LIONS PRESIDENT & CEO MATT MILLEN AND HEAD COACH ROD MARINELLI PREVIEW DRAFT

Hondo S. Carpenter

Allen Park, Mich. – Detroit Lions President and CEO Matt Millen and Head Coach Rod Marinelli spoke to the media today about the 2006 NFL Draft. The 71st Annual National Football League player selection meeting will take place Saturday, April 29 and Sunday, April 30 at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

The following is the transcript from today’s meeting with the media:

On QB Joey Harrington's situation:
MM: "Yeah, I gave a few teams permission to speak to him. They have, and the rest of it is between us, the respective clubs, and the player."

On Harrington's desire to play for Miami:
MM:
"My options are the options. We'll just play it how it goes. We're really not going to discuss it here, because it is not going to do me any good."

On whether a Harrington trade could take place during Draft weekend:
MM: "You know Michael, it could. It could get done. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, then it doesn't. I'm more concerned with the Draft right now and how it gets done. It could play a part of it. If it does, then great."

On if the Lions are prepared to cut Harrington at the last minute:
MM:
"Oh, I'm prepared for anything, we all are. We are prepared to do what ever is best for our football team and that's what we'll do."

On the resolutions of DT Dan Wilkinson:
RM:
"I think you just talked to him, didn't you Matt?"
MM: "Yeah, I spoke to Dan at the beginning of the week and had a good talk with him. Dan has to figure some things out and make some decisions and then let us know what he wants to do."

On if there is a time table on a Wilkinson decision:
RM:
"Matt's had a chance to visit with him, so we'll just have to see where he is at."

On how the absence of Wilkinson affects Draft preparation:
MM:
"No, we're okay. Our Draft prep is fine and I think where we are at with our team is fine. That's the truth. We're in good shape."

On if there is a difference on trading Harrington or cutting him at a later date:
MM:
"There would be a difference if you wait, but that won't play a part of our Draft decisions."

On if the Lions are weighing cap savings against certain amounts of compensation for Harrington:
MM:
"No, that's not part of it. Let's get to the Draft."

On if Jeff Backus has signed a tender offer and is participating in off-season program:
MM:
"No he hasn't. He hasn't signed his tender and he has been taking care of his business. I know he just got married and just got back from his honeymoon. He has been rehabbing over in Ann Arbor and has not been working out here."

On if there would be a scenario in which the Lions would select a quarterback with the No. 9 pick:
MM:
"Rod and I have talked about this a bunch of times, in fact that particular thing we were just talking about not more than five minutes ago. The reality of it is, do you consider it? Absolutely you have to consider it. You have to see where you're at and who is there and if it is the best player available. You look at our team. We have three quarterbacks on our roster that we like, but yes, we would consider it. We consider all options."

On what characteristics the Lions like about CB/S Michael Huff from the University of Texas:
RM:
"Some of the things I like about all the players we like, is his motor, his speed, he's a playmaker. A solid hitter. Great passion, the guy really likes football. You can say they all like it, but no they don't all like it. You try to find the guys that fit. He's a good football player. I like him, he's an impact player."

On the quality of defensive prospects in this weekend's Draft:
RM:
"There is a nice group of men out there. We've just been grinding and zeroing in on the guys that fit us and what we're looking for. There is a nice group of men like that. The easy part sometimes is going out to the Combine and watching them run and jump and watch some tape-that can be the easy part. The tough part is finding out what is inside the guy and how much he loves this game. If he wants to be here in the off-season, if he wants to work, and has a drive and passion for what we're trying to do. That's the difficult thing. That's the process you're constantly working at."

On the decision to draft a player on potential or immediate help:
MM:
"I think every draft you go into, you balance that. That is not going to change. The reality of that answer is, you can take somebody that you think is going to make an impact right away and they don't. And there maybe a guy who you take thinking that you can take a little bit of time with him and for whatever reason, he's more ready. I think that really speaks to what Rod was talking about. You can look at all the measurables, you can go to the Combine, you can work the guy out, you can do all those things. You can see him run and jump and all those different things, but then when the guy gets out there, it is how he learns and how he fits. How fast can he do what we need him to do? That's all yet to be determined, so you have got to get to know the guy at that level."
On the advantages of moving back in the Draft to acquire more choices:
RM:
"One thing you're always concerned with is, if that guy you have at that moment fits just not the blue-chip part of it, but the other thing that I talked about. The football character stuff. All of the sudden you move down to get more, there might not be that other part. You guys may see the run and jump, and all those things may look good, but I may know this guy. We may know him inside a little bit better. It's tough. A lot of it, and he (Matt) does a great job of when to move up and when to move back and all those things, is sometimes when you see the right guy that fits all those things and you move back and you don't find those, that is the difficult part. It's finding the guy that fits us and what we want. You'd love to go back and get a lot of guys, that's awesome, but all of a sudden that one guy may really be special too, so that's the difficult part. Hopefully all the homework we've done and all the preparation we've done will put us in a great position to make the proper choice."

