On any upcoming roster changes: "Roster changes have yet to be determined since the players start today at noon for physicals and the players' conditioning test is at 5 p.m. today. So the first part of that is passing the physical then the second part is passing the conditioning test, but even then if they fail their conditioning test today they'll have an opportunity to take it tomorrow. So they can still possibly get on the practice field. There may be something that comes up with somebody. If anyone is nursing a small injury, just the way the PUP rules work. A lot of the times it's best to give them a day to make sure they respond the right way after the conditioning test or something that their knee doesn't blow up or their ankle doesn't get swollen. So there might be some guys that might be short term PUP but unlike in some other past years I don't anticipate anyone being a long term PUP where we are waiting for weeks. If we have anyone it'll be short term."
On what is in the conditioning test: "It's just a running test to test their cardiovascular endurance. If they have been running and are in shape enough to be able to get through an NFL practice they will pass it. Last year we had one player who failed it. Now, last year this is a little bit different because this year we are having the whole team do it. In past years guys who have completed 90% of our off-season program were exempt, but since the off season program has been shortened so much and there's such a gap between the end of it and training camp, we just want to have every player. The last time we did that was in 2011. We were in the lock out we have every player run it. We have very few players fail it. It's going to weed out the players who are in poor condition. Based on where we were in the spring, and knowing the guys the way we know them, I'd be surprised if we had very many issues there."
On how only having one-a-day practices changes training camp: "We have gotten to the point sort of in the middle 2000's up to the late 2000's where a lot of the teams were doing one-a -day when having full pads. They do a two-a-day one day then a one-day the next day and that was without any rules from the NFLPA. They were just sort of doing what we thought was best for the players. That's what we did the first year here I think the first couple years here we did that. We never had two days of two-a-days in a row. It's just a natural progression. The NFL has changed quite a bit as far as the year round nature. I don't want to go back too far, but in the distant past guys worked other jobs. Now our guys' fulltime job is to be in shape and to be ready for training camp. Rather than trying to get guys in shape, we are trying to keep them healthy and keep them in shape and work on execution and things like that. I think that's changed. We still have a second practice I guess you say, but it's a walk-through. But you can get a lot of reps a lot of that and you can still have all your meeting times and things like that. Our players will usually be done by 7:30/8: p.m. now. A few ago players were done around 10:30 p.m. at night before they were done. I think it's beneficial they get more rest, they get more opportunity to study their playbooks and things like that. I think you have to make the best use of time when you're on the field. We have 90 guys in camp. You guys have been here in the past and know that we have extra periods at the end of practice where we keep some young players out there that haven't gotten enough reps in practice. I try to get them more reps, but it just takes more emphasis on making the best use of your time when you're out there and I think we do a really good job at that."
On S Louis Delmas : "Right now I'd be surprised unless something came up on the physical, I'd be surprised if we went the PUP route with him. There's still that possibility. We'll just take it day by day. We will have a plan for him during training camp. Lou is a veteran player, he is veteran in our system. He knows exactly what is being asked of him, he knows our system inside and out. He needs to practice, but it's probably going to be counterproductive for him to practice every single day. Rather than reacting to if he has something that flares up, we'll start with the approach of trying to be preemptive and trying to keep something from flaring up when it comes to a guy like Lou. He is very important to our team, he is very important to our defense, to our secondary and I think the other thing to add in there is having Glover Quin in the offseason. We need to get Lou and Glover on the field and create that kind of camaraderie and synergy between those two guys because there's a lot of unspoken communication between those two safeties there. In a lot of ways they are the quarterbacks of the defense and it's very important to get some practice time. We just need to balance that time with overextending it."
On what the fans should expect from the 2013 season: "We are as excited and as confident as we have ever been. We had an outstanding spring that I think has set us up to have an outstanding training camp. Like the psyche of the team, the attitude as the team as we left will continue through training camp. We are very confident in the pieces we have put in place as well as the pieces we have returning, and we are looking forward to an outstanding year. But first, an outstanding training camp."
On what the past offseason has been like in comparison to last year: "It is never problem-free, there are always things that come up. It has been, I guess the best word to put on that, is more distraction free. There's always things that come up, there's always things that players and coaches are dealing with that the organization and the team are challenged with. The players have been able to focus more on football throughout the off-season, which I think has been beneficial for them."
