Daily Lions Update Along With Transcripts of Lions Head Coach Rod Marinelli, Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith, and Falcons Rookie QB Matt Ryan

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TODAY'S NEWS

  • The Lions had a full-squad practice this morning in shells (shoulder pads and helmets) on the outdoor field at the team's headquarters and practice facility in Allen Park.
  • The following players have been listed on the Detroit Lion's Injury Report: TE Dan Campbell (hamstring) and QB Drew Stanton (right thumb) had limited participation in practice today.
  • The following players were listed on the Atlanta Falcons' Injury Report today: C Alex Stepanovich (back) and LB Coy Wire (ankle) did not participate in practice today. S Thomas DeCoud (ankle) had limited participation in practice today.
  • The Lions held their first weekly conference call of the regular season today with Atlanta Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith and QB Matt Ryan. A full transcript is included below.
  • Lions Security Director Ricky Sandoval will be featured during the WWJTV presentation "Stand Up To Cancer" on Friday, September 5 at 8 p.m. Sandoval was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer 27 months ago. Both he and Lions Head Coach Rod Marinelli were interviewed for the show. "Stand Up To Cancer" is a multi-network collaboration that will simultaneously televise a live, hour-long, commercial-free fundraising event to rally viewers to help end cancer's reign as the leading cause of death. WWJTV is the CBS affiliate in Metro Detroit.
  • The Detroit Lions travel to the Georgia Dome to open up the regular season against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, September 7 at 1 p.m. The Lions hope to begin their season with a win after being the only NFL team to go 4-0 during the preseason. This week's matchup marks the 33rd regular season meeting between the two teams, and the first since the Lions won 30-14 at Ford Field in 2006. The game will be televised on FOX Chawith Matt Vasgersian handling play-by-play, J.C. Pearson adding color commentary and Nischelle Turner reporting from the sidelines. The game will also be broadcast on the Lions Radio Network with announcer Dan Miller handling play-by-play, Jim Brandstatter adding color commentary and Tony Ortiz reporting from the sideline. 
  • There are still tickets remaining to the Lions 2008 regular season home opener against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, September 14 at Ford Field. Fans can purchase single-game tickets by a number of reasonable and flexible options, including single-game purchases, the $99 "Pepsi Pack", 2-game pack, 8-game pack and Group Tickets (20-or-more). Among the numerous options for fans is the new "Pepsi Pack". The Detroit Lions and Pepsi have partnered to offer the "Pepsi Pack" for the Lions 2008 home opener that will go for $99 and includes two upper-level tickets along with two soft drinks and two hot dogs. Fans can purchase tickets for Lions' regular season games in person at the Ford Field Ticket Office from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and at all TicketMaster outlets. Tickets can also be purchased over the phone at 248.645.6666 via TicketMaster or on the Internet at Detroitlions.com and ticketmaster.com

LIONS HEAD COACH ROD MARINELLI
On if any injured players have been cleared to play in Sunday's game:
"(Dan) Campbell practiced full the last two days. They say limited, but we just had hits every period in full pads and he was fine. Other than that, we're okay."

On if RB Rudi Johnson has any lingering effects from his hamstring injury: "Didn't seem like it. He kind of went out and had a good day."

On if Johnson is expected to play Sunday: "Yeah. We have No. 2, No. 3; we have to get up our No. 2 runner. So he was in here all day yesterday and we've kind of pushed it and had a good day today."

On how easy it has been for Johnson to learn what's going on: "That's hard to say. He's just coming out (and) working at it."

On if Johnson should know what's going on since he is going to play: "Well, if you have one runner, then the other one is ready, right?"

On how hard it will be to put pressure on Atlanta's young quarterback, Matt Ryan: "It is. I think they're going to do - who knows - screen, draw game and all those things. But we just have to keep coming, follow our rules (and) do exactly what we've been doing. But you have to be smart when we pressure, and tackling is critical with a team like this. They have fine backs and fine-skilled guys."

On Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith's guess that the Lions will run many blitzes to get to Ryan: "We're just going to do what we do; no change; same shorts, same shirts, same socks."

On how important it is to pressure Ryan in his first game as a starter: "Important."

On not wanting to allow Ryan to get comfortable in the pocket: "Oh no, and see, there's different ways. We've talked about this before. There's physical pressure, but there's a lot about mental pressure. When you think it's coming and it's not - disguise, pressure, four-strong here, there, making him make checks, and sometimes you bring four. And I love hitting them, don't get me wrong, but the mental pressure is just as great, with disguising, being on top of the details. What we do, how we disguise - that's why I keep saying it's about how we do things, how we align, our details, because there's two types of pressures: mental and physical."