On how much does quality of quarterbacks at the top affect the desire of teams to move up or down:
MM: "I think there will be some movement - it kind of feels like that maybe a little bit more than it has in the past. You never really can tell. We talked about a number of times where you want to know if the phone is even plugged in. I think where we're sitting, there are enough quality players that someone may be interested to jump up and that goes with what Rod said. I think the real key isn't necessarily how the player is viewed athletically - that's part of the equation; the other part of the equation is how he fits into each particular system and how the coach is planning on using him. The reason that I say that is, there may be a player on the board who has all those things that may be of less value to us because we may have that guy already and of more value to somebody else. Then maybe we can have some movement."

On whether they would move up for the right guy:
MM: "Yeah, oh absolutely - we say that every year. I've done that. I moved up to get Shaun (Cody); I've moved up from the second to the first to get Kevin (Jones) but like I say every year, it takes two to do that. A lot of times guys are willing but they're not willing for what we're willing to give and vice-versa."

On whether it's logical that the team will take a defensive player with the first pick:
MM:
"I'll make you one promise: the guy that we're going to pick is going to be what we think a player should be. So you're going to have a guy who loves it and you're going to have a guy who busts his rear-end. That's what you're going to get. If that's on defense (then) great. I know what the nature of your question is - we've gone offense but now do you have to go for defense? The fact of the matter is we have addressed the defense. We're going to get the right guy for us, that is what we're going to do."

On whether the team will focus on a defensive player because of the defensive background of the head coach:
MM:
"I would say the emphasis is the strength of this guy over here because we're going to get that. I think we're going to get the talent, that part is going to be there. What we're going to look for and really hone in on are the non-talent issues. Is that a departure? I don't believe it's a departure but it's an emphasis and I think that's something maybe I neglected (in the past) and I'm not going to."

On whether drafting is a strength of his as a GM:
MM:
"Everybody will rate these things on Monday and they'll say that this team did this and this team did that and those are kind of funny. We should start doing them a few years later, that's when you have to look at them. There's more to it than just picking the player. It's how you use the player; it's how it fits; it's how it works in the locker room. There are all kinds of things that happen. Certainly, I think it's a fun part of it. I enjoy it, we all do. It's kind of like Christmas. The best part of it is watching it afterwards and how it unfolds and see how we can make it work."

On what's the most important thing to look at when you're considering trading up or down:
RM: "That's the gamble, the risk. You're talking risk. Sometimes, if everything is right and the man is exact, you may not want to risk that. Then you go down and say, 'well, there's a bigger pool here,' but it's just not for sure. I think we've done a heck of a job looking for that right guy. Sometimes when you hit the right guy, you're going to get him and you're going to feel good about it. You go back and you may hit two or three but you may not. So it comes down to the preparation that we've done. Hopefully the guy that we like is there - you don't know. Matt does a great job with his ability to move and do all of the different things that we've got to be able to do and keep preparing our other guys that we might have to look at if you can't move or whatever. It comes down to your preparation and finding the guys that fit us."

On what position groups are strongest in this draft:
RM: "I think the secondary is really strong; I think the defensive line is pretty heavy at the top, obviously."

MM: "The 'backers.'

RM: "The 'backers' are good; you've got a few good quarterbacks up there early. I'm giving you some key information aren't I? The offensive line; I would say the secondary is a little heavier and it usually is. There aren't as many wide receivers it doesn't seem like but there's a few creeping up there (laughter)."

On how the dynamic is between the personnel department and the new coaching staff:
MM: "As a matter of fact I think it's been exactly the same. I'm a big believer in everybody having their opinion and everybody having their input and we've done that. When there's difference in opinion, then hey, let's hash it out and get it done now. I thought the guys did a great job. I thought Scott McEwen and the scouts did a real good job of presenting; I thought the coaching staff did a great job; I thought we did a good job of blending schematics and personnel. So I think they're up there right."

On whether he (Millen) would over-rule the Coach Marinelli on a draft pick:
MM: "I think the whole key is being on the same page - I don't think that will be a problem at all."

RM: "We've been on the same page all of the way; we're looking for the same guy."

On if Marinelli has a feeling about somebody, if he'll feel the same way:
MM: "I don't see that as being a problem; to be honest with you, that hasn't been a problem."

