Detroit Lions Communications – (CBS Detroit)
Opening statement: “Hopefully everybody is well, healthy and staying safe and everything. Certainly unnormal, unusual circumstances, but from that aspect of it, just continue to do all that – there’s nothing more important than everybody’s health, that’s for sure, I think. Again, our continued support for the many people in the medical profession that are helping us along with everyone in the support fields and just everyone who’s allowing our daily lives to go along as normal – grocery stores, delivery people – just so appreciative of what everybody’s doing right now to help us fight through this. (We’ll) kind of get right into it, I’m sure you have a bunch of questions and stuff, so maybe from that aspect of it we’ll dive right in.”
On the challenges Defensive Coordinator Cory Undlin faces during the virtual offseason format, how Undlin handling it and if he is able to conduct full team meetings virtually: “Great question. I would say with Cory and Brayden (Coombs, special teams coordinator) – you know, we have two new coordinators this year – it’s been an interesting challenge for them. The great thing is – Cory (has a) background very similar to mine from that standpoint and obviously expanded knowledge from the different places that he’s coached. But he’s been in this league for a long time; he’s an experienced coach, and he really is a guy that rolls with the punches very well (with) kind of the different things we’re dealing with here. They’re doing a great job and just reaching out. There’s a lot of individual reaching out going on – just contacting guys individually, catching up and explaining. Really cool – the Zoom calls, the different calls that we’ve had – Microsoft Teams, things like that – to watch these guys, as I sit in the background and watch them try to build the relationship with the players has been pretty neat. They’re very creative. They come up with different ideas. On some levels, it’s actually more intimate because there’s either family running around in the background or somebody’s wife or kid might be there too, and I think that’s really great. It’s great for everybody to see that, both from the coaches’ and the players’ side. I would say for our challenge, both with special teams and defense right now, the biggest thing for us is – a lot of times in the spring we spend the period leading up to the offseason program not only preparing for the Draft but coaching the coaches. I think that’s the most important thing for us as we continue to grow is to coach the coaches. Certainly from that aspect of it, the coordinators being able to coach the rest of the coaching staff on scheme and terminology and what they’re trying to do – I would say that’s been maybe some of the bigger challenges for those two guys, Brayden and Cory, being able to dive in there with that. But we’ve had some good calls, just like this with the Zoom calls, and we can share out information and go through the playbooks and go through video. The video one is interesting. We’re doing a lot of different stuff with technology to see what works best. We’ve done everything from implementing video into these calls to actually just old school, point the back of the camera at the screen and just show it that way because the feed rate through the Zoom or Microsoft Teams, the compression rate works better when you just do off the camera, sometimes it skips a little bit when you embed it. So it’s just been interesting from that aspect of it.
“I have addressed the full team – which has been really cool. We started with the offseason program last week, so awesome meeting last Thursday. You got a chance to see everybody. Kind of trying to work out the kinks Monday and Tuesday, doing a lot of individual meetings and a lot of position group meetings, just to get the guys used to the technology and logging in, so when we logged in with everybody on Thursday, it was awesome. It was four pages of faces. I’m scrolling through trying to see everybody and just get caught up. It was really exciting; there was great energy. The players were excited, I think, to see each other. Certainly in these times where maybe you’re used to seeing the same faces day-in and day-out when you get on a call with a hundred players-plus – it’s pretty cool from that aspect. I thought that was neat. We had another big meeting yesterday, we have another one today. Yesterday was really interesting, we actually had a technology, little mishap I’ll call it, where the call dropped. People lost WiFi. So you instantly go into a panic mode, you’re like, ‘OK, now what? How do we get a hundred people back on a call?’ Within two minutes, everyone was back on – so that was pretty awesome. I thought that was great. Certainly there’s going to be those types of challenges going forward, and it’s just great to see our guys be able handle those situations, log back in and – you know, probably in the end, they’re more comfortable with this technology than any of the coaches. So they’re used to this stuff, they can just click on and clock off, and they probably have phones and tablets and computers. Most of us, if we’re not in the same spot, in the exact same situation, clicking on the exact same app, we’re lost. But those guys are pretty good at adapting in those situations. It’s been pretty cool from that aspect.”
