ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — Before taking questions, Jim Caldwell began his news conference with an unusually long preamble, talking about his relationship with two of his bosses who were fired last week.
“You get close to them, they’re like brothers to you. I had a very, very close working relationship with them,” said Caldwell, who is in his second season as coach of the Detroit Lions. “They do a tremendous job and you can’t help, in the particular position that we’re in, in the job we do, to feel somewhat responsible because of the fact that we certainly didn’t get our team to win as much as we certainly were expected to do and that we expect.”
The Lions fired team president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew after the team’s 1-7 start, and Monday was the first time Caldwell appeared in front of reporters since that front office shakeup. Detroit had an open date on the schedule last weekend.
With new leadership coming in at some point, Caldwell’s status is as uncertain as ever. He spoke for about seven minutes before taking questions, saying although this is a difficult time for the Lions, they also have an opportunity in front of them. He remained resolute when asked about the possibility of losing his job.
“I don’t walk in the spirit of fear at all in any shape or form in my life. Never have, never will,” he said. “So we’ll see. That’s yet to be determined.”
Owner Martha Ford, who announced the firings last week, addressed players Monday.
“Any time the owner comes and talks to you, you know they mean business. They’re not coming down there for no reason,” defensive end Darryl Tapp said. “She just let us know what’s going on, kept us abreast of the different changes going on, and what she expects going forward as a team, and that’s to compete.”
The Lions are at Green Bay this weekend, where they haven’t won since 1991. After all the upheaval — Detroit fired three offensive assistants the week before Lewand and Mayhew were let go — it’s hard to say how the team will respond, but Tapp is convinced the Lions can stay focused. He said when it comes to job security, everyone is basically in the same situation.
“Coach Caldwell is on a year-to-year basis, players on a year-to-year basis,” Tapp said. “GMs, presidents, that’s the way it is. This is a performance-based business, so any time you’re not winning, things change, things happen.”
Detroit’s Alex Carter, a rookie defensive back who has dealt with an ankle injury this season, is the son of Tom Carter, who was drafted by Washington in 1993. That was the same offseason when Mayhew left the Redskins via free agency to play for Tampa Bay. Carter’s father and Mayhew have known each other for about 20 years.
Now Mayhew is no longer Detroit’s GM.
“It’s an eye-opening experience, coming into the league and all this stuff happening, year one,” Alex Carter said. “It really kind of makes you not take for granted what you have in front of you.”
Caldwell said players are used to the day-to-day uncertainty in a league of constant turnover.
“They deal with this more so than we do,” he said. “I took a walk through the locker room this morning and along with the names that we know, there are also a lot of empty lockers. The guys that have been in and out of there, the guys that have been released, they face this kind of thing on a daily basis, coaches and players alike. So it’s not anything that they haven’t had to deal with. It’s difficult, it’s tough, but yet they adjust and keep moving.”
NOTES: Carter practiced Monday, starting a three-week window in which the Lions have to decide whether to activate him or put him on season-ending injured reserve. … Detroit put DT Andre Fluellen on IR and claimed DL C.J. Wilson off waivers from Oakland.