Following Thursday's practice, both Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan spoke to the media. Most of their thoughts revolved around Sunday's matchup with the Minnesota Vikings. Below is a look at what they had to say. (Quotes provided by the Lions.)
LIONS HEAD COACH JIM SCHWARTZ QUOTE SHEET
On practice having a better flow with QB Matthew Stafford out there: "No, Shaun (Hill) runs practice well when he runs it. We have confidence in all of our quarterbacks."
On if having Stafford back is a comforting feeling: "Honestly we just take it day-by-day. We just play it that way. We have 53 guys on the roster. We plan for a lot of different things and if somebody can't practice, somebody else steps in. If somebody can't play, somebody else steps in. It's really nothing more than that."
On Vikings QB Christian Ponder improving this year: "He was a rookie last year without the benefit of OTAs or rookie camp and all those different things; all the offseason stuff. He got his playbook the first day of training camp. He became a starter into that season. They had a veteran quarterback in Donovan McNabb. Then when we saw him in December last year he was nursing a leg injury. You could tell he wasn't a 100-percent. He wasn't moving very well, but then also his throws were off. He had a bunch of interceptions. I think you're seeing the steps that a second year player takes. He had his feet wet last year; he's a smart guy. He's a first round draft pick, he has a good offseason this year, he has a good training camp and you're seeing improvement. He's got four touchdowns and no interceptions. He's doing a good job of taking care of it. He scored a big touchdown for them last week with a scramble. Threw a couple more to his tight end, put them in position. Their one loss has been a three point loss. He's kept them in every game and that's all you can ask from a quarterback."
On RB Mikel Leshoure helping to improve the run game against Minnesota as compared to last season's meetings with the Vikings: "I thought we ran the ball a lot better in the second game. The first game we had a hard time getting anything going. But the second game I thought we ran the ball a lot better than in the first. There isn't a whole lot...I mean, we know the team well. We played two close games last year. But how it matches up this year and how Mikel and the rest of our running backs will be able to do, we'll see on Sunday."
On RB Joique Bell having a good progression from the time the Lions first acquired him until now: "Yeah, it seems like we've had him for a long time because we coached him at the Senior Bowl and he also played his college football right down the street. I remember before the (Harlon Hill Award) season seeing a group of people that were on that Harlon Hill list or something and then seeing a Wayne State player so we've seen him for a long time. But you know just being around the NFL Joique has taken advantage of the carries he's gotten. He's also carved out a little bit of a special teams role and that's something he never really had in his past and done in his past. That's been part of his progression. He's still a young player; he's still a little bit of a work in progress but he's taken advantage of the opportunities he's had."
On leaning on Bell late in the last game is an example of a sign of confidence in him: "He's made plays when he's been in the game. He's made guys miss, he's gotten tough yards, he's ball secure, he's been assignment sound. He's done a nice job."
On playing your game more than having to adjust to what the opponent is doing and catching up: "Yeah, I mean we'd rather not (laughter). It's a 60 minute game and you have to adjust to a lot of different things."
On starting fast because the Vikings are a team coming in with a lot of confidence: "Starting fast is certainly important. It doesn't guarantee you a win and if you don't start fast it doesn't guarantee you a loss. You still have to play the rest of the game. But it can certainly put you in position and that's one of the things that we can do better. If you look at our first three games, we can start better and it would help us later in those games."
On DT Corey Williams: "We do have an announcement on Corey. Corey had knee surgery on Tuesday. I didn't announce it yesterday because I wanted to wait until we got two days of game plan from Minnesota so we just couldn't. But he'll be declared out this week."
On if it's an IR designation: "No, he'll be week-to-week."
On how much of a loss having Williams out is because he's played well: "He played well, particularly that first game. Since then his knee had been getting a lot of swelling in it and it slowed him down a little bit like Chris (McCosky) had said from being able to practice. But also slowing him down a little bit in the game so hopefully we can put that behind him with what he had done. We rotate a lot of guys in there. Nick Fairley and Sammie Hill have an opportunity to go in there and get more playing time than they have gotten."