On whether there have been any changes in his philosophy since his first draft in 2001: MM: "I think the biggest thing, and obviously I'll speak for myself, but the biggest thing is: I need to be more cognizant of the type of guy we're getting. If anything, the coach has made that abundantly clear to me. When we started this process, the one thing that became clear is whenever we would speak about the personnel on the teams, the common thread that we had always came down to the same type of guy. I need to pay attention to that and get the right type of person because there are times when I haven't done that. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn't work. I think more often than not if we pick and make the non-talented issues a little bit more of a priority, I think we'll be better off because we're going to get the right kind of player."

On what are some of those qualities that are being given more of a priority:
MM: "You know what, and pay close attention and I'll tell you why. These same things he's about to tell you - it applies to everybody. It applies to the guys sitting at home; it applies to you people sitting in your seats; it applies to the guy on the line working at Ford. It applies to everybody because it's going to start at the top with the first one: it takes no talent to hustle, that's No. 1. That's just giving extra effort and it takes off from there."

RM: "It's just about how hard the man is willing to play. Sometimes you'll see these guys on tape not playing that hard all of the time and now you have to go research why. Why isn't he playing that hard? Is he willing to do that? That's part of your research. Then I talked about knowing what to do. There's the basis of intelligence or willingness where it is so important to him that he's willing to stay there all night to know exactly what to do and how to do it. Then you look at his ability to be coached in terms of fundamentals - how hard he's willing to be coached. You've got some guys who are very sensitive or who are resistant. That's a tough nut to crack. It may take you two-or-three guys to be where you want them to be. Then it's about finishing. How do you finish everything? From the weight room, you ask him to go to the weight room and finish a workout; you ask him to do conditioning, finish it. Show up and finish. They sound so simple but they're not. They're hard to do and they're hard to get. So you're constantly aware of those things all of the time. When you get a team that can do those things - because it takes no talent to do that, we can all go out and do that right now. You prepare, you're on top of it. So you've got to find the type of men for whom football is so important to them that I've got to kick him out of the facility. He wants to be the best: 'how do I do it; help me; what do I have to do to be great.' That's what I'm looking for and that's what I'm going to find. That's the detail part of it."

On whether they're drafting guys this year to start and play right away:
MM: "I think I draft every guy to play right away. Whether they're a starter or not or in the starting rotation, that's what you want. You want to add right away. I don't think there's any question about that."

On some coaches not liking to play rookies:
RM: "Hopefully if you're finding the guy that is that mixture of character that we're talking about, you make him earn it. You don't want to just hand it to him. You get him in a situation and put him in a situation to compete. Hopefully he'll bring in some of those intangible things that you're looking for and he'll go out and start earning his playing time and maybe have an opportunity to earn his job. I've been around where rookies started and went in and earned it and did it. Our staff is that way; we feel very good giving these guys every opportunity. We'll coach them; we'll get a rookie mini-camp going and we'll be all over that part of it getting them the information that they need. It's not just information, it's the 'how to do things,' that will be important. I want to give every man the opportunity to just come in and see where they're at and let that character rise so they go out and compete. It's a different league; it's a whole different deal about how hard we want to play. There will be a big old playbook that they've got to learn. Some guys are smart enough to learn it but they're lazy; they can't focus, they can't concentrate and all of those different things. Hopefully if those things are there and we're hitting it right, we can get this guy going."

On whether they take the Wonderlic test into consideration when they're evaluating a player:
MM: "Yeah, of course we do. We look at all of that stuff. It's not only the ability to take a test and score high on the test. Sometimes that's a good indicator. There's a whole other thing: the FBI, football intelligent; how well a guy understands scheme; how well a guy understands how he fits; what other guys are doing on the field. I've been around a lot of guys who didn't score very well on tests and they had great football minds. It's a complicated game. What fascinates me is that it's a game where you have to make all of your decision under pressure and it has to be (quick). Some guys can do that. Some guys can score a 49 out of 50 on the Wonderlic and they can't think under pressure. I think it's an indicator. I think it's a piece of the puzzle but it's not the whole puzzle."

On how helpful it was to work with his current players in the first mini-camp:
RM: "It's huge. You kind of get a feel for the whole team itself. You can't tell everything because you're not in pads. But you can see movement at certain positions and willingness and all of those things. It's a great look at your team. It's a great plus."

On whether it defined his understanding of what this team needs:
RM: "Not really, I had a pretty good feel before (when) looking at what some of the needs might be or some of the depth issues. It validates some of the things you already believed - that part is the key."

 

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