Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz met with the media on Thursday in advance of the start of training camp on Friday. During the presser, Schwartz addressed a number of interesting topics, including the health of Jahvid Best, the decision to release Aaron Berry, where Riley Reiff will play during training camp and more. You can check out video from Schwartz's presser here and quotes from his presser below. (Transcript comes via the Lions.)
On RB Jahvid Best's and LB Stephen Tulloch's health: "Well, today will depend on a lot of that. Part of the process today when guys come in is they will get playbooks - well, actually there's no more playbooks, there's play-digital right now or whatever you call it because it's all on digital media now - but go through all the different stations and visiting the trainers is part of that. We had a couple of rookies who were placed on PUP. Generally when you have guys that have something that's either a question or that's working, you take the conservative approach with PUP. It gives you a little bit of time and lets them have a couple days to make sure that they are okay. I wouldn't be surprised if there's a couple of players that end up in that today. I don't know if it will be Jahvid (Best) or Stephen (Tulloch), it will depend on how reporting physicals will go."On how much of a setback it is for DE Cliff Avril to not be at training camp: "Well, he's in a different position than a rookie in that he's very familiar with our scheme, he's an experienced player. But there's a reason that we do this stuff. We don't just do this for the fun of it. There's a reason you go through training camp, there's a reason that you grind out all the practices and the reps and things like that. So, for sure any player that misses part of camp will be missing it, whether it's because of an injury, or a contract, or for any reason."
On if Best has taken or passed a concussion test: "He has taken a bunch of things to be cleared to come back for offseason stuff which obviously we had no contact. But there is a hurdle to go and be cleared for contact. So, we'll just wait and see. He has taken them - it's not just one single thing. It's a whole battery and a whole process. There's a lot of people involved in that, it's not just one singular point of contact. He has input from a lot of experts around the country, not just our team doctors, but like I said, national experts and things like that."
On how confident he is that Best will on the field for games: "Just have to wait and see. I think I can go back to what we always said about concussions is that they're different from ACLs, they're different that shoulders, they're different than hamstrings. Guys that have back problems, a lot of time there are indeterminate rehab and timetables and things like that. Concussions are similar - there is really no rehab and sometimes things look good and one week they don't and one week they do. I think that we are very well informed; we are a lot better informed now. I'm talking about as opposed to just years past. I recall when I was coaching in Tennessee we had a player that was knocked unconscious in the fourth preseason game and came back and played in the opener and that wasn't just unique to the Tennessee Titans, that was around the league, that was probably a decade ago. You think how much things have changed - that would never go on now. So, I think that when you talked about things like that the one thing we know now is that you can't ever rush a timetable, you have to take things as they go and you have to be objective, and just take the information and that's what we'll do in this case also."
On the decision to terminate the contract of CB Aaron Berry: "Well, first of all, that was a very difficult situation from a football standpoint. Aaron had come a long way as a player, had put some very good weight and strength on. He was 190 pounds and one of the things when he came into the league, he was 178 pounds. He had an outstanding spring for us on the football field and had really done a nice job. So from a football standpoint, that was a very, very difficult decision. From a team standpoint it was an easy decision. I think every player knew when we left here in the spring, based on what had gone on in the spring, every player was very well aware of the stakes that were in play for the break before training camp. It was very, very disappointing that he didn't respond. But, you know, you come to peace with things like that. One of the ways I came to peace with it was that if somebody knew what the stakes were going into it, if somebody could make two very bad errors in judgment and bad decisions in that short period of time, what would they do during a big game, what would they do when the stakes were just as high? We were a playoff team last year. We aspire to be a contender year-in and year-out. Is that the kind of guy that can make good decisions in big games? And it was all part of the same picture and that's one of the things that I think we were able to come to peace with is it was a sign of other things."