On what he sees in WRs Shaun McDonald and Mike Furrey as the punt and kickoff returners: "Well, very sure-handed. They catch extremely well, which is important to me. First rule of winning: don't beat ourselves. And their quickness, they'll get up in the pipe. Especially the punt return, I think we're in good shape there. Kickoff is tough, and they (Atlanta) have a heck of a kickoff game, I'll tell you that right now, so we have to go dig them out and get north and south."

On if other players are being worked out to be returners: "Yeah, we've worked other guys. Dwight Smith has done it, and we just have guys back there that can do it."

On what Smith has done: "Kick return. He'd be good there."

On if Furrey would be McDonald's backup: "Mike Furrey and Mac, yeah."

On how excited he is to unleash the new offense this weekend: "I'm excited. We've worked very hard at it and now we just have to go out, and tomorrow's another day. We've got another day of work."

On how confident he is that the defense has significantly improved from last year: "All I can tell you is (what I've seen). Anything else is speculation, right? Okay. All I can (tell you) is what I've seen in camp and preseason and I like what I've seen so far."

On the additions to the secondary, CB Brian Kelly and others: "Brian and (Leigh) Bodden and bringing Fish (Travis Fisher) back and Dwight Smith. They have a great feel for it. And again, they've been in the system, are system guys; they understand it. And one thing they always have been and so far they've shown (is) they're very good tacklers and very good ball skills guys. Now they've got to go do it on Sunday."

On if S Daniel Bullocks still appears to be healthy: "Yeah, I think so. We just have to keep monitoring. That one is kind of like, all of a sudden you think you're in good shape and you could wake up the next morning sore. And he's doing a great job at it, and we've been smart with it."

On if Bullocks will be a game-time decision for Sunday's game: "Yeah, with kicking and special teams, it becomes big and all that."

On the possibility of RB Marcus Thomas making the lineup this week: "You've got that third back thing. We've got to see today and tomorrow because that's an impact guy on special teams. That's where it really hits you. We can get a cover guy and he's done some of that, been a cover guy. He's (got) some ability to return, but it's more of the coverage that I'm looking at right now. So we've got to see where we're at in terms of adding another back or another defensive player that can cover kicks."

On if he's looking for a fifth receiver or working on transforming one of his running backs into a receiver: "No, Casey (FitzSimmons) is a guy who can also go out and be a fifth receiver for us. Very good hands, understands all that in the four-wides. He's really like a fifth receiver; he's a jack of all trades."

On the acquisition of LB Ryan Nece and how his knowledge of the Tampa Two system helps the defense: "He can help us. Not just that, he's a very good special teams player. He's made a lot of money on special teams."

On if the system that Nece was running in Tampa will be similar to the one he will see with the Lions: "Not all of it, no. That's where we've got to get caught up. Some of the punt is the same, but it's the calls, the kicking game. So that's where we've got to get caught up a little bit."

On if he sees RB Rudi Johnson splitting time with RB Kevin Smith throughout the season, or if he sees Johnson's role expanding: "I'm just looking short term - tomorrow. I'm a short-term guy."

CONFERENCE CALL WITH FALCONS HEAD COACH MIKE SMITH
On his previous experiences coaching against Lions Head Coach Rod Marinelli:
"I've watched Rod's defensive lines play for a number of years and I've always been impressed. In fact, we always tried to show clips of his defensive when I was in Baltimore and Jacksonville. I tell you, this is how you're supposed to play. He's not only a great defensive line coach, I think he's got a great football mind. I've never had an opportunity to work with Rod, but I've played against him, and his teams are always well-prepared. They're going to be physical and run to the football.

On what impressed him the most about Coach Marinelli's defensive lines: "The thing that impressed me the most was their ability to play throughout the entire down. They were a team that would use a penetrating style, but they ran to the football extremely well. I think that, as a coach, you're judged by what's out there on your tape, and Coach Marinelli's done a great job as a defensive line coach and I've also been very impressed with this preseason, watching his football team. Congrats to them for going through the preseason 4-0, the only team in the NFL that was able to do that this year."

