If there was ever a time for Jim Caldwell to give his team a hair-raising pregame speech, it would seem to be on Sunday night before the Lions take on the Packers for the NFC North title.
The coach suggested otherwise on Thursday.
“I think those things are oftentimes overblown,” Caldwell said. “I think there’s always a message to give in that regard, kind of where you are and what you have to get done and those kinds of things, but I don’t think they’ll need a whole lot of incentive in regard to this game.”
If the Lions beat the Packers on Sunday, they’ll claim their first division title in 23 years. For all the hoopla surrounding the game – it was recently flexed to NBC’s primetime broadcast – Caldwell feels his players have done a good job of focusing on the task at hand.
“The good thing is that most of these guys have had an opportunity to play (for a) nationally-televised audience before, so they’ve got a sense of it. Some of them even in college before they arrived here. So I think more so than anything else, I think the guys are looking forward to an opportunity to play well as a team and I think that’s kind of their goal and aim and I think you can kind of sense that from the way in which they’re preparing,” said Caldwell.
Still, the opportunity before the Lions is rare. And Caldwell wants his players to appreciate that.
“I think it’s a situation that you have to embrace. I don’t think there’s any question about that, which I’ve kind of made certain that we told our guys, you’ve got to embrace it,” he said. “I mean, it’s a great opportunity. You’ve got to be looking forward to it. It’s got to be an exciting time, not only for our fan base but also for the guys that are participating in the ball game.
“I do not think, and it hasn’t been to this point, that our guys have ever been distracted from the main sense of what happens between those white lines.”
On Wednesday, Matthew Stafford was asked if he’ll be watching the score of Sunday’s Redskins-Giants game, which kicks off at 4:25 and could have an effect on the Lions’ playoff prospects. Given his response, it’s likely he’ll be just fine without a rousing pregame speech from Caldwell.
“I’m not going to be paying attention to it,” he said. “For me, this is for the division — that’s as much motivation as I need.”