On if he feels that the offseason problems are done: "Well, I feel if, for just about all of our team, when we hit the field tomorrow afternoon, that's not going to be on anybody's mind. Hopefully it was on everybody's mind for the last six weeks or five weeks or whatever it's been. And it will be on everybody's mind when they go out at night and when they make decisions in their personal life. But when they're in the building here, they're going to be thinking about football, they're going to be thinking about improving, they're going to be thinking about all the things that go into training camp. We're not thinking about the regular season, we're not thinking about the postseason, we're not thinking about anything other than training camp and I think that these guys can be focused. Again, the decisions have been a select few players and it's been disappointing for those guys, but I don't see how that would take away the focus of the other players."
On whom he anticipates taking Berry's first-team reps at cornerback: "Our secondary is always pretty fluid when it comes to that. The OTA's that you saw, we rotated guys. The OTA's you didn't, we had a lot of different combinations. I think one of the things that we all recognize is that injuries are a fact of life in the secondary. It's one of the most injured positions in the NFL and it's one of those things that it's how you play as a group that is most important. We found that out the end of last year. We did a poor job of responding to those injuries when we lost players like Louis Delmas and Aaron Berry and Chris Houston and some of those guys. We did a poor job with that so one of our focuses has been putting players up. It might be a player that - we don't really have depth charts - but maybe a guy that's been running with the third group, and put him up there and run, because communication, working together, all those things, you need to be prepared for all those options. We drafted three corners, two of which are healthy right now - Greenwood is on PUP for now. We have a lot of different candidates and guys will get a lot of work. I think particularly a guy like Bill Bentley made some significant strides. If you were to watch his first practice - it happens all the time, the Senior Bowl is the same thing. First practice, they don't look so good, but by the end of the week they're playing very well. He was that same way and you look for that in young players - players that can make the adjustment to a jump in competition pretty quickly. He was able to do that. He still has a long way to go but we saw some really good signs from him. There's a lot of players that'll be a great opportunity for them to get reps and show what they can do. We signed a free agent in (Jacob) Lacey. Lacey did some good things. We'll have plenty of candidates there."
On what CB Drew Coleman and CB Justin Miller bring: "Well, Miller, No. 1 has been a fantastic kick returner over his career. Now, he hasn't played in a couple of years. He came into the league as a very, very young player, I believe he was 20 years old when he came into the league. I think, you'd have to correct me, I'm not 100-percent sure, I think he has five career kickoff returns for touchdowns. He's made the Pro Bowl as a returner. He didn't make a team a couple of years ago and decided to go back and make a commitment to getting his degree. He completed that.
"He's sort of transformed his body a little bit. He was a 205-210 pound corner, a little bit pudgy. He came in in great shape, was in the low 180's, ran really well. He's experienced. Both of those guys are experienced players. Coleman is very experienced in the slot which is important. We play about half of our snaps on defense in nickel so you need a player like that. They're experienced players and we have opportunity for them."
On signing T Jonathan Scott and having depth on the offensive line: "Yeah, but things can change pretty quickly and we've seen some of our injuries at that position. Again, like I like to say all the time - it's not how you are if you stay healthy, it's how you are when you get injured. And you're right, he does add to that. He's a little bit like Coleman and Miller in that he's an experienced player; he's started in the NFL. He's got great size. This franchise drafted him. I wasn't here when they did but this franchise drafted him and when you have an opportunity to add a player like that, it makes sense and we're excited to have him."
On how much guard Scott, and other backup tackles will play: "Yeah, you'll see a lot of our tackles playing guard, but you'll also see some of our guards play tackle. You see Dylan Gandy out there playing tackle sometimes. They swing back and forth. We'll give some guys center even if they aren't really centers. Just to get ready.
"You typically take seven offensive tackles actives into a game, so a couple guys better be able to play a lot of different positions. Those guys are all tackles that you mentioned, so they're going to play tackle but they'll get reps at guard in the event of injuries. I think the other thing it does when you move players around, like Anwar talked a little about the corners, when you move guys around a little bit, their understanding of the big picture has a tendency to develop a little bit more, it's not just their position, it's how they work with the guard, it's how that applies and giving them that sort of perspective is never a bad thing either."
