June 12, 2014 at 3:37 pm

Lions' Jim Caldwell reminds players to live up to expectations during month off

Allen Park — First-year Lions coach Jim Caldwell didn't give his team a long, cautionary speech before the players left for their month-long summer vacation Thursday, but he did remind them of some of the expectations he's given them since taking the job in January.

"’High cost for low living.’ That's his mantra, so that's what we're living by," punter Sam Martin said.

With the conclusion of their three-day minicamp Thursday, Lions players don't have to return to team headquarters until late July for training camp.

Caldwell said he and the other coaches have informed the players of their core values since the start of the offseason program in April. As the players left for break, one of the key reminders was to return for training camp in the same or better physical condition.

"They've been taking breaks all along on the weekends and things of that nature, so we've discussed the things we discuss normally," Caldwell said.

During the 2012 offseason, Lions players had several run-ins with the law. While the team said the off-field issues weren't a distraction at the time, the Lions finished that season 4-12 after going 10-6 and earning a playoff berth the previous season.

"Be smart, take care of your bodies, take care of your family and come back ready to win a championship," safety James Ihedigbo said. "The work doesn't stop because you leave. It only progresses, so that's what we're doing."

The 30-year-old Ihedigbo has already assumed a leadership role with his new team after spending the past two years with the Baltimore Ravens. And even though he's one of the vocal leaders of the defense, he didn't feel much need to remind younger players how to behave during their break.

"They understand to wear this decal and what it takes to be a Lion, there's a certain expectation," Ihedigbo said. "If you don't fit that, they'll find someone else to do it."

As for Caldwell, his first plan for the break is to fulfill his fatherly duties Sunday at his daughter Natalie's wedding in North Carolina.

"She's my only daughter and my youngest (of four children), so that's doubly so," Caldwell said. "And I have some things to deal with because I gave them an unlimited budget and they went over that.

"The serious part of it, I'm looking forward to it."

Caldwell said he's not sure if he will cry as he walks her down the aisle.

"You never know," he said. "I doubt it, but you never know when that time comes. But one thing, I won't be ashamed of it if I did."

With leaders like Ihedigbo, Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford, Stephen Tulloch and Glover Quin who go out of their way to avoid controversy, Caldwell is confident the team can remain clean over the next month, even if there's no real way to be sure. Giving players regular reminders over the past couple months to act like adults certainly didn't hurt, though.

"There's an old adage that says, 'The mark of a true leader is a man that can lead himself,'" Caldwell said. "And we have a lot of guys like that, that can lead themselves. You don't see a lot of mishaps off the field. We're not perfect; we have some. But for the most part, these guys know how to take care of business, and they stay focused."

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Ndamukong Suh tags the next in line during a drill Thursday. / Daniel Mears / Detroit News