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Focus of kickoff luncheon centers on season opener, winning division

Posted Aug 27, 2014

The luncheon, hosted by the Detroit Economic Club at Ford Field, featured a discussion panel where Lions play-by-play announcer Dan Miller led a conversation between Lewand and Caldwell, and later, Tate and Ihedigbo.

From President Tom Lewand and coach Jim Caldwell to wide receiver Golden Tate and safety James Ihedigbo, a common theme was echoed at the 18th annual Detroit Lions Kickoff Luncheon on Wednesday.

To win the NFC North.

The luncheon, hosted by the Detroit Economic Club at Ford Field, featured a discussion panel where Lions play-by-play announcer Dan Miller led a conversation between Lewand and Caldwell, and later, Tate and Ihedigbo.

In front of an atrium filled with club members, players and the general public, the discussion centered around the excitement and elevated expectations for the upcoming season. According to Tate, it all begins by winning the division.

Dominic RaiolaC Dominic Raiola (Photo: Gavin Smith)

“We all have the same thing in mind,” Tate said. “We want to win, we want to win now, and we want to win a lot. The plan is to win the NFC North.”

In order to win their division for the first time since 1993, the Lions need to develop a championship mindset where mediocrity is never tolerated.

“We need to develop the mentality that we are going to play championship football no matter what the situation is,” Tate said. “Every single day we need to strive to get better. You are either getting better or getting worse. You never stay the same. Which side are we on?

“We need to get to the point where we expect to win and we expect to beat the Green Bay Packers. It’s all up to us. What we put into it is what we are going to get out of it. The only team that can beat us, is us.”

Ihedigbo agreed with Tate, but reiterated such an accomplishment wouldn’t be easy.

“The door of opportunity is huge,” Ihedigbo said. “But everybody has to give up something to gain something. We want to win a championship and it is going to take a lot of work.”

Detroit’s first goal, to win the division, has been the primary focus for some time. When Lewand sat down with the Ford family at the end of last season, the first thing Mr. and Mrs. Ford asked was how the Lions could win the NFC North in 2014.

“That’s where it starts,” Lewand said. “That’s the goal that everyone in this organization has. We’re focused on that goal, on being a championship football team and doing the necessary things to get there and work along the way to make sure that we build that standard over the years.”

Another topic of emphasis during the luncheon was the buzz surrounding the team’s season opener: a primetime game against the New York Giants on Monday Night Football, televised by ESPN.

The first game of every season always brings an unmatched sense of interest and optimism, but in two weeks the whole country will be watching.

“All eyes are on us to open the season,” Tate said. “I think that’s great for the Lions, great for the state of Michigan and the city of Detroit. We are excited to get out there.”

“There is no better way to start it,” Caldwell said. “It’s a great opportunity for the nation to get a chance to see what we all believe. I think we’ll be able to showcase all of our hard work against a quality team. It’s going to be fun.”

But there is more to a primetime game at home than just pure excitement. Lewand wants an electric atmosphere, one that will give his team a true advantage when the players take the field.

“It’s going to be wild,” Lewand said. “We want to get that energy that comes from that great experience. We want that home-field advantage. We want that Monday night crowd to be loud, to be smart and to be cheering at the right times. That really makes a difference, and when we can have a great experience, everybody benefits.”

The luncheon concluded on a slightly lighter note, as guests had the opportunity to write down questions for the team that were later read on stage to players dispersed throughout the audience. Questions ranged from who dresses the best (Dominic Raiola) and whose wardrobe needs the most help (Riley Reiff) to what motivates Reggie Bush on the field (his family and teammates).

To wrap up the event, three lucky fans won a raffle and received autographed footballs from Eric Ebron, Ziggy Ansah and Joique Bell.

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