The NFL calendar is moving along, with some notable checkpoints, and the Lions are involved in some of them.
The Lions, and other teams with new head coaches, began the official offseason workout program Monday. The schedule is expected to be announced next week, and there’s always interest about the prime-time TV games.
And free-agent signings continue at a slow rate. There was one noteworthy signing involving a former Lion. Nate Burleson signed a one-year deal with Cleveland.
Ndamukong Suh made news by not being on hand Monday. Was that a big deal?
Mike: It was news on Monday, but it’s probably not a big deal in the long run, and there’s a difference.
Everything involving Suh is news, whether it’s contract negotiations, changing agents, clashes with the NFL penalty-police or comments made about him by other players. Not showing up for the first day of the voluntary offseason workout program was news because of Suh’s stature as a player, and the fact that he was a defensive captain last year.
But when the season starts in September, there is no doubt that Suh will be in top shape – as he always is – to play at an All-Pro level. Performance is what counts most, and there has never been any question about Suh’s effort or performance.
By not being present, the story was about Suh missing the first official gathering under new head coach Jim Caldwell. It was disappointing for that to happen, but it’s not a big deal.
Tim: Mike is off to a good start today, folks. Not a big deal in my opinion. He’s already been in the building this offseason and met coach Caldwell. He’s also talked to defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. He even put his two cents in during the free-agency period.
Suh has a regimen to his offseason training that’s made him a Pro Bowl player three of his first four years in the league. He always comes back in better shape than he left. In the end, that’s all that really matters to me.
Looks like Burleson is already making an impact with the media in Cleveland. Will he make an impact on the field, too?
Mike: No so fast, my friend, in the transition game. Yes, no big deal, but if it’s no big deal, then be there so there’s no drama.
As for Nate, he’ll give the Browns a lift, whether it’s in the locker room, with the media or on the field. He didn’t seem to have a lot left last season with the Lions. A broken leg in 2012 and a broken arm last year didn’t help, but he still had some positive moments.
Nate will help the Browns if he can give them 40-50 catches, and he’ll be a good guy in the locker room. As far as leadership and being a mentor to younger players, that should come from the coaches first. The way Nate can help is by leading players to follow a positive example.
Reading some of the coverage in Cleveland, they’re looking forward to the Browns and Lions playing in the preseason. Is this a reunion tour? Nate Burleson returns to Ford Field for the Browns and Jim Schwartz for the Bills during the regular season – and probably the preseason as well.
Tim: Burleson is in the twilight of his career and he knows it. That doesn’t mean he can’t still have a productive role, if he accepts that role as a complimentary piece.
He’s terrific in the locker room and will be a good influence on some of the talented young guys they have in Cleveland.
The Lions will see Burleson in the preseason and will also see Jim Schwartz in the preseason and regular season. When that regular-season matchup will occur with Buffalo, we’ll know shortly, when the schedule is released later this month. I’m predicting a four-game national television schedule for Lions.
Thanksgiving, obviously, and I’m counting the 9:30 a.m. start for the Oct. 26 game vs. the Falcons in London. I’m guessing the Lions will also make one appearance on Monday Night Football and one Sunday Night NBC game.
Am I close?
Mike: Using terminology from horseshoes, I’d call it a leaner, not a ringer. But close enough.
The way the NFL is promoting the TV package on Thursday night – especially the first half of the schedule on CBS – those games count more than ever in prime time.
Those prime-time games make a good show for the fans, and they’re fun for the players, too.
But the ones that count are Jan. 3 and 4. That’s when the playoffs start.
Are the Lions heading in the right direction to play in January?
Tim: Someone asked me what I’m most looking forward to this season in my 10 Questions with Twentyman column that ran Tuesday. They asked about the new coaching staff and
My answer was rather simple. As a beat writer, I’m interested in writing about meaningful football in December. I’m not predicting playoffs for the Lions, just yet, but I’m pretty confident they’ll be playing meaningful football the last month of the year.
What do you think?
Mike: I think that’s the 11th question, and the biggest question of the year.
They should have made the playoffs last season, and they should be a little better this year if they’re more disciplined and cut down turnovers.
It’s time for the Lions to establish themselves as a team that plays well consistently over a long period, not just in spurts. The whole offseason has to be designed to achieve that goal.
Tim: The Lions have the pieces to be a consistent playoff contender. Can Jim Caldwell and Co. clean up the mistakes that seem to plague them so often in crucial moments?
If the Lions can learn to get out of their own way, they’ll be right there in December.