Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Quotes from Thursday's media session with Jim Schwartz and Gunther Cunningham.
LIONS HEAD COACH JIM SCHWARTZ QUOTE SHEET:
On S Louis Delmas fighting to play with two games left: "It shows how important the game of football is to him. We're not battling for the playoffs, but he has battled through just about every kind of circumstance. He means an awful lot to our defense. You saw the play he made on the big third down stop last week. We've been in so many games where we've been one play short - Lou's a guy that can make that one play in the game."
On if Delmas is trying to prove that he can be available: "I don't think he's trying to prove anything to anybody. He's a professional football player with a passion about the game he loves to play and every opportunity that he can he's going to go show that. His days of proving stuff are long in the past. He's just a competitor, he's a good teammate. He wants to be out there for his team, for his teammates and he makes a difference when he is."
On if that speaks to Delmas' character: "He's got great football character. Somebody asked that question earlier this week what football character is, and you could probably say Lou Delmas. He's a guy that prepares every week. Early in the season he wasn't really available to play. He was still healing from the surgery, but he prepared every week like he was. He was really good mentally for the younger players, for the other players in the room. It really with him has nothing to do with what his contract is or anything else. It's the fact that there's a football game Saturday night and he's going to do everything he can to play."
On CB Chris Houston's dependability: "Since he's been here I think that's been a good word for him - dependable. He's very consistent performing from week-to-week. We missed him a lot when he was out early in the season. But he's a veteran player, he doesn't make very many mistakes and he's also this year has taken the challenge of covering some pretty tough wide receivers. Going back early in the season, the first game he was back -I think the Tennessee game - he went after matching up (WR Kenny) Britt. Every week it was sort of the same thing with him. So consistency is a good word for him but he's also added a little more to his game this."
On Houston being more advanced from his rookie year: "His knowledge of the game yeah. I think the biggest thing that Chris did is just learn how to play the ball down the field. We've seen that with a couple guys that we've had that are young players. Jonté Green's had a couple deep balls down the field that he's lost and balls that sort of got away from him. Bill Bentley when he was playing had a couple of those situations. And Chris was like that early in his career. In true professional fashion, he evaluated what it was that he needed to do better. He worked very hard with Tim Walton to correct that and to sort of put it in his past. He's much, much improved. I don't think you would recognize that; his ability to play the ball down the field has been the difference for Chris. A lot of his other game is the same. Chris has good quickness, all those different things. But the ability to play the ball down the field is an area that he's much improved over the course of the last few years."
On success in moving CBs like Amari Spievey and Don Carey to safety and if that is an option with Ron Bartell: "He fits that size. We signed him as a corner, but he does fit that size profile. That size profile, that used to be something that there were fewer teams that were going to that profile. Over the last couple years, pretty much everybody in the NFL has gone to that same profile for safeties. To speak on Don Carey, at the end of the year last year...he'd played a little corner for us, he had played some nickel, played special teams and that was his role at the end of the year. But when we signed him, when we were working to develop him, we were working on developing him as a safety. That's where we were in the offseason. Unfortunately he got hurt in training camp. Never really got a chance to show it, he was going to be out an extending period of time but when he came back he took advantage of his opportunities. He's prepared very well. He's a smart player. He's really taken to the mental side of the game that a safety has to be able to do. There's been very few missed assignments when he's been in there. He's a very good communicator. He probably had one bad play on the year in the Colts game where the wide out on the one play crossed his face; he took a bad angle. But the rest of the time he's played really good football for us. He's deserving; he's worked really hard for it."
On character of the team remaining upbeat despite dealing with losses: "It's tough; it's the toughest situation to have to handle. I think that it's what we're paid to do. I don't want to give anybody a pat on the back for competing, for staying focused and for working hard. We haven't always played our very best, but you get judged by wins and losses, not if you're hanging in."
