Jim Caldwell Comments on Trip to London and Atlanta Falcons


Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell spoke to the media today, touching on the subjects of their trip to London and preparing for the Atlanta Falcons. Here is what he had to say, as provided by the Detroit Lions.

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  • Opening Statement: “Let me begin by saying it’s certainly a real pleasure to have an opportunity to visit this great country and our welcome has been absolutely outstanding. I know the players, even though the coaches did have the opportunity to go the Play 60 event, were welcomed there with open arms and the reception that they received was absolutely outstanding. The facilities here are great. It would be a nice place to hold training camp. I figured there would be a few folks in the media voting for it. But yeah, it’s a great place, the facilities are outstanding, the service is great. It gives our guys a chance to bond a bit more. We’re all here together. The location where the practice fields are just absolutely impeccable. We certainly appreciate England’s rugby club to give us an opportunity to use the facilities. The field is fantastic, the weight room is outstanding, just the whole operation has been absolutely splendid to this point. So, we’ve enjoyed it and the guys have been able to focus and that’s the thing that I think that you find often times you get concerned about as a coach, but they’ve been able to focus and we’re off to a good start for a Wednesday.”

    On how important it is to have some of the players’ recreation items in London with them: “I think to have an opportunity to do most of what they like right here at the facility, there’s not much reason to look elsewhere at this point in time, particularly early in our preparation, which I think makes it nice. Last night, I walked through the lounge and I saw a large number of them doing what they love to do, playing FIFA and then also ping pong and some guys were shooting pool and things of that nature, and watching a little television. But it gives them a chance to, I think, enjoy one another. It gives them an opportunity to keep those competitive fires going because there’s always a huge argument in terms of who’s the best at whatever there is. You give these guys any opportunity to compete and they love to do so, but I think it’s all certainly been helpful.”

    On if he had been approached by a team in London, would he have considered it: “Obviously, if a guy gets an opportunity to coach a National Football League team anywhere, you’re going to be hard pressed to find somebody to say no. So, that’s number one. Yes, certainly I would be interested and I think anybody else that was in my position as a position coach would certainly be interested as well. This is a kind of a cultural hub here. There’s a huge airport and there’s probably a little bit of everything to do in London. Forty-three universities, so I know it’s a great educational center as well. There are so many fantastic things to see. It’d be a great area also to try to get free agents that were looking for a place to go and I think this would interest them. So, yeah without question.”

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  • On how the team is going about the nuts and bolts preparations of getting ready for the Falcons: “One of the things that I think was extremely important for us is the fact that we had to prepare prior to coming because often times you lose a bit of a day with the travel. Overnight and then by the time you get settled and everything, you lose probably about six to seven hours that you normally would’ve spent in preparation for this team. So we tried to, in advance of this trip, make up for that time a little bit. When you arrive, obviously you’re getting your computer equipment set up and we do have it pretty much almost exactly the same as we would at home from a technical operation. You always have a few glitches here and there, but for the most part, it’s in place. We have to work through a few bugs and I think we’ve gotten those worked out. But the difference is, anytime you relocate it’s a bit of a challenge, right? Logistically, but if you can adapt and adjust, you’ll be better for it and our guys adjust very well.”

    On what the team did ahead of time and who took the lead on it: “It’s one of those things we talked about a while back, how we’re going to go about it. So, we gave them an option, offense and defense an option, they either could use one of their Fridays and Saturdays. Typically, they have Friday afternoon off, but the defense for example chose to take two Friday afternoons and work on the Atlanta game plan and kind of put that together. The coaches, certainly not the players. As a matter of fact, we wouldn’t even let them talk about it until after the game on Sunday, but we had to get those things in place. Offensively, the guys kind of worked ahead on their own a little bit, worked late at night to try to get a good, solid foundation in place. It does take quite a bit of preparation and time and you hope it doesn’t take away from the preparation of the present team that you were playing. I don’t think it hurt us a bit in that regard.”

    On if he believes the way things are for the team are right now validates his decision to leave early: “One of the things that we did was we did an exhaustive research, just in terms of teams that did actually come out on Thursday and have their first practice on Friday and teams that came early. And then also we looked at the science behind it. We’ve talked to sleep specialists, we’ve talked to folks that are in the military, a number of different things that we went through. We looked at how teams fared coming late or early, across the board, the whole gambit. We looked at what happened to them the week before they left, just in terms of their concentration and focus. I think you understand it about our business that you have a bunch of type-A personalities that try not to leave any stone unturned. So, we use all of our waking hours sometimes unnecessarily, to try to cover every single aspect. Everything that could possibly happen and we look at all of the factors involved and then we make a decision based upon that and try to put ourselves in the best position to win. This is a very important game for us. It is not just like when we went to Japan back in 2005 or 2006 and traveled over there, 13 hour flight. That difference there was, that was a preseason game that didn’t count. This is different. So, you better be about your business and get everything lined up and in place and make certain that you have a really good plan to give your team an opportunity to be in the best position to win.”

    On if he plans on getting the Falcons’ best punch on Sunday: “Oh, I don’t think there’s any question about that. First of all, that’s a very well coached team. It’s a team that’s very strong in terms of its fundamentals and they have talent. One of the better quarterbacks in our league and these guys have weapons all over the place. (Devin) Hester keeps you up late at night, as a matter of fact, he’ll make you wake up in the middle of the night sometimes. But nevertheless, they have a lot of guys on that team that will give you some problems, so we anticipate and expect it. Anytime in this league that you get guys that are competitive and that are as talented as the guys are on their team, you better be ready for their absolute best.”

