New Detroit Lions regime aims to prove doubters wrong, starting with San Francisco 49ers on Sunday
By LARRY LAGE
AP Sports Writer
DETROIT — Dan Campbell is taking over a team that isn’t supposed to win much this year and is leading a franchise as synonymous with losing as any in the NFL over the last several decades.
The Campbell era in Detroit begins Sunday at home against the San Francisco 49ers.
Detroit has been projected to win just five games this season with its new coach.
Since the Lions won the NFL title in 1957, their only playoff victory was nearly 30 years ago, and they endured the league’s first 0-16 season in 2008. Over the last three years, Detroit dropped 33 games.
“Obviously, there has been a lack of success around here for a long time,” quarterback Jared Goff said. “We hope to change that.”
The Lions overhauled the front office, coaching staff and roster, yet that hasn’t led to high hopes for them outside the organization. Campbell, though, plans to prove people wrong and his players do, too.
“That is our DNA,” Campbell said. “I don’t think it’s any secret that nobody expects us to do much.”
Rookie general manager Brad Holmes rebuilt the roster with youth, starting the season with just four players 30 or older.
“Got a little young swagger to us, not only the players, but the coaches,” Pro Bowl center Frank Ragnow said. “You realize the expectations may be low.
“Detroit vs. Everybody.”
The Niners won just six games last season — a year after reaching the Super Bowl — as injuries sent some of their best players to the sideline.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo missed 10 games due to ankle ailments. Tight end George Kittle was out for half of the season after hurting his shoulder. Defensive end Nick Bosa had a season-ending knee injury in Week 2.
When San Francisco traded three first-round picks to draft Trey Lance No. 3 overall, that left Garoppolo’s long-term future with the franchise in doubt. Coach Kyle Shanahan is adamant that Garoppolo will remain the starter as Lance, who has a finger injury, eases into the NFL in situations that set him up for success.
“Jimmy has had as sharp of an offseason as he’s had since I’ve been around him,” Shanahan said.
Bosa, the 2019 Defensive Rookie of the Year, seems to be stronger than before he went down early last year.
“Very few people come back from major injury and are better than they were when they left,” San Francisco left tackle Trent Williams said. “I played Nick before he left and I played when he got back and he’s better.”
UPDATE ON INJURIES
San Francisco rookie quarterback Trey Lance made it through a week of practice with no setbacks to his injured right index finger and is cleared to play Sunday.
Lance suffered a small chip fracture in the index finger on his throwing hand in the exhibition finale on Aug. 29.
He is expected to be available if coach Kyle Shanahan opts to use him in a situational package to complement starter Jimmy Garoppolo.
The Lions will be without a key player of their own with left tackle Taylor Decker ruled out for Sunday with a finger injury. Decker injured himself pass blocking in practice and will likely need surgery.
Decker has started all but one game at left tackle the past three seasons. The Lions could move first-round rookie Penei Sewell over from right tackle to fill that spot to protect new quarterback Jared Goff.