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The following is from Lions Head Coach Matt Patricia’s voluntary veteran mini-camp press conference Tuesday, April 24, 2018.

On what he hopes to get out of voluntary veteran mini-camp: 
“I think this is definitely an interesting kind of segment in the offseason program because we’re really just coming out of phase one. We really had maybe two weeks’ worth of work with our strength and conditioning staff. We really haven’t had a chance to be on the field with them at all or anything from that standpoint. So, it’s kind of an in between going into phase two, but yet some of our requirements are a little bit looser, so we’re allowed to do some more things. Like, you’ve got to be careful as far as how fast you go. From a standpoint of these guys are just getting into the routine of the offseason and we want to make sure that we’re progressing in a manner that is building over a course of time to get ready. Obviously, for OTA’s, mini-camp and then training camp.”

On how much more involved he is in the draft process as a head coach: “You know what, it’s actually great. But I wouldn’t say all that different in some aspects of the things that I’ve done in the past draft processes, especially as a defensive coordinator. One of the things that we always did and I always tried to do was look at the quarterbacks that were coming out that year anyways, because a lot of situations where those higher draft-pick quarterbacks might be in a situation where I was going to play against them very early in the season, or whatever the case may be. So, you wanted to do your studying and your homework ahead of time. And you just took the opportunity to meet those guys, or if they ever came in the building, sit down and spend 15 or 20 minutes with them and talk to them from that standpoint. Very familiar with that process early in my career, being on the offensive side of the ball, evaluating and taking a look at offensive linemen, tight ends, skill players. So, it’s just kind of dealing with all of it, categorizing all of it and putting it all together, I’d say (is) the biggest difference from the standpoint of volume. But procedure and the way that things that have been done is very familiar to me.”

On what he wants to get out of a player the team drafts: “I think in general for us out of the draft, we’re trying to find guys that we think can help us build the program. And obviously, if it’s earlier in the draft, we probably are hoping those guys can contribute a lot quicker. But there’s a process involved with that when they get in the building that you go through, to evaluate them and see how they go and how they fit. Depending on what’s available on the board at the time of the draft, and who you’re going to take, the plans for that player might be different. Might be different by position, might be different by player. Obviously, looking for guys that we think are tough, and competitive, and really have a similar background and philosophy to the style of football that we want to play, and take a look at from a fundamental standpoint and that’s really what you’re trying to look at on film from college. You know, schematically there’s a lot of differences in college football than in the NFL. And you’re trying to make that transfer. So, if you can take it, and boil it down to really the fundamental, basic part of it and say, ‘Hey, can we build on what we’re seeing on this on tape, and grow that player, and develop that player?’ Then you feel better about that particular that guy.”

On the message he had for the team early on: “I think for me, again, it’s just this is a great opportunity for the guys to get to know who I am, and what I’m about as a coach and as a person, and why this game is important to me, and what we’re trying to do from a standpoint of this organization. It’s a good opportunity for me to get to know them. So, I would say the specifics of things that we talked about is just some basic, fundamental stuff football wise. But really, more just philosophical about organization and structure, just from what they expect. I think the biggest thing for me is just, ‘Hey, look. This is what phase one looks like. This is what our voluntary, veteran mini-camp looks like. This is what phase two looks like. This is what phase three,’ just so they kind of know what the schedule is, what’s the structure of what we’re doing because it’s just so new for everybody. And that’s really the biggest thing, day one, to make sure you get across.”

On if there were specific things he was looking for when personally leading drills at certain college pro days: “Did you like the drills? Were they good? What was your favorite? For me, I love to coach, right. So, if you stand there and you watch other people run drills, and you’re looking at guys and trying to evaluate them. In your head you’re going, ‘Wow. What if we got a look at this? Or maybe they can hit a bag. Or, we got a couple popups over here. We can do a couple drills to see how they read and react it.’ You know, it’s hard to sit back sometimes in those, especially with those structured, pro day types. Everything’s scheduled and there’s a time commitment to each individual group. You don’t want to go off track, but once in a while you can’t really help yourself, and you want to just get in there and coach a little bit. So, maybe grab a couple guys, grab some bags and let them do a couple other drills, that’s all.”

On what he has learned about his players so far: “What’s been awesome is just their focus. Their attention right now is at an all-time high, which is great for me. So, the messages can be clear. I think they are just very eager to learn. I would say that’s the biggest thing right now, how receptive these guys—they want to know. And I really kind of feel bad because with some of the restrictions that we’ve had to be under for the last several weeks, we haven’t been able to do a lot from that standpoint. So, I just have to kind of preach patience here, really the best I can. In due time, I’m sure they’ll be tired of me standing up in front of them in no time at all. It’s that whole just trying to work in the process. That’s why the schedule is so important for them to understand, ‘Hey, this is what takes place during this period. This is what we can do during this period.’ As we move forward, you can see how it will build up and progress to the point where you’re going to get all the information you’re looking for right now. We just can’t do it all at once.”

On how many players are not taking part in mini-camp: “I don’t have exact numbers with the injuries and all the rest of it. But we have great attendance right now and really good attention. The guys that can do stuff will be out there. And obviously, there’s a protocol for guys that are hurt that are trying to work through all that stuff. Like you said, it’s voluntary. We’re just really focused on the guys that are out there working really hard.”

