Lions upbeat over offseason moves

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions were a mess when Martin Mayhew was promoted on an interim basis to replace Matt Millen three games into their winless 2008 season.

Detroit didn't get much better in Mayhew's first full season, winning just two games last year.

But Mayhew insists he can see and sense a difference in the team he's in charge of today vs. the one he inherited two years ago.

"I think we're a much better football team. I think we're a better organization," Mayhew said Friday as the Lions wrapped up their three-day minicamp. "It's not me, we've done it collectively. But I think we've come a long way."

Center Dominic Raiola agrees.

Raiola, whose record is 33-111 since Millen picked him in 2001, has been encouraged by the players Mayhew has selected from college and acquired within the league.

"There is more talent," Raiola said. "It's obvious."

It's also clear that Detroit is practicing harder than in the past. The team had to cancel two workouts this week because previous ones were deemed intense by the league. There was also an intense fight during drills Friday morning.

"There's going to be a lot of fines," coach Jim Schwartz said. "It's not acceptable what happened."

Lions fans have been forced to accept they're rooting for a historically bad franchise, which has only one playoff victory since winning the 1957 NFL title.

Detroit is mired in the worst nine-season stretch by an NFL team since World War II. Its 40-game record -- with three wins since midway through the 2007 season -- is the poorest since the 1920s when the Dayton Triangles were slightly less successful.

Safety Louis Delmas said the new-look Lions will be good enough to be in the postseason for the first time since 1999.

"That's my goal and I think it's realistic," Delmas said.

Mayhew declined to give his opinion on such a bold statement.

"I don't have a take on that," Mayhew said. "I don't do predictions."

While Mayhew refused to be pinned down on how many wins he expects this season, he did strike an optimistic tone about signing defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh by the time training camp starts in late July.

"We expect him to be here, and I think he expects to be here," Mayhew said. "It's early in the process, but right now I feel good about it."

Suh does, too.

"I don't think I have to worry about getting my market value," said Suh, the No. 2 pick overall. "I don't think that will become an issue."

Meanwhile, the Lions signed fourth-round pick Jason Fox to a three-year contract.

The team announced the deal Friday soon after ending a three-day minicamp. The 6-foot-6, 314-pound offensive tackle was a four-year starter for the Miami Hurricanes.

Fox didn't play in Miami's last bowl game after undergoing surgery on his left knee, and he had a hamstring injury during his pro workout.

Fox, who is from Fort Worth, Texas, adds depth for Detroit at tackle behind starters Jeff Backus and Gosder Cherilus.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.