How do you say what can never be said?
Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz recently stated that he was looking forward to a different kind of training camp this year. He portrayed a positive attitude about getting his rookies into camp and giving them as much time as possible to get comfortable with the system the Lions run.
So does that mean he was disappointed about the lack of training camp last year?
Maybe, but not likely.
In most cases in the NFL, a negative times a negative is just a whole lot of negative. For the Lions, a negative times a negative meant a positive.
In the 2011 draft, the first three picks for the Detroit Lions were unable to start for them. Those were the very same picks that could have really benefited from a full training camp. So at the end of the day, the Lions had what few teams in the NFL had: Continuity.
The players the Lions fielded to start the season were familiar with the team. They had already played together and knew how to work with each other. Even Stephen Tulloch, who was a free agent addition, was able to slide in rather comfortably because he was already familiar with Schwartz's system, having played under it in Tennessee. The Lions were primed to make a splash for the 2011 season.
And they did.
Detroit got off to a fast start, winning its first five games. This is roughly the amount of time you would expect other teams to need to bring along rookie draft picks and get the team working cohesively.
What happened after the first five games?
The Lions didn't come back to earth as much as the rest of the NFL caught up. They still finished with a quality season, but there was a definite difference between the success they had early on and the success they had at the end.
Some will claim that the Lions struggled in the second half defensively due to injury. The point has merit. But it cannot be ignored that the Lions had a significant advantage going into the 2011 season.
Now the Detroit Lions will have a full offseason program to pull the team together... as will the rest of the league. The Detroit Lions are not going to shy away from any competitor. But are they thrilled at the prospect of surrendering the advantage they started last season with???