On if he can talk about his contract extension: "No."
On signing a contract extension with the team: "I will say this: I am very grateful to the Ford family and I am very excited to be the head coach of the Detroit Lions and I look forward to being here for a long time."
On teams taking a step back after making the playoffs for the first time in a while and the challenge of managing expectations: "I don't know that it really presents any kind of challenge right now - we're going to training camp and playoffs don't start this week, the regular season doesn't start this week, training camp starts this week. Our whole objective is to keep focus on what's important right now and not to get too far ahead of ourselves. There are probably teams that can get a little too far ahead of themselves. It's all our jobs to see that that doesn't happen to us. Everybody has high expectations. Coaches have high expectations, players have high expectations, there's nothing wrong with that. Is there added pressure? I don't know, I mean everybody puts pressure on themselves. The expectations of fans or national media or local media or anybody else really doesn't change the way we practice or way we go about any of our stuff. We don't have playoff periods in practice. We don't have anything other than getting ready for training camp. What you'll see out there this year is very similar to what you saw last year and the year before and the year before that and I think that consistency of approach, just like when you decide to make a stand on not commenting on your contract, that consistency of approach is what grounds the team. I think that, anecdotally, the teams I remember that would make it and take a big step back, they didn't have that consistency of approach, they get sort of all over the place. Like I said, it's our job to make sure that this team doesn't do that."
On if personnel decisions are different now that the team is more talented: "Well we should have more competition. We should have to look outside of our team less. If you remember in '09, we put claims on probably half a dozen at the end of training camp. There were players other teams were cutting that we were saying, ‘Jeez, they're better than the guys we have.' I expect at some point that to change and players that we would cut, that couldn't make our competition because we have some good players in place, would be attractive to other teams. I think that that would be a different dynamic I think that we will have.
"I think I said this before: your goal is never competition, your goal is to put good players on the field. You can have four guys competing and all of them be equally as crappy and that's great competition but you're not any good as a team if that happens. But, you get a couple good players in place, you might not have as much competition but you got good players in place and I think we're in a much better position that way. There's going to be competition in training camp, there's going to be a lot of things that go on in training camp. There's going to be opportunity as we talked about at a couple of positions, there's going to be tremendous opportunities for players. There'll be injuries that happen. There'll be players that, I don't want to say ‘outperform' their expectations because I think that that's a difficult thing to say, but there'll be players that come out of nowhere, there'll be other guys that maybe don't respond as well as people expected. There's a lot of different things that go on in training camp and in preseason. But we're certainly in a much better situation than a couple years ago, and again, I see that from a standpoint of at the end of training camp, how many roster spots are you looking outside of your roster? There's always a couple. A couple years ago we picked up Stefan Logan, or there's a guy that didn't make it out of a position battle. But I don't think it'll be anything like that first year. I think we signed about half a dozen guys that couldn't make another team."
On if he expects players that the Lions cut to catch onto other teams: "I think that there'll be players when training camp is over that won't fit on our roster that will fit for other people. I think that if you look at our roster, I mean, you say that early, I mean, there's a million dominoes that could fall and things could change very quickly. You never know how it is but you certainly want to be prepared for all those things. I think we're in much better position this year."
On when he expects DE Cliff Avril to arrive at training camp: "I really have no expectations there. You know, we have 89 other guys and we're going to coach those guys and not worry about when Cliff's going to be here. Cliff's a very good player for us and he made a lot of impact plays for us last year. That shows the reason why we franchised him. Unfortunately, we were unable to get a long-term deal done with him, but he's still our franchise player and when he's here we'll get him up to speed. When he's not, we're not going to spend a lot of time talking about it. You know, like I said we're not going to have a (playoff) period - I think it's my new thing - we're not going to have a, ‘what do we do without Cliff Avril period.'"