On his recollection of the 2011 NFL lockout and if there was something he learned during that offseason that can be applied to the current virtual offseason programs: “Certainly that was an interesting year for us – different but same circumstances where we obviously were not in contact with the players and they weren’t here for the spring, from that aspect. So I do feel like this is – with technology and where we’re at now as compared to then, I feel that we’re obviously (have a) great opportunity to do something this spring. I thought the leadership of the team back then was really important and that’s something that we talked to our guys last week about stepping up and really taking control of the situation. Certainly first and foremost, what’s most different is right now I’m still very concerned with everybody’s safety. I think this thing’s going to move and loosen up a little bit in some of the states. I still just want everyone to be really careful, just stay healthy from that aspect of it, otherwise it can be just – it’s a real thing. I think for us, the biggest point is just making that emphasis of really strong leadership among the coaches and the players, among each other, trying to maximize the amount of time. I think there’s probably a little bit of an edge that some teams will be able to get here this spring in these situations based on the makeup of the team. We’re going to try to get as much as that edge as possible and a lot of that just has to do with the guys going out and doing what they’re supposed to do. It’s really a good question, I would say from a standpoint of what the League and the P.A. (Player’s Association) and the coaches has worked out, as far as the offseason programming choices – so being in the virtual classroom versus the virtual workout programs and those situations, and we elected to go with the virtual classroom because I thought the information was important for us to be able to talk to the players and communicate exactly some of the terminology – especially with two coordinators – and really, just have full trust (that) our guys are going to do what they need to do from a physical standpoint. I think that’ll be the biggest key for making sure they come back physically ready to go, but I think our guys understand what training camp looks like, and I think they understand what the demand for them physically is at this point. For us, it’s about getting the information out there. I think one of the things in 2011 that was unique too was just how training camp was handled, understanding that we didn’t have that spring teaching to go along with it. So we really took it a little bit slower, if that makes any sense, and how we handled some of that stuff from a playbook standpoint so that we could actually just get the on-field work done at the highest level, if that makes sense.”
On if has watched “The Last Dance”: “I haven’t watched it because that’s one of those things where when I get that time, I just want to binge all of it at once. I’m a big Michael Jordan fan from a standpoint of the competitiveness that he brought every single day. We do a lot of stuff with the team where I really enjoy watching things like that with the players. There’s certain 30-for-30 specials, different documentaries that I like to watch, and I think some of that perspective of older professional athletes – and sometimes when it’s out of our sport, it has an even bigger impact – things like that that we can relay to the guys. So that’s definitely one of those deals where I’m waiting. I want to do it all at once and then (there’s) probably some really good messages in there for everyone to take away from. I was really fortunate to be around Doc Rivers for a little while when I was out in Boston and talk about the competition between those two and some of those stories and how competitive they were. I love that stuff. I love just that competitive to the bone, on the court, on the field – like hey, it’s competition to the max. I love that stuff. So I’m excited about it. I know a couple of our guys have been watching it. We’ve been talking about it a little bit, but that’ll be a good one for me, definitely.”
On if familiarity with scheme and personnel contributed to the free agent plan: “I would say (that’s) a really good question. Definitely part of the process, but actually probably not the initial part of the process. Really when we sit down way before free agency begins, and we’re looking at rosters and team building, one of the things that Bob (Quinn, executive vice president and general manager) and his staff and my staff like to do is say, ‘OK, what is the big picture look like? What does the spring look like from the standpoint of availability?’ And what I mean by that is player availability. So free agency, the Draft, all of the different areas that you build your team – you know there’s basically a couple different ways to build your team. There’s free agency, there’s the Draft, there’s the 53-cut down and there’s trades. That’s really the major ways that you can change the team, those four avenues. So with two of them back-to-back, between free agency and the Draft, one of the things that I think everyone did an outstanding job this year of is identifying ‘what are our needs,’ ‘what do we really need to do to help this team and the areas and the positions,’ and then ‘where do we think there’s a surplus of players to get those needs filled.’ Was it, ‘Hey, we think the Draft is really deep in this area? We think free agency is going to be deep in this area.’ There might be areas where we feel like, ‘Hey, we’re really going to struggle to fill this need because it’s going to be hard in both of these situations coming up,’ and that’s something we’re going to have to keep long-term from a team-building standpoint in the forefront of the conversation. I think that we put a plan together like that on how we needed to fill all those needs, and then things change in the course of that process as you’re going along, and you have to be ready to monitor and adjust. I think one of the things that certainly comes up in those quick decisions, especially in free agency, is how is the player’s fit, and how does he fit into the system, and does he have familiarity with the system. Those are the questions that then come up where there might be some guys that are familiar or have the same techniques or learning that maybe we’re teaching that it’s going to be quicker from that standpoint. For instance, a Chase Daniel who has a West Coast background – he’s been in that system for a while so the vernacular from ‘Bev’s’ (Darrell Bevell, offensive coordinator) to the stuff that he knows, that transition is going to be quicker. He’s going to be able to pick the information up faster. So when we’re in that situation, we’re looking for some depth at the quarterback position, a guy that we’re familiar with, a guy that we think helps us and fits our needs, plus on top of that, he’s not going to spend all that time trying to learn the language – because it really is like learning a new language I think when you change systems. He’s going to be able to pick up the information a lot faster. That is definitely maybe one example of where that comes into play for guys that have some background in it, and it does help.”
