Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement:"We appreciate you guys being here. [We had a] really good practice, really good effort, and as we said at the end of our practice, we have much work to be done. So, that's what we are about with our business right now."
**What is the status of Brandon Stokley with his concussion? *(Adam Vorce) *"We made a roster move. We put Brandon [Stokley] on IR and brought back Bernard [Scott]. That's what we'll be doing."
What does that mean for Brandon Stokley's future in football? (Adam Vorce) "I don't know. That's a good question. You would have to probably ask him about that. He's been in the league a long time. Brandon [Stokley] has done a great job. His efforts this year for us were great. He did everything he could to get on the field. I'm sure he was disappointed with the injuries and things like that. But, he made some key plays for us. All of his catches were key catches. They were third-down conversion-type plays. We really appreciate him, his attitude, his toughness [and] his work ethic. It was really a pleasure being around him this year and getting to know him and seeing what kind of player he is and what kind of professional he is. It was good for us this year to have him here."
**This game has playoff implications, so it is important. But, is it also little more special because it is Monday Night Football? *(Jamison Hensley) *"Yes, it's unique. Playing on Monday night is something that usually happens maybe once a year if you're fortunate. And it is special. The whole country is watching. A lot of non-football fans are watching. It's something our players get excited about, always have."
**How did Dennis Pitta fare coming back last week after his injury? *(Pete Gilbert) *"No issues with Dennis [Pitta]."
NFL meetings are going on now, and officiating is a big topic of discussion. Do you see officials missing more calls now? It's been talked about a lot. Do you agree with what some people are saying about officiating? (Jeff Zrebiec)"I don't think so. I think the officiating is improving. I think [vice president of officiating] Dean Blandino has done a heck of a job. The officials have always been conscientious. They always do what they can do to be the best they can be at what they do. What I see this year is more transparency from the league office and from the officiating department in terms of talking about the mistakes. In the past, you never heard about those things. Now, you hear about those things. They step up and own up, and that's appreciated. I remember in the past couple of years everybody would say, 'Hey, if they would just step up and acknowledge the mistakes, everybody would appreciate that.' They're doing that more than ever this year, and they're getting hammered for it. But to me, that's the first step in improvement. Certainly, the officiating can improve. Every aspect of our game can improve, and the officials would be the first to say that. And they need to continue to improve and be the best they can be, because they are officiating probably the most popular sports league in the world. So, the fact that there is more transparency this year, though, is a good thing. Like I said, I think the league office has done a great job, and the officials continue to be the best in the world at what they do, and they continue to try to get better."
The comment Matt Elam made in an interview calling Calvin Johnson "old' has gotten a lot of attention. What are your thoughts on what he said? (Jamison Hensley)"I didn't read any of the complimentary things that he said in anybody's article. Did any of you guys write about the complimentary things that he said, or was it just the one line that [you] wrote? Anybody want to raise their hand? *(laughter) *OK, as long as you include it in your article. The only thing I saw was the other part. I think everybody is old to Matt Elam, obviously. *(laughter) *Matt is pretty young, you know? And hopefully he learns from his opportunity to speak to the media this week."
**Does it bother you at all when you see those comments? *(Pete Gilbert) *"I don't appreciate it. It doesn't help us. You get a guy like Calvin Johnson all fired up, that's really not the idea. It's Monday Night Football. They've deemed it a playoff game for them, and they're going to be pretty juiced up. I'm sure the crowd is going to be fired up, and the team is going to be fired up, as they should be – as will we. I don't think they needed that to get fired up. But we didn't need to give it to them, either."
**Is there a difference for a team who plays at home in an outside venue going up against a team that plays in a dome? *(Bill West) *"That's a good question. I don't know. I don't know what the numbers are on that. It's a good question. I'm not sure. We're going to go in there and will do our best."
Are you still optimistic that Elvis Dumervil will be back this week? (Jeff Zrebiec)"Yes. I've been optimistic. I was optimistic last week about Elvis [Dumervil], too. So, we'll see where we are by the end of the week."
RB Ray Rice
On if he is looking forward to playing in a dome so that he will have better footing: "I had my footing last week. The dome, obviously, we practice in these situations when it's cold. It's just another opportunity for us to go out there, No. 1, and chase what we want to chase. We definitely have our hands full. It is a good football team we're facing. They have a lot of talent – a lot of talent. It's going to be a challenge. Obviously, it's Monday Night Football, and a lot of great plays have been made on Monday Night Football. It's just great to have an opportunity right now, this late in the year, two teams fighting for the playoffs. We've got to put that out there. We're not divisional opponents and all that stuff, but this game matters for both teams. Essentially, it's probably the biggest game of the year for both of us."
On if the team is looking to make a statement on the road: "It's a statement to get a win in general, but to win on the road in such hostile territory is always huge. Early on in my career, we won a fair share of those games. We had our bumps in the road, but needless to say, we were a great road team a couple years back. We look forward to getting all that camaraderie back, because winning on the road is special. We love to win the ones at home, and we're great at home, but essentially, a lot of teams are good at home. We're looking forward to it being very noisy in there, because the noise in the dome trickles all in. It doesn't go anywhere; it stays right in the dome. It's going to be loud in there."
