2011 began for the Detroit Lions with the conclusion of the 2010 regular season. The 20-13 victory over the Minnesota Vikings sent the Lions into the off-season riding a four game winnings streak. The 2-10 start to the season wasn’t much to point to as a sign of progress but the final 6-10 record was the best since the 2007 season when the Lions went 7-9. The national media started to take notice of the Lions by recognizing them as a top-20 team in the NFL.
Another year out of the playoffs meant the draft talk started in January once again. The 13th pick was lower than the Lions had been used to picking and the Lions were already getting some talk as a team that could make some noise in 2011. Especially considering they weren’t all that far behind their division rivals when taking the way the game’s played out into account.
Ndamukong Suh received recognition for his season by being named the Sporting News rookie of the year. Suh’s season was good enough to earn a spot in the Pro Bowl but he elected to have surgery rather than playing in the game. Suh was named a first-team All-Pro later in the month with Calvin Johnson being named to the second team.
Suh wasn’t the only important Lion to undergo surgery in January. Matthew Stafford elected for surgery to correct the shoulder injury that forced him to miss most of the 2010 season. Zack Follett caught some flak for referring to Stafford as a china doll on a Fresno radio station but doctors assured Stafford, the Lions and the fans that there was no reason to expect him to suffer any long term effects of his injury following surgery.