On what the club is sending players to help them with strength and conditioning expectations: “I would say really interesting, kind of what’s going on right now. Josh Schuler is doing a great job of –what we did is basically this, we established different levels of ways to reach out to the team and tried to just get a ground base of what’s everybody’s situation. So, when we talk about taking care of your bodies, there’s a lot that goes into that. You know, stretching, hydration, nutrition, rest, recovery and then there’s obviously the strength training. And I would say probably the biggest element that is different for everybody is the strength training portion of it because everyone has different setups. Whether you have gyms in your garage, you have equipment, you don’t have equipment – honestly, some of our guys were stuck in apartments in the middle of New York City, Manhattan and they couldn’t go anywhere. So, that’s a completely different set of situations than one of our players that might be in the middle of Arizona and he has a lot of space. Or a situation where another guy where there’s a gym down the street that he can go into at 6 a.m. when no one’s there and have all the equipment available. So, we tried to go through and take a gauge of like what’s everybody’s situation and just mark, ‘OK, what do you need. Is there something that you need that we can help you with from that standpoint to get you going.’ So, we have individualized all of those programs, whether it’s a bodyweight program, where, OK, ‘Hey, can we get you a couple kettle bells, a bar for the apartment if you’ve got to use your bodyweight, something like that.’ Two guys, let’s say, ‘Hey, I have a full rack, I’m good. I’ve got bench. I’ve got a rack. I’ve got a full gym.’ And we’ve individualized all those programs for those situations.
“Along with that though, I would say people’s situations are changing and people are finding different avenues, so we’re adjusting as we go along to that. But I would say the strength training part of it has really been kind of the most interesting challenge from that aspect to say, ‘Hey, what do you have and what can we focus on?’ May be a situation where it’s like, ‘I have these pieces of equipment.’ Well, OK, we really know we can train heavy these body parts and we can help these muscles grow and get stronger. We’re going to miss out on some of these body parts, so stabilization is more important. Let’s get some bands, let’s do some different things here where we can hold the muscle groups together because we know we’re going to be able to train really hard those certain areas, we want to make sure that everything else is stable. And then just the programs, the stretching, the recovery stuff, we’re sending out all that information. We actually have a numerous amount of resources available to them and it’s almost kind of like we’ve joined the era of these different companies that have virtual workouts online or on an app and they can go in and grab one and go. So, we have all that available to them and then we try to track what they do from that standpoint, so that we can help guide them through maybe, ‘Hey, they did this today. Hey, think about doing this tomorrow and kind of build upon it.’ So, very individually based. I don’t want to say like personal trainer based, but almost in a sense, you know, everybody’s situation is different. That’s been the biggest challenge is the weight training part of it.”
