Detroit Lions: Martha Ford

LONDON -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Detroit Lions' 22-21 win over the Atlanta Falcons.
  • Ross
    Looking around Wembley Stadium on Sunday before the game, Lions wide receiver Jeremy Ross said that “it felt like the Pro Bowl because there were a lot of different jerseys out there in the stands. It was just different, constant noise.” From a quick count prior to the game, at least 20 teams were represented by jerseys on the concourse as well as jerseys from college teams Oregon and Texas Tech.
  • George Johnson was walking out of the locker room Sunday with a giant smile on his face, saying “I love our kicker, man.” He should, after Matt Prater made the game-winning field goal as time expired.
  • Lions owner Martha Ford made the trip to London to watch the team play, as she has done most weeks. Seeing her waiting with her family after the game, she seemed quite pleased with the team’s second straight come-from-behind win, smiling along the way.
  • One difference between the international and American media: At least one member of the international media was seen posing for a selfie with cornerback Cassius Vaughn, who laughed after he took it as he was walking out of the locker room toward the bus.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Detroit Lions' 17-3 win over the Minnesota Vikings.
  • The Lions' defensive line gave George Johnson, the former Vikings defensive end, their game ball. He had a massive game -- five tackles, 1.5 sacks, two quarterback hits -- and said it is the first game ball he has ever personally received, either in college at Rutgers or in the NFL.
  • Speaking of Johnson, he wore a Superman undershirt for the first time Sunday for the game against Minnesota. The reason? He told his wife he "felt like Superman when I go out there and play." So he's been meaning to do it, but this was the shirt's debut. He's planning on doing it from now on, too.
  • Lions owner Martha Ford was driven up to the team's locker room in a golf cart. As she waited to enter the locker room, she was told about the Packers-Dolphins game, still in progress.
  • Wide receiver Ryan Broyles was not targeted Sunday against Minnesota and was barely used in the game plan against the Vikings. He voiced his frustration after, tweeting:
DETROIT -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Detroit Lions' 35-14 victory.
  • Prior to the game, the Lions honored their late owner, William Clay Ford Sr., with a speech from actor Jeff Daniels, a video and the signing of "Anchors Aweigh." After the game and the Lions' win, Martha Ford, the wife of the late Ford Sr., and their children all emerged with game balls given to them by coach Jim Caldwell. He said he did it to "honor Mr. Ford and his passing."
  • Hilliard
    Corey Hilliard stepped into the lineup at right tackle after the first series, when starter LaAdrian Waddle went down with a calf injury. It felt like déjà vu to Hilliard: Last season he lost a tight battle to Jason Fox at right tackle and then Fox went down in the opener, giving Hilliard a shot. "It's scary how weird that is," Hilliard said. He was also limping in the locker room after the game, but said he's "all right," and that he just twisted himself.
  • Typically after wins, the Lions have had music blaring in the locker room to celebrate. Not Monday night with Caldwell. "New day," Lions center Dominic Raiola said as to why the team didn't have the massive speakers and music going after their win over the Giants.

Lions Camp Report: Day 10

August, 7, 2014
Aug 7
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Detroit Lions training camp:
  • With receiver Calvin Johnson and tight end Eric Ebron -- two of Detroit's biggest offensive pieces both physically and in terms of usage -- not practicing Thursday, there were more opportunities for others to try and stand out during practice. Joseph Fauria, who has been used with the first team often during the first two weeks of camp, saw a significant uptick in reps and appeared to fare fairly well. Fauria is going to make the team, but he needs to prove in this camp he has taken a step from last season, where he was primarily used in the red zone. If Ebron doesn't play Saturday, he'll have a large opportunity to do so before likely giving way to Jordan Thompson and Andrew Maxwell later in the game. Johnson, meanwhile, had an excused absence. With Johnson not at practice, Kris Durham appeared to receive more first-team reps than normal.
  • Speaking of Maxwell, the essentially unknown tight end had the play of practice in a rep with quarterback Matthew Stafford. Stafford fired the ball to Maxwell and it hit off of him. Then, it bounced off of safety Glover Quin and somehow right back into the hands of Maxwell, who made the catch and kept on running. It looked like one of those plays you'd see on an NFL Films highlight reel for years if it happened in a game instead of a preseason practice.
  • DeJon Gomes is making a strong push to win the fourth safety spot behind starters Glover Quin and James Ihedigbo and third safety/special teams leader Don Carey. Gomes has consistently backed up Ihedigbo, including when the starter briefly left practice after being kicked in the leg. Gomes has also shown up a lot on the first-team special teams units, which is critical for any depth player trying to make a roster.
  • As part of the veterans-getting-rest plan mentioned multiple times earlier in the week, rookie offensive lineman Travis Swanson has received a lot of time with the first-team offense, either at left guard spelling Rob Sims or at center, replacing Dominic Raiola. While there is no indication Sims or Raiola have anything to worry about when it comes to their jobs, this sort of experience can only provide value to Swanson both this season and down the road, when he eventually becomes a starter. Don't be surprised to see a lot of him Saturday night, perhaps in multiple positions.
  • The Ford family made another appearance at practice Thursday afternoon. While this is my first training camp covering the Lions, veteran reporter Dave Birkett noted the family has been out at camp more often than in the past few seasons. Of course, the team sort of changed ownership in the offseason after the death of William Clay Ford Sr. His wife, Martha, now is the owner of the team and she was at practice.
  • Darren Keyton missed another practice Thursday, as did Ezekiel Ansah, who continued doing side work. Also missing practice -- and not being in attendance at all -- was linebacker Cory Greenwood. Lions coach Jim Caldwell said Wednesday night that Greenwood has an excused absence. Both Ansah and receiver TJ Jones remain on the active PUP list.
  • The Lions have their final practice before the preseason opener at 8:30 a.m. Friday in Allen Park. It is not open to the public.

