The Detroit Lions haven’t won a playoff game since 1991, and they’ve finished with a losing record in 13 of the last 15 seasons. But make no mistake: Their No. 1 goal this year is to win a Super Bowl.
“The expectations are always to win a championship,” Lions running back Ameer Abdullah said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “That’s one of the No. 1 goals we always set out to do. I actually think we have a very good chance of doing so. We just have to play consistently within ourselves and not get outside of ourselves by shooting ourselves in the foot and putting ourselves in bad situations. I think we’ll fare pretty well. We’ll like the result.”
Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 overall pick in 2009, has one of the best arms in football but is yet to win a playoff game. Some of that is his fault; some of it isn’t. Either way, it’s sometimes difficult to get a read on Stafford.
What kind of guy is he?
“First and foremost, as a person, he’s a top-class person,” Abdullah said. “He’s definitely welcomed me to this team with open arms, and that was very helpful. Being thrown into he starting mix pretty early, he’s helping me through a lot of tough times when I wasn’t playing well. He’s also encouraging me when I was playing well. He’s very funny, very funny guy. Has a great sense of humor. As a leader, he just holds everyone accountable. He knows where everyone’s going to be, and he expects you to be there. He treats you like a pro. I wouldn’t want to have it any other way. I wouldn’t want a guy to sugarcoat anything. He doesn’t do that. If you’re not running the route at the right depth, he’s going to (tell) you – and you can’t be mad about it because he demands excellence and he just wants the best for this team. He’s just trying to bring everyone along with him. That’s definitely something that’s very important to have in a quarterback and in a leader, and he definitely brings that to the field.”
Stafford, as well as the entire Lions’ offense, will have to get used to life without Calvin Johnson, who retired this past offseason at the age of 30.
“It was different. Coming back for spring conditioning and such, it was different, not having that presence of Calvin,” Abdullah said. “I used to kick his butt in ping pong every day, so it was different not having him there to kick his butt in ping pong. Other than that, we moved on pretty pretty quickly just because we had to. We had new guys coming in that had to get acclimated to the system.”
The Lions added Marvin Jones and Anquan Boldin, among others, to the mix this offseason.
“Those guys, they hit the ground running, and I know they’re going to give us a lot to this offense this season,” Abdullah said. “I’m excited to see them work.”
Abdullah is also excited for hopefully a better start to the season. The Lions started 1-7 last year before winning six of eight to finish the year 7-9. Head coach Jim Caldwell was rumored to be on the hot seat but is back for his third season in Detroit. Not only that, but he remained calm in the face of adversity last year.
“Coach Caldwell, honestly, is one of the most solid, grounded, foundation guys I’ve ever met,” Abdullah said. “He is unfazed. He comes in and he gives the same message every day, no matter what the situation is. He’s a very steady guy. There was a point in the year when I think we went to 1-7 when he approached us with the same message. He was saying, ‘We have to stay together as a team. We have to stay focused on winning games. We can’t start thinking about am I going to be here? Am I going to get cut? Am I going to get traded? Is my coach going to get fired? What’s going to happen in the future?’ He addressed that, and he was saying, ‘I’m going to coach you the same way I coached you since day one.’ And he did so. He was a man of his word and he came in and he really helped us galvanize as a team and come together and grow stronger. From that, I believe because of his lead we finished the season very strong and a newfound respect was found for Coach Caldwell from my perspective because of that. I had never seen someone who, things were not going well for us at all, and (he) continued to give his best no matter what the situation was.”