On no decisions being made in terms of what's been done in the offseason: "We signed him as a corner. We liked him there. He's got very good size, he's experienced. But with all our players, sort of evaluate them and put them where we think they can do best. But to have those guys that are multi-dimensional, that can cover wide receivers that can cover tight ends like Tony Gonzalez, that's definitely an attribute that we look for in safeties."
On how much heat the Falcons offense puts on a defense: "That's certainly what we've aspired to on offense. We have a great player in Calvin Johnson and quarterback in (Matthew) Stafford. The whole idea is to surround them with the ability to make a defense pay if they pay too much attention to one or another. It hasn't gone according to plan this year with us mainly because of injuries. And last year you could say the same about the Falcons.
"They had gone all in on (WR) Julio Jones and didn't get that immediate gratification from that move, but this year you're seeing why they did that. Roddy White's a better player because of it. Tony Gonzalez is a better player. Their run game is in a better position. Their quarterback's a better player. He's got more places to go with the ball. He's got quicker answers. He's got guys, particularly the two wide outs that are very good run after the catch guys. They can take a hitch and run past people. You see Julio Jones has done it. Roddy White's always been a good run after the catch guy. But it's easy to see what their plan is and how it's affected them because a few years ago you would have taken the approach of the Falcons with hey look you're going to have to load up and stop the run and sort of - I don't want to say dare them to pass - but hold on against the pass game.
"They have good tight end, they have multiple wide receivers. (WR Harry) Douglas has made a lot of plays for them in the slot also. Two running backs. (Jacquizz) Rodgers has made a lot of plays. When people drop back and play zone, Rodgers has made a lot of plays and getting run after the catch. I think he's their fifth leading receiver or something like that but he's got close to 40 catches I think."
On Calvin's pursuit of the record and how impressive he's been: "Everybody's passing it a lot more. I think it's hard to put in words ... and I think that the one thing about Calvin is it really hasn't been a story for him particularly. It's been a League story, it's been a local story, but it's not like he's sitting around thinking during game plan meetings about getting records. What he's thinking about is going and doing what he can to contribute to a win and how he can best do that.
"And as a result of that, he's stayed on track. He's battled through injuries. He's seen a lot of other players on offense not be on the field with him and he's had to shoulder a bigger load. But he's up for it every single week and he's been consistent from week to week.
Mikel Leshoure was sort of thanking him a couple times today on the balls inside the one-yard line that he's had (laugher). But Calvin just sort of shakes it off. We had a play in practice and Calvin was probably out of about the half-yard line. He toe-tapped the sideline and Mikel said, ‘Hey I'll take it from here.' And Calvin just ... as long as we get the touchdown it doesn't bother him. I daresay if we were able to win the last two games and he didn't get the record, he would still be very content and he would still be very happy that we won those games. That's why we signed him to a long-term deal. Not just his talent on the field, but how good a guy he is."
LIONS DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR GUNTHER CUNNINGHAM QUOTE SHEET:
On how the Lions defense defends the screen: "We've been OK. You know, we work on it hard. There are different versions of screens and you probably should ask Warren Sapp what kind of screens they are. They (Atlanta) have the jailbreak screens, as most people call them, to Roddy White and the other guy, what's his name? Julio Jones. I've seen him quite a bit. I think I've seen him since he's been in high school. They're both great receivers and they get those screens. The backs do a great job and they do a heck of a job all around. I know Dirk Koetter pretty well who coaches that offense. I tried to hire him one time and he opted to stay in college. But he's got a good design and they are probably the best screen team in quite a while. They do throw a lot of them and they keep the pressure off the quarterback that way. It slows down the rush. The d-line looks for the screens and that's when bad things happen. My way of coaching that thing is if you see it, play it. If you don't, go after the guy that's got the ball in his hand, the quarterback. Got to hurry his clock up and hopefully throw an incompletion. But I didn't know their stats were quite that good, but they are good."
