LIONS HEAD COACH JIM SCHWARTZ
- Opening Statement
- “The National Football League is one of the few places that grown men can experience the first day of school well into adulthood and I think we all feel that way. It’s an exciting time – a lot of players have been gone for about a month, but I know they’ll all be in good shape. The players report today between 12 and six; we have a mandatory dinner and then after that they have curfew tonight. Tomorrow we’ll start with conditioning tests; we’ll weigh in first thing in the morning and we’ll be on the practice field at three-o-clock for a fairly short practice. We’ll be in shorts the first couple practices before we ease into shoulder pads and the two-a-days and things like that.”
- On how ‘the teacher’ is doing
- “It doesn’t matter how the teacher’s feeling – it’s all about the students. I think everybody’s excited here – everybody’s ready to go. From where we were in our OTAs and our mini-camps, everybody feels good. I think that’s the same for 32 teams in the NFL. It’s not how we feel going into today or tomorrow, it’s how we feel coming out. It’s not just that, it’s how we feel coming out of the season.
“We talked a little bit about some of those injury rehabs and they were going to be six-, eight-month rehabs. It’s a little bit like the season: you can’t get too high or too low with one good day or one bad day. It’s a long, long haul and you have to get your mind right for that. We’re about to go six months without a day off. It’s a tough business, the National Football League, but it’s fun – there’s excitement with it and that’s what makes it great.”
- On how close CB
Jack Williams, TE Brandon Pettigrewand RB Kevin Smithare to being ready to go
- “A lot of those guys – Smith and Pettigrew in particular – got on the practice field for a mini-camp and our OTAs in some fashion; seven-on-seven, some individual periods, even mixed in a little bit of team period here and there. We’ll probably take it slow with those guys. When they report, one of their stations in report is the trainers and their physical (to see) where they are.
“They’ll probably have a little bit of a different schedule than everybody else, maybe some preemptive strikes to try to keep them from getting sore. Generally guys that have ACLs – their ACL is healed by now. The issue that they deal with is just soreness in the joint and that comes from two-a-days and practicing every single day and things like that. So we’re going to try the best we can to try to head some of that stuff off. You’re not going to be able to head it all off. They’ll be in a little bit of a different program than everybody else.”
- On the contract talks or lack thereof with remaining draft picks
- “I don’t know that there’s lack thereof – there’s been plenty of talk. And we’re seeing some progress down at the back of the first round. I think 27 and 28 have signed and I think 32 just signed – I think Patrick Robinson just signed. So that’s encouraging. We’re probably closer with Jahvid at that point because of the people around him. I wouldn’t anticipate that being a long-term thing.
“Suh’s a little bit different. I think Trent Williams fell in at four, but like I said a little bit before: when one domino falls, all of a sudden you start getting a lot more. I think the biggest domino in this draft is obviously Sam Bradford at No. 1. Then once that domino falls, then all of a sudden the other ones will fall pretty quickly in place behind because you’ll establish a little bit of a structure. That’s the business of agents, that’s the business of front office people. Those two guys will be ready to go and they’ll be on the field as soon as we can get them there.”
- On how critical Training Camp is for a young defensive linemen
- “I mean, an extended miss – an extended period of time that he would miss – would be significant. Missing a few days here and there – it’s part of this business. Guys deal with injuries, guys deal with all kinds of different things. I don’t think that would set him back. But an extended period definitely would set him back.”
- On his message to the team during dinner
- “I’m not going to speak, it’s dinner. It’s not a dinner and a show (laughter). It’s not dinner theatre. We don’t have a meeting or anything. They come in today, they make a lot of different stops: they go to the equipment room, make sure they’re all squared away with all the equipment they need for practice and their helmets and their shoulder pads and their shoes and everything else; they go to the trainers and they’ve got to get checked off on their physical; they go to the weight room, make sure they get the weigh-in schedule and what’s going to happen tomorrow.
“They go to their position group and re-pick up their playbook. They go to the special teams coach – same thing. They come to me; I have a lot of league-mandated stuff – fine schedule and stuff like that that they have to get. But, really, the mandatory dinner is just to make sure that they’re all here in town, complete check-in and then they have a little bit of free time and then they have check-in tonight. So we don’t have anything that’s football – there’s no meetings or anything. My initial talk to the whole team will be tomorrow morning and a lot of that stuff is rules stuff also. It’s a lot of league stuff where it’s just what it is. It’s a long meeting that you have to get through because there’s a lot of things you need to say on the first day of training camp.”
