It’s been almost a month since Detroit Lions defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant was caught on tape in a heated conversation with cornerback Jeff Okudah during Detroit’s Week 1 contest against the San Francisco 49ers. On Friday, Pleasant got his first opportunity to tell his side of the story, and what he’s learned from the interaction.
“I learned you don’t want to be clickbait,” Pleasant opened, trying to break the tension with a joke. But he quickly transitioned to a serious answer.
“Perception is reality, times. I also learned I communicate very well and sometimes I don’t have to do it in that nature, to say the least. I think it was timed perfectly. If it would have happened all over again, I don’t think anything would change, but I would say, as an adult and as a man, I’ve learned that moving forward.”
Pleasant drew criticism from some current and former NFL players who believed his behavior at that moment was way over the top and unnecessary to a young player. However, internally, Lions players were quick to jump to his defense.
“I’m going to make it real clear. Everyone has particular relationships with coach Pleasant,” third-year cornerback Amani Oruwariye said. “He’s come here and really challenged everyone, because he sees the potential in everyone, and he really just wants to light that (fire) under every single guy. And he has different relationships, different ways of going about that, with everyone. But at the end of the day, it’s just two guys wanting to be great, you know what I mean? We have great relationships with coach Pleasant.”
The frustration stemmed from a first-half play in which Pleasant believed Okudah could have had an interception with more aggressive play. He was also quick to mention that when Okudah made another mistake later in the game, he embraced the young corner—a moment that was also caught by the television broadcast.
“I was frustrated because on that play, he had a chance to make an interception and he didn’t push,” Pleasant said. “We had been talking about it for a while, so it got kinda fisticuffs, got kinda going. Then, later on, there was a more defeating play and I embraced him with a lot of love. I know, for the outside eyes, sometimes that’s tough to understand, but that’s the nature of this game. You have high stakes and high rewards.”
And while Okudah has since gone on injured reserve after suffering a season-ending Achilles injury, Pleasant has kept his relationship with the 2020 third overall pick close.
“He’s still here. He’s been in the meetings. When he left to have his surgery, I talked to him that night,” Pleasant said. “He left to be with his family, and I talked to him that day. I hope that you guys understand that what I’m perceived to be is what I really am. There’s nothing that’s fraud or fake about it. The reason I am able to coach that hard is because of the relationships that I have.”
Ultimately, Pleasant expressed that the whole process has been a learning one for him, though he never explicitly explained what he exactly learned. There appears to be some admission of fault, but it doesn’t sound like he plans on changing his methods anytime soon—maybe just evolving them a bit.
“I think that you always want to genuinely be yourself, while always still try continuing to grow and get better and learn. I learned from that experience. I learned. I don’t think that I necessarily did anything wrong. I don’t think I’d necessarily do anything differently. I just know that moving forward, there are better ways to handle it, even if that’s what that kid needs at that point in time.”