Don't consider patience a virtue in the Detroit Lions locker room.
During his opening comments via Friday's training camp media briefing, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz kicked off the unofficial start of football campaign with a precedent: the 2009 season begins now.
"They get paid well enough and they're paid to keep themselves in shape," commented Schwartz, who enters his first season as an NFL head coach. "Training camp is not the time for getting in shape. They need to be in the best shape; they're going to be in the best shape of the year at the very first practice of the year. They need to hit the ground running.
"When you watch our practices the first couple of days, we are not going to ease in and just run a couple base things. We're are going to be in no-back, we are going to be in third down situations, we're going to be in two minute and red zone - all in the first two days. Installation was over in June. Schemes have been installed and guys know what to do. I said before our patience is going to be a little bit less when it comes to guys.
"It's not going to be an easing-in process to training camp."
|Lions head coach Jim Schwartz discussed his team, expectations, and the quarterback battle on the eve of training camp. (AP Photo)|
Schwartz and his coaching staff have been working since January to field a competitive team. They have reached the limit of 80 players under contract, and have trimmed, added, and formulated a cast that hardly resembles the group from a year ago. Between the draft and free-agency, the Lions have acquired over 30 new faces, dispatching over 25 others.
That includes marked changes at quarterback, wide receiver, cornerback, and linebacker.
With the trade of incumbent starter Jon Kitna, Schwartz will hold an open competition between veteran Daunte Culpepper, rookie Matthew Stafford, and third-year player Drew Stanton to determine the starting signal caller role. Culpepper and Stafford have assumed control of the position battle, and Schwartz said regardless of who starts the exhibition season beginning August 15, camp repetitions will be divided equally.
And the job will be handed to the individual most deserving.
"I'm interested to see the chart that we get downstairs of who started each drill and things like that," said Schwartz. "The reps are going to be split as evenly as we can. We're going to let them compete; we're going to put them in difficult situations. Some drills might be designed to put them in some really tough situations and we'll see who can play. It's hard to simulate an NFL game, even in a preseason game, it's hard to simulate."
The team will hold its first official meeting and practice on Saturday morning.
Schwartz admitted that he's anxious to get started.
"I am ready to go," he said. "But that is really no different than when I was a quality control coach or a defensive coordinator or whenever. Everybody is excited this time of the year, high school coaches, and college coaches. We do this not because of the money; we do this because this is what we love to do. This is an avocation; we love to do this and that is why we do it."
- After a forgetful year in 2008, the Lions will employ a one-day-at-a-time method, rather than determine a set amount of wins to achieve success.
"I'm not that coach that will put up and say those things," said Schwartz. "Even at the beginning of the season our goals are going to be weekly (and) our job is to win a game on Sunday. It's not to look three weeks ahead or to look to the bye week or where we are going to be at the mid-way point.
" ... I really haven't made any goals that way yet, and I mean for me to sit here and say, 'Hey what's going to happen at the end of the season and what would we consider success?'It puts artificial constraint on it ... our goals aren't , 'Hey let's have a good training camp,' our goals aren't, 'Let's have a good season,' our goals are, 'Hey let's have a good practice tomorrow, let's do better tomorrow than we did today. Let's keep piling that up.'
"I think where we are as a team and everything else; our goals are a lot more short term."
- When Detroit kicks off its exhibition season August 15 (Atlanta), Schwartz said the preseason contests would be used more for player evaluation than anything else. The Lions went undefeated during last season's exhibition schedule, and promptly lost every regular season game.
"I've been in preseason games in my past career where I played nothing but man coverage in the second half of the game because I had corners that I had to make a decision on ..." said Schwartz. "The last thing you wanted to happen was to come out of a preseason game and say, 'How did he play?'"
- Schwartz was able to meet with Tigers' coach Jim Leyland recently, saying, "To hear advice from a guy like Jim Leyland and his perspective on things, not only in this city but in the business, you take everything. It's not just professional sports; there are a lot of other opportunities to learn."