Below is a look at what Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell had to say during his Sunday press conference. (Quotes provided by the Lions.)
Opening statement: "I am certainly glad to be back. Our players are as well. It's a pretty exciting time for us, although we got started a little bit last week with a fairly decent number of guys, rookies, some injured vets and our quarterbacks, it's still nothing quite like getting them all together and I am glad to have them all back here. There is a buzz in the air because we are all obviously excited about the prospects for the year. We know every single year is extremely difficult in the National Football League. It's a real challenge, but we feel really optimistic about our team. We have a lot of work to do between now and the regular season, but I think we are looking for a lot of work to be carried out, but also have a lot of fun along the way."
On expectations for the offense in its second year: "The big thing and what I've been trying to stress for quite some time is to be more efficient in what we do. I think those are the by-products of it. Whether that adds to scoring or anything of that nature, the thing I'm most interested in, just like anything else, I'm interested in wins. If it translates into wins, that's the business that we are in right now. We want to make sure that we win more often. I think our guys do have a better feel for our offense, defense, our kicking game is going to be new, but we still expect to be very good in that area as well."
On the progress of the defensive tackle position: "I think that we had a good, solid spring and we still have some guys that have to come on at our offensive line position and our defensive line position. I think all of us that have been around the game know that it's been very difficult to judge and determine where you are without pads on. They have to be able to make contact to see how low they play in terms of their pads, how they carry their pads, executing their techniques, taking care of their gaps and things of that nature. There's a lot of work to be done from the standpoint of learning, from the standpoint of moving to the ball and the standpoint of being where they're supposed to be. There in the spring we had very good work. We anticipate that that is going to carry on."
On what makes him optimistic heading into the 2015 season: "Probably to sum that up, I think you know and realize that most of us that are in this profession set fairly high standards for our entire group. I am optimistic about our entire team, but I know there's work to be done. We have a lot of work to do on offense, a lot of work to do on defense and a lot of work to do on our special teams. We have work to do first and then we will make a determination of where we are, but overall, as a team, as a unit, a talent level and those kinds of things, I am very optimistic that we can get to where we need to be."
On his biggest concern entering training camp: "Everything. I think all of those concerns about whether or not we take the steps that we need to take in order to be better. My anticipation is that we can put together a team that will be better than last year's team. That's the goal and we have to get that done. It's not only a want, we must. I think there's a lot that goes into that, so I am concerned about it all because we have to be very good. Every team in the league has talent. Every team is very capable and we have to make sure that we are up for the challenge."
On how last year affects this year's plan for the season: "I think last year was last year. It does not hurt that we were able to win a decent number of games. Our goal is to be better than we were last year. There's no question about it, building upon that kind of platform helps you. It gives you a little bit of momentum heading into the season, but it certainly doesn't answer a lot of questions."
On setting the bar for the 2015 season: "I think they understand. We talked a lot in the spring about how the mighty teams fall or are decent one year and end up being poor the next year. There's a lot of things that enter into that: Being stagnant or complacent about what you do, thinking that things are easy and that it's a rite of passage, a sense of entitlement, hubris, a sense that we are a better team than everybody else or arrogance. All of those things are things that we have to guard against and I think that our team understands that and knows that, so that's why we are telling you, ‘Last year is last year,' but we still have to work like we did the previous year in order to make certain that we are a better football team."
On QB Matthew Stafford coordinating workouts with the WRs: "I think it is what it takes in this league for guys to grow closer together within a system. For them to take the initiative and work together, you see that amongst good teams. You don't often hear about it, but believe me, behind the scenes, they're doing it. They're getting together and they're working and perfecting their craft. Those are good signs."
On the team's added motivation heading into the season: "I think one of the things that we are hoping to have established here is a team that does not need external motivation. What happens with us, depends on the guys in our locker room. It's not necessarily who's not here, it's who's here, how they're doing, how they perform and we focus on that more than anything else."
On the culture change that has taken place since he took over as head coach: "I don't take it for granted. I think most of us have been in some sort of worship service where, we know everybody who sits in the churches is not saved. There's always work to be done. I think there's a lot of work to be done with our team. You can't take that for granted. That's how teams slip backwards. That's how teams lose their vision. You have to keep casting that vision. You have to keep setting those standards. You have to keep challenging those guys each and every week, each and every day and each and every practice. When you lose that edge of competitiveness, that's when you start to see the difference in your team. We are not going to stop that aspect of it. We have to keep preaching what we believe in. Although, there's probably another 35 percent of your team that changes, typically every year we have a lot of guys that haven't been through it with us. They were all on different teams, so you can't anticipate and expect that. Your leaders, although we have great ones, are going to talk about everything that we went through last year, what we believe, what our standards are, what our core values are, what our DNA looks like and those kinds of things. You have to talk about them. You have to preach. You have to hold them to the standard that you expect to see those things in practice and that takes work. If it all of a sudden perpetuates itself year after year, they wouldn't need me."
