Head Coach Robert Saleh, 12.14

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Opening Statement:

Good morning, everybody. Real quick with injuries, JFM (John Franklin-Myers) is dealing with the flu bug, so he won’t be at practice today. Quinnen (Williams) won’t practice today. Brandin Echols won’t practice today. Corey Davis is still in the concussion protocol. He won’t practice, but he’s making all the progress that he’s supposed to be making, so he’s on target. Mike White will be limited with his rib. George (Fant) and Duane (Brown) will be on their programs that they normally are on for Wednesdays, so they’ll be limited, and Micheal Clemons will be limited.


Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: Have you made a decision on who’s going to be the number two quarterback?

We’re moving up Zach (Wilson) to the number two spot and we’ll make Joe (Flacco) the third.


Brian Costello, New York Post: (follow up) Why?

Zach’s been doing a great job. He’s been deliberate in his approach over the last three weeks. He’s been holding himself accountable in regards to how he wants to attack practice, how he’s been performing in practice, going against our defense, which I think is a pretty good defense to go against, and working on all the different things that we’ve been asking him to accomplish.


Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Are you still confident that Mike will play this week?

We’re still working as if he’s playing this week.


Ryan Dunleavy, New York Post: How much of that decision was forced by Mike’s injury, like the timing of it was necessitated by Mike’s injury and uncertainty?

It’s a coincidence, more than anything.


Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: One of the reasons you talked about when you guys were making him inactive was that you wanted him to reset and refocus on getting his footwork right, stuff like that. Has he made strides in that area?

Yeah, give him a lot of credit, (Rob) Calabrese, and everybody just working relentlessly just to get back to standing in the pocket, delivering a football, getting our feet underneath us in the direction we want to throw, and getting our eyes to the target. He’s been good. It’s obviously not over, continue working, and just understand you’re next man up. So, the mental part of the preparation, along with continuing to tie in his feet and footwork are all together.


Al Iannazzone, Newsday: You’ve said the intent — do you see him getting on the field again, or does Mike have to get hurt this time?

Yeah, I’m still in that same mindset with regards to Zach. He’s a very talented young man, very talented young man. We’re in the business of developing guys, so obviously, I’ve said it before, this is Mike White’s opportunity, and he’s attacking the heck out of the opportunity and doing a great job with it, but at the same time, we still have to make sure we’re doing everything we can to develop Zach to a spot we know he’s capable of getting to. It’s not just the quarterback position, it’s every position. Whether you’re a practice squad player, third on the depth chart, or a starter, it doesn’t matter. The challenge for us as coaches and every position coach is to relentlessly attack the development of all our guys.


Andy Vasquez, NJ.com: As you make that decision on a week-to-week basis, how do you balance that development and what is best for this team over these final four games?

Team first, always team first. The guys who put us in the best position to win will be on the field. I think we’ve been pretty consistent with that. Same thing, and if we feel like a coach isn’t getting the job done, I’m going to challenge the coaches to do better. It’s all the same. We’re always looking team-first.


Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: What, if any, hurdles does Mike have to clear before you can say with 100 percent conviction that he’s starting, or are you at 100 percent? 

Like I said, with all the information, and again, those are probably more doctor questions, he’s limited, he’ll get his work in, and he feels good.


Brian Costello, New York Post: What is limited, Robert? That mean he misses a little bit of practice? That could mean he misses a lot of practice? Will he be out there for the team period today?

For the team periods. You guys won’t see him. Very similar to what we’ve done with other guys, he’s getting some work done when we’re stretching and doing individual, and then he’s going to come out for all the team periods.


Brian Costello, New York Post: Where are you at with Quinnen (Williams)?

We’re still in the same spot in terms of 50/50.


Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: With the Lions putting up a lot of points, what makes them so effective?

Their o-line is arguably, I mean you could go them, Philadelphia, just a really, really talented offensive line. They play with an edge, their skill guys obviously are pretty good too, but Jared Goff, he was the number one pick in the Draft. He’s led a team to a Super Bowl, and when he’s back there and he’s comfortable, he’s as good as anybody in this game, and he’s playing at a very high level. He’s taking care of the football, I think he’s got seven interceptions on the year. He delivers, I mean he’s very accurate, very accurate with the football, quick decision maker, and he is very comfortable back there and he’s playing very, very well.


Al Iannazzone, Newsday: You’ve played him a lot in the past, for different teams, different cast of characters for him. Do you see any difference in him, is he playing better than maybe what you saw?

Yeah, he’s playing with tremendous confidence. I mean I think he’s only been sacked 19 times, so it’s especially a guy like him, if you let it be seven-on-seven, he’s going to kill you. Credit to their o-line, they’re making it seven-on-seven, and he’s doing a great job delivering the football.


