"As far as I know, we're going to be back," he said matter-of-factly, adding that he's already spoken with ownership and discussed his plans going forward.
With that out of the way, Mayhew spoke with reporters for about 45 minutes Wednesday night about how the Lions can improve after losing their final eight games of the season. Mayhew helped rebuild Detroit into a playoff team in 2011, but this year was a humbling one, and the pressure is on.
"I think that's the nature of the NFL," Mayhew said. "You're here to win football games, so any time you only win four you better have a sense of urgency."
Mayhew said wide receiver Titus Young was back at the team's facility for an exit physical. Young was exiled by the Lions in November for what Schwartz described as poor behaviour. Mayhew now seems to be taking a wait-and-see approach on whether Young will return to the team.
"I had a great conversation with him, and he met with Jim," Mayhew said. "A lot of time between now and when he has to come back, and I think there's a lot that has to happen between now and then, and we'll decide that at the appropriate time."
Running back Jahvid Best also faces an uncertain future after missing the whole season because of a concussion sustained in 2011. Mayhew said he made a mistake last off-season by counting on Best to return.
"This is a new era with regard to treatment of head injuries and the caution that we're taking with head injuries," Mayhew said.
Last off-season, Detroit signed Calvin Johnson to a new contract, and he responded with a record 1,964 yards receiving. Quarterback Matthew Stafford could be the next key player with a new deal, especially if it can help Detroit clear salary cap space.
"We'll make an effort to renegotiate or extend Matthew Stafford," Mayhew said. "We'll free up some cap room doing that, hopefully."
The Lions will pick fifth in this year's draft. It's their highest selection since taking defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh second overall in 2010, but it's also their fourth top-five pick since 2007. Stafford (first in 2009) and Johnson (second in 2007) were drafted high and helped give the Lions an impressive young nucleus.
But after a failed attempt to go back to the post-season, Mayhew has to be open to making changes to the rest of the roster.
"Obviously, coming off this season, we want to take a look at everything that we're doing," Mayhew said. "Clearly, we're not good enough."
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