On what to expect from the team: "To be the very best team we can be. You have 32 guys (coaches) that are doing this press conference today, some of them did it yesterday. I'd be very surprised if any one of them put numbers on expectations. I‘ll just repeat what I told Dave, we're very confident. I'm the most confident I have been in four years here as the head coach. We're confident in our players and system. I like where this team is, and I look forward to having a good training camp. And how we do this season will be based not only on that optimism because everyone is optimistic right now. I mean there are 32 coaches who are optimistic about their team. I think the things that are different about us is that we have reasons to be optimistic. We have tangible reasons to be optimistic. Some of the players we have gotten back from injury, some of the players we have added, some of the lesson we have learned have made us a better club, team, and individuals as a result of all that. However, how we do this year is going to be based on all the things that go up, how we gel as a team, how we're able to execute as a club, all those different things will go in to it. We're all optimistic and excited."
On getting to the playoffs in year five in order to truly have a successful season: "That's the goal every year. There are 32 teams that share the same goal. It's the championship. I think you have to temper that without getting over your skis and getting too far ahead of yourself. You can't concentrate on post-season right now. You can only concentrate on conditioning tests and today. We need to do a good job at doing those things, and if you're concentrating on those things you don't think about all the other expectations. I'll say this; we have high expectations as a team. Our players, coaches, organization and the city all have high expectations for this team and we look forward to that challenge and the grind and work that will go into that."
On the rookies' developments: "We've missed some opportunities to have contributions from rookies with injuries and things like that. We've drafted some good players that could've contributed more. I would say this year is just as talented as a class and we will need contributions from those guys. They weren't drafted to find their way or redshirt or things like that. They were drafted with very specific purposes in mind. How well they do, that will depend on where they are in training camp. I like where all those guys were at the end of OTAs and end of our minicamp. They all showed the reasons they were drafted and they've all shown they can help us. Training camp is about consistency, not flashing ability. It's about being reliable, and it's about being dependable. There is something to the long grind of the training camp that will determine whether a guy is dependable and reliable. It is a lot easier to judge the guys who have been around for five or six years. They have a track record. Those guys have talent but they don't have a track record and they need to establish that over the course of training camp."
On confidence this season: "Last year wasn't a fluke. You are what your record says you are. I mean we were 4-12 last year but we made some good acquisitions as a team, both in the draft and in free agency. We are on track to get a lot of players back from injury that missed significant time last year. I think that from a team standpoint we are in a better spot. I've always liked the way the team has worked but we are working better as a team going through this offseason. I'd be very surprised if any player said differently. I think the players felt that, it wasn't just the coaches or the organization. I'm very confident in the talents of this team and the potential we have to have a great year."
On his biggest concern: "Every coach is concerned about everything. I'm concerned about the guys driving in and not running into the gate, not tripping on the way in to the facility, not catching a virus and getting sick today. Being a coach, you worry about everything. That doesn't keep you from being confident. We have a long way to go. Training camp, even though it's shortened over the years, it is still a grind and it is still a process for those guys to go through. There is a physical nature to it. We are going to be in full pads, probably be in full pads more than last year. Like some other coaches, we also took the approach of players are going to be required to wear knee and thigh pads. We need to get used to those. Those guys who haven't worn those in the past, we need to get use to them. Rather than just shoulder pads, you'll see us more in full pads this year. There is a physical nature to it. There are a lot of things that can happen in those months and preseason games. But there is also a lot of good that can happen. I think we are looking for the positives rather than the concerns or the negatives right now."
On WR Chaz Schilens' abilities: "Chaz is a veteran player. He has great size, he is a physical player. He is still a fairly young player but has some experience in the NFL. He was a starting receiver for the Raiders a couple seasons ago when we beat them late in the season. He had a productive year last year for the Jets. To be able to get a player on the eve of training camp that is healthy, that has size and speed and some production in the NFL, that is a great move for us. We are going to need a playmaker to emerge from our wide receivers. I'm not talking about Calvin Johnson or Nate Burleson or even Ryan Broyles, sort of our known qualities. There are a lot of other guys in there, we are going to need someone to step up. It's going be one of the interesting things during training camp, which one of those receivers' steps up and becomes a part of the offense. We are going to need one of those guys, at least one of them to step up and make plays for us. We know we added Chaz, and late in OTA's and minicamp (Matt) Willis and (Micheal) Spurlock, very similar guys. Guys that have played in the league that bring something to the table. We have some young guys mixed in there too. We need guys like Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles be healthy and productive over 16 games the way they were in spots last year but we also need somebody to emerge and Chaz has just as good a chance as those other guys."