On if there is a hobby or activity that he has been able to resume and if he thinks the pandemic will make him a better dad: “That’s probably the thing I struggle with the most with my career is just not being home. That’s probably the hardest thing on me when I’m not here with the kids and with my wife, which is the most important thing to me. So, I’ll say this, I don’t know if it has made me a better dad, but I certainly appreciate all the time that I have with my kids right now and my wife. We were actually just talking about this last night. I know there are probably a lot of people that feel the quarantine, they probably get a little bit of whatever you want to call it, stir crazy. You know, they are looking at the same people every single day, but for me, man, I appreciate so much every day when I get a chance to get up and see my wife and see my kids. I’ll just come downstairs, I’ll work this morning, I had the three of them there sitting on the couch on the other side of the room as I was working. And they are like everybody, one of them is on an iPad, the two of them are fighting over another iPad, whatever it is. It was cool just to have them down here with me and then brought them upstairs, made sure they had breakfast, came back down to work. So, just having those opportunities to just be around them for those little snippets here and there, give them a hug or give them a kiss, whatever it is, I just cherish every bit of that because I know that when things go full tilt, I don’t have great answers as far as that’s concerned of how to balance that. This has been a time from that standpoint that I just really, really appreciate a lot. Hobbies are tough. There are a lot of things that I like to do. But honestly, when we are not working – the Draft was interesting. It was a big build up to get ready for that and then obviously with the offseason program. I can’t say I don’t have things that I always like to try to mess around with here, I’ll just show you one. There, I don’t know if you can see it, but that’s a ukulele. So, there you go. I gave you a little tidbit. Playing a lot of Barbies right now, too. I don’t know if that works for you. When my four-year old daughter asks me to play, it’s really hard to turn that down.”
On how the camaraderie in position groups can be built when players cannot be around each other: “Great question, two parts, I guess I would say the hardest one is obviously the on-field stuff and then getting guys to work and communicate on the field with each other. That’s the one where going back to the question kind of previously asked was – we’re going to have to be really smart to try and emphasize certain things or setup certain scenarios where we really concentrate on the on-field communication and pulling those groups together on the field. That will be very important for us in training camp. I would say right now in the virtual world, we’re just trying to do things like we would do in the classrooms and things like just having different meetings, and guys getting together and talking, and sharing, and building that brotherhood, that team (camaraderie) the best we can through this. And what’s fascinating again, I kind of go back to what I said earlier, I think these guys are actually better at it than we are. I think they are used to kind of having these sorts of interactions and relationships and being very open in conversing and sharing in these settings. So, it’s actually been pretty neat to watch from my end, where I’m a much more – you know, I like to kind of be live and in-person, feel the energy and be around everybody. You know, it’s been interesting from this aspect to watch them really grow. I’m just telling you, to feel the energy through Zoom call, which was crazy, last Thursday when everybody kind of saw each other, I think that was really cool. I think it was really, really awesome and I think it just shows a lot about this team. And you know, everyone is kind of busting each other’s chops. You can hear the things going back and forth. Certainly, there’s some pretty interesting background stuff going on, so there’s some of that which is in there too. So, I see we are still rocking the “Star Wars,” May 4, whatever that was yesterday, so that’s a good one too, but just little things like that I think gets everybody to kind of roll virtually. Like I said, these guys are good at it. They get all that stuff.”
On what went into the decision to decline the fifth-year option of LB Jarrad Davis: “I would say from the contract standpoint of things, I usually like to keep a lot of that private. I would say from where we are right now and kind of the times that we are in right now, we made a decision that was best for the organization. It’s certainly something that we talk to JD about and Bob (Quinn) did a great job at communicating all the stuff that was going on. Just trying to push forward with certainly some uncertain times as we get into this season. Right now, just thought that was the best decision. I would say this, there is no doubt that JD is one of our strongest leaders on defense. He’s a great player, someone we continue to build around. From that aspect of it I just talked more so about this is a short-term conversation, as a far as whatever this contract situation is and for me it’s about long-term. We’re just going to go out and try to do everything we can this year to have our best season possible. We’ll take it and go from there. So, really clean, easy conversation from that standpoint.”
On if he would still have interest in having LB Jarrad Davis around long-term: “Yeah, I think JD is a cornerstone of what we’re trying to do. He’s in those big-picture plans in where we’re trying to go. So, you know, we’ll just kind of, like I said, make sure that we have the best season we can this year and go from there. And JD is by far, he’s a solid-rock leader, everything you want in a program type of guy. From that aspect of it, everything we’re having –meetings during the offseason building around, trying to get him to keep continuing to grow and develop and get better. He’s a great kid. I mean, he’s awesome.”