Antwan Staley, New York Daily News: How important is it to get off to an early start, especially with a team with an offense as potent as this?

We got to focus on us. It’s always important to get off to an early start, always, you always want to jump out early, all that stuff, but games are never won just in the first quarter, they’re never won in just the fourth quarter either. It’s just putting together four quarters of work, however it’s got to come, but yeah, starting fast, finishing faster, always, but it’s just take one play at a time, and understand that they are good enough, they’re going to get their shots in, but you just got to keep going toe-to-toe and keep fighting.


Antwan Staley, New York Daily News: What do you think has been contributing to some of the slow starts recently?

In what regard?

Antwan Staley, New York Daily News: (follow up) Offensively.

Offensively, I don’t know. I know we’ve been playing some good defenses, obviously. We had last week, just speaking on last week, Buffalo obviously a really good, talented defense. The week before with Minnesota, again probably came out to a slow start, but I felt good about Chicago. We started out pretty good in Chicago, first drive touchdown, so we’ve played two teams that are one and two, respectively, in their conferences, and they have something to say about it too. Again, it’s just one play at a time, and it doesn’t matter whether you start fast, finish fast, whatever it is, you just got to find your groove and strike when the iron is hot.


Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, the turnaround of the defense has been drastic numbers wise. What do you think is the key to that? Is it simply just you got some better players this year, or is it more to it than that?

Combination of both. Always, always players first. Mention a great coach, I’ll tell you who all his players were. It’s just I love our locker room. I think Joe D (Douglas) and his staff have done an unbelievable job putting the great character guys in that locker room and they’re sublte. The Jordan Whiteheads, Quincy Williams coming in from Jacksonville, just a bunch of guys who have done a really, really nice job. The corners D.J. Reed, drafting Ahmad (Gardner), and then obviously the d-line and how relentless they’ve been playing, C.J. Mosley looks like he’s 24, so I mean I can give praise to all of them, Lamarcus Joyner coming back, Michael Carter II, just we’re getting a lot of contributions. Kwon Alexander has been an energizer bunny for the group. So, it’s just collectively a really, really good group of men, and then you just add in the fact we’re in the second year of the system, (Jeff) Ulbrich and the staff, Rudy (Mike Rutenberg), Marquand (Manuel), and TO (Tony Oden), and Aaron (Whitecotton), they’re doing awesome with regards to messaging, being very clear, the communications been on point, we’ve been able to find that balance with regards to being complex for an offense, but simple for us, so we can be fast. So, it’s been a collection, and then finally they play their absolute tails off, and that’s why I get up here and I talk about being proud of this team. You just look at the way these guys play and how hard they play, and how many injuries that these guys have that they’re fighting through, so that they can get on the field and fight for one another. It’s a special group.


Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: Robert, there’s going to be a lot of score board watching obviously these next four weeks. How do you keep that from creeping into the locker room? 

Everyone handles it different. I have my way and I would hope our team sees it the same that you don’t have to worry about the score board if you take care of your own, because at the end of the day we still technically control our own destiny, and we have to take it one day at a time, one game at a time, and this one is a big one because they’re fighting for a playoff spot, Jacksonville’s fighting for a playoff spot, Seattle’s fighting for a playoff spot, Miami’s fighting for a playoff spot, so every game from here on out is a playoff type game, it’s going to have playoff ramifications, and we’re going to get everyone’s absolute best shot because they’re fighting for their lives too, and that’s why we strive for December football. This is the fun stuff, but at the same time, don’t count on somebody else to do your job, take care of your business, do your job one day at a time, and everything else will take care of itself.


Ryan Dunleavy, New York Post: Robert, did you do a lot of work on Adian Hutchinson in the Draft or were you pretty certain he’d be gone by four? And how’s he playing relative to what you expected from him?

Yeah, we did a lot of work on him. He’s exactly what we thought he’d be. High effort, relentless, he’s got tremendous skill set to him, he’s doing a really nice job. To have this kind of production as a rookie and he still has four games left, would not be surprised to see him get to double digits, and we felt like he was a double digit, he’d be a perennial, double digit sack guy. I don’t know if you ever expect that out of a rookie, but he’s been fantastic.


Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: Were a Lions fan growing up? And what was the experience like in the interview with them a couple years ago? Everyone thought that was a natural because of your hometown ties. What was that like?

Yeah, Barry Sanders, all of that stuff, for sure. Still have all my high school buddies, they’re all still Lions fans, everybody is, but no, it was a pleasure I was just thankful for the organization to even have a conversation with me, and Shelia (Ford) and everybody, and Rod Wood, and (Chris) Spielman, they were all phenomenal to speak to, and thankful for that conversation, but really happy that I’m here.


Dennis Waszak, Associated Press: Was (Barry) Sanders your guy?

Oh yeah, whose guy wasn’t he? Best of all-time, running back.