Lions’ negative teammates “aren’t here anymore”
The Detroit Lions have been one of the least successful teams in the NFL of the past decade. Last season brought the start of a resurgence and a playoff berth, signaling a change in the football culture of the city of Detroit. Entering this season, the Lions were looking to take a run at the Packers as the best team in the NFC North. Now, the Lions find themselves looking up not only at the Packers, but also the Vikings and the Bears, making them the current bottom feeders of the NFC North.
The Lions are accustomed to being on the bottom half of the NFC North, as they finished last or second-last in the division every season since the 2002 realignment, except for last year. Center Dominic Raiola, a member of the Lions since 2001, remains adamant that the negative attitude that the team carried for the greater part of a decade has been shed, and the team is still looking to make strides in the division.
“No, I don’t think so,” Raiola said of the Lions going in the tank this season. “I think before Jim got here, those guys are out of here. And if they are [around], they’ll be gone soon. I don’t think we need to worry about guys packing it up early or giving up or quitting on the team, because that’s not here anymore.”
“I’m glad those guys aren’t here anymore because the negativity is contagious and it spreads like a fire, because you’ve got one guy saying it, then a veteran thinks it,” he said. “We don’t have guys like that. We’ve got good, solid veteran workers that like to work, guys that are going to be here for a long time. Our stars are going to be here for a long time. And I think that’s the core of our team, so I don’t think there’s any chance of that happening. I know it’s not going to happen.”
The Lions had been one of the least respected teams in the league in the 2000’s, largely due to the number of failed high draft picks under then-GM Matt Millen and the 0-16 season of 2008. But player morale was extremely low and there was never much hope that the team would turn around. Perhaps questions of the team are rising following an offseason with a high number of player arrests, but surely that is an issue coach Jim Schwartz will not tolerate long-term.
If the Lions want to make the most out of this season, players other than Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson will need to emerge as big time playmakers. The team has to win its divisional games, as they have already surrendered losses to Minnesota and Chicago. But one thing is for sure, and that is that the Lions have the confidence that they will right the ship once again.