On how to prepare rookie CB Jeff Okudah in a virtual offseason: “Great question from that standpoint of teaching all of these guys that we have coming in. Certainly, the corner position – which is a ton of technique work from that aspect of it. Again, his position coach last year, Jeff Hafley, is a good friend of mine. We’ve actually coached a lot of the same techniques for a long time, which is something for us that was really interesting about him even going up and into the Draft. Having a guy that we knew was very familiar with our techniques and we thought that it would help us in the long run, so that’s one of the things that I think really contributed to the decision for us to bring him along. From this aspect of it, the teaching part of it, especially as we get going – we have rookie mini-camp coming up this weekend and then the rookies will be kind of pushed into everything else next week. So, from that standpoint, it’s terminology first, making sure they understand the words that we use and what they mean. A lot of it will be carried over from what he knew before, but sometimes there’s little variations here and there and we don’t want there to be any mistakes from that aspect of it. And then demonstrating some of the techniques is always a little bit interesting right now. Again, turn the camera around and watch somebody who’s totally out of shape try to do it is always not the best, but I think that they get it as far as what we’re doing there. And then being able to also give them those tools or those individual skills that we’re doing and allow him to go be able to do it outside. There’s also a lot of times where I get video sent back. The guys are videotaping themselves and they’re like, ‘Hey Coach, check this out. This is what we’re working on here.’ Just trying to do as much of that as possible. I think some of the older guys are doing a great job of reaching out, or we’ll reach out to the younger guys and give them a little bit of their veteran advice and tips as they go forward. But certainly, the on-field, in between the white lines stuff is – training camp will be critical for him, and for all of those guys at that point to be able to see how that’s come along. But if we can get the vernacular part of it or the verbiage taken care of now, then we can really focus on the on-field skillset when they get here, if that makes sense.”
On how often he finds hidden gems in the rookie mini-camps and if it’s a lost opportunity to not have one this season: “I think that’s a great question and probably a great story that I think is out there that no one knows about yet. There are definitely guys out there that, because of the situation we’re in, maybe are missing those opportunities that normally would be available to them, and certainly the easiest one to just throw off the top of my head is Malcolm Butler. I mean having an opportunity to bring a guy like that into a rookie mini-camp or rookie tryout and letting that player perform and produce and give him that opportunity to show us what they can do, it’s unfortunate that that’s the situation we’re in. It’s also something from the standpoint of roster building, we really tried to take into account this year before we got into the Draft and through free agency, knowing that this wasn’t going to be one of those years where you sign 20 free agents after the Draft and you bring them in for a mini-camp for a weekend and you might find – usually we find three or five guys that we want to keep around and work with for the rest of the spring and then bring back to training camp. We just knew we wouldn’t have that opportunity, so you’re trying to sign veterans and you’re trying to build your team around guys that have that experience to work through an offseason that is a little bit unusual and then be ready to go for training camp. I think we’re talking about and trying to dive into different things that we can do, certainly, right before training camp, maybe, and we can get a look at some of these guys and hopefully get them back out there. I actually was on a call with a lot of coaches – Coach (Jim) Harbaugh Sunday after the Draft, and we were talking to him a lot about some of these guys that didn’t get picked up or signed and I said, ‘It’s going to be a little bit different. It’ll be a little bit of a longer timeline, but I think these guys eventually, at some point, will get a look or have that opportunity, but it’s just a slower timetable from that standpoint because of the unknown of going back to training camp.’ I do think that there are those missed opportunities, but hopefully those guys that are in that boat are out there working and preparing because when that phone call comes and they get that opportunity to go to an organization and get out on the field and show what they can do, they just have to be ready to go and it’s got to be at the highest level. Hopefully they can just keep that focus in these uncertain times.”
