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Lions players not surprised by coaching changes

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Hertfordshire, U.K. — In-season firings don’t happen often in the NFL, but Jim Caldwell’s decision to dismiss three coaches on his staff Monday didn’t catch Lions players by surprise.

After starting 1-6 and with a couple embarrassing performances, the players knew something had to change.

“Sometimes, you got to bench a player, sometimes you got to move some guys around, sometimes you got to just do something different because obviously what you’re doing is not working when you’re 1-6,” free safety Glover Quin said Wednesday at The Grove, the luxury resort where the team is staying to prepare for Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs at London’s Wembley Stadium (9:30 a.m., FOX).

The Lions fired offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn and assistant offensive line coach Terry Heffernan Monday. The day before, the team allowed seven sacks and 13 quarterback hits on Matthew Stafford with many of them coming from assignment issues rather than physical dominance by the opposing Vikings.

Caldwell told the players of the decision in a team meeting Monday, but it was hardly a surprise for the veterans.

“I’m sure (for) the younger guys, it’s an eye-opener, but welcome to the NFL,” cornerback Rashean Mathis said. “This is a business. You’re not playing in high school or college anymore. Things happen very quickly when things don’t go the way they should be.

“For a veteran guy, it was expected, like something has to be shaken.”

Mathis admits he didn’t know where the change would come. But the play caller and line coaches seemed like a good place to start after the inept performance against Minnesota at Ford Field. The Lions led 14-3 after 14 minutes, but the offense scored just three more points in the 28-19 loss.

Despite having several talented playmakers, including receivers Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, the Lions offense ranks 20th in yards per game and the team is just 29th in points per game.

Although Mathis thought the firings could surprise some young players, second-year tight end Eric Ebron said it’s not a wake-up call and little will change from the players’ perspective.

“We’re chilling; we’re going to try to win games,” Ebron said. “There’s no other way we can act. What, are we going to be down and sad? For what? We’ve got to play. No one goes out there and plays for us. The coaches just coach. We go play, so we’ve got to go out there and play.”