Lions lobbying for better start to 2017 schedule

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
The Lions' 1-3 start last season included a 17-14 loss to the Bears at Soldier Field.

Phoenix — It’s an annual tradition. Each year, when the NFL’s master schedule is released, fans dissect it, looking for flaws in their team’s slate of games.

As it turns out, NFL executives aren’t immune to these concerns.

Last year, Detroit Lions team president Rod Wood used his position to express a concern to the NFL’s senior vice president of broadcasting and media operations Howard Katz, who does the heavy lifting when it comes to crafting the schedule.

Wood noted the Lions had often finished the year on the road and Katz agreed, granting the team it’s 2016 finale at Ford Field, against the Green Bay Packers.

Wood is in Katz’s ear again this year, hoping to get the Lions a more favorable start to the 2017 campaign.

“I’ve tried to be friendly to Howard (Katz) when I’m down here, but I’m sure every other team does the same thing so I’m not sure how much it helps,” Wood said Tuesday at the annual league meeting.

For the past two years, and four of the last 10, the Lions have played three of their first four games on the road. That’s one way to find yourself in a quick hole, just as the team in 2015 and 2016, losing seven of the eight games, including five of six on the road.

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“That puts you a little behind the curve, in terms of your scheduling, if you get off to a little bit of a rough start and you’re in the hole we were in last year,” Wood said. “We dug ourselves out, but I’d like an opportunity to have at least two of the first four at home.”

Wood said he’d settle for an even split to open the year, but he’d love three of four at Ford Field. Here’s the crazy thing, the Lions haven’t enjoyed that luxury since 1990.

When making the schedule, Wood acknowledged the league likes to work around potential conflicts in cities. The Tigers happen to be hosting a pair of Sunday afternoon games in September, which could throw a wrench in the process, unless the league puts the Lions on prime time one of those weeks.

Wood said he’d be happy to work on solving the issue to get his wish.

“There is the Tigers schedule that somewhat creates a parking, traffic conflict, but I’d rather find a solution to work around that if we have to, then be on the road when we can be home at least half the games,” he said.

The schedule is expected to be announced mid-April.

Twitter: @justin_rogers