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Nate Caminata - LionsFans.com
As the annual player and fan routines commence prior to the launch of the 2001 NFL season, just as they do the night before each respective campaign, there is a new conviction neighboring both the Detroit Lions and their fans.
It is, perhaps, something no other NFL team presently shares.
The Detroit Lions may have physical likeness to their predecessors, but they have something the team and organization has never before had. A fresh start. A fresh attitude. And a new sense of pride.
Under Matt Millen's dictatorship during the off-season, in which he purged over 70% of the front office staff, and head coach Marty Mornhinweg's authority over the ball club, simply referring to the team's changes as "new look" doesn't do it justice.
It is a new team, and a new organization.
Mornhinweg's implementation of the West Coast Offense will give fans a view of the Detroit Lions they've never before witnessed. The pre-season wasn't even a sneak preview, and barely registers as a trailer. The Lions' offensive player personnel grasped the offense due to excellent tutelage from an All Star coaching cast, and enter the season with a persuasive confidence.
"(My numbers) will definitely be better than what I put up in the past," Lions' quarterback Charlie Batch told the Associated Press on Saturday.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Lions' line is brimmed with studs, and the term "formidable" is a dangerous understatement.
Despite having the presence of Pro Bowlers Robert Porcher and Luther Elliss, along with veteran tackle James Jones and solid depth, the Lions acquired rookie tackle Shaun Rogers in the second round in April's draft, and picked up Alonzo Spellman in the free-agent market. Their tutor; Former defensive lineman, and legend Charles Haley.
The defensive line's prowess isn't going unnoticed, however.
"I've always respected their defensive people," said Green Bay Packers' head coach Mike Sherman. "They have an extremely difficult front seven to block and their linebackers are all chiseled about the same."
The Lions' kept their solid core of linebackers intact, with Pro Bowler Stephan Boyd flanked by veteran Allen Aldridge and third-year player Chris Claiborne. The only weakness could perhaps be the secondary, where Detroit will be without free safety Kurt Schulz until mid-season, and cornerback Bryant Westbrook until at least the second week.
The Lions' defense will enter the season under the wing of former Arizona Cardinals head coach, and defensive guru, Vince Tobin.
The Detroit Lions have prepared for over a month, in a way they've never prepared before. They will enter Sunday's contest with a confidence they have never felt.
The fan and player routines may remain the same, however: Face paint. Lack of sleep. Pre-game jitters. But that's acceptable as long as the quality of play has also changed ... for the better.
If not, let's ditch the routines and start fresh. It's a new season.