    On what stands out about Falcons QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones: “Matt has everything that you look for in a quarterback, all of the intangibles. He’s got height, he’s got leverage and he’s got speed. He can run, not just run and get outside of the pocket and throw the ball, but he also can hurt you with his feet. He makes really good decisions as well and he can make all of the throws, short, long, you name it. A very experienced quarterback who knows what he sees and he understands what you’re giving him. If you tip him off too early, he’s going to be able to hurt you. So, he’s a real challenge. Julio Jones is the recipient of a lot of those passes and those decisions. A very good route runner that has a good sense in terms of special awareness. He understands man and zone concepts extremely well and he can do it all. You put Roddy White and his experience with him, they pack a pretty potent punch.”

    On if the travel information was distributed to players through a presentation or written materials: “A little bit of both. Everything that we talk about, it’s on their iPads, so they have the information right there readily available to them. And then we also had a sleep specialist that came in and talked to them about what they should do, what they should do on the trip, what these first three days are like, things of that nature to try to make certain that you’re in the best possible shape you can be in, from a rest standpoint.”

    On why the team consulted with the military before the trip: “Because they travel quite a bit. They travel probably as much as anyone and not only that, peak performance in a hurry is extremely important to them. They specialize in getting all around the country in a short period of time, but being ready to go once they set their feet on the ground, so it’s always good to check with them. The circadian rhythms they’ve done are exhaustive, in terms of the experiments and studies on those particular areas.”

    On if the team had any conversations about Ebola before the trip: “It’s not an odd question, but it was not necessarily just in terms of us because we were traveling on a private charter. We know who is on it and those kinds of things, so some of those things are not as much of an issue. Obviously, it’s a national issue right now, so it’s not something that you just kind of turn your back on. All of our medical personnel are certainly keenly aware of it in that regard.”

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    On how pleased he is with playing an away game against the Falcons on a neutral site: “The thing about our league is that you can play anywhere anytime against any opponent and you’re going to get the same thing, a highly-contested, very difficult challenge. It gives you no more reason to feel confident that we’re playing them here as opposed to there in Atlanta because the same thing could happen here that happens in Atlanta, or wherever else it is. That’s because there’s so much parity in our league. Everybody is so evenly matched that no matter where it is, they usually are going to be a very close battle and it’s going to be difficult to get a win. You have to be at your absolute best in order to be able to make that happen.”

    On how working with QB Matthew Stafford has been thus far: “He’s quite a guy. I’ve certainly learned a lot more about him. I certainly knew him from a football perspective and watching him perform and performing against him, things of that nature. So, I had a real great appreciation for his physical talents. I did not know him as a man, did not know what his character was like, did not know about his integrity, and in all of those areas, I think he’s a cut above. He has great passion for the game. He’s extremely smart and I think he’s right on the cusp of just getting better and better. He’s obviously had some very fine games up to this point and I think you’ll see more down the road as well.”

    On if he expects TE Joseph Fauria and TE Eric Ebron to practice this week: “The practice would be day to day with these guys, and both of them are rapidly improving. I have to sort of wait and see what happens and what the doctors say where they are before we can utilize them. So, at this point in time it’s kind of a day to day thing and we’ll see how it goes.”

    On if having mutual respect between coaches and players is having an effect on the momentum of the team this season: “I’m not really sure about that. I think really it is more about them than me. I simply treat them as men, hold them accountable for what they do and try to take care of them. I know at one point in time I was reading an old military magazines or one of the military manuals that (George) Patton had put together and in it, one of the things he said was, ‘Take care of your men.’ And that stuck out to me. Even as a young coach, I was probably in my 20’s at that time and I wrote it down and I felt that was something that was extremely important because I could sense it and see why it was important in the profession in the profession of which I was in. And I’ve always felt that to be the case, that you have to try to really try to give them the best opportunity to be the absolute best they can. So, it’s our duty to have empathy along with expertise and I think that’s really what coaching is all about. And I think that’s probably what they’re responding to, but it’s really more about them than me.”

    On how good tackling and big hits from the secondary can impact his defense: “It’s the speed in which they hit with it. They typically close from a distance and often times with guys with the kind of pop and powers that our two safeties have, we have four safeties actually that can do it, often times they can make impact plays for you. The other part of that is they have to be involved because they help you stop the running game as well. When that ball bounces outside of an end who’s trying to set the edge, is typically your strong safety so those are the guys that are paid to tackle. Corners necessarily, some of them don’t sense that they’re paid to tackle but our guys will which is a good thing. Some of those guys will tell you, ‘Coach that’s really not the thing I do, I cover people.’ But our guys all hit you, tackle and run. It makes a big difference I think when you can get guys that can collide with that kind of speed. The other thing is they’re involved in your blitz units. When you get a guy that can cover and he can rush the passer, that’s a unique combination and I think both of our guys do. You can see Digs (Ihedigbo) had an effect on our team in terms of getting a couple sacks already. But nevertheless, he does a very good job for us.”

    On DT Ndamukong Suh and DT Nick Fairley’s play: “I would say the number one thing is both guys are extremely, extremely talented. It is very rare to find two men of their stature, physically, that can run the way they run, that can adjust the way they adjust in terms of athleticism, that are disruptive, have the type of temperament that you’re looking for at that position and the type of passion. Those are two of the best that you’ll see. When those guys are rolling they’re very, very difficult to handle. Nick loves to play, Suh loves to play and both guys in their chosen field, have set themselves apart from the group. To have two guys, typically you have one, to have two of them that are often in there side by side, you can see why the numbers and particular on inside running against us, which is kind of the heart of your defense and if teams can run right down the middle on you they can soften you up fairly quickly. With those two guys in the middle, it makes it very difficult to do so.”