ALLEN PARK -- Although the results won't be available until September, Lions' head coach Rod Marinelli walked away from his team's recent mini-camp impressed. And excited. So excited, perhaps, that one member of the media reminded him of previous "lofty goals" set forth by previous coaches of the team.
Unfazed, Marinelli remained the eternal optimist following Thursday's final practice.
"I just believe it's going to be a very good team," said the second-year head coach, who failed to mention the playoffs (or other synonyms for the post-season) during the address. "I feel very strongly about that. I'm setting high expectations for them, and I believe in my heart they're going to meet them.
"... I can say that because I feel very good about it and they know that.
We've got a team that is fast and explosive. We've got some key veterans who
just keep coming. We've got the type of speed I've talked about on defense I
"That's what I see. I'm out here, I look, I see it, and I believe it. I am not going to undersell, I'm going to overrate those men. That's the expectations."
With one rather forgettable season under his belt, Marinelli is aware the team will already have pre-diagnosed expectations levied upon them. With the bulk of their starters returning, along with the addition of No. 2 overall pick and human highlight film Calvin Johnson, there isn't necessarily a question of whether or not Detroit will climb out of the NFC North division cellar -- it's more of a demand.
The mini-camp didn't leave much to be desired. And that's a start.
During each day of practice at the mini-camp, the Lions seemed to be in sync with the verbal tutorials offered by the coaching staff. The veterans, including receiver Mike Furrey, quarterback Jon Kitna and others, helped demonstrate different tactics to the younger players. At one point, Furrey was handing tips to the defensive backs, while offensive coordinator Mike Martz shouted instructions to the rest of the receiving core.
Marinelli said it is a sign that his ball club is starting to develop the requisite chemistry of a winning franchise -- and that they are also buying into his philosophies.
"What brings chemistry, that cement that brings that chemistry together, is belief, fundamentals, working together—all those things," he said. "Because once they leave the building, everybody is different and likes different people.
"But when we're on that field, it's that energy, the work habits and that tempo. So it's just something that's part of the NFL, and they know what I want."
The fresh faces made themselves readily apparent during the camp. One of the most impressive players, defensive end Dewayne White (Tampa Bay), attacked the pocket with reckless abandon on Thursday. The former Buccaneer, who learned under Marinelli and defensive coordinator Joe Barry while in Tampa, is expected to become a key ingredient in the team's defensive makeup.
Meanwhile, White's laborious work ethic may have rubbed off on fellow
defensive end, and highly-scrutinized Kalimba Edwards. Edwards failed to deliver
on his multi-year, multi-million dollar deal last season, but seemed to play
with a renewed sense of enthusiasm.
"We brought two quality players in on a trade. And then, like I told you guys, I was really looking interested in getting edge speed," commented Marinelli. "I really wanted to add speed to the edge part of our defensive front. Dewayne [White] was out there, who's a good edge speed guy. We were able to get a real good guy out there. I think that is going to show some speed there, and the corners that we brought in. It was speed, looking for that tempo and speed."
With a handful of months before training camp, Marinelli and his staff will ready for the impending season. The player evaluation will continue, along with likely additions and, even more likely, subtractions. And however cliche, the old adage applies: the proof is in the pudding. The Lions haven't had a winning season in nearly a decade, and the work to rectify that is ongoing.
"As soon as something happens, ‘oh here it goes again'," said Marinelli. "No,
we just have to keep going and keep believing and keep pushing straight ahead.
Believe, have confidence, be energized with it, look forward to this process and
have a tool to do with one snap at a time to deal with the job at hand."