On S Louis Delmas battling through injuries: "Lou and I are fairly close, coach and player. I've talked to him a lot about that and he said he has one life and it's between the white lines. I struggle to talk about that because it's very, very real and true about him. You all know about his family background, where he came from, how he made it this far, and he feels at home when he's out there. God bless him for making the efforts that he's making to play, and I know a lot of other people wouldn't do that. They wouldn't do it. He's not doing it for any other reason other than he misses the game. Truly, I miss him when he's not around. I told you about the moment in the Green Bay game when he was next to me in street clothes. I was so happy he made a great play, made two great plays last week and saved us on one. So, he's just, he's a football player and those guys they're like all dead and buried now, those kind of guys. They played in the old days like that and that's how he plays. He just goes and plays as long as he can."
On having CB Chris Houston available all season amidst injuries to the secondary: "I mean, he fights injuries just like Lou (Delmas) and he's available. You know, he's a couple of words - accountable, available, reliable. He's all of those. I told Chris Greenwood this morning, I said, ‘Watching Chris Houston drives me crazy because he looks laid back and relaxed.' You don't think he has that competitive edge to him, but yet that's what he is. He's a competitor and he shows up. He loves his teammates, I know he loves Tim Walton and Marcus (Robertson) and he puts in a day's work every day."
On Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez: "We've talked about (Louis) Delmas, we've talked Chris Houston, now we're talking about probably one of the best players I've ever seen in my life, definitely at that position. I talked to Charlie Sanders yesterday at length and we were talking about Tony Gonzalez. What he had said, he said, ‘Gun, people don't understand this guy is in the top five.' He looked at me like I didn't know what he meant. I said, ‘Top five of all-time receivers, not just tight ends.' Jim (Schwartz) asked me early in the week in a staff meeting what kind of guy is Tony, does he work hard? Tony Gonzalez shows up half-hour before practice starts and he runs and practices and catches the ball for that half-hour every single day. He's made himself what he is. He's not a great speed guy, but I've seen 4.5 guys try to knock him down and he still catches the ball. He's one of the most competitive guys I've ever seen in my life in this game."
On if he ever thought Gonzalez could play this long when he coached at Kansas City: "Yes, I did, but more importantly, we were on a flight to the West Coast. I don't know, we were playing one of those teams out there and he was sitting right behind me. I leaned over my chair, looked him dead in the eye and I said, ‘Tony, you realize what you just did?' That was the time he became the most prolific tight end as a receiver. He said, ‘What do you mean?' I said, ‘You passed guys like Mike Ditka. You just passed all of them.' Truly, he didn't realize and really he cares, but he's like Calvin (Johnson). It's not about Tony, it's about the game. He likes playing the game and to me, Calvin Johnson is like that. You come out here, you don't know who Calvin Johnson is until he catches a 50-yard ball. Tony Gonzalez is the same way. You don't know who he is. You don't see him, you don't hear him until the ball's snapped and he catches it. You know, very humble, very hard-working."
On DT Sammie Hill stepping up with DT Nick Fairley out: "Sammie is stepping up. He has been ready to play and didn't get enough opportunities with Nick's development. So, now he's got a chance to step in and we think he's a good player. You know, he showed that last week and made a lot of good plays for us. He's worked really hard and he's one of those guys - the question was asked earlier about Chris Houston being reliable and available, Sammie's here every day. He's practiced hurt more than any player I can remember. We've had a lot of those guys, but he stands out when it comes to that."
On approaching the Falcon's offense: "Well, the players we have to be concerned about, you know, the quarterback, obviously, those two wide-outs and Tony (Gonzalez) and then they have Michael Turner. Michael's got nine touchdowns and between all of them I think they have 31. The quarterback's thrown about 27. So, they're humming on offense. Dirk Koetter's doing a great job, but they have outstanding personnel. You know, they made the big move in the Draft to get Julio Jones and they made the right move. There's no question. Roddy White, you know, you can't say enough good things about him. They've got a whole slew of good players."