May 25, 2023

Opening Statement: 
“Well, this is our third OTA coming up. We’ve been on the grass two days now and the guys know that this is a new – this is really a new squad, 2023. You know we’ve got new players and there’s a new chemistry that we’ve got to develop with each other, knowing that we also know where we’ve come from, and there’s a reason why we’ve been able to improve every year, so we can’t lose that. But at the same token, we’ve got to start over again, and that’s what this spring is about. So, the guys know that nobody’s going to win a job in May or June. But what we do now will help them get into camp and compete for one of those jobs or for more opportunities, offense, defense and special teams.”

On the biggest thing he wants to see from the rookies during OTAs and minicamp: “Yeah, I think you just – you want to feel like by the end of this, that they have a pretty good feel or grasp of what we do, the way that we go about our business, the way we meet, the way we practice, and then, the scheme, schematics. They can get lined up, they’re not, ‘Oh, I’m going to start here then I’ve got to go over there because I forgot I’m over here.’ And vice versa, alignment, assignment, all those things. What you’re not able to get at this time of the year is the physical side of it. No pads, we’ve got to be careful with each other, and so, that is not the emphasis. The physical part of this is not, it’s the mental, and I think that’s the biggest thing for the rookies.”

On if Lions RB Jahmyr Gibbs will practice today and who will not practice today: “Yeah, Gibbs will be out there today. So, he’ll get back to work and he’s been good, we’ve just – you know, being conservative with it right now, but he’s good. I mean it was a low ankle anyway. But he’s ready, so we’ll see what he can do, a little Indy and then depending on how he feels through the walkthrough, the individual, then we’ll see if he can take some team reps. Now, we’ll have a couple of guys out, but those are things that I know about, they’ve got things personal, things going on, nothing major. We have a lot of babies right now, so some of that has to do with that. But we’re good. We pretty much have everybody here but a couple.”

On the plan to keep Lions WR Jameson Williams engaged throughout his suspension: “Yeah, so here’s what I’d say, we’re already – there again, we’re only three days in, but we’ve gotten to Phase II, which is on-the-field work not against the defense and now really are our two days of ‘pajama party.’ And with that, we’re already miles ahead with him. You know just in – we didn’t get this with him last year. He wasn’t able to do any of it, so that in itself is like man, just to be able to build from the ground up, not in the season and try to – so, he’s already in – here we go. Three weeks, four weeks, you see progress, and so I think that’s just it. Let’s get him better. He has a lot of room to grow and develop and he needs this time. So, I think that’s what it’s about, man. It’s just, we’ve got to sharpen every little thing with him, sharpen the routes, sharpen all of it, like any of the guys. But just get him as much time on task as we can and in different positions, but also working with (Lions QB Jared Goff) JG. And that’s what we do. And then when he’s gone, he’s gone and then when he comes back, hopefully we’ve built enough of a base and a core under him that he can step right back in and go.”

On the growth has he seen in Lions WR Jameson Williams and conversations he has had with him about his suspension: “Yeah, now I think that some of the biggest growth is just in his routes. I feel like there’s a little better route detail right now than I have seen over the last few weeks. That was kind of a point of emphasis, and I mean he ran a couple of routes yesterday where he’s hitting the afterburner and then he drops his weight, and puts his foot in the ground, then in about 18 yards he comes back to the quarterback and it was –  those things are pretty impressive because when you can use your speed not just to take the top off but to put fear in the defense and then put your foot in the ground, and the quarterback puts it on a rope, I mean that’s hard to cover. As far as the other stuff, look, he knows. I mean, he’s gotten it from everybody and so look, it happened. It’s an emphasis on the League right now. It’s a big thing. Our players know. We’ve tried to hammer it home. Certainly, we did after that point and we’ve hit it a few more times, and we’ll just, we’ll keep doing it. But listen, it’s happening. The suspension is happening and so now, what do we do? Move forward. You’re not going be here, so in the meantime, let’s get the most work we can out of you and then, when you’re out of the building, keep putting in the work and when you will be ready to play, so. But no, I mean, he’s like any other player we just we keep progressing.”

