It hadn't made a full appearance for years, perhaps since the 1999 season when the team last reached the NFL playoffs.
Detroit Lions Fever, an insidious affliction that rears its ugly head and then disappears quickly when the team ultimately fizzles, lay dormant until about the middle of last December.
That's when the Lions of head coach Jim Schwartz put together a four-game winning streak to finish the season at 6-10. That was the team's best record since going 7-9 in 2007.
The fever started slowly. Team supporters used to seeing their hopes dashed have a built-in immune system that helps fight anything dangerous to their well-being.
That's why the fever began as a low-grade affliction that brought about a slightly elevated temperature. Nothing serious, but definitely above normal.
The fever escalated in the April NFL draft when the Lions selected defensive tackle Nick Fairley of Auburn, running back Mikel Leshoure of Illinois and wide receiver Titus Young of Boise State. All are regarded by many to be NFL-caliber players, though Leshoure is out for the season with a leg injury.
When the team signed several free agents - including veteran linebackers Stephen Tulloch and Justin Durant - when the league lockout was lifted, the fever began to gain steam.
Add preseason victories over Cincinnati, Cleveland, New England (34-10!) and Buffalo and the fever is now out of control, resistant to reason.
And why not? The Lions appear to have a good quarterback (when healthy) in Matthew Stafford, a serviceable running game with Jahvid Best and a receiving corps that features star wideout Calvin Johnson and second-year tight end Brandon Pettigrew.
On defense, the Lions have one of the best lines in football - the so-called "Silver Crush" - in Cliff Avril, Corey Williams, Kyle Vanden Bosch and 2011 NFL Rookie of the Year Ndamukong Suh, named to the Pro Bowl.
The team has also improved its linebacking unit and defensive backfield, both of which badly needed upgrades.
Injuries, as usual, will likely determine how far the Lions will go this season. The team still isn't deep enough to overcome key players sidelined for long.
The Lions won't challenge for the Super bowl this season and may not even make the NFL playoffs. But the team should win two or three more games than it did last year and give many NFL teams cause for concern.
But that's the fever talking. Check back in about three months to see how serious the affliction has become. It would be nice if it's raging and out of control. That would mean the Lions are one of the better teams in football.
Has it been mentioned that Detroit Lions Fever causes delirium?
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.