On whether or not he has talked to Avril recently: "I talked to him occasionally over the offseason. You know, it was a little different. I got so used to last year not being able to talk to players because of the lockout and it seemed like it was sort of the same thing. But I spoke to him a couple of times. I think we can easily separate football from business."
On whether he's hoping the secondary will be better with recently acquired players: "Well I said a long time ago that hope is not a strategy. So we don't hope, we have a plan and we're going to put those players in place. You know, I talked a little bit about Lacey and Lacey's an experienced starter in the NFL. Those other guys we've brought in are experienced starters. We have other guys that had ups and downs that are still young, developing players. We drafted some exciting young players. We're going to coach them as hard as we can. We're going to get them as many reps as we can. We're going to put them in preseason games and we're going to make the best decision, you know, after that of who the best combination is and put those guys out there. But we have a plan for it and that's one of our major objectives in training camp."
On the status of rookie WR Ryan Broyles: "You know, every ACL we've had we've intended on limiting players. A couple years ago we had Pettigrew and Kevin Smith coming off of it, we had a couple other players that have come back from ACLs. We've had some guys that have come through and we said, ‘Hey, we're going to give them every third day off or every other day off or no two-a-days.' You know, we took care of no two-a-days; every player's got that now. But, you know, there's a lot of different plans that have gone into those guys to be able to get them through. Some guys never need that. A couple years ago with Pettigrew we had a plan to give him time off and he never swelled up or never got sore. He just plowed right through training camp so every player is a little bit different. We'll take Ryan the same way we take those guys. There's no stigma for having to sit a practice now and then. We've taken an approach of also doing that with some of our more experienced players. You know, some of our more seasoned guys who have been in the league for a dozen years or ten years and the wear and tear on their bodies we've taken an approach to try and limit. Every guy will be a little bit different. We expect Ryan to be playing for us this year and we expect him to be able to make plays. How we handle him until then will go a long way to getting him on the field."
On the status of RB Mikel Leshoure: "Well, I mean, I guess it depends on what you label as 100-percent. I mean, he has a surgically-repaired Achilles. Are you ever 100-percent? Maybe you're 99.5, maybe you're 98. I don't know. You know, some guys even say they feel stronger afterwards. I've heard guys that have had ACLs when they get done with all the rehab, you know, they feel stronger. Some guys have proven to even get faster when they've had some injuries and things like that. So, it really doesn't matter where he is right now. It's where he is when we get into the season. He took a big step in the OTAs of getting the ball in his hand, particularly that last practice. You know, we took it very, very slow with him; very, very controlled settings until that point. Some days he would do individual and then he would sit for a week and some days he would do some seven-on-seven. He would sit for a couple more practices. We were very, very conservative in the way that we handled his return from that. But I thought it was an important step before we got to training camp that he actually had the ball in his hands and he was reacting to a defense. Soon as the ball went in his hands, he was a running back again. He wasn't an injured player that was returning. The instincts took over and I think that's a sign of where you are in your rehab when you're no longer thinking about it. That was his recollection. When the ball was in his hand, he wasn't thinking about where his injury was or how he was going to break off that foot. He just reacted and I thought that was a really positive step and was an important step coming into training camp. For the last month, he didn't have to worry about what was going to happen the first time he got the ball in his hand."
On whether or not Best could be cleared to play today: "Yeah, could be. But again, it depends on what happens today. There's still a lot hurdles for all our players. Like I said, there's a lot of different things. I don't want to go into every single one, but there's just not one point of contact with his. There's a lot of people that are involved and for good reason. There's a lot of people that know a lot about these things and like I said, as a team, as a coaching staff and as a league, we're all learning more and more each year. I give the example of a decade ago the way you would treat something like that. I'm sure some guys go back even farther and guys who go unconscious in a game go back to play in the same game. You know, that probably wasn't unusual. I think times have changed and, you know, for the good."