On making sure they keep continuity with the strengths of the roster while incorporating the new pieces they added in free agency: “Yeah well, I mean, look all of that, that’s a good thing because there again now, you’re raising the level of competition. Look, I can go back to this too – just because there’s a reason why you acquire these guys early in the Draft, because you believe that they can get it sooner than later. But they have to earn it. (Lions T Penei) Sewell earned it, (Lions DL Aidan Hutchinson) Hutch earned it and (Lions RB Jahmyr) Gibbs has got to earn his right. So does (Lions LB Jack) Campbell, he has to earn his right. And we’ve got good competition in all those rooms. But I think across the board, if you’re (Lions Offensive Coordinator) Ben (Johnson) or (Lions Defensive Coordinator Aaron Glenn) AG, man you have some pieces now in that room. Yeah, we’ve got depth, but some of that depth may be starting in certain packages. That’s the beauty of it, man. It’s one thing to have the depth if you have an injury but man, if you can keep everybody healthy and now, shoot, offensively you’ve got different packages. You add a tight end and now we can live in 13-personnel more. You got Gibbs, he comes along with (Lions RB David) Montgomery, you’re going to see more two back with two H’s. The receiver thing, you get (Lions WR Jameson Williams) Jamo back, we’ve got (Lions WR) Marvin (Jones Jr), maybe you go some 10-personnel. And so, you just maximize your personnel, your roster and defensively you know having (Lions CB Cam) Sutton, you get (Lions CB Emmanuel) Moseley healthy, (Lions DB) CJ Gardner-Johnson. I mean we’ve got a lot more versatility and that does come with the depth.”

On having his old Lions teammate and Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson at OTAs yesterday and the energy he brought: “Listen, I can never say enough about Calvin. He was –  I just go back to this, it was a short period of time when I was with him, but he was an unbelievable teammate. I mean for a guy that is a Hall of Fame player, in my opinion, obviously all of our opinions. I don’t know why I said that. But I mean, he was the ultimate teammate, and those don’t always go hand-in-hand. You would always love it to be that, but I mean this guy was, you talk about a grinder, or worker, mentally wanted to know it, did not want to let the guy next to him down and you’re a rare talent. I mean that’s just – guys like that, you want to do anything you can for. So, to have him out here, there’s a level of respect that will always be there for me, but even our players, they know who he is. Anybody who has played around this game, they understand the type of player he was from a production standpoint. I wish they knew what kind of teammate he really was. I wish they had a chance to actually play with him. But it’s good to have him here, it is. It’s good. It’s good for us.”

On if he is worried the national attention surrounding the team will affect the players’ mental approach: “Yeah, look we don’t – we’re not into the hype. Like right now, everything is about the work, and it will be when we get into training camp. Goes back to what I said, we’ve got a brand new team that we’ve got to build from the ground up again. Yeah, we’ve got a foundation, but yeah man, we’ve got to get the chemistry right, we’ve got a lot of new faces. And all of that other stuff won’t matter if we don’t put the work back in, so that, to me, is the focus. I mean, we can’t worry about what everybody else says. Just like last year, we can’t worry about, when you lose five in a row that you’re back in the dumpers again because if you do that, then you won’t win another game now. And it’s the same thing here. If we’re going to really buy into that and not put the work in again, no, we’ll get our (expletive) kicked, so, that’s not what we’re going to do.”

On the new rule about fair catches on kickoffs and if it is frustrating to coaches that disagreed with the modification: “Really you can’t –  you’re really throwing this stuff out here at me. Yeah, I’m highly frustrated. It’s very frustrating, but look, I don’t make the rules. That’s the new rule and then we’ll live by the new rule. We’ll find a way to adjust, adapt, and still get what we want. That’s what you’ve got to do. But I hate that we continue to take away from the game. That’s what really worries me, that we just, we continue to bleed this League (dry). If we’re not careful, it’s not going to replenish at one point. But listen, it’s the rules and we’ll make do, and we’ll adjust.”