On if he feels he is ‘on the hot seat': "I think you look at last year and we were certainly disappointed in last year. I think that's probably the biggest contributor to that train of thought. As coaches we are used to that scrutiny, we are used to high expectations. That doesn't change the way we do things. We remain committed; we remain believing in our plan. It doesn't enter our thoughts. That's just stuff people in the media or fans talk about. It doesn't affect us at all and how we go about our business on a daily basis. I speak personally as a coach there but I think I can speak for any one of our players. There is going to be a lot of competition on our team. There is going to be some really important things that develop. Like replacing Jeff Backus who was such a fixture on our team. Competition at right tackle, right guard. Some guys bouncing back from injury and sub-par seasons. Everybody's work is on display and everyone knows what is at stake. We embrace all that. That's part of this business."
On fans and ownership expecting more going into his fifth year as head coach: "Yeah, we expected that in 2009. To say we have high expectations this year, and we expect everybody to, is to do a disservice to the other years. Did we not feel that way in 2009? Obviously, the team was a lot different in 2009, coming off an 0-16 season and things like that. But I think like you said, expectations are part of this. And we're very excited about this year, and we're confident. And every coach is. Every coach is. I think we have reasons to be. And that's what makes us so confident."
On how important training camp is for TE Tony Scheffler: "Tony's an important part of our offense. He's a matchup problem for defenses as a tight end. And he's a playmaker, particularly around the end zone. When our offense runs at full effectiveness, Tony's a big part of that. I wouldn't necessarily put the down year on Tony last year, but a lot of dynamics changed on offense last year. I like the way that he fits with Brandon Pettigrew. I like the way that he fits with other guys on offense, like Nate Burleson, Ryan Broyles, Reggie Bush, Mikel Leshoure, Joique Bell. No player stands alone, and no player is the reason that we succeed or fail. It's a collective effort, and how we do as an offense is going to be based on how well we execute as a team, not an individual player. Tony had a great offseason, I think he set himself up to have an outstanding training camp. And if he does that, then he can be in position to have a good season."
On adding experienced veterans DB Chris Hope and DE Israel Idonije: "I have a lot of respect for guys that have played 10 years in the NFL. Both of those guys have, both of them played at a high level last year. I can't speak on why they were still available, or all those other things. I know that we have a plan for them. I thought they fit what we needed. They bring a lot of experience, but both of them played very well last year. You're not talking about guys that you're hoping to get something different from what they did last year. Chris Hope filled in for injured safety, a couple different situations with injured safeties in Atlanta, and played very well on a very good defense. And we know Idonije very well. I think 7.5 sacks last year and was always a thorn in our side. Not only do we get him on our team, but get him away from the Bears. I think he also fits well with so many other guys we've added to our defensive line. He's got that kind of size, that kind of length, he's a little bit of a hybrid player. He can play defensive tackle and rush inside if we needed him to. And a lot of the same things attracted us to Jason Jones. It also made it a good fit for Idonije."
On K David Akers' rehabilitation progress: "Expect him to be kicking right away. I think David's 38 years old. I think it's probably the first time in NFL history that we signed a 38-year-old and we got younger at a position. There might be times. We'll come up with a good plan. Punters and kickers are a little bit different from other players, as for a recovery and things like that. I think people underestimate how physical it is to kickoff and to placekick and things like that. It's not an everyday thing. He might not kick every single day, but I don't anticipate anything else being in that."
On making more additions to the roster before practice: "It's always a possibility. We worked out some players yesterday. We'll just sort of wait and see, each one of those on a case-by-case basis. There's also some teams that are trimming as they get ready for camp. Maybe they signed some guys, or did some other things, so that a couple players become available. There's always things that happen in training camp. You always have one position that seems to have more injuries than the others, and you need to replace players, so that door's always open for us."