Lions Camp Report: Day 2

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Detroit Lions training camp:
  • One of the players making a big early impression in a position of competition is wide receiver Kevin Ogletree. Tucked in a tight battle with Kris Durham, Ryan Broyles, Jeremy Ross and Corey Fuller for receiving spots behind Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, Ogletree has spent time with the top unit both days as the No. 3 receiver. This comes on top of offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi singling him out during the spring as someone who impressed him. Ogletree has speed as well as the ability to make catches both over the middle and the sideline. Johnson, meanwhile, called Ogletree “smooth” when discussing him Tuesday.
  • An interesting thing occurred during individual periods Tuesday. Instead of working on their own, the Lions split their tight ends up between the offensive line and with the pass-catching receivers and running backs catching passes. So Brandon Pettigrew, for instance, was working with the line blocking while Joseph Fauria and Eric Ebron were catching passes. This, Pettigrew said, was different than how the Lions operated under former coach Jim Schwartz.“We rotate and go down there during periods,” Pettigrew said. “We have five guys here, why not split it up and have some guys down there and some guys down here.” Pettigrew sees this as not only helping his blocking fundamentals, but an aid to Ebron and Fauria as well.
  • It’s early, but the kicking situation is going to be something to watch. Detroit hasn’t done many pressure field-goal situations over the first two days, but the Lions did have both Nate Freese and Giorgio Tavecchio attempt a 49-yard field goal under pressure in the final moments of practice. It did not end well and went counter to their supposed strengths. Freese had the distance but missed wide left. Tavecchio was right on line -- but about a yard or so short. It’s only one day, but this is going to be a major thing to pay attention to throughout the next few weeks.
  • It would appear the Lions are going to give both Corey Hilliard and LaAdrian Waddle an equal shot at right tackle. Hilliard worked with the first team during the first practice Monday and Waddle received the first-team snaps Tuesday. We’ll have more on the offensive line Wednesday, but this appears to be the one true spot up for grabs on what is otherwise a fairly strong front five.
  • The Lions have managed to have fairly short practices the first two days, wrapping up in well under two hours. Some of it might come from the team still practicing without pads, but Lions safety Glover Quin explained the reason for the shorter practices is kind of simple: The team has plays they want to run through and things they need to accomplish. If they limit mistakes and run through the plays at a good pace, they finish quicker. It’s a long way from the marathon practices of the past, although practices should get longer once the team goes into pads.
  • Ownership made its first public appearance at camp Tuesday as Martha Ford, the wife of the late William Clay Ford Sr., attended practice. Ford gained controlling interest in the team after her husband’s death in the offseason. Also visiting practice Tuesday were some of Michigan State’s football coaches, although head coach Mark Dantonio was not spotted, as he was in Chicago for Big Ten media days.
The continuity is key and considering how the Detroit Lions have been run over the past half-century, none of that should be a surprise.

The Lions announced Monday morning that Martha Ford, the widow of William Clay Ford Sr., will now have controlling rights to the team, both keeping the franchise in the family and essentially keeping the same power structure in place that had been there for the past decade.

The key to this, though, is William Clay Ford Jr., more commonly known as Bill Ford Jr. For the past few years, he has been the one who has turned into the public face of the franchise.

It was his criticism of then-general manager Matt Millen in 2008 that led to Millen’s firing less than a week later. And it was Ford Jr. who made comments about the Chicago Bears being "thugs" in October that caught people by surprise and became a news headline.

So even though his mother is taking control of the team and Ford Jr. will remain as the team’s vice chairman instead of having a grander title, this transition could offer him a chance to do more with the Lions.

He has a chance to help shape the Lions in his own image as long as he can do so with the blessing of his mother.

The Fords will never be owners like Mark Cuban or Daniel Snyder or Jerry Jones -- out in front and, for better or worse, the most recognizable part of an organization. The Lions should never want that, either.

It takes a particular type of owner and a greatly over-sized personality to be able to navigate that correctly. It can often turn disastrous for the structure of an organization if not handled perfectly.

Yet the surviving Fords can change some of how they run the Lions and perhaps help for the better. While the patriarch, the late William Clay Ford Sr., often seemed to take an overly loyal, completely trusting approach, Ford Jr. could end up going with a slightly more aggressive strategy.

It was Ford Jr. who, when speaking to the media following the hiring of Jim Caldwell in January, expressed frustration with the team’s lack of success. It was Ford Jr. who gave the indication that he expects Detroit to be able to win -- and win immediately with the coaching staff and players the team has.

But to turn around the fortunes of a franchise so synonymous with losing, it will take a little bit more. It will take a slight change in how the team is managed from the very top down. The semi-mandate to win was a start for this club.

Now, there has to be follow through.

Ford Jr. and his family gave Martin Mayhew and Tom Lewand another shot to find the right coach and to build the right team to finally become contenders in a division they have never won in its current iteration.

But he needs to stick with that. If the Lions don’t win now. If they aren’t successful in 2014 or 2015 or both, then he and his family will have to take perhaps a different approach than what had been normal for the Lions.

Obviously, Ford Jr. and his family are hoping things don’t reach that point, that the Mayhew-Lewand combination found a man in Caldwell that can succeed when almost all others failed, sometimes in epic proportions.

So watch over the next few years, because not much will change immediately with the Detroit Lions, but eventually, possibly, they might.