Detroit's rookie class has played a rather significant role in helping the Lions to a 9-6 record and an opportunity to play the Green Bay Packers Sunday night at Ford Field for the NFC North title.
There are seasoned veterans who haven't played in a game as significant as the one these rookies are about to take part in, and even though they're young, that fact hasn't been lost on them.
"This is our first playoff game," rookie safety Miles Killebrew said. "This is it. Obviously, I'm a rookie, and I haven't been around long, but the sense I'm getting is that games like this don't come around often.
"Coach Caldwell told us that this was the first time that a game like this is being played at Ford Field."
This is the biggest game Ford Field has seen that's involved the Lions. Detroit is trying to win its first division title since 1993 to host a playoff game for the first time in 23 years.
"Considering the fact that we haven't won the division title since I've been born, I think I kind of have a grasp of how big this is," rookie linebacker Antwione Williams said with a smile.
"The atmosphere is kind of crazy right now. You can just tell everyone is up on another notch and ready to go."
Taylor Decker, A'Shawn Robinson, Graham Glasgow, Killebrew, Williams, Anthony Zettel and Dwayne Washington, seven of the team's 10 draft picks, have all made big contributions at points throughout the season.
Now they get an opportunity to potentially be part of a team that brings that elusive division title back to Detroit for the first time since most of them were born.
"There's a lot of excitement around it," Decker said. "It would be foolish not to acknowledge it. They flexed it to a night game. It's the last game of the regular season. It's going to be a big one. Last time against them we couldn't get it done. There's just going to be a lot of excitement."
Decker and Robinson played in big games and won national championships in college at Ohio State and Alabama, respectively, but even they acknowledge the atmosphere in Ford Field Sunday might be the most intense environment of their football lives.
"This is the NFL," Robinson said. "It's a bigger experience. It's better."
Detroit's youngest players are taking it all in and enjoying the moment, knowing they have a chance to potentially be a part of something special so early in their careers.
"You get a good grasp just being around the locker room and talking to people who've been on different teams and who have been around here a long time and they've just said they've never played in a game this meaningful," Williams said.
"It kind of starts to sink in that these don't really come around that often and you have to make the most of them when they come. It's pretty exciting."
**EDSALL TO REMAIN ON STAFF
Randy Edsall, the team's director of football research and special projects, will stay with the team through the remainder of the season despite being named the head football coach at University of Connecticut, Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said Friday.
"Yeah, he's going to kind of work back and forth kind of depending upon what he has to do there," Caldwell said. "I know he's going to be coming back. He's coming back tomorrow (Saturday) and so we'll try to blend and mix and match a little bit just in terms of his duties.
"He'll be fine, happy for him really. It's great. I think he's wanted to do it again and to have that opportunity to go back to a place where he had an immeasurable amount of success is absolutely great."
Tight end Matthew Mulligan (offense), defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (defense) and safety Don Carey (special teams) are the Lions' captains for Week 17.