On if he can share some of the players that are currently not taking part due to injury: “Not off the top of my head right now. There’s the guys that probably had surgery at the end of the year and things like that, that will be on a step coming back. The good thing is like some of these guys, there’s certain facets they can do when we’re on the field. There’s not the hard-core time restriction that you get into in some of the different phases. So, if we do some walk-thru type things, or some learning meetings on the field, those guys can do that stuff, which is great.”

On how excited he is as a first-time head coach to go through the draft process: “It’s very exciting. Really, again, it’s probably the emotion that I have to keep under control the most from that standpoint. Just so you can really kind of grind through every day, and have a good idea of what you’re accomplishing and focus on the task at hand. But I am very blessed to be in a situation where every day I get to wake up, and come to work and try to grind it out and do the best we can to build a great team. Thrilled beyond belief, but really trying to keep all that in check because we want to make sure that we’re just doing the best we can every day.”

On if there are some draft prospects he has fallen in love with after catching up on pre-draft work with Lions Executive Vice President and General Manager Bob Quinn: “I definitely think it was great from that standpoint, to be able to come in and not have to grind through all of them blindly. There’s obviously a huge head start from that standpoint. For us to take a look at those guys that are targeted, that we’re talking about right now and say, ‘Hey, what do you think about this?’ And to be in agreement, and getting on the same page fairly quickly with all that, I’m sure they’ll be some of those. And they’ll be some of the opposites too, where we disagree. But that’s great. That’s the part of it, that we just have that understanding back and forth. The good part about all of it was there were guys that came from those conversations, or from those lists that he had initially right away, that it was just easier. It was like, ‘Yep, I see what you’re saying there. Or, this is—yep, I agree with that. Or, let’s take another look at this.’ And then we’d just kind of grind through it a little bit deeper from that standpoint.”

On how his experience working with offensive linemen influences his evaluation on draft prospects: “It’s a great point, great observation. I actually have to be careful that I don’t go too far into that and remember that you have to keep the whole team in mind because it’s easy to dive into specifically those two positions and say, ‘Hey, you know I’ve seen that guy before in this.’ You know, when you were singularly focused in a specific position group and say, ‘Hey, we can really do something with that.’ But if you’re kind of ignoring the big-picture look, you might have a guy that might be a little bit more talented at another position that might be a little bit more of a need. You don’t want to grab somebody else when you’re going to miss an opportunity, which is great about the relationship that I have with Bob (Quinn). And then Bob’s focus in helping us build the best overall team, kind of making sure that we both steer each other in the right direction from that standpoint. But there’s certainly guys from offensive line, or linebacker, defensive line obviously, overall defensive standpoint, or any of those guys that I’ve evaluated—where you go back to those memory banks and say, ‘Hey, this reminds me of that guy. I really think we can develop him into kind of a similar role or similar situation, which is great.’ And that’s what you want to have. You just don’t want to miss out if there’s another need that might be more pressing at the time.”

On how much personality and culture influence making a first-round draft selection: “I think that’s always something that you want to consider, especially early on in the draft. You’re really trying to make sure that’s a guy that’s probably going to be put out there fairly quickly, or in the spotlight pretty quickly. And you want to make sure those things are in place. But it’s certainly not the only thing. You’ve got to evaluate the entire player, the entire person and that package. But I think from that standpoint, like you mentioned, we’re definitely always looking for those guys that we think fit that mold.”

On the career of DE Dwight Freeney, who recently announced retirement: “I love Dwight. Obviously, we go way back to the Syracuse days and working together there, having some pretty amazing battles all the way through our NFL careers and conversations. The utmost respect for what an amazing and tremendous player he is. But what an even better, more humble person. I mean, you just talk about just a great guy. Someone that always just kind of stayed true to those roots. Really, very proud of all that he’s accomplished and done in his career. Obviously, it all speaks for itself from that standpoint, but just a great, great guy.”

On if running a versatile defensive front gives the team more draft options: “With having a lot of variation and different things that you can do, then you can kind of play off those different guys that are valuable at that specific time. And say, ‘Hey, look, this is the best guy. We think he can do this in this front.’ And say, ‘Hey, that’s a priority, we can grab him.’ Or the best guy available at that particular time fits this look better, ‘Hey, it’s still a good value for us and we can take him at that point.’ So, that does play into it quite a bit, actually. That’s why it’s always so fluid all time, and how the values change based on who’s available at that particular moment in the draft. You know, you’re going try to say, ‘Hey, how does this guy fit or what is his role going to be within our schemes offensively, defensively or special teams?’ All of that will play into effect. That’s certainly part of the conversation.”

On what he remembers about Lions S Tavon Wilson from their time together in New England: “I had Tavon, obviously very young, when he first came to us. Very tough, physical football player, had a great instinct. Really could do a good job of finding the ball. Fit really well in the run fits. Understood playing close to the box and kind of some of the things that we were asking him to do at that time. I would say over the course of time where he left us and kind of moved on here, I’ve seen the rest of his game really develop. He’s been able to play a little bit more in the deep part of the field, do a couple different things from a safety standpoint, play a little bit more man-to-man coverage down in the box, tight ends, different sort of skilled players. And really coming out of college, you know he played a lot in what we call the nickel position. And he kind of walked out over the No. 2 slot receiver. So, he really had a lot of variance coming out of college. Close to the box, we moved him a little bit closer toward the line of scrimmage. Here, he’s been able to move farther away from the line of scrimmage, and then be able to line up in the those multiple different positions now. And I would say his overall knowledge of just football in general at this level has really advanced, just in the brief conversations that I’ve been able to have with him recently.”

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