On what it means for the young secondary to have added veterans alongside Lions S Tracy Walker’s return: “Well I say this again, these guys that we’ve added – man, I’ll tell you, yes, the production is there. But one of the biggest reasons that the production is there is because these guys, they’re smart, instinctive and very aware players. They’ve got some skins on the wall. But the versatility they bring, I feel like we’re going to be able to do a lot more things just with that backend. And I bring up, there again, you already said it, but you get (Lions CB Cameron) Sutton, you get (Lions CB Emmanuel) Moseley back, and then having Deucey, (Lions DB) CJ (Gardner-Johnson) with Tracy and (Lions S) Kerby (Joseph) a year later, man I just – that’s a pretty good group. It’s a pretty good group. And I love what we’re – intellectually, on the field, what we’re going to be able to accomplish. I mean these guys are kind of – we’ve acquired them for a reason because they are all pretty tough. They’re pretty aggressive. They’re competitive and they are going to challenge. But they also are smart enough to understand situational football, what we’re trying to get done. What if we run this coverage? ‘Can I get the – where’s my help at?’ All those little things. So,  really, I feel really good about that group and we’re not even in training camp yet, so that’s big. I can’t wait until we get pads on, we really get into the nuts and bolts of it, but I’m pretty excited.”

On why people do not think rookie tight ends contribute as much and his expectations for rookie TE Sam LaPorta: “Yeah well, I think to me, one of the – there’s a number of things physically because it’s so demanding. You have to be able to run block, pass block. You’ve got to get open in the pass game, and I think that’s one element, but also, it’s the mental side of it. I mean, I always make this argument, besides the quarterback, the tight ends have to know more than anybody else offensively. You’ve got to know it all. So, I think that’s why you don’t always see that. Well, it’s one of the reasons why we drafted LaPorta because we think he can handle a lot. We think he’s got versatility. Physically, he can do a little bit of everything, but also mentally, he’s pretty sharp for a rookie. Now he’s got growing pains. He’s already gone the wrong way a couple of times, but that’s going to happen. But we think this guy is – that he’ll be able to pick this up pretty quick as he gets reps. So, we’re pretty hopeful that this guy can come on sooner than later.”

On if they think the number of primetime games in the schedule is a sign of respect and an opportunity to prove how far the franchise has come: “Yeah, I mean look, I would say all of our guys are pretty excited about it because I think for us it’s like, man let’s put the work in and then we get to showcase all of this work we put in on primetime. I think that’s really the way we see it. But you know, it’s hard to truly answer what you’re asking. Look, I know what’s out there. Our guys know what’s out there and there is going to be a fine balance here as we start getting closer to August about man, let’s just stay in our lane. Let’s worry about what’s in front of us, what’s in this locker room, and not worry about everything on the outside, and we always have to keep that in focus But, yeah, it’s an exciting thing. I made this point the other day, I still wish that primetime games were all at one o’clock. But it doesn’t work that way. So, this will work out just fine.”

On the value of the linebacker room having a lot of competition this year: “Yeah, I think that it’s no different than any of the other positions. You’ve added competition in that room and depth. To be able to get (Lions LB) Alex (Anzalone) back in there again, he kind of runs that defense for us. And here’s the beauty of Alex, Alex can play MIKE and WILL. And so now it’s, ‘OK, let’s go (Lions LB Derrick) Barnes.  Let’s go (Lions LB Jack) Campbell, let’s go (Lions LB Malcolm) Rodriguez.’ And you just you let them duke it out. We’ve got (Lions LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin) Germ back, and thinking about him special teams first and foremost, but he brings a level of experience as well, so. I just think, there again, man, you’re adding another guy who’s trying to go in there and compete and help us win. Hopefully he’s trying to earn a position and with that, it’s only going to put more pressure on the guy next to you to compete and be on top of your game.”

On the shirt he is wearing of Executive Vice President and General Manager Brad Holmes wearing a shirt of him: “Yeah. It’s pretty good. My wife got me this. My wife found it. I don’t know here from, but she ordered this.” 

