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Rod Wood talks ownership change, season schedule & more

Sometimes standing pat can be the best move a franchise can make, and Detroit Lions president Rod Wood thinks that is the case for the team's ownership to bring back general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia for the 2020 season.

With NFL teams going through a virtual offseason created by quarantine mandates to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, Wood thinks the Lions will benefit from having consistency in the top jobs of the franchise's football department.

"I think the decision we made at the end of last season, in hindsight, is absolutely the right decision," Wood said Thursday at a town hall appearance sponsored by the prestigious Bodman legal firm.

"If we had a complete overhaul in leadership, it would have made this much more difficult."

Like all 32 NFL teams, the Lions conducted a virtual draft and free-agent signings, and also had a virtual offseason program. Meetings were conducted by Zoom and other platforms, with players, coaches and support staff away from the team facilities and not in physical contact with players.

This will be Quinn's fifth year as general manager and Patricia's third as head coach. The two spent many years together with the New England Patriots before coming to Detroit. The Lions posted 9-7 won-loss records in Quinn's first two seasons in Detroit with Jim Caldwell as head coach.

Caldwell was fired after the 2017 season, and the record dropped to 6-10 in 2018 and 3-12-1 in 2019.

Quinn has said that he acquired different players to fit Patricia's schemes than he did for Caldwell, and Wood expects a payoff from Quinn and Patricia working together for two years.

"I think there's a lot to be said for that," Wood said. "Obviously, Bob continues to grow in his job. The more you do it, the better you get at it. I think the relationship, and understanding the kind of players Matt wants is something he's much more comfortable with.

"It's almost like learning a new language while trying to grow in a new job."

Wood touched on a number of subjects in a question and answer session led by FOX-2 sports director and Lions radio play-by-play voice Dan Miller.

Among them was a look at some new players added in the offseason, including rookie running back D'Andre Swift; Sheila Ford Hamp succeeding her mother, Martha Firestone Ford, as principal owner and chairman of the franchise; issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic and Wood's expectation on whether the NFL season will start on time, and if there will be fans at Ford Field.

Roster additions: By most accounts, the Lions got solid players in free agency and potential impact players in the draft—starting with cornerback Jeff Okudah, drafted in the first round and third overall out of Ohio State.

"We've added a lot of talented players," Wood said. "We've added a lot of young players. We're a young team. That's better, generally speaking. And we've added a lot of depth.

"You always have to prepare for injuries. Now, you have to prepare for a player or two, or more, testing positive for the virus."

Drafting running back D’Andre Swift of Georgia in the second round gives the Lions a legitimate expectation of finally having a competent running back to support quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Swift will compete for playing time with Kerryon Johnson, who's shown flashes in his first two seasons with the Lions but had both seasons shortened by knee injuries.

"We're excited to have him on our team," Wood said of Swift. "We talked about him quite a bit leading up to the draft. Bob had a plan that worked out, thankfully. He was there at the top of the second round. We were kind of holding our breath."

Season schedule, fans: It's a fluid situation for all North American sports leagues and even individual sports such as tennis and golf.

As Wood said, the NFL is benefitting from watching what is happening with the other major leagues – basketball, baseball and hockey – plus the fact that the NFL was not in season when the league began closing down operations in early March.

"We will get the benefit of watching how other sports restart," Wood said. "We will watch all those other sports and learn from them. I don't want to say we were lucky, but we are certainly better off than the other sports.

"I have two goals: Everybody is healthy and safe, and we play football this fall. The most important thing is we have Allen Park prepared for everybody's health, and we get the players back in the building.

"The plan is to play everything as scheduled. Who knows in August and September if that will be the right thing to do? We just have to prepare for it."

Everything will be done within the guidelines of the Center For Disease Control and what each individual state allows.

Asked if he thinks games will be played at Ford Field with fans, in some number, Wood replied: "I do believe that right now. Right now, I think the indications are we will start the season on time. We will play with fans in the stands."

2021 salary cap: Fewer fans means a decline in revenue for the 2020 season, which leads to a lower salary cap in 2021. That could affect player signings and re-signings.

It's an issue that the NFL and the NFL Players association have to work out.

"There will be a lot of discussions on how to manage that so we don't have a huge decline in the salary cap," Wood said.

Sheila Ford Hamp: Tuesday's announcement that Mrs. Hamp was succeeding her mother as principal owner and chairman of the franchise came without any warning, but the move had been in place as part of the succession plan, Wood said.

"There was always a plan to keep the team in the family," Wood said. "This was just the next step in the plan."

Except to speak about Mrs. Hamp's desire to have a winning team, Wood chose not to speak too deeply about her management style.

"You got to see a little window into Sheila and the whole family," Wood said at the start of the Town Hall.

"They (the Fords) care with every fiber of their body with what is going on the field. They are fans first, I would say, and owners second.

"I'll let Sheila speak for herself on what her leadership skills and approach will be. She learned from her mom. She'll be her own person, too. She has a lifetime of experience going to games.

"She'll be more engaged in some of the other aspects of running the team than either her father or mother were. The passion for winning will never be different.

"Everyone shares that."

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