On last year being a humbling experience: "I think we all learned a lot of lessons last year, for sure. And the only way that those are going to be beneficial for us, is to carry those lessons across to the next season and this year. Some of those, just like anything in life, a lot of lessons you can only learn through experience. And that was a tough experience going for us. I'd agree with that term, humbling, sure, sure. I think it was humbling for me personally. I think it was humbling for the team, individuals, and also the entire team. We had made the playoffs for the first time in a decade. There was a different dynamic coming into the next year than from the previous year. I think that's fair to say."
On if last year's personal humbling experience made him a better coach: "I think experience makes you a better coach, if you learn those lessons. I think the best coaches learn from what's happened in the past. I think we certainly have. I know personally I think I have. Whether or not I'm a better coach, I think that'll be determined in the future. It's not going to be determined through OTAs and training camp and things like that. It's going to be in the record this year."
On why this year's defense is better than last year's: "In 2011, I thought our defensive line really carried us. We had a lot of injuries in the secondary, particularly the second half of the year. We lost quite a few players, and things like that. Our defensive line sort of carried us through. Cliff Avril, Kyle Vanden Bosch, I think were either at the top or near the top in the NFL in forced fumbles and things like that. And a lot of that drove a lot of our turnovers and things like that. Our defensive line is different this year, but I think we have the potential to be just as effective, if not more. It's a much bigger defensive line. The dynamics there are a little bit different. Same scheme, but maybe a little different execution of that scheme. We made some really good acquisitions in the secondary. A lot of people talk about Reggie Bush, and he's going to be an impact player for us. I think the one we're equally excited about that's flown below the radar is Glover Quin. Just an outstanding safety. Drafting Darius Slay, getting Bill Bentley back, retaining Chris Houston. We have some other veteran players mixed into that group. We mentioned some of our safeties, there's also some corners, even young players like Jonte Green, who was a sixth-round draft pick last year, and all of a sudden got thrown into the fire. He's in a better spot because of it. I think we're deeper in the secondary. I think we're more talented in the secondary. I think we have just as much potential to be really good up front. But again it's potential, and how much we can realize that potential is only going to be determined through hard work, and training camp, and preseason games and through the regular season."
On if he can be viewed as the team's "Emergency Manager: "I think, to coaches, every day is an emergency. There's always something that's on your plate, those kind of things. I think we're in a strong position as a franchise. We have a quarterback who is one more year experienced. A couple years ago, there was a lot of speculation of whether Matt Stafford would ever stay healthy. He's had two years of throwing for almost 5,000 yards. Calvin Johnson set the all-time NFL single-season receiving record, in a year that he saw the next three receivers not be productive, whether it was injuries or not being on the team. I think getting some of the pieces we had back in place, the continued development of some of those other pieces, guys like Stafford, guys like Calvin Johnson, some of our younger players. Another one that hasn't got spoken of a lot is Ndamukong Suh. I thought that Ndamukong had the best spring that he's had since he's been here. I think he's poised to have an outstanding year. He's always been in great shape. His understanding of defense and his execution of that was very, very impressive in the spring. It's hard to say a player that's been an All-Pro can take a jump, but I really think he can. We're excited about all that. Everybody makes comparisons between the Lions and Detroit and all those things. I'd like those comparisons to be resiliency, blue-collar, hard work, toughness. I think those are the things that are most important about the city of Detroit. Those are the things that I hope the Lions reflect in that."
On the continued focus of player safety: "I think so, for sure. It has nothing to do with player safety, but one of the things that's a big adjustment for our rookies is if somebody ever dives and goes to the ground to make a catch, they want to lay there on the ground. Because in peewee football, and in high school football, and in college football, once you're down, you're down. It doesn't matter if anybody touches you or not. So there's a tendency for defensive players to let up if they see a guy go to the ground. There's a tendency for an offensive player to stop if he dove to the ground. If that rule was different in college, we wouldn't see that. It wouldn't be an adjustment for them. Most of them get it out of their system in OTAs and minicamp, but sometimes it creeps into the preseason games because it's something they've done different in their career. I think anytime that you emphasize rules in high school and in college, it's easier to make that transition to the NFL. Safety is very important to us. We've made a big push to try to avoid helmet-to-helmet contact. Every year, we sort of add to that. This year, the rule about not putting your head down, I think that's something that some players are going to have to change a little bit about the way they've done things. Maybe some linebackers, some safeties, some running backs. It's going to be a little different, so there's going to be some learning process. The sooner they can start that, I think it benefits everybody."