ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) -The Detroit Lions haven't had a winning season since 2000 and are eight years removed from their last playoff appearance.
One of the men who signs the checks still believes the team can turn things around this fall.
Vice chairman William Clay Ford Jr., son of owner William Clay Ford, said Sunday he thinks third-year coach Rod Marinelli finally has a collection of players who understand and believe in his system.
``So far, one thing that's very clear is this is very much the group Rod wants to go forward with. I think that says a lot,'' Ford said after the team concluded a training camp practice.
Detroit finished last season 7-9, its most wins since Matt Millen became president in 2001, but the ending was bittersweet. Fans had high hopes after the Lions reached the halfway point at 6-2, but the team lost its next six games to fall out of playoff contention.
The Lions drafted offensive lineman Gosder Cherilus, traded for cornerback Leigh Bodden and added a handful of defensive free agents familiar with Marinelli's Tampa Two defensive scheme. Several veteran players said they feel more comfortable now that they've had two years to absorb the system's complexity, a sentiment not lost on Ford.
``It appears all the coaches and all the players are on the same page and buying into Rod's system,'' he said. ``We haven't had that in the past. We've had some talented players but they often were either selfish or didn't buy into what the coaching staff was doing.''
The Lions are selling half-season ticket plans and will offer group ticket packages for the first time since moving to Ford Field in 2002, moves that sparked speculation the team's streak of sellouts at the stadium might end.
``A lot of it will depend on how the team does,'' Ford said. ``Late in the season, if we're in the hunt, people are going to want to see us.''
Ford wouldn't discuss Millen - the team is 31-81 on his watch - or make predictions for the coming season.
Despite the region's gloomy economic picture, chief operating officer Tom Lewand said sales of season tickets, corporate sponsorships and suites are ahead of this point last year. He would not say how many season tickets have been sold or how many ticket-holders opted not to renew after the end of the 2007 season.
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