By Ashley Dunkak

ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) – The dynamic of the Detroit Lions locker room reminds safety Glover Quin of what he experienced in his last two years with the Houston Texans, when the team won 10 games in 2011 and 12 games in 2012 and made the postseason both of those seasons.

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“A lot of times when you’re playing well, you’re having fun with each other,” Quin said. “It’s hard to go out and perform well on Sundays with your team when you don’t really like them. We have a thing  we say – ‘Are we friends, or are we just coworkers?’ It’s a difference. We like to call ourselves friends, not just coworkers.”

Lions head coach Jim Caldwell, who is in his first season with Detroit, has encouraged players to interact away from the facility, and several of them – wide receivers Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, quarterback Matthew Stafford and left guard Rob Sims, to name a few – have made it a point to open up their homes to teammates. Caldwell wants the men to know each other as people rather than just football players. When someone has a birthday or a baby, Caldwell makes note of the occasion on a bulletin board.

Players speaking about what Caldwell has brought to Detroit inevitably mention his development of a family atmosphere.

“That’s what a lot of guys in here are about,” Quin said. “You look at our secondary this year, you’ve got one, two, three, four, we’ve probably five or six guys that’s married. So if you’re married, you’re all about family, you’ve got kids and this and that as opposed to last year, I think we only had one guy that was married, and that was me. That’s a big difference in what you’re doing when you leave here. You’ve got guys that are going home, spending time with their families and studying, as opposed to guys that are, you know, doing whatever, I don’t know what they’re doing, finding other ways to waste their time, but then you have a family atmosphere, you bring in family around, you do games and all this stuff because that’s what it takes.

“That stuff translates over into our locker room,” Quin continued. “We have fun with each other, our families have fun with each other, the coaches allow us to do those things and bring our families around, and it just has crept in the locker room, and when you go out there on Sundays, like I said, you’re not playing with a coworker, you’re playing with your brother, you’re playing for your brother, and you tend to do things a little more and a little better when you’re doing it for your brother and not just for yourself.”

Locker room chemistry cannot be quantified, except perhaps in wins and losses, and the Lions have a record of 7-2. Each of the only two games Detroit has lost included at least two missed field goals. After losing six of their last seven games last season, the Lions have this year weathered a slew of injuries, have executed a succession of improbable comebacks, and overall have put themselves in position to take over the top spot in the NFC with a win Sunday over the Arizona Cardinals.

Whether teams click when they win or they win when they click is up for debate. Either way, healthy relationships among teammates seem to correspond with solid performance on the field.

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“Camaraderie, I think, is extremely important,” Caldwell said. “I think guys have to get to know one another extremely well. I think there’s some caring in that process also. Coaches and players alike, that’s one of the reasons why we went out to dinner with all the positions during the spring. to get to know them, to get a good feel for them. I think once they begin to have a real good feel or sense for one another, there’s a bond there that can’t be broken.

“That’s the special thing about this profession,” Caldewll added. “Team-oriented sports in the long run, you’ll find that once you leave this environment, it’s going to be very, very tough for you to develop the same kind of relationships you had in the locker room. I think coaches that have retired, players that have retired, that’s what they miss. I want them to understand that’s special.”

Interactions in the locker room have extended from ping pong in the lounge to games in the middle of the locker room, where  a set of boards, each with a hole, sit spaced about 10 feet apart, accompanied by two sets of bean bags. Players compete to see who can get the highest score, relentlessly debating and teasing each other throughout the game. Quin has called the Lions a tight-knit group, and Johnson said it makes all the difference that players have taken it upon themselves to get closer.

“It’s from guys and putting their money into different things, whether it’s adding games to the locker room or having people over to their house for dinner,” Johnson said. “We’ve been doing a lot of things like that this year, so we’ve become a lot closer.”

With a showdown with Arizona looming, it would be understandable if Lions players demonstrated a level of anxiety, if the pressure appeared to be weighing on them. So far, that does not seem to be the case, and the coach is glad.

“I do think that a team can’t play well uptight,” Caldwell said. “That’s always been my philosophy … When you’re loose, I feel that you’re very, very confident, and you know what you’re doing, but it takes practice to do that. I think our team’s been loose because of the fact that there’s been some things that we’ve done and done well. George Washington – I was reading the book ‘1776’ some weeks ago, and he told his troops to be cool and determined, so I think that was just an early way of saying exactly what we’re trying to say in terms of loose and aggressive. But I think our guys have bought into that and understand it.

“It comes from preparation,” Caldwell added. “Our preparation is going good.”

Caldwell could not care less about the Coach of the Year Award, whose voters are likely considering Caldwell for the honor, depending of course on what happens the rest of the season. The coach downplays his role in Detroit’s resurgence, but running back Reggie Bush pinpoints Caldwell as the reason all this has happened.

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“Everything that he preaches and that he brings to our team, I think, is everything that this organization has needed for a long time,” Bush said. “I’ve seen it before in other coaches that I’ve had a chance to play for and win with. I’ve seen not the exact coaching style but the same principles, and it’s very refreshing, and it’s very exciting to have.”