- On how he would categorize the offseason now that it’s over
- “I don’t know that I look at offseason being over. To me, training camp is still part of the offseason. Anything that’s not part of the regular season is part of the offseason. I think we made strides in a lot of areas. I think we made in personnel – particularly in offense at the skill position; I think we’ve made some really good strides there and I think a couple other points, we made some significant strides on our defensive line – personnel things there. I think the other thing is: through another offseason, the coaches have a better understanding of the talent level that we have and have refined our schemes a little bit to try and take advantage of that.
“We said before: people ask what kind of schemes we’re going to run. We’re going to run the schemes that our team can run the best. What best fits our personnel at this time. I think there’s part of a learning process there and you know exactly, now, after a season where different players are and what they can handle.
“But I think the biggest improvement that we made in the offseason was at the quarterback position because Matt Stafford went through an entire offseason. He was here March 16 or 17, whatever day the first day of the offseason program was, he was here every single day. He was throwing on the field, he was working out, he was studying film, he was in the playbook – all those different things. He went into that day – that March 16 or 17 – as the starting quarterback.
“His whole objective now was just to learn and to get better and get better, not anything else. Not trying to find an apartment, not trying to find his way around the city, not trying to earn a starting job. He’s our starting quarterback and I think that’s probably been the biggest thing in this offseason is Matt’s ability to work with
Calvin Johnson. His ability to go out there and throw with Nate Burlesonand Bryant Johnsonand Northcutt and Derrick Williamsand all our wide receivers and tight ends. Just getting out there and doing it on a daily basis has made a big, big improvement of where we are offensively.”
- On having more weapons on offense
- “Well, the more weapons you have, obviously the more you do. We have one of the best players in the National Football League in Calvin Johnson, but when defensive coordinators (and defenses) – it’s not that difficult to take one player out of the game plan. You can devote enough resources to take one player out of the game plan. The difference is having other guys that can make the plays when somebody wants to trick a defense up for Calvin and that’s where we struggled last year. Calvin made a lot of big plays (but) we didn’t make enough big plays other than Calvin. We made a few here and there, but not enough on a consistent basis. With the people that we got – not just at the wide receiver position, not just the tight end position, not just at the running back position, but a combination of all of those – definitely gives him more answers when people try to trick things up defensively, whether it’s devoting everything to stop the run, devoting everything to stop the pass, to stop an individual player. We’re in a better position there.”
- On what he sees in DE
Kyle Vanden Bosch
- “To quote Denny Green, ‘He is what we thought he was.’ You’d say that about Kyle 30 years from now, 40 years from now, he’s not going to change, that’s in him, that’s in his DNA. Kyle’s a tremendous worker. I don’t know if there’s a harder worker in the National Football League, I don’t know if there’s a harder worker in the history of the National Football League, maybe some that have worked as hard, none work harder. Same thing with toughness, he’s a very, very tough person. Maybe some have been as tough, nobody has been tougher. The leadership that he brings, you can’t put a price on it, you can’t put a value on it, and he does it vocally, he also does it by example. He’s changed the work schedule of all of our defensive linemen. They have all followed behind him; it’s easy to follow a guy who’s been to Pro Bowls and has had a lot of success. He’s had a really good offseason, he always does, but he’s probably the healthiest he’s been in two or three years. He says he feels great and we’re looking for big things from him.”
- On how he feels about the state of the secondary
- “Cautiously optimistic. I think that’s probably the best way to put it. We have some work to do there, as we do at linebackers, it’s probably the two positions on our team that aren’t as settled as other positions. There’s going to be a lot of competition for spots in there. I think we have a couple of really good young players in those positions, we’ve drafted some other players, we’ve signed some other players. The challenge in training camp for us is going to be finding the best combinations at both of those positions. It’s not just the corner, but it’s the nickel, it’s not just the left outside linebacker, but it’s who’s coming in at nickel. There’s a lot of, sort of, compartmentalized jobs within the linebackers and the secondary. Probably, I’ve said this before, I feel good about the advances that we’ve made in the defensive line in the offseason. Kyle Vanden Bosch,
Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams– combine them with players that were here last year, that had an awful lot of experience and some young players that are entering their third and fourth years and you expect to see them really become the players that they’re going to be in that time. Secondary, we’re not quite to that point, but hopefully by the end of training camp we’ll be there.”
- On if he prefers not to use starters as punt and kick returners
- “No, I really don’t have a preference. I mean in the past I have been on teams that we have used starters back there and they have played at a really high level. I have been on teams that we have used niche players to just be returners, we have used defensive players, we use offensive players – we are pretty much open to all of those possibilities. Nate (Burleson) has done it and he has done it at a high level in the National Football League.
