LARRY LAGE, AP Sports Writer
ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — Jim Caldwell has already made his mark as the new coach of the Detroit Lions.
Caldwell seems cool, calm and collected. He appears to be confident, but far from arrogant.
“We want to make certain that we identify ourselves, who are we and our identity,” Caldwell said Thursday as the Lions wrapped up a three-day voluntary minicamp. “We’re smart, we’re fast and we’re a physical team. ”
So far, players like what they have seen and heard from their new coach. Quarterback Matthew Stafford described Caldwell as “confident and level-headed.”
“He has a lot of respect in that locker room already,” Stafford said. “Just the way he carries himself, the way he talks about treating us and expecting the same kind of treatment in return.”
For a franchise that not ever earned a spot in a Super Bowl, having a coach who has been there three times seems to be a factor in his favor as he cultivates relationships. Caldwell lost a Super Bowl as Indianapolis’ head coach and helped the Colts and Baltimore Ravens win NFL titles as an assistant coach.
“That’s credibility,” center Dominic Raiola said. “He’s a proven winner.”
The Lions hired Caldwell in January after they fired coach Jim Schwartz with a 29-51 record over five seasons. While players have not wanted to compare the two coaches, it appears to be clear that Caldwell has an approach that is different than the emotionally charged Schwartz.
“There’s a sense of calm,” Raiola said of Caldwell’s leadership. “And, a sense of we’re going to do things his way.”
One of Caldwell’s ways is to create a family-like atmosphere in which teammates choose to spend time together away from team headquarters. He wants players to get to know each other better, especially ones they have not interacted with much in the past, by having dinner together or going bowling as some did earlier this week.
“Teams that play well and perform well are usually pretty close,” Caldwell said. “It doesn’t mean that everybody all across the board gets along with each other 100 percent, but more often than not, I think you find that genuine respect for one another is something that you just have to continue to nurture.”
NOTES: RB Mikel Leshoure did not attend the voluntary minicamp on Wednesday or Thursday because of a “personal issue,” according to Caldwell. … DT Ndamukong Suh, CB Chris Houston and WR Carlin Isles missed all three sessions. Suh did not attend for unknown reasons, Houston because of an injury and Isle is playing professional rugby … The Lions, who are scheduled to make the No. 10 pick overall next month, hosted Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert for a visit on Wednesday. … Former Lions kicker Jason Hanson was invited by the coaching staff to take a look at John Potter and Giorgio Tavecchio, one of whom may end of replacing David Akers this season.
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