On shooting to have S Louis Delmas back after the bye week: "(We're) shooting for whenever he is ready, to tell you the truth. And again I go back and really have never set a timetable. It's just been, ‘Hey when his knee is ready, we'll get him back.' Just like Jahvid (Best), Lou has done a great job of being in our meetings and staying involved and doing all those kinds of things. Mentally he'll be ready when he's physically ready."
On not looking into free agent running backs as much because of Leshoure: "I think we had a good idea of what to expect, but he was still coming off of an injury. We had confidence in the backs that we had. We resigned Kevin Smith, had a couple young players in Joique Bell and Keiland Williams and another young player in Leshoure coming off an injury and another young player in Jahvid coming off an injury. So I think that's a good group when they're all healthy, when we get them all on the field and we anticipate that at some point."
LIONS OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR SCOTT LINEHAN QUOTE SHEET
On if the offense is countering too much early in the game: "No, that's just the way it goes. I think if you look across the League you're going to see most teams are probably scoring more as the game goes on. Just pretty good defenses out there and some of it's been how we're being defensed early, too, as far as having to be pretty patient early and then finding spots in the defense as the game goes on. But, you know, you'd certainly like to balance that out and that's what we're working on."
On having QB Matthew Stafford practicing today: "Yeah, it was good. He got a lot of work in. Jim can give you a status update today. But, he was out there and I think he feels a lot better."
On how TE Tony Scheffler will help use the middle of the field: "Well, I think you saw it last week even more so than the previous two, that that was a part of the field that was utilized for us offensively. And Scheffler, just having him back in the lineup gives us another weapon on our offense. I think his range, but he's able to do a number of things, but I think his ability to get vertical is definitely a strength of his."
On Stafford's toughness: "Yeah, I don't really consider, I think every quarterback or every player is playing through something at this point. Once the season goes on, he had obviously some discomfort there but I think he's a great pro now and he's been through it, knows how to manage these things. I don't really consider him injured or anything like that. He's just dealing with something that's been uncomfortable and we'll see. He's definitely feeling better though."
On how difficult it is for quarterbacks to manage things: "Yeah, that's probably a pretty well-used term as far as what quarterbacks are doing. But, I think he's learned, really early, because he had some adversity early in his career with some injuries his rookie year. He's learned what it's going to take to get himself back out there on Sundays. And I think you're seeing that week in and week out. Sometimes there's things that are going on with these players, especially these veterans, they don't even know about. But obviously he didn't finish the game last week so it's probably become an issue. I don't know if it has or not, but we fully expect him to keep working towards Sunday and if he feels good, hopefully he can be out there."
On how a hip injury can affect a quarterback: "I was never good enough to get injured so I don't know. But I think the biggest part is just dealing with whatever it is and adjusting. It's, I don't think, like anything, you've just got to make the adjustment, we've got to make the adjustment if there's something that would hinder him but I don't really foresee that being a problem."
On Vikings DE Jared Allen: "You have to be conscious of him. Like I always say, once you've spent too much time concentrating on one player though, someone else, Robeson, some of these other guys, Kevin Williams, they've got some big-time players on their D-line and their linebackers are getting sacks now. So, that's the danger of focusing on one but I'm pretty sure Jared Allen gets everybody's attention and certainly got ours each week and we've got to do a good job on him. And it can't be just Jeff. We've got to have, at times, possibly some help. But it's not always going to be that way. Sometimes they do some schemes that keep the chippers off of them. So, we're going to have to do a good job."
On the play of the offensive line thus far: "I think we've played really solid football. We've thrown the ball, we've had the ball a lot. We've been able to have some more production running the football. We're continuing to get better there. I think last week throwing the ball fifty-some times and having one sack, that's a pretty good number there. So, I think they're playing well together and they have played. And I think it helps that they've been together. I think they're doing a good job collectively as a group. And we've got room for improvement offensively, no question, but I really think we've been pretty consistent."