On the significance of the team's record against over- or sub-.500 teams: "I'm certainly aware of any statistic that you can bring up in regard to our team. Beating anybody in this league is difficult. It's not like college football, where there are some teams that you can go in and say, ‘If we play well, we're going to be ok." That doesn't happen in this league. Every single win is celebrated, every single win is important regardless of who it's against. But the fact of the matter is we want to be a better team than we were last year, and that's part of it. Making certain that we're more balanced in terms of getting things done. We were very good at home, which everybody knows, we weren't as good as we'd like to be on the road, and we'd like to be better at home. So those are all challenges for us."
On having to beat certain teams in order to take the next step: "No, I don't put it in those particular terms, but if you're going to attain anything, it's measurable, and you have to look at every single aspect of your team and make sure that if there is a certain level of proficiency to advance to, you've got to point it out. Then you have to take steps in order to get there. For us, yes we look at all that stuff, but our main focus is to get the team prepared right now. Regardless of what it is in terms of goals or getting better, we believe that if we take care of the little things, the big things will take care of themselves, plain and simple. That's practice, fundamentals, and techniques, and everything else will take care of itself."
On setting goals for Stafford for the upcoming season: "I think one of the things that we try to do is look at it by position. We sit down after our preseason is over with and we make some declarations like that. But obviously we want to keep improving our completion percentage. That's one of the things that's important as a team that we get better in those areas. We want to get better in all areas at every position, not just his position. I think his position gets a lot of attention because he's behind center, but I think that if he continues to do the things he's been doing, that you're going to see a lot of improvement. He did a great job of taking care of the ball, which we need him to do again this year. And I think you'll see him certainly do better in a number of different categories."
On the stretches of stagnant offense during last season: "I think it's not always just one simple thing, it's a team game. We have to play complementary football and we want to be better in all areas. We want to stop people from running the ball even better than we did last year, we want to be better at getting more interceptions than we had last year, get more turnovers than we had last year. We want to be a better offensive team in terms of running the ball, we want to be a better offensive team in terms of scoring as well. All across the board, we want to be better. We don't necessarily just look at a particular game. When you look at our entire season, we have a lot to work on and a lot to get better at, and we have a short period of time to do it."
On S James Ihedigbo's contract negotiation: "I think that ended in the spring. He was there, and worked out the rest of the spring. He didn't have to be there, but didn't violate any rules in that regard, so I think that tells you a lot about his attitude. He's here today, he's ready to go to work and it's kind of the nature of the business."
On the expectations for Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi from last year to this year: "I think both guys, and Joe (Marciano) in special teams all do a great job. They've been working at it and trying to improve as well. We look at ourselves, also. We're obviously most interested in wins and losses, first and foremost, but nevertheless each guy is responsible for his own position whether it's a position coach or a coordinator, he's always trying to find a way to improve, and I think both guys will find a way to do that."
On the late start to training camp: "We have a process that we go through in terms of how we go about it, and it doesn't just start here in the preseason, it's during the spring. We take a look at the calendar, we try to look at what we'd like to get done and we set a date for when we come in. I think there were a couple other teams that came in yesterday with their veterans, and teams are different in how they go about things. We have our reasons, and it's not just something that popped up in the air. We've been doing it for years and years and we believe in it. We think that we get great participation in the spring, it reduces the amount of time that we have to have in the preseason, but it also puts us under the gun a little bit because it's not going to be long before we have our first preseason game. So I think it also adds a little sense of urgency."
On DE Jason Jones and other players' injury statuses: "Larry Webster is a guy that certainly is doing well. Ziggy (Ansah) is going to be Ziggy, he's going to play and is getting better all the time. He's a big physical guy that can do it. But we have a lot of young guys that really need to come along for us, and Webster is one of those guys. And on the inside, Caraun Reid physically has been working extremely hard, and we hope all that stuff translates."
On the concern that Jones may miss the beginning of the season: "I'm concerned about anyone that's not practicing tomorrow, so there will be some of those guys. But we'll see. The doctors are looking at them and working with them closely. The rehab is going extremely well, so we'll see what happens."
On if he plans to use RB Joique Bell in the preseason: "Preseason is extremely important all across the board, and preseason is getting us ready for our first game of the year, which is also important. Their jobs are on the line in the preseason, so it's really important to us. He needs some work, but he also needs to be certain he's in the best possible physical condition he can be in, and that's up to the doctors. He's working, he's moving along well, he's making great progress, but we'll see where he is."
On the season win projections for 2015: "Don't know, don't care to be honest with you. I think there might've been some similar predictions last year, but that's not my concern. My concern is to get this team ready to win football games, and what people say about us and believe is up to them. You guys have to have something to write, and we have work to do. So that's where we're focusing in on."
On plans to make the playoffs again this season: "I'll answer that the same way. We expect to be, we must be a better team than we were last year. I came in last year saying it's right now, and right now it's business, and we haven't changed in that regard. We've got to be better than we were last year, period."