May 25, 2023

Opening Statement: “Good afternoon. Before I get started, man, a huge congratulations to our PR department. Big congratulations to those guys. Obviously, those guys do an excellent job, so I wanted to make that’s thrown out there. And obviously, like you said, I don’t have a (Lions Offensive Coordinator) Ben Johnson shirt. They didn’t give it to me, but that’s cute, right? That’s cute. So, make sure you write that down for (Lions Head Coach) Dan (Campbell) and (Lions Executive Vice President and General Manager) Brad (Holmes), that’s cute.”

On the free agency additions in the secondary and what the main offseason goals were for the defense: “Yeah. Obviously, it’s – give a lot of credit to our personnel department with just recognizing that, understanding exactly what we needed to get better at that was within the secondary. And man, the pieces that they brought in, the pieces that really fit who we are as a team, first and foremost, can do the things we need to do defensively, as far as playing man, be it playing zoneReally smart guys, really tough guys so, everybody, every piece they brought in, like fits us to a tee. And that’s probably more important than anything. The personnel staff did a great job.”

On his vision for DB CJ Gardner-Johnson fitting into the defense: “The same way that he played in New Orleans. Alright, he’s going to play nickel and safety and he can do both.”

On how far along Lions S Tracy Walker is in his recovery: “Well, that’s not for me to actually speak on. But I’ll tell you what, we’re excited to have him back when he comes back. Being able to work with (Lions S) Kerby (Joseph) in our backend, I mean that’s huge. Especially in the meetings you see those guys talking making sure they get on the same page. The thing is he’s moving around, but as far as totally being back, our training staff will make sure they handle that.”

On Lions DL Aidan Hutchinson’s progress last year and his expectations for him this year: “A really, really good player, know exactly what to expect out of me as a coach and his as a player, continue to put him in a position to be successful and expect him to take another step, as far as being a dominant player, being on the edge, in the run and in the passing game. So, there’s no doubt he’ll be a better player this second year than he was this year.”

On the mindset he wants Lions DL Aidan Hutchinson to have: “Just continue to focus. Continue to work. Continue to study and continue to understand the scheme. Once he does that, he’s great at those things, and I have no issue with how he’s going to operate there so, again, I am expecting that player to have a jump.”

On the relationship between Lions Executive Vice President and General Manager Brad Holmes and Lions Head Coach Dan Campbell: “I’ve had a chance to be with a number of different organizations. And I will tell you this, I’ve learned not only what to do but what not to do, and I think that’s probably more important. But you see the relationship between our head coach and our GM, and that’s how it should be. They’re tied to the hip, and they know that, and they speak on that. It’s not a surprise to anyone. When you have a situation like that, I mean the decisions that you make, you have to be on one accord and listen, that doesn’t mean you have to agree on everything, but when you come out that room, you would never think they disagreed on it alright, because again, they’re on one accord and I think that’s how you should be as a staff in general. Listen, we’re not going to agree on everything, but once we get on the field, we still have to teach the players and you would think that we all stamped that decision together. We’re going to go out there and we’re going to coach them like we need to coach them. We are going to build this team like we need to build it. And those guys do a hell of a job doing that.”

On how the defense improved halfway through last season and if he believes the defense will start the season improved with the new additions: “Well with the additions that we have, we better be. I mean listen, I give a lot of credit to what our guys did the last 10 games of playing, and obviously every year you’re looking to upgrade your team, you upgrade your talent. And we did that this offseason. Man, I’m looking for us to be aggressive, be smart, be tough, play football like it should be played. This is going to be fun. It’s going to be fun. It already is fun these OTAs just watching the guys go out there and move around.”

On Lions DL Alim McNeill’s approach this offseason and if he sees a heightened serious in him: “You do. You’ve seen his body, also, the way he’s transformed himself, as far as his weight as far, as his habits, the way he studies. So, to me, I like the fact that he was able to play nose and three. I think we’ll continue to do that. He’s serious about football, man. Like this guy is serious about how he is going to go out there. He’s serious about how he wants to be perceived by everybody also. So, I just look forward to seeing how he is going to operate throughout the season, alright. This is a damn good player for us and we’re looking forward to seeing how he continues to improve.”