Dennis Northcuttis back, and has also done it consistently over his career. I think that we have some young players in there, in particular Jahvid Bestwho has returned kicks; he has never returned punts but he has taken some of those. Derrick Williams needs to take a big step for us; that was one of the reasons that his number was called last year in the draft, was his return ability and he wasn’t consistent enough catching the football last year in training camp for us to ever feel confident putting him back there with punts. We are going to have a lot of different guys back there that will work a lot of different ways. (It’s) probably a little bit like I said with the secondary: it’s not a settled position and we don’t have a guy coming in saying that it’s this guy’s job right now. They’re going to earn it during training camp and earn it in the preseason.”
- On players focusing on playing to win versus rebuilding the team
- “I don’t know that the players look at it that way. You are going to probably have to ask them if they feel like that they are in that mode. I think that just from talking to a few of them they see the changes that have been made in the off season. There are players that they respect in the league that are now in the locker next to them. So I think that they now all see that kind of thing. I can’t speak for the players there. I think that there is always going to be a, I won’t say rebuilding, but a team building no matter if you are winning the Super Bowl or if you’re the worst team in the league. You are always going to be making changes in the offseason, that’s part of this business. You are never standing pat on where you are. As far as rebuilding, we won two games last year, we won zero the year before; we still have work to do and we haven’t gotten to the point where we’re satisfied to where the roster is and even when we’re a good team I don’t know if we will ever reach the point to where we’re satisfied where the roster is. That was a really crappy way to answer that question.”
- On the idea of building for the future instead of winning now
- “I have never talked to or conveyed anything about the future. The future for me is lunch today and when you’re a coach you have to have that mentality and that is the balance of the NFL. You have the United States government which has judicial and legislation and executive (committees) for checks and balances and the NFL is the same thing. Your front office, Martin Mayhew and Sheldon White and those guys, you know they are probably a little bit more long range and always looking ahead. Coaches have tunnel vision and you’re trying that day and the only thing you are worried about is: that afternoon, that practice and that meeting. There is something good to be said for that. You want to have that urgency every single day but you need to balance it out for sure.”
- On the team’s identity
- “It’s my job to provide structure for that. It’s putting them in situations and to direct that. There are some things that you might not be. Saying it isn’t going to make it happen. Saying that we’re going to be a great rushing offense and that’s going to be our identity – you might not have the talent to be able to do that. Just saying it isn’t going to make it happen and if you try to force that and you say, ‘that’s what we’re going to be, we’re going to blitz every snap on defense – that might be the identity of some teams, but unless you have two corners that can really cover and unless you have guys that are good blitzers, that’s bad strategy. That’s not a good way to use the talent that you have. My job is to provide a good structure for training camp, to direct them and try to put them in the positions that (suits) their personality and then the team identity develops and also, to be able to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of the team and to be able to work around those. Every team is going to have strengths and weaknesses and you need to recognize those and you need to sort of accentuate the positives and minimize the negatives”
- On the stability of the offensive line
- “I think that you can start offensively in a lot of places. If somebody is going to start they are probably going to start in one or two places. Quarterback or offensive line. Quarterback is its own position and obviously the consistency of that position and the ability of that person to play is extremely important as to where you’re going to go offensively. Offensive line is probably the same thing and it’s interesting that you said offensive line and you didn’t say left guard or right tackle or center or left tackle because offensive line is its own position and it really doesn’t matter how the individual is playing, it’s how the whole group plays. You don’t want one weak link in that whole chain. In a good offensive line, you’ll be consistent from week-to-week. We weren’t consistent enough there. We had too much of a revolving door there at left guard last year, the injury at right guard set us back and we never really settled in on where we wanted to be at right tackle as well. We didn’t have the consistency for week-to-week and I don’t want to say that it set us back but it was an issue for us last year.”
- On the team’s expectations for the season
- “I generally don’t talk a whole lot about that, like how many games you’re going to win or things like that or what’s expected from them at practice. That’s generally the approach we take more in the preseason is what’s expected from them on a daily basis. What’s expected of being a professional, training room, meeting rooms, practice preparation, taking care of your body, practicing hard, studying your playbook, all those kind of things. I think those expectations are very clear with our players. They know exactly what we expect from them and we communicated that very well. Expectations for the season from a coaching standpoint are probably a lot more open ended. It’s one thing to expect a lot from a player, he needs to expect it from himself. They need to set goals and need to set standards and they need to fulfill those. Wanting a player to have a breakout season doesn’t make it happen from a coaching standpoint. It needs to be coaches and players together. As far as team goes, that’s too far away. We’re worried about… like I said, I’m trying to figure out what’s for lunch today.”
