate to zero victories. If the team forgets that, Schwartz is there to keep them grounded.
"It’s not what you build, it's how many games you win,” said Schwartz. “Are we in a better position than we were two years ago? Sure. Have we taken some big steps in personnel on this team? Yeah, we sure have. None of that means a thing if we don't do it on the field. That's my message to the team and that continues to be my message."
The team hears him.
Each player on the team, down to the last man, will tell you they see talent in the players and know-how in the coaches. When they don’t say it with words, they do with actions. Their comfort around each other and in the locker room illustrates their confidence in one another.
Their hard work on the field illustrates their understanding of what needs to be done.
So if you don’t hear Schwartz predict a playoff berth or Vanden Bosch promise a division title, don’t think those goals aren’t in the back of their mind.
"We have great expectations,” said Schwartz. “We talked a lot about that when we opened training camp and things like that. The expectations that we have, we need to carry ourselves with those same kinds of things but we don't need to talk about it, that doesn't do us a whole lot of good. What does good is being well prepared for Sunday and winning games and things like that. I don't know when the playoffs start but they don't start on September 11th, but we got Tampa bay then.”
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