Six years after he was fired as Detroit Lions president, Tom Lewand is dipping his toes back into the football waters.
Lewand, Lions president in 2008-15, is joining the new spring football league, Major League Football, as a special executive consultant. In his role, Lewand will help MLF president and CEO Frank Murtha navigate the start-up of a league scheduled to launch in spring 2022.
“This wasn’t something that just happened in the last week or so,” Murtha said. “I think we had our first conversation when he was still at Shinola cause I was kind of looking around for candidates for what I was looking for.
“Tom was a guy I had a lot of respect for in my dealings on the other side (as an NFL agent). We’re extremely happy to have Tom’s expertise and like I said, he’ll be a very senior adviser here.”
Lewand has been largely out of football since he and general manager Martin Mayhew were fired midway through the 2015 season, but his new venture is not seen as a precursor to another full-time job in the sport.
Since leaving the Lions, he served as CEO of luxury goods retailer Shinola and was hired last spring as CEO of Marygrove Conservancy.
Lewand is a member of the football thinktank the 33rd Team, a group of ex-football executives and coaches who meet weekly to discuss football-related issues.
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He said he is joining Major League Football to aid in building a sound developmental system for young players and perhaps, eventually, the NFL.
“I do think there is a need for greater player development across football,” Lewand told the Free Press. “Certainly an opportunity amongst all of the competing entities that have looked at spring football, and if you look at the ratings from the most recent entries into spring football, there clearly is a demand both on the player development side and on the fan engagement side and it’s a question of how everything ends up evolving particularly on the player development aspect of it.”
Spring football leagues have had a rough go in recent years. The Alliance of American Football played a partial season in 2019 before folding amid financial problems, and the XFL put its return, scheduled for next spring, on hold for at least one season.
Murtha said Major League Football plans to hold training camp at a single site in Florida in April and will play an eight-game schedule in May and June, with a championship weekend in July.
The league is expected to include six teams in cities that do not have NFL or Major League Baseball franchises, like Canton-Massillon, Ohio, and Norfolk, Va. The league does not currently have a Michigan entry planned.