Tim Twentyman: Lions sport stability entering offseason of labor uncertainty

Tim Twentyman

Allen Park— Heading into an offseason of labor uncertainty, it’s comforting to know the Lions have a semblance of stability in an unstable environment.

It doesn’t seem like the NFL and the players association are anywhere close to getting a deal done by the March 3 deadline. A lockout is almost a certainty at this point.

How long that lockout drags on is anyone’s guess?

If the lockout spills into the summer and — gasp— the fall, there are going to be a lot of teams scrambling.


Let’s just pretend for a moment that the lockout goes into August and a real threat of having to cancel regular-season games finally forces the owners and the players to concede on a number of issues to get a deal done. That would leave two or three weeks to get ready for a season that normally takes an offseason program, two minicamps and five weeks of training camp.

If that becomes the reality, it will certainly be beneficial for the Lions to have their coaching staff and front office intact and heading into a third season together. They also have a core group of players returning, including quarterback Matthew Stafford, who this week underwent successful shoulder surgery.

“Hopefully, it’ll be business as usual,” coach Jim Schwartz said of the possibility of a strike. “But if it isn’t, you have to be prepared for that. I think one of the best ways to be prepared for that is to have continuity. We have continuity in the coaching staff and in the organization and I think all those things are very important.

“I know a lot of teams are going through coaching changes right now and that would be a very difficult time. It’s a difficult time for any organization, but it would be more difficult if the schedule changed in the offseason.”

Imagine the mess new 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh will have on his hands if he isn’t allowed to talk to any of his players or implement his new system until two weeks before Game 1. There are nuances in Schwartz’s system that Lions players still need to pick up heading into year three. Learning a whole new system in two weeks — good luck.

The fact that defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham and his staff and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and his staff are intact for next season would give the Lions a big edge heading into next season.

That could be a reason why the Vikings hired defensive coordinator and interim head coach Leslie Frazier for their vacant head coaching position so quickly after the season ended. The same goes for interim coach and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett with the Cowboys.

“I think Jim (Schwartz) does a good enough job getting us ready in camp, so we’ll be ready,” Lions center Dominic Raiola said. “We have a lot of mature people that are going to know how to act.”

Of the 13 teams on the Lions’ schedule next season (they play the Bears, Packers and Vikings twice), six of those teams will have a new head coach (Panthers, 49ers, Cowboys, Broncos, Raiders and Vikings).

If the Lions get a couple of those teams early in the season — advantage Lions.


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