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Lions shut out of international games but could land on ‘Hard Knocks’

The Lions are not going to be traveling to London, Mexico City or anywhere outside of the U.S. for games next season.

They do have an outside shot at landing on HBO’s “Hard Knocks.”

The NFL released its schedule of 2019 international games Monday. It’ll feature four games in London and one in Mexico City.

The Lions had an outside chance at a London game, particularly since they are scheduled to play a road game against the Raiders. The franchise is on its way to Las Vegas but needs to find a new place to play home games in 2019.

Detroit does have a shot at landing another opportunity for fan exposure. They are one of five teams eligible for selection on HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” the weekly show that goes inside a team’s training camp.

To avoid selection, teams must either have a new head coach, have made the playoffs in either of the past two seasons or have appeared on the show in the past decade.

The Lions are one of the teams that don’t fit those categories, along with the Giants, Raiders, 49ers and Redskins. That makes them eligible for selection.

“Hard Knocks” seeks out the most entertaining possible training camp of those eligible. It looks for colorful personalities among coaches and players and intriguing storylines regarding where the team is in the building process.

Because of that, Detroit’s odds of selection are not high this year. The Raiders can offer Jon Gruden as well as the uncertainty of where the Raiders might be playing as they transition over to a home in Las Vegas. The 49ers have a popular coach in Kyle Shanahan and the compelling storyline of Jimmy Garoppolo coming back from a torn ACL. The Giants have the drama that follows Odell Beckham Jr. and are also one of the storied franchises playing in the biggest market.

The Lions reached the difficult intersection of bad and boring last season. The “Patriot Way” culture doesn’t lend itself well to an entertaining training camp, which could be why attendance and atmosphere lacked so much for the Lions last August. Detroit also has a coach in Matt Patricia and a quarterback in Matthew Stafford who both offer little outward personality.

Patricia and his front office do not want any part of being on “Hard Knocks,” which Patricia indicated last season when he said he was glad the Browns made it so he wouldn’t have to worry about it. He is likely to get his wish this year despite his team’s eligibility, that is unless the show is intrigued by one other element of the team.

“Hard Knocks” has never gotten to showcase the true Patriot Way in a training camp before. That’s because the Patriots never miss the playoffs, and so Bill Belichick always gets his wish of the cameras staying away. With New England in the Super Bowl again, it’s unlikely the show will ever get to capture the true essence of the franchise, as Belichick and Tom Brady will likely be retired before the team ever becomes two years removed from a postseason berth.

The show did feature a variation of Patriots culture a few years ago with the Texans, who are led by former assistant Bill O’Brien. But the one organization that is trying its hardest to copy the New England model is Detroit. The Lions have stocked ex-Patriots in their front office, coaching staff and roster and have changed the rules of the building around to match much of what the strict culture was in New England.

Reports surfaced last year of some of the discord taking place among veterans who were adjusting to this new way of life. Though many of those players will leave town this offseason, not all will, and incoming free agents will have to adjust to the culture as well. “Hard Knocks” could consider showcasing a bit of it.

It’s unlikely to be as compelling of an option as the 49ers, Raiders or Giants, but it’s something Lions fans can at least hold out a little hope for.

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