Lions' new president stresses ties to Ford family

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) Rod Wood described himself as a lifelong Lions fan who has Matthew Stafford on his fantasy team.

He acknowledged his lack of a football background, but said he's ready to help Detroit become a more successful organization.

''I would probably say that I'm not qualified to run any other NFL team, but I think I'm qualified to run this one because of the connection to the Ford family and understanding the business,'' said Wood, Detroit's new team president. ''One of the key things I think is to understand ownership's wishes and goals and push that through the entire organization.''

Wood spoke with reporters Friday at the team's facility in Allen Park, a day after the Lions announced he'd be taking over as president. The Lions are owned by Martha Firestone Ford, and Wood has worked closely with the Ford family over the past eight years in his role as president and CEO of Ford Estates. His hiring by the Lions has been met with skepticism because ownership didn't bring in more of an outsider, but Wood will deal primarily with the business side of the organization. The Lions are still in the market for a general manager.

''Certainly we're going to do a national search for the general manager. That's not changed,'' Wood said. ''I think my advising relationship with (Ford) kind of led her to decide that getting me in place to run the business side was first and foremost something they needed so things could get settled down, then we could go about the search for the general manager.''

The Lions fired team president Tom Lewand and GM Martin Mayhew earlier this month. Wood said he was involved in discussions leading up to the decision to dismiss them, but Ford made the final decision.

Wood said he did not think at that point he would end up becoming team president.

''We never really embarked upon a national search,'' Wood said. ''We were getting ready to and during the discussions between her and I and other members of the family, it just kind of led to my selection and wanting to get that done.''

He said the search for a GM will be different. The Lions have said they may have assistance from the NFL's career development advisory panel as they look for someone to take over the football side of the operation. Wood said he expects interim GM Sheldon White to be a candidate for the job.

Wood drew a laugh after he was asked what the future might hold for high-priced players such as Stafford and Calvin Johnson.

''I'm going to leave that to the general manager, but they're great players,'' he said. ''Matthew is the quarterback on my fantasy team if that means anything.''

NOTES: The Lions announced that WJR 760 will become their flagship radio station in 2016. The team had been partners with FM 97.1, a CBS station. CBS Detroit senior vice president and market manager Debbie Kenyon said in a statement to the Detroit Free Press that the sticking point was the station's ''refusal to be censored in talking about the team'' - and agent Mort Meisner, who represents 97.1 afternoon talk show host Mike Valenti, claimed the Lions wanted Valenti fired. Wood was asked about those issues at his news conference. ''I know what came up,'' he said. ''We definitely do not agree with the comments that are out there about censorship and understand why anybody would be upset if we did support that. So we don't agree with those allegations that are out there.'' . Wood said the Ford family is ''absolutely committed'' to the Lions and he knows of no plans to sell the team in the near future. ... The Lions ruled out DT Gabe Wright for Sunday's game against Oakland because of an ankle injury.

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