By Ashley Dunkak
FORD FIELD (CBS DETROIT) – Most of the Detroit Lions season ticket holders at Ford Field on Monday night just wore their Honolulu blue jerseys, though a few diehards came adorned with masks or furry, lion-esque headpieces. Usually the ones making the noise, fans sat attentively at the Lions Town Hall Meeting event as vice president of pro personnel Sheldon White explained that his job of bringing the right players to Detroit for the right price is much easier now than it has been in recent years.
“A few years ago, when we were begging for players, and we had to overpay for guys to come, now you look at our locker room, you’ve got Matthew Stafford, you’ve got Calvin Johnson, you’ve got Ndamukong Suh,” White said at the event known as the Lions Town Hall Meeting. “Reggie Bush, it was an easy sell for us. He saw exactly how he fit around all the players that we around him. We have some pieces in places. We need to continue adding and getting better, but you have players now that in a city that everyone wants to come and play. They want to play with us, so it’s not as hard of a sell as it was a few years ago, and we have to continue to build on those players.”
While White did not divulge what positions the Lions will target in the draft, he and new Lions head coach Jim Caldwell were on the same page in terms of general characteristics of players to bring in.
“I can tell you weren’t going to be drafting a player of high integrity, a guy with a high motor and a guy that finishes well,” White said. “Every game, [Lions president] Tom Lewand and I will come down in the fourth quarter of the game – we’re working up in the press box there – we’ll come down to the sideline, and we want to get a feel for what’s going on with everyone in the stands. So we’re going to be there right with Jim when we finish up each game, and so you see the positives, you saw the negatives, and with that, you also saw six games out of seven where we did not finish, so we’re going to be looking for closers this year.
“We looked for them in free agency – guys that have been there, guys that, our coaching staff, that have been there,” White continued as the crowd began to applaud and cheer. “Guys that will not quit – we need some more. We have some now, but we need some additional players that have that same kind of mindset, so that’s what we’re looking for, and that’s what we’ve done so far.”
The draft begins May 8, but the process of evaluating players is constant.
“We’re always looking for a better player,” White said. “We’re up to 90 this year on our roster, and we’ll attempt to find that 91st player that’s better than 90 so we can continue to improve our product.”
Caldwell takes over a team that last season fell from first place in the weak NFC North to all the way out of playoff contention. Caldwell emphasized that he wants players that have more than just talent.
“Our personnel office, they do a tremendous job of finding guys that fit our system, and I think that’s important,” Caldwell said. “A guy has to fit in a number of different ways. It’s not just simply a talent factor because obviously that makes a huge difference, but it’s also a character factor. It’s also a commitment factor. It’s also being able to gel with your teammates and create the kind of chemistry that you need in order to win.
“Winning’s not the byproduct of a bunch of talented guys running around on the football field,” Caldwell added. “You have to have young men that are dedicated to the cause, that come together and obviously that determination and that grit that you’re looking for obviously will help a team gel and overcome anything that they face.”
White and Caldwell were joined at the event by Lewand and coordinators Joe Lombardi, Teryl Austin and John Bonamego. The question-and-answer session, for which the group sat up on a stage in front of a large, seated group of season ticket holders, lasted approximately an hour. Before it began, Lions highlights – with players mic’d up – played on the JumboTron. As the event got close to its start, one group of fans began an emphatic Lions cheer, after which the rest of the crowd applauded appreciatively. As the meeting got ready to start, the Lions introduced several alumni in attendance, including Lem Barney and Lomas Brown.