On the recent acquisition of CB Dominique Foxworth from Denver and if he thinks Foxworth will play on Sunday: "Well, Dominique just got into the building, really, this morning. He actually arrived last evening. Dominique is a guy that we acquired and there will be an opportunity for him to go through a crash course this week. As the week progresses, we'll have to make that determination if we feel like there's a certain package of defenses that we can get him involved with. We think he's a good addition to where our team is. We're in a different place than most teams in this league right now. We're always trying to upgrade our roster and we felt he was a way we could do that."

On preparing his secondary to face the Lions receivers: "Those are two really top receivers. Calvin (Johnson) and Roy (Williams) have a lot of not only stature in terms of size and speed, but they catch the ball extremely well. I've also been impressed with the two backups, (Mike) Furrey and Shaun McDonald, they're both fast guys. They don't have the size that those first two guys do, but they are extremely fast. We are definitely going to have a size disadvantage playing against those guys. I think most defenses when they face the Lions are going to have those same issues."

On if he thinks Coach Marinelli's tendency to not use a lot of blitzes might help QB Matt Ryan in his first NFL start: "I can't say I know historically (how much Coach Marinelli blitzes). I think the thing that Coach Marinelli has done is he's been very good at blitzing very timely. I think his teams just have a knack for doing that. Of course, the standard procedure is to make sure you give a young quarterback as many different looks as you can get, and I'm not sure how they're going to approach that this week. Our young quarterback, it's going to be his first start, and it'll be an exciting time for him personally and for us as an organization. But we've got to be prepared to see all kinds of things, not only this week, but all through the season. That's pretty much the standard mode of operation against a young quarterback."

On his decision to name rookie QB Matt Ryan his starter: "It was a decision in terms of our coaching staff that was by the body of work. We did our due diligence in the pre-draft work and felt like Matt not only had the skill set physically, but was a very cerebral quarterback and had played in a lot of big games there at Boston College. We stated that it was going to be an open competition. We felt like we had to do that, not only at the quarterback position, but at all of our positions and told our guys that we were going to play the best players. We owe it to the players that win the job and we owe it to the organization and football team to put players out there that we feel give us the best opportunity to succeed and have the outcome that we desire. Matt won the job. It was a very competitive situation with the quarterbacks, but we felt after the first two preseason games that we had approximately 3,000 snaps through our OTAs and minicamps and training camp to evaluate the quarterbacks. We felt like he had won the job and we named him the starter for the third game, and then for the season. I'm impressed with what Matt's done. Of course, it's going to be a steep learning curve. It's tough in this league to play as a rookie and especially as a quarterback."

On his decision to release QB Joey Harrington: "Joey competed extremely well and it was a difficult decision. We spent many hours as a staff and as an organization talking about how we wanted to go and finish this quarterback competition out. We felt like Matt won the job and Chris (Redman) was our second quarterback. Philosophically, we feel like that third quarterback is a developmental quarterback. We felt that D.J. Shockley is a young quarterback that has some developmental upside and that's why we chose to go in the direction we went and chose these three quarterbacks."

On how excited he thinks newly acquired RB Michael Turner is to be a starter: "I think Michael is real excited. He's been very impressive here in preseason. I thought he had a great game against Indianapolis where he had a 100-yard rushing game. Michael is short but he's not small, and he's been an effective running back as a backup to probably one of the top running backs over the last five years in this league. So he's excited about the opportunity to get more touches. We're excited in terms of being able to get him the ball, and then we also really are excited about the other back that we have as well in Jerious Norwood. I think Jerious and Michael will create a pretty good tandem, very similar to the situation that we had there in Jacksonville last year with Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor. Those two guys were different-type running backs and I thought that they meshed well, and I think in this day and time you have to have two guys that can carry the ball back there. I think the days of giving somebody 325 carries are long gone."

On what makes Offensive Coordinator Mike Mularkey the right guy to work alongside him: "Well, I've never worked with Mike prior to getting this position, but I had to defend Mike's offenses when he was there at Pittsburgh as the offensive coordinator and then played him when he was there at Buffalo as the head coach, and I always felt like he did an outstanding job in preparing his team. And they were a very physical football team, but they also were able to create some issues for the defensive coordinator. I spent many a-Tuesday and Wednesday night trying to figure out how to stop his clubs. And when I had an opportunity to talk with Mike philosophically, we are very similar in terms of how we think a football team should operate and I think it's been a good match for me. And of course Mike with his head coaching experience is a wealth of experience that I can bounce things off not only about our football team offensively and defensively and special teams, but just being a head coach. So it's been a good thing for me to have Mike here these last six months. We're looking forward to seeing him call a great game this weekend."