On if the team has encouraged players to not go to gyms and facilities in their respective states and what LB Jamie Collins Sr. brings to the team: “I’d say the first part of it is – absolutely. Safety right now is my biggest concern with everybody, and everybody’s health. Unfortunately, we’re kind of seeing what the virus has done to some people that have gotten sick and even those people that have recovered from it. It really is a pretty difficult thing to deal with, and then obviously the severity of what the virus can do is a whole different level. From that aspect of it, it is my No. 1 concern right now, just to be patient and make sure that you’re not putting yourself in harm’s way, to make sure you’re not putting yourself (in harm’s way) but then bringing it home to your family or to your loved ones and putting them in harm’s way. As I say to them, it’s not worth it. It’s just not worth it. I know everybody is eager and everybody wants to do the right thing, but it’s not worth it. Just be safe and be smart and just do a good job of taking care of yourself from that standpoint. That is my biggest concern from that, and I think that’s just in general. I think everybody is waiting for that moment when things ease up a little bit, and I think that’s when we probably need to be the most cautious and the most careful, at that standpoint, so that there isn’t a rubber band effect. Jamie Collins, just answering that question, obviously a great player that I’ve been blessed and fortunate being around before and drafting and watching him grow and develop as a player. Probably one of the most amazing athletes that I’ve ever seen from a standpoint of someone that big, that strong, that powerful and some of the athletic stuff he can do. I mean some of the things he does is amazing from an athletic – I’ve literally watched him one time stand at the line of scrimmage and try to grab the ball out of the quarterback’s hand as he was throwing it. He just can do those things. Sometimes you run into those types of athletes. From that aspect of it, he’s a very versatile player, has great flexibility, is a threat in the rush, is a threat in coverage, is very smart, communicates very well. He’s mature, he has great leadership about him. He’s professional, he attacks his job the same every single day and he just loves this game. He grinds at it, he works hard and I just thought to be able to bring a guy like that into our organization and to allow him to help kind of develop the younger players that we have even at the linebacker position, (it) was just a great opportunity for us. It was something that happened during free agency. I didn’t really think that that would be an option, and it happened, and I was just really excited for us to be able to have him.”
On if he’s seen the video of RB Ty Johnson puling a Jeep: “Yeah, I was going to mention it. I was just glad he had a helmet on. Obviously, I’m pretty sure there was someone in the car to hit the brakes in case he slipped. I go to safety first. A little bit of that is to – I mean it’s a Jeep, so once you get it moving, the ball bearings kick in and the tires go. Some of that, I was busting his chops about a little bit, but I did see it.”
— B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) May 3, 2020
On if he’s saying RB Ty Johnson pulling a Jeep is not hard: “I certainly could not do that. I mean I would blow every – Achilles, knees, elbows – forget about it. There’s no way.”
On how big of a challenge this offseason is and how much he’s thought about re-evaluating his style: “I think the biggest thing for me is, it certainly is, like I mentioned in the squad meetings – I got excited just seeing everybody. I just wanted to give a bunch of bear hugs out and do all that stuff and we couldn’t. I think that just making sure that I’m as authentic as I can be and making sure that they understand all of that that we do have when we’re in the same room, that that care, that level of compassion, that level of just how much I appreciate them, just to make sure that that really comes through and to make sure that that message comes across. I think the one thing that’s always interesting for me – again, I’m Italian so I like to talk – but I do think there is a limit with some of this virtual teaching and being able to get right to the point on some things because everybody’s environment is a little bit different, and certainly there are distractions when we’re not in a normal classroom setting and things might come up that they might have to address. Just trying to make sure that the most important thing is that the information is out there appropriately, whatever they need from that learning standpoint, but also to make sure that the natural side of what we would get from being in that classroom setting comes through too.”
On if he feels he’s a better head coach going into his third year: “I mean I’m a pretty intense person, passionate, I think from that standpoint. I would hope, being a head coach, my goal is certainly to get better every year. I really hope I’m a better head coach than I was two years ago because that’s the goal. I hope I try to get better every week. Certainly, these are new challenges. This is different, and I think all the head coaches in the League are trying to figure out the same thing. It’s really good, I’m very lucky to have some great friends and friendships throughout the League to be able to talk about different ideas and thoughts, which is cool. From that aspect of it, I’m always trying to grow and get better. I always put myself first and foremost in that list of guys that need to improve on the team. I think we all do, but if I’m not the first one to step forward and say I need to improve, then what else is there? From that aspect of it, I’m trying to do everything I can to get better and handle these times and then we’ll get back into training camp. I don’t know if I’ll be relaxed. I’m pretty sure I’ll be pretty fired up.”
Credit: Detroit Lions Communications
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