By Ashley Dunkak
FORD FIELD (CBS DETROIT) – To say the Detroit Lions have high hopes for their first season under new head coach Jim Caldwell would be an understatement.
Two of Detroit’s most noteworthy offseason acquisitions, wide receiver Golden Tate and safety James Ihedigbo, have won Super Bowls elsewhere, and Ihedigbo expressed confidence he will get to enjoy the experience of winning a Super Bowl again soon.
“They compare it to having your first child,” Ihedigbo said. “It’s pretty close. That’s being honest.
“There’s no better feeling,” Ihedigbo added. “I’m really looking forward to experiencing that again this year.”
Citing the names of many talented players on the roster, Tate proclaimed the Lions capable of withstanding any of their opponents.
“The only team that can beat us is us,” wide receiver Golden Tate said.
The Lions went 7-9 in 2013 with a roster that had many of the same impressive pieces, and ESPN predicts the Lions will go 7-9 again in 2014.
Under the leadership of Caldwell, however, the players seem confident of impending improvement, and Tate and Ihedigbo in particular spoke about the characteristics of the Super Bowl teams for which they played and what the Lions need to do to put themselves in position to reach those heights.
“I think we need to develop that mentality that we want to play championship football no matter what the situation is,” Tate said. “If you just bring that mentality to this game, you can’t help but get better.
“We have leaders who want to get better every single day,” Tate continued. “I think the guys in our locker room and the people in the city are buying in to what coaches are saying.”
Ihedigbo issued a challenge to teammates.
“What are you going to do, what are you going to give up for the betterment of the team?” Ihedigbo said. “In a common goal, everyone has to give up something to gain something.”
The players are not alone in their confidence; Caldwell came in with the stated goal of winning in 2014, and he has held fast to that aspiration.
“I wouldn’t have said it if I didn’t believe it,” Caldwell said. “These guys are of the finest quality and when you have character and talent, you can put those things together with some direction, and I think the sky’s the limit.”
The Lions won their third preseason game Friday, but they committed 15 penalties along the way, raising concerns that perhaps this Lions team will not be different enough from past Detroit teams. Caldwell has said that while he does not expect the group to improve its discipline overnight, he wants to see progress, and he outlined what fans should expect from the team this season.
“You can judge us on three things, very, very simple things – whether we show and display these things in everything that we do, whether we have a team that’s fast, that can close and run; from an offensive standpoint, to get the ball in the end zone and cover ground quickly; from a defensive standpoint, close on the opposition, get yourself in position to create turnovers, and to make certain that we’re smart. That’s the other thing, that we’ve got to make sure that we don’t, obviously, do things that are going to beat ourselves and make certain that we take advantage of all the situational things that pop up during the course of a game and do a great job executing them.
“We have to be the most physical team on the field, each and every time we go out,” Caldwell added. “If our guys aren’t knocking people around and getting after them, and enjoying doing it, if you don’t see that, then obviously you’ve got reason to be concerned. But I think you’ll see it from our guys. Our coaching staff, we have a great coaching staff that surrounds these guys and does a great job, in terms of giving them direction. We’ve got great people to work with, these men are outstanding, so look for some great things.”