THE MANY expressions of first-year coach Rod Marinelli as he prepares the Lions during training camp. - Dan graschuck photos
Many were questioning the selection of Marinelli as the new head coach in February, especially since he had never been a head coach in high school, college or the NFL before Lions President Matt Millen anointed him the next Motown savior.
Time will tell if he’s a savior, but Marinelli has taken control of this Lions team and is standing firm as its leader. He also appears to have clear direction about what he is trying to impart and accomplish as its head man.
“I think the first thing I really wanted to point out as we got started is that this whole thing is about a process,” Marinelli explained. “I wanted to make sure that the very first thing we hit on is training camp. You can look down the road to the season and all of those things, but the most important thing is what we’re involved in now, which is training camp. I want that to be the focus, and not anything past that.
“Then phase two would be the preseason games and the value of the preseason games. The third thing would be how to organize time management of a game week. Then I’ll prepare for the opener. I just don’t want to look too far down that road; I want to get what were supposed to do right now.”
What Marinelli is doing right now is trying to instill a positive attitude in the team and in everything they do to prepare for the NFL wars. He thinks that attitude will enhance the team’s chances at putting together a winning season.
Most know about the Lions’ history of putting teams on the field that couldn’t compete for the NFL title. Marinelli said that he is not worrying about the team’s past inadequacies; he is focusing on “now.”
“I’m concerned about what’s happening right now,” he said.
“I just want to focus on each and everyday and put all of our attention on training camp and getting our players prepared.”
While Lions fans are excited football season is just around the corner and training camp is the start of it all, no one appears more excited than Marinelli.
“Oh, I’m very excited,” he exclaimed. “I can be calm consistently, but the volcano is going off now. But the volcano is going to, hopefully, be at the same pace for the next 24 weeks, or for however many weeks we’re doing it.
“I’ve got to set whatever that standard is, because I don’t want to be so excited tomorrow that three days from now (I’m not consistent); that’s not a good message for our team. I want to come out with a standard of consistency, and that’s what our staff is. The staff approaches every practice the same way. Our players will then start practicing and playing the same way.”
So far the players are buying into Marinelli’s intense practices that started with the players wearing pads from day one and the up-tempo, fast-paced getting-to-and-out-of-drills routine.
“I feel like I’m in the same building, but this is a whole different team,” sixth-year offensive tackle Jeff Backus remarked. “I know I’m in the same place, but this feels like I’m in a whole different atmosphere.”
When Marinelli took the job, he knew that the recent history of the Lions had worn on the team’s fan base, as they have become restless.
“Sure, there is tremendous pressure on us to win right now,” Marinelli acknowledged. “As a competitor, you want to win. I’m here to compete, and I’m not interested in doing anything else. You are in this profession because you love to compete. Every guy I’ve hired loves to compete. At camp we worked as hard and smart as we can to go out and win now.”
Win now is surely the dream of Lions fans as they watched the Tigers this summer go from last place to first. Now, they’re hoping Marinelli and the Lions match the Tigers’ winning roar.
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