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NFL notes: Detroit Lions fire team president, general manager

The one-win Detroit Lions, looking nothing like the team that reached the playoffs last season, fired team president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew on Thursday and promised to bring in new leadership to put a consistent winner on the field.

“We are very disappointed with the results of the season so far and believe a change in leadership was necessary,” said owner Martha Firestone Ford, reading from a prepared statement. She did not take questions.

The Lions are an NFC-worst 1-7 under second-year coach Jim Caldwell, whose staff was not affected by the changes a week after he replaced some assistants, including offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi.

Sheldon White, the Lions’ vice president of pro personnel and a 19-year veteran of the organization, will be the team’s acting general manager. Allison Maki, chief financial officer, will oversee business operations for the team. Both will report directly to Ford.

“We are beginning a national search for the best leadership to manage our team going forward,” Ford said. “I want to assure our fans that we intend to identify and hire the very best leadership in order to produce a consistently, winning football team.”

Ford’s late husband, William Clay Ford, was often criticized for being too patient and loyal with the people in charge of running his front office and team. She appears to be taking a different approach, shaking up the franchise with bold moves that no one in the organization seemed to sense were coming this week.

The former executives took the fall for a franchise that is struggling after having relative success in recent years, including a 24-20 playoff loss in January at Dallas.

Lewand was in his 20th season with the Lions, and his sixth as president. He did not return a message seeking comment. Lewand was largely in charge of business operations, including negotiating contracts, and helped the franchise build Ford Field, the team’s home since 2002.

Mayhew became the team’s general manager early in the 2008 season when the team fired Matt Millen.

Millen, whose reign led to one of the worst stretches in NFL history, hired Mayhew in 2001 to be the team’s senior director of football administration. Mayhew became assistant general manager in 2004 and was promoted seven years ago to replace Millen during the team’s 0-16 season.

Giants’ Victor Cruz hopes to return this season

New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz has started running again and hopes to play this season.

The 29-year-old Cruz ran for the first time since aggravating a calf injury in late September.

Cruz has not played in a game since he sustained a major knee injury in the sixth game of the 2014 season in Philadelphia. He had surgery and targeted the season opener against Dallas for his return.

A calf injury in mid-August sidelined the wideout, and he has not practiced since that injury.

With the Giants (4-4) at the halfway point in the season, many have wondered whether Cruz will play. He had faith that he will and he believes his calf is now healed.

“I think God is testing me to see just how much I can take, just how much I’m willing to put this game on the line for my own sake and see how much I can deal with, and see how much I can handle mentally,” Cruz said. “I’m just being calm, being reserved, and coming through with that challenge and tying to tackle everything as they come.”

Cruz said his game plan is to continue running, add some speed and then start cutting.

Giants tinkering with Jason Pierre-Paul

As Jason Pierre-Paul’s return to the field looms, the Giants still are experimenting with ways to cover his mangled right hand that both will protect it and allow him to be most effective.

At Thursday’s practice, the defensive end was wearing a mitten-type wrap that had his thumb free with the remaining fingers on his hand bunched together. It was a departure from the way Pierre-Paul had taken the field for the last week, wearing a custom-made glove that allowed motion in his fingers.

“They’re working on that all the time,” Tom Coughlin said. “I wouldn’t say it’s a done deal right now.”

The Giants are expecting Pierre-Paul to make his 2015 debut Sunday in Tampa. That gives them only a few days to finalize the design of the glove he will wear while weighing the limitations each of those options presents against the benefits.

Nick Mangold nears return with New York Jets

Nick Mangold took a big step toward playing again for the New York Jets.

The veteran center was limited at practice, the first time he participated in team drills since injuring his neck late in New York’s loss at New England on Oct. 25.

That has the Jets feeling optimistic that Mangold could be back to start Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“I sure plan on it,” Mangold said.

Wide receiver Brandon Marshall (toe/ankle) was also limited at practice, while wide receiver Eric Decker (left knee), safety Calvin Pryor (sprained left ankle) and guard Willie Colon (knee) sat out.

EverBank Field may get upgrades

The city of Jacksonville, Florida, and Jaguars owner Shad Khan have $90 million in upgrades planned for EverBank Field.

The city still needs to get funding approved for its half of the project, which includes remodeled club seating, an indoor practice facility and a 5,000-seat amphitheater. The practice facility and the amphitheater would be outside the south end of the stadium.

Khan already has pledged $45 million toward the project, adding to the $31 million he already invested in the stadium. The billionaire spent $20 million for the world’s largest scoreboards last year and $11 million for locker room and training room renovations in 2013.

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