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Lions 'switching our swagger around,' LB Sims says, after winless season

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- New coach. New front office. New players.

The new-look Detroit Lions gathered Tuesday for a mandatory minicamp, hoping to take another step toward respectability and away from their woeful place in NFL history as the first 0-16 team.

Linebacker Ernie Sims said the winless 2008 season is out of sight and mind.

"It's out of my head," Sims said. "Last year is over with, and we're focusing on the new year with a totally new team. We're switching our swagger around."

First-year coach Jim Schwartz relayed a message that he shared during a team meeting, kicking off the three-day minicamp.

"Patience is no longer a virtue. Indoctrination is over," Schwartz recalled telling the team. "There are new schemes. There's new philosophies. There's new coaches. There's whole new dynamics. A significant number of players on the team are new.

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"We need to get past it now, and we need to start seeing results on the field."

However, Schwartz was quick to say that it will be months before a starter is named at any position, including quarterback. That's just how Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 pick overall in the draft, and former Pro Bowler Daunte Culpepper like it.

"The more competition you have, the better players are going to be," Stafford said.

Culpepper said his goal is to be the division-winning quarterback in Detroit.

The Lions seemed to give themselves a chance to be much more competitive in the NFC North by making major changes after the 2008 debacle. One day after Detroit's winless season, coach Rod Marinelli was fired and executives Tom Lewand and Martin Mayhew were promoted as the leaders of the front office.

The Lions reshaped their roster by adding veterans such as linebackers Larry Foote and Julian Peterson, wide receivers Bryant Johnson and Ronald Curry, offensive tackle Jon Jansen and defensive tackle Grady Jackson. Detroit drafted Stafford with the No. 1 pick, tight end Brandon Pettigrew 20th overall and safety Louis Delmas in the second round.

Culpepper said the many moves makes it easier to move forward.

"The main thing is that everybody has to understand that last year is over and it's all about the now," Culpepper said. "It's all about 2009."

The Lions have even changed the locker room by switching assigned stalls for the players. Offensive tackle Jeff Backus was moved from the spot he had held for years to the opposite side of the locker room, and wide receiver Calvin Johnson now dresses in a new area.

That has only aided the Lions' quest to forget about the 0-16 season.

"It's definitely a different mind-set because we have a bunch of new players who have brought a new energy," Johnson said. "I'm looking forward to playing with these guys."

Running back Kevin Smith, one of the holdovers from 2008, said the players are approaching the upcoming season as a new start.

"This is the 2009 Lions, not the '08 Lions or the Lions that won it in '57," Smith said.

The Lions have put together a hungry bunch of players. Jansen, for example, joined the franchise soon after the Washington Redskins cut him.

"There are a lot of guys who want to prove a point," he said. "I want to prove that I'm not done. A lot of guys want to prove that last year wasn't them."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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