On his expectations for Lions DL Levi Onwuzurike: “You know what, I can’t answer that. You know, once he gets on the field, I’ll be able to answer that, but at this point, can’t answer it.”

On his expectations for Lions LB Jack Campbell: “To be a damn good player for us. Whatever aspect that is, to be a damn good player for us. I can’t sit here and tell you he’s going to start, but he’ll have a chance to compete to start. We drafted him for a reason.”

On what he likes best about the new additions to defense: “What I like best? We have smart, tough, instinctive players on defense, and we need to have that in the secondary.”

On why he is confident in the interior of the defensive line: “Well here’s what I feel a coach should do, you coach the players you’ve got. You saw in the second half of the season how (Lions DL Isaiah) Buggs played, how (Lions DL Alim McNeill) Mac played. And now going to get a guy of (Lions DL) Brodric (Martin)’s size and length and even some of these undrafted free agents that we got. I think these guys are going to help us also, so. The thing is, you coach who you’ve got, and you build a scheme to where they can be successful and you figure it out as you go, what they can do best and try to help them as much as possible. So, I have all the confidence in the world in the guys that we’ve got, and I do believe those guys will do a really great job. I do believe that.”

On if he thinks Lions DL Josh Paschal can take a significant step this year coming off of last season: “Absolutely. I mean this is a guy, when you think about his path, like he really didn’t get a chance to have an OTA last year because he was injured. He really didn’t have much of a training camp because he was injured. I think he only played eight games, if I’m correct.  So, we’re expecting that player to be the player that we drafted in the second round and actually end up improving because he’s had this time to be in the training room to work with our strength staff, to work with our coach and understand exactly what we need out of him, so absolutely I feel like this player is going to be a good player for us.”

On if the style of the defensive line play will be the same under Lions Defensive Line Coach John Scott Jr.: “Our D-Line coach know exactly what I would want and he’s going to provide that.”

On what he sees in Lions CB Jerry Jacobs to still be here despite the free agency additions at cornerback: “Why is he still here? Because he’s a damn good player.”

On his expectations for Lions CB Jerry Jacobs: “For him to go out there and compete with the other guys that we brought in. We’ll let that shake out. If he wins it, he wins it. If he doesn’t, he’ll understand what his role will be.”

On who Lions DL Brodric Martin reminds him of as a player with exponential potential: “I would tell you this, you guys know this, I come from the Bill Parcells model, and this is a size and speed League. So, with a man of that size and ability to play big, play long, be able to take two. You know there are times where a lot of linebackers, they’ll play three. Every player that we have drafted is going to need development. It’s not just (Lions DL) Brodric (Martin). (Lions LB) Jack (Campbell)’s going to need it. (Lions DB Brian) Branch is going to need it, every player that we have. It’s our job as coaches to make sure we coach them so they can understand exactly what we’re expecting from those guys. It’s hard to find guys with that size. You know if you look at him and he has a little brace on him, it kind of reminds you Linval Joseph to be honest with you, and if he can be that, that’s damn good man.”

On when he starts thinking about the season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs: “Once I knew we were playing Kansas City in general. But I’m thinking about everyone else too. It’s not just them. So, we have 17 games we’ve got to play and I’m thinking about every one of them.”

On adding players in the secondary who have played in big games and have that experience ahead of the season opener in primetime: “Man, we play the game, so regardless of who we have, we play the game. We’re just lucky that we have guys that have been in that situation, but again, I’m going to say it again, we coach the guys we’ve got. So, when we play on that stage, it doesn’t matter. It’s just football man. You know what I’m saying? It’s a 100-yard field. We play.”

On his evaluation of Lions DB Brian Branch: “I would say that he’s a good player now. He’s a very instinctive player. He’s a very aware player. I’m glad we got him. I’m glad we got him. I can’t tell you exactly if he’s going to start or anything like that, but I’ll tell you what, he’ll have a role on this defense.”

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