On Best's restrictions once he is able to return to practice: "In OTAs he was cleared because we didn't have any contact. But once he's cleared, he's cleared. You know, players need a little bit of contact to get ready. We certainly aren't going to, when we get to the point, we're not going to be doing live goal line with them in training camp. But, with that being said, you can't also just put a bubble around a player and expect him to go out and compete in the regular season. So again, just like we talked about our secondary, we'll have a plan for that. But that plan will depend on a lot of different things that go on. We'll be prudent in our approach and we'll obviously, and I hate to say err on the side of caution, but everybody's very cautious in their approach now with concussions. It's a big, big topic in the NFL. It's a very, very important thing and we're going to be very cautious with all of our players with any kind of head injury."
On his expectations regarding his team becoming a playoff team: "Playoffs are a long way away. I mean, I think that if... Let me put it this way: if we take care of our business on a daily basis, if we have a good meeting tonight, if we take a short term approach and say rather than our goal being to be a playoff team, our goal is to practice like a playoff team tomorrow or to meet like a playoff team tonight. If we do those things, then the end will take care of itself. I'm not saying that to shy away from expectations or set the bar low or anything like that. But, you know, you just had questions about how you keep the team grounded and how do you avoid falling into the trap and everything else. That's one of the ways you do (that) is you don't focus on things you can't control. You worry about the playoffs when the playoffs start. You worry about the regular season when the regular season starts. We're going to worry about having a good meeting tonight. We're going to be worried about if the players can make their way from their hotel to the building - all those different things. That's the only thing we can do today. We don't practice today so we can't really worry about that. If we do a good job with all those things, we're a talented team... Our goal is to have a good day today and if we do that, we have a good day tomorrow and we'll keep that sort of methodical approach and I think that will serve us when it comes to end of season things."
On whether they have a plan for rookie OT Riley Reiff: "Yeah, we have a plan for every single player. He's mainly going to play left and right tackle. You'll definitely see him a little bit at guard like a lot of our other players. But there's a difference between a plan and a result. The result is going to depend on how well he does in all those things. We're not starting our race with any end already pre-conceived. You know, he's going to have opportunities like every other player. We're going to play our best players. Our best players are going to make our team and how that shakes out is going to depend on how well they do in practices, how well they do in preseason games, how well they develop and their ability to learn a system and not make errors - all those things. And he's no different than any other player but we certainly have a plan for every single play.
"We're excited about him. He's a good player. He showed it in OTAs. It's hard really get a good evaluation of players in OTAs, particularly lineman. So this is a very important part of his development and his evaluation."
On if part of helping the secondary is getting the defensive line to dominate this season: "I think that's very important. You know, a lot of times when you're developing a team, there's probably 32 teams across the league that have varying strengths and weaknesses. You know, again, rather than worry too much about what's a perceived weakness, play to your strengths. The good teams do that. Good teams have stuff that they're good at, you know, positions of strength. That sort of carries them. This is a player-driven league. This isn't a scheme-driven league. Every scheme works if you have good players in it and players that fit that scheme. So, I think you go and put good players in that accentuate your strengths, which we expect our front to be a strength. Not just front four, but front seven with front seven adding our linebackers in. Even there, you can go seven, eight deep on our defensive line. We kept eight defensive linemen active for just about every game last year. All of them play. It's not like the offensive line or the quarterback position where one player will play every single snap in a game. Defensive line, you roll people through to keep them fresh, keep waves of fresh players coming. That's the way you play with a tempo. But certainly we expect to be stronger up front and a good front four can take a little bit of stress off the secondary."
On whether the release of CB Aaron Berry sets a precedent for other players in the future: "Every situation is different. Like I said, everyone knew the stakes when we left. You know, based on what happened with the team in the spring. So, you know, every situation is different and we'll take every one as it comes up. But that one was a very difficult decision from a football standpoint. It was a very easy decision from a team standpoint and we wish him the best. Hopefully he can put some of those bad decisions to rest. It just won't be with us."