LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

Allen Park — Growing up in Beloit, Wisconsin, Lions coach Jim Caldwell was a Bears fan, choosing to root for the nearby Chicago team instead of the in-state Green Bay Packers.

Plenty of Caldwell's friends and family, though, still cheer for the green and gold team in northeast Wisconsin, so before the game, he'll have to check to make sure his relatives are wearing Honolulu blue and silver.

"There's been quite of few of them asking for tickets, but just like when they came here for the game (in September), I have to sometimes make sure they lift up their shirt to make certain there's not a Packers shirt underneath there because I do have some die-hard Packers fans in my family," Caldwell said this week.

Caldwell said some relatives will be in attendance Sunday at Lambeau Field, though not quite the 80 who came for a Lions game at Ford Field earlier this year. His parents, who still live in Wisconsin, will not be in attendance because at 81, sitting in the cold for more than three hours isn't an ideal afternoon.

While Caldwell's current job makes it easier for some of his relatives to forgo their Packers roots, he knows at least one close friend — his high school coach John Heineke — will be cheering against the Lions.

"He told me when I got the job here he says, 'Hey, I'm going to be able to root for you for 14 games, but there's two I'm not going to be rooting for you,' " Caldwell said. "So, if that can give you any indication, there are some pretty die-hard fans there."

Sunday's game will be Caldwell's first regular-season appearance as a head coach at Lambeau Field. When he was head coach in Indianapolis, the Colts played an exhibition game in Green Bay in 2010, but that exhibition was completely meaningless compared to what's on the line Sunday for the Lions, who haven't won in Wisconsin since 1991 and are looking for their first division title since 1993.

Caldwell said his pregame ritual won't change in advance of Sunday's game. Before the team meeting Saturday, he'll spend a couple of hours alone as usual — watching film, live football or analyzing the game plan — instead of meeting friends or family for dinner.

"I kind of use that time for myself, which is hard to find in this business," he said.

The Lions are "blessed" to be in their current position, Caldwell said, and a win would give them a first-round bye in the postseason. And Caldwell is looking forward to the chance to win a game of this magnitude in his home state.

"To have an opportunity to go back to the state in which you grew up and compete at the highest level, I'm not certain if there's anything much better than that," he said. "It's really a unique opportunity."

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/jkatzenstein

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE