It was a little bit more complicated for Rod Marinelli to take his approach into the clubhouse and onto the practice field for a team that was used to the laid back, country-club type atmosphere espoused by former coach Steve Mariucci. Mariucci believed in keeping his players fresh by light workouts, walkthrough's and more classroom work.
Marinelli, Martz and Henderson's approach has been the polar opposite.
They appeared to hit a snag with Marinelli's inexperience when anonymous Lions players filed a grievance (published reports indicated Shaun Rogers and Marcus Bell but both players denied the reports) that led to the team losing two days of organized team activity. Reports had the Organized Team Activity (OTA) sessions being way to physical and overbearing coaches screaming obscenities at the players.
It looked like another case of a new coach learning on the job was going to set back the teams' progress, just as Lions president and general manager Matt Millen's inexperience had cost the organization several times previously.
But when word of the grievance became public, there was a ground swell of public support for Marinelli. That was coupled with an overwhelmingly negative response to the players actions turning what could have been a negative into a positive.
When the media got its first look at the team during its mandatory minicamp (Detroit has closed all workouts to the public and the media but NFL rules state all mandatory camps must be opened to the media) there was very little screaming, nothing but incidental contact that the coaches quickly instructed the players to stay away from ("stay up, stay up"). The sessions were highly organized, intensely instructive and surprisingly, the players appeared to enjoy them.
"It's real exciting," said receiver Roy Williams. "I asked Matt Millen today, where did you get these (coaches)? Where did you find these guys," asked Williams who said he was very pleased at the direction of the offense and the way the team is practicing.
Marinelli indicated the reports of the closed workout sessions were overblown. "I think we went back to some basic concepts today and there weren't as many assignment errors. Usually, what sets [coaches] off is when you're not on the details. That's what sets us off a little bit."
Eventually Lions union representative James Hall read a statement stating that the team was in full compliance and agreement with coach Marinelli's approach and refused any comment afterwards. Now with training camp on the horizon, the team, the coaching staff and the front office are all working in lockstep toward the same goal.
Still, the coach understands that none of this means anything until his team hits the field and starts winning some football games. "So far, it's been very good. I'm pleased with the effort, but it's not good enough," said Marinelli.
"I like the effort and the willingness (to adapt) to the different environments we're trying to create and the different tempos we're trying to create. In this league, it's so difficult to win because there are so many intangibles that stop you from winning. (It's) not just the other player, it could be the elements, it could be travel, it could be anything. Part of this whole process is overcoming minor obstacles to win the game in the fourth quarter."
His single minded focused approach has sold the front office, the coaching staff and apparently even the players that Rod Marinelli is the right person to get the job done.
The fans are hoping that finally, the Lions have got this thing right and that it shows up on the field this fall.