Mariucci: "Let's Go"

With less than a week before their much anticipated season opener against the Green Bay Packers, chalk up the Detroit Lions among the many that are anxious for the season to start. Quotes inside from Lions' head coach Steve Mariucci and quarterback Joey Harrington.

With less than a week before their much anticipated season opener against the Green Bay Packers, chalk up the Detroit Lions among the many that are anxious to get the ball rolling.

The Lions, under third-year head coach Steve Mariucci, have won each of the last two openers. One at home against Arizona in his first appearance as head cheese in Detroit, and one on the road. All "it's where you finish" cliches aside, Mariucci and his team are well aware that each contest carries heavy implications -- especially when the first two are against divisional rivals.

"Let's go," responded Mariucci when pressed for his thoughts on the Ford Field kick-off on Sunday. "We have four competitive divisional teams here. We think we are better. I know the Vikings are better. I know the Bears are better and we will see exactly where the Packers are. They have won the division three years in a row.

"It is time for us to make a move. It is going to be a very important start to the season."

Mariucci had no qualms about a schedule dump that sends the team to NFC North rival Chicago immediately following Sunday's opener -- and just prior to the team's third-week bye.

"You might-as-well play them early and see where you are and see how you stack up and then take it from there," Mariucci said.

"If you are going to dethrone them, so to speak, you have to beat them head to head."

In ritualistic fashion, the Lions -- along with every other NFL team across the league -- turn up the intensity as the season approaches. Everyone from quarterback Joey Harrington to the team's equipment manager prepare themselves for the dawn of a new NFL season; the nation's most popular sport; practices so fervent you can slice through the atmosphere with a knife.

Last season the Lions roared out of the gates, shattering a forgettable road losing streak at Chicago. But after a second consecutive win during a home tilt with Houston, the team was beset by injuries and never recovered, dropping 10 of their remaining 14 games. With realism and a pinch of humility in place, Mariucci was confident the 2005 Lions could respond more appropriately.

"Our intention is to start fast and continue with some consistency throughout the year with some maturity and be resilient and bounce back from an injury or defeat or whatever," he said. "I think we have a real resilient team here. We have a bunch of determined guys who know how to work and that is a good place to start and now I want to see the rewards of all that hard work on game day."

A large part of the Lions' success will be determined by Harrington. Entering his fourth-season, the former Oregon standout is shrugging off an off-season that pin-pointed him as a reason behind Detroit's recent failures.

In 2001, under former head coach Marty Mornhinweg, Harrington was baptised by fire, tossed into a forgettable season opener at Miami. With another fresh start and formidable talent surrounding him, Harrington is eager to get started.

"In a sense, yeah. It's just another reminder of what I am tired of," said Harrington, reminiscing on Detroit's loss to the Dolphins. "On the same hand, I also remember my first start when I got under (center) against Green Bay two games later and we came up a fingertip short of knocking off Brett Favre and Green Bay. There's what I am trying to get away from and what we are just so close to.

"There's a little bit of fun to opening day."

Harrington shared Mariucci's willingness to start the season in divisional surroundings.

"Our goal is to win the division; nobody has ever backed away from that," he said. "That's been my answer every time someone has asked us what our goal is for the season. What better way to start it off than with two division opponents."

As the NFL prepares to unveil the new season during Thursday's matchup between New England and Oakland, every prediction, any preseason prognostication, each analyst post-season suggestion is tossed out the window. For the diehard NFL junkie, it is an early Christmas gift.

So, after spending several years in the league as an assistant and head coach, does Mariucci still get caught up in the hysteria?

"You would have to be brain dead if you are not."

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