On avoiding negative plays: "Right, I think those are big numbers. Over time those are going to pay off. Not being in long-yardage situations or putting you in positions where you've got to get back on track all the time. I think if you stay on schedule, that's going to pay off for you as the season goes on."
On how much playing in his first full game led to RB Mikel Leshoure's being on injury report: "Well, it's his first full game playing in two years so I'm sure some of it is that. I don't know exactly his status. Jim can update you what that means. But, you know, he got some good work today and I expect him ready to go Sunday."
On how often they practice the Hail Mary: "We actually do it a lot in training camp to be honest with you. We walk through it every other week. It's part of our weekend walk through thing. So that's a plan designed play. There's obviously some luck involved. But there's some placement involved as far as the receivers and it ended up working out in our favor on that particular play."
On if QB Shaun Hill practices the Hail Mary plays: "He doesn't. Matt primarily practices. Shaun's been around long enough to know what, if he's in the game, how and where he's supposed to throw it. That's the part about Shaun that's valuable is he's able to place himself in games in situations that he's not really able to practice."
On what went into the decisions in RB Joique Bell getting overtime reps over Leshoure and RB Kevin Smith: "Well Mikel was worn down a little. He was tired. You could tell as the game wore on, especially in the fourth quarter, he was getting tired. We really feel like Joique's going to be kind of a game closer and a guy that's going to be able to be fresh in the fourth quarter. It doesn't really eliminate having those guys out there but he's one of those guys that when the game's going on, you have to play 90 plays, 80 plays by the time you start playing. A big back like that is a good asset to have coming off the bench. It doesn't eliminate playing other guys but it certainly highlights playing maybe a little more in those situations."
On Kevin Smith's role being out of the game plan last week: "Well, not necessarily. I mean, Mikel being healthy and back in there, in fact we only really have one tailback in the game in our system most of the time. So that has nothing to do with him not playing well. He had five-six plays. He did a really nice job on third down and chipped on a third down. So his role last week was somewhat diminished but that has absolutely nothing to do with anything other than Mikel being back in the lineup."
On what Smith has to do to get a bigger role: "It's really hard. The game plan is going to be the factor for him, you know. If we're using single-back looks on a number of occasions, there's only going to be one in there. So I think such a great teammate and such a great supporter of anything we're doing. If he plays five plays and he can give us five great plays. If he plays 50 he's going to give us his all. I think it's just a matter of him waiting for an opportunity that may come up for whatever reason and be ready to go."
On if they need to force the ball to WR Calvin Johnson in the first half: "Well, forcing the ball in football is not a good philosophy. Probably going to come back and bite you. I think I told somebody last week, as we get proactive with Calvin, with some of these looks that really you can't simulate from game film because there's a lot of copycat stuff going on on the double and triple coverage. But I think it's really more key that we continue to make the adjustments we're making so that his impact is still very effective as the game goes on because you can't tell the quarterback to get the ball to him if they're taking two or three guys to cover him. These other guys have got to come through for our offense. We've got to continue to do that and Calvin's certainly targeted probably more than any other receiver in pro football by games end, and we've got to continue to make sure we do a good job of that. We're always working to improve early production of guys like that. Right now, it's kind of coming out of some of the other weapons on our offense early in games."
On Johnson leading the League in receiving: "Yeah, I think when it's all said and done I think he's always going to have pretty productive games because we put him right in the middle of most of our progressions. It's one thing we try to do."
On if it surprises him that Johnson is leading the League in receiving: "Well we've had the ball a lot and I think there's other guys that are, we've probably had more carries in the first three games than we have in the first three games of any of the seasons I've been here for the same reason that Calvin's not having a lot of early production. But we're going to work on improving that."