- On the EA Sports Lion’s Super Bowl Celebration Video
- “I had that emailed to me by about 300 people, so I got used to clicking it off. I took a peak at it and I thought I looked bad until I saw Matt Stafford. I don’t play any of those video games but my kids play Madden and (last year) the one thing they did say was: ‘Dad you’re fat.” But it looks like I’ve lost a little bit of weight on the game. I think Gus Johnson did a great job on that. Gus is a Detroit guy and it was fun to hear it.”
- On how an improved offensive line and more weapons on offense will help with pass protection
- “Both of those questions go hand-in-hand because you don’t just protect with your offensive line. You can protect all you want and keep tight ends and running backs in (protection) but if the quarterback doesn’t have anyone to throw the ball to he’s still going to get sacked because he has to hold on to the ball longer. He might have more guys in for protection but there are less guys in the pass structure. So I think from that standpoint, we’ve given the quarterback a lot more options. We’ve talked about Nate Burleson,
Tony Scheffler, Calvin Johnson, and our returning wide receivers…Kevin Smith and Brandon Pettigrew both coming off (injuries) but both looking good and both playing at really high levels at times last year. Adding Jahvid Best in there – a guy that the quarterback can throw a 3-yard pass to and he might be able to go the distance after that. I think those are all important in protecting the quarterback also.
“The other way you protect your quarterback is don’t get down 17 points in the fourth quarter because that’s not a good situation for any quarterback to be in whether you’re Johnny Unitas, Peyton Manning or
Matthew Stafford. If you’re trying to score three touchdowns in the last five minutes of the game, you have to hold onto the ball long and you have to push it down the field. You can’t afford to just sit there and just dink-and-dunk and make the safe choice because the defense is geared toward rushing the passer. They know you’re not running the ball in that situation, so protecting the quarterback falls into having more answers and more weapons around him, a better defense to keep us in games, and then the offensive line comes into play.
“I think that experience is important on the offensive line. A nice profile for an offensive lineman is big, smart, and tough and part of being smart is having experience – knowing his way around and it’s one position that doesn’t matter how an individual is playing because you can have four guys playing at a high level but if you have one guy that’s getting beat consistently, your offensive line isn’t going to look very good. We have some experience on the offensive line. Bringing in
Rob Simshas helped and we have some young players we’re developing there but none of our positions are set. We need to be consistent on the offensive line.”
- On the importance of contributions from late-round draft picks
- “I think if you had asked New England about Tom Brady during training camp that year, they knew they had somebody that was pretty good. I don’t know if him being good was unexpected. Maybe if you’d asked the year before it would have been unexpected. They actually kept four quarterbacks Tom Brady’s rookie year. I think obviously you count on hitting on your high draft picks; you count on hitting on your high price free agents. If you make mistakes there, you’re in trouble as a franchise and you need other players to step up. You need that seventh-round draft pick like Cortland Finnegan in Tennessee who ended up in the Pro Bowl and playing at a really high level. You need guys that are low price free agents that out-perform their contracts. I think we have guys that can do that. I don’t want to name names, but you build a team on hitting on your high draft picks and not making mistakes on your high price players but that’s not enough. You need to fill it in elsewhere and if we’re going to be a good team we’re going to need to get help from some of those guys like the guys you mentioned.”
- On how recent ‘downtrodden’ teams have made quick turnarounds
- “We all know it can happen. It really doesn’t affect us; we just have to concentrate on us and not worry about anybody else that’s had a down year and then all of the sudden had a good year. Obviously it can be done and I think every player in the NFL knows that. It’s a lot different than baseball and things like that where there are some teams that are little bit behind the eight-ball. Everybody knows the system in the NFL helps create an equal playing field, but it’s up to us. It’s not up to those teams that did it last year or the year before. It’s up to us; it’s up to the players we have now; it’s up to our coaches; it’s up to us, it’s in our hands. The opportunity will be there, it’s up to us to make something of it.”
- On what kind of contribution the team is hoping to get from veteran CB Dré Bly
- “That’s what training camp will determine. Dré is an experienced player. I’ve had a lot of respect for him over the years; I’ve gone against him quite a few times. He’s probably closer to the end of his career than the beginning of his career – I think he would be the first to tell you that. There’s a value of experience in the secondary; there’s a value to confidence in the secondary and Dré still has both of those. I’ve been around a lot of older players in the secondary –I don’t want to term Dré as old – but older players that maybe didn’t have the same skills that they had earlier in their career but they just knew the game so well and they had enough confidence that they were able to still play at a high level. But he’s going to be competing and his role and his value to the team will be determined by what he does in training camp and what he does in the preseason games.”