On how much time he spent worrying about Mularkey's "gadget" plays: (Laughter) "Well on Tuesday and Wednesday nights on game week you spend a lot of time doing it. I think Mike is very dynamic as a play-caller in this league, but at the same time he has the same philosophies that I have in that you have to have a physical front and you're going to really win by controlling the line of scrimmage."

On working with Lions Offensive Coordinator Jim Colletto in Baltimore: "Sure did. Jim was the offensive line coach there in Baltimore and of course did a great job with us when we won our Super Bowl."

On if he has any stories about Colletto: "I know Jim is an outstanding coach. I don't know if he's still walking, but I know he was a guy that always at lunch, especially during the offseason, was working on his fitness. He'd always walk at lunchtime, that's the thing I know. He'd tried to come and get me to go but I was doing different things. But Jim's an outstanding coach and I think he's done a real good job with the offense this preseason."

CONFERENCE CALL WITH ATLANTA FALCONS QB MATT RYAN
On his feelings going into his first NFL game: "I'm excited about the opportunity to get out there and play this weekend against Detroit. It's going to be a lot of fun. There's going to be some ups and downs throughout the game, but this is something I have always dreamed about and I'm excited that it's about to happen."

On if the learning curve has been what he's expected: "Yeah, it is. When you come into the league there's definitely (a learning curve). No doubt about it; that's it's going to take some time to learn some things. I think I have improved a lot since I got down here in late April, early May. But, I still have a long way to go. So I'm just continuing to try to work as hard as I possibly can."

On any added pressure with the possible shadows of former Falcons QB Michael Vick: "Well, you know what? The fan base has been great down here. Since I've been here, everybody's been positive and upbeat. I don't really worry about those things too much. For me, it's just about going out and trying to be the best player that I can be and trying to help this team win some games, and making sure that I'm pulling my wait."

On if former Falcons QB Joey Harrington talked to him about the pressures of being a young quarterback: "Yeah, Joey was a good guy and helped me out a lot while he was here. I'm thankful to have had the opportunity to work and play with him for a little while. I think there were some things that he had passed along that will help and I wish him the best."

On if he talked specifically about things outside of football or more inside: "No, just tips inside the game, about different things, to pick up here and there. I think I have got a lot of help from all the quarterbacks on our staff. Chris Redmond and D.J. Shockley, in addition, have helped me a bunch. I think those guys have kind of taken me under their wing and it's been a lot of fun to work with them."

On the relationship and any stories he has with former teammate T Gosder Cherilus: "I had a great relationship with Gos (Gosder Cherilus) up at BC (Boston College). He's such a good guy and a real good player. It's going to be fun to see him out there this week. From what I have heard, he's doing a good job up in Detroit. I can't wait to see him before the game, catch up a little bit and definitely have to give him a call before they had down to Atlanta."

On Cherilus texting Ryan, telling him he's lucky he won't be playing defense: "(Laughing) Oh, man that sounds like something he would say. But, I haven't gotten that text yet. So maybe I'll be the first to shoot him one."

On if the Lions experienced secondary causes concern for him: "Well, I think they do have an experienced secondary and a bunch of really good guys that can make some plays. They cover well, and they know the scheme well, too. They play well within the scheme, so it's going to be a good challenge for us. But, we're excited about the opportunity."

On Offensive Coordinator Mike Mularkey's philosophies and impressions of him: "Coach Mularkey has done a great job. I think that he's got everybody on the same page and everybody has been working really hard. I think we've got good, good players in a system that fits. And it's going to be a lot of fun to play in that system this year. But Mike has done a great job since he's been here."

On the sound system he bought for the locker room: "It was just something that a lot of the players felt kind of needed to be done for the locker room. I was kind of fortunate to be in the situation that I'm in, and I felt it was appropriate. So I kind of took care of that."

On if he expected to start Week 1 when he was drafted: "Well, I think everybody's expectations when they come in, not the day your drafted, but everybody's expectations when they come into training camp and to OTA's is to do everything they can to be on the field. I think, yes, I think you have to expect that from yourself."

On the benefits of playing immediately instead of sitting to start your career: "Well, I think that the best experience you can get is from seeing actual playing time and being out there on the field. I think it's a good thing and I'm excited about the opportunity."

 

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