On the players earning his trust: "The assumption that players came in last because we trust them is just not the case. It's systematic, and there's a reason why we do it. I do trust them, but I don't trust every guy. There's some guys I haven't worked with through the years, I haven't been in tough games, tight games, or end of games where we're behind and see how they're going to function and react, so there's a lot left to be learned, and I don't trust every single guy. He's got to earn that."
On the benefits of having training camp at home: "I've done it both ways. When we were at Tampa we went away, even though it was University of Tampa right down the road. In Indy (Indianapolis) we went to two different places, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and Anderson University. In Baltimore, we stayed at home and worked there, and here we're at home. There's pluses and minuses to everything. Home you have everything in place and in order. Your ability to teach is enhanced. You don't have to worry about carrying all your stuff to another location, making certain everything works from a computer standpoint. There's a pretty good comfort level with that. But, then on the other side obviously, you look at the advantages to going away also, a little change in scenery. So, we try to get a little bit of both. That's why we go away to practice. That's why we practice at Novi (High School). That's why we'll practice at Dearborn (Edsel Ford High School). Not only to give fans in those areas an opportunity to see us work, but it's also for us, to get us out of the environment. Make them change their pace a little bit because that's what you have to do when you travel. You have to make certain that they're a little bit more comfortable. A little different feel and see if they can perform in those circumstances. So, there's a bit of a rhyme and reason to everything that we do. But, there's pluses and minuses to home and going away as well."
On how much emphasis will be placed on the running game to achieve the team balance he is seeking: "Improvement in a number of different areas. You have to be able to identify where you want to improve and then from that you have to set a course of action. For us, it didn't just begin today in this preseason, it started last spring. Where we're trying to make certain in the areas of which we're weak that we get stronger, that's important to us and that's one of the areas that we certainly need to improve upon. Our guys have certainly I think felt that, are getting a taste of it. But once again, it's a bit difficult to get it right, to get a good feel for it or to get the emphasis you want without pads on. The running game is a what would I say? A trenches game. It's the dirty work and it's tough to get that work done without pads on. So, the bulk of it's going to come here, obviously in our preseason. Not how much you can do in terms of the banging around and those kinds of things, but also be able to maintain the standard of health that you're looking for. We have to make certain that we do that with a good sense of understanding. "
On how difficult it will be to improve the running game with a reworked offensive line: "It's not a reworking. It's a ‘getting better.' That's what we need to do. I think with the new guys that we have that are going to be in there, that have an opportunity to play and that are vying for an opportunity to play, I think you're going to see a better unit. I can sense that. Now, the fact of the matter is, we've got to be able to see it on the tangible proof game after game and that's what we're working for. "
On what emotions are going through his head during this time: "I'm probably about as excited as I could be this time of year because it's an unusual feeling. When I'm standing up in front of these guys here this afternoon at three o'clock, you can hear the buzz in the air. The excitement. The camaraderie. Just the opportunity that we have, I'm fortunate and blessed to get a chance to coach once again. To lead a team once again. I'm excited about that. I'm excited about the challenges. When you look at it I think a lot of people are probably looking at us and maybe one of the questions that he asked, they're looking at the schedule and saying ‘Awe man, this is a daunting schedule.' But, the fact of the matter is, it's a schedule that you get when you win games and you've got to get accustomed to it. You've got to get accustomed to different time zones and the different times that you play other than one o'clock in the afternoon because a few more people may want to see you play. All of those things are the things that excite about what we're doing. We've got a great challenge ahead of us, but I think we have a team that's capable. I think we have a team that's hungry and I think we have a team that still has a lot to prove and that's what this season's all about. Yeah, I'm excited about that. I can't wait and I think even more so when you look at the timeframe that we're in right now, we've gotten good work in every segment we've been through. During the spring we've gotten good work, good focus. Through our OTAs. Through our minicamps and even the first portion we've had in the last three days have been excellent. The guys have worked. We've gotten better, you can see it. We've got our young guys that will be in a position to come in a compete, and so to get them all together and see this whole thing come together after working all through the offseason, it's a lot of fun.
(Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach) Andy Reid, when I was at Indy the first year and we had our first preseason game, it was early. I think it was my first year, maybe my second, one of the two, but nevertheless he comes across the field and we're talking to one another on the field and he looks at me and he says, ‘Hey, how do you feel about being a head coach in the National Football League? And I said, ‘I feel pretty good.' Then he looked at me and he says, ‘You know, these are pretty good gigs aren't they?' The fact of the matter is he's absolutely right. This is a great opportunity. Not many people get the opportunity to do what we do and we love it. Even more importantly, we want to take advantage of it. We want to build a team that's going to represent the city, going to represent this organization and going to represent the Ford Family in the way that we should represent them on and off the field. That's what is exciting about it, the opportunity that we have."
On what changes in his approach have shifted going from year one to year two: "Nothing, in that regard. There's emphasis. In terms of changing approach, I'm not going to change, I'm the same guy, I'm authentic. For me to try to be someone other than myself certainly would be an awful mistake. I'm not a very good imitator, but we still got a lot of work to do. "