On the Lions' reputation as being physical or perhaps dirty: "Their reputation, they definitely live up to it. I don't know if you want to call it physical or dirty. Whatever the refs see, that's what they see. But needless to say, I'm not going to spark any fire. No. 1 is those two guys there in the middle, Ndamukong Suh and [Nick] Fairley. They are great football players. We know we have our hands full with those guys. That's the one thing that, as a running back, you have to point out. I always respect guys and give it to them. I've faced a lot of great nose guards this year, and those guys – they can make a difference in the game. We have to get those guys blocked. So, tremendous respect to those guys for what they've built. Ndamukong Suh, we all know what he's been through over his career, but, needless to say, the guy plays hard. The one thing I guarantee that coaching staff is saying over there is, 'Let's not take this aggressive nature away from our guy.' So, he is going to play hard on Monday, and that's what we're looking forward to getting. We're looking forward to getting the best Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley on Monday night. If they're aggressive, they're going to be aggressive. You can't take that away from a guy. But now, you'll see now they're playing smart aggressive. They are not being penalized as much for the unsportsmanlike conducts. I watched on Thanksgiving when they played Green Bay; Ndamukong Suh gets a sack in the end zone and helps the guy up. That shows that he is becoming a very mature guy. The old him probably would have stepped over him and done some things, taunting him a little bit. *(laughter) *For him to make a big play like that and not let his emotions get the best of him and actually brace the guy going down and help him up shows that he is becoming mature."
On if he feels that TE Dennis Pitta's return can take the offense to another level: "It's huge. I had a hip [injury] this year, so when Dennis [Pitta] came back, it was more like, 'Oh man, I can't wait to see him get that first catch and first everything.' But I'm glad he was able to come back and feel what it was like, because me and him, he is kind of like my counterpart. He was out, and I was playing. I was playing through a hip, so I was kind of coaching him like, 'Hey man, when you come back, you're going to feel this, you might feel that, you might feel this, but here is this.' He has definitely answered the call, and it is good to see him back recovered and being the old Dennis Pitta. Trust me, when he dove for that pass … Every time he caught it, I was just happy for him, because the guy goes down in training camp. You just don't want to see that happen to anybody. I don't care who you are, what you are, you never want to see a guy get hurt. But to have your own teammate, a guy whose career is going up – it's only going to get better from here – you want him out there with you. I'm just glad now that we have him for this stretch."
On how having Pitta back helps create more room in the running game:"He's a mismatch problem. You put a linebacker on him … I'm just saying, it's a favorable matchup. I guess the game of football is all about matchups. You put a [defensive back] on him and he's a big-body guy. You put a linebacker on him and he has the skill set of a wide receiver. So, that's a matchup problem. He's what [Rob Gronkowski] was for New England, he's what Jimmy Graham is for New Orleans. We have that guy – Dennis Pitta is that guy."* *
On if Pitta helps eliminate some of the looks they've gotten defensively in the running game:"It helps eliminate everything. It eliminates a lot. When you've got the single-high, the way to beat it is beat the coverage, and he's definitely a coverage-beater. So, guys like Torrey [Smith], myself, they'll tell you that helps out. Because when you get a rhythm going, it's sort of like, 'Pick who you're going to defend,' or eventually you've got to sit back in zone and brace for a deep pass. And then you're saying you've got to stop the run with a six-man box, and that's when you get open running lanes. So, it's fair to say we've got our work cut out for us. We've been building something all along, and I think this time we need to put it all together."* *
On if it's good to be healthy this late in the year:"You know what? It's great to be healthy this time of year. It's great to be all coming back. I don't want to go back in the past on anything, but this time of year is when a Terrell Suggs was getting healthy last year. We got a Ray Lewis back from a triceps [injury]. It's just reverse now; now we got our offensive guys. We got a Jacoby Jones back healthy, you've got myself, then you get a Dennis Pitta back. So, it's just reverse. You don't want to go looking too much [into] it, but it is a great time of year for everybody to be healthy. And you've got to thank the coaches for taking care of us. One thing that we communicate [is] the work that we need to get done. We work very hard, but we're working smart now."
CB Jimmy Smith
On Lions WR Calvin Johnson:"He has the name 'Megatron' for a reason. He's a tremendous athlete. He's one of those guys you wish you had on your team – but obviously, we don't."* *
On if WR Calvin Johnson is the biggest challenge he'll face: "In a sense, absolutely, but different talents at the same time. I actually got to face him last year in the preseason. [I'm] a little bit familiar – not too much – but a little bit with what he likes to do and how he runs. It wasn't a full, real game. I'm sure he has some more to bring. But yes, it's going to be a huge challenge for all of us."* *
On if playing wide receivers physically is easier when they are trying to be physical as well: "Sometimes yes, [but] sometimes no. This guy – he's so big and so physical. Doing too much can take me out of my game, and doing too much might take him out of his game. This game is one of those games where you want to be physical because he's that type of player. But at the same time, you want to rely on your technique."* *
On what he said to S Matt Elam about his remarks about WR Calvin Johnson:"Honestly, it doesn't bother me. Would you think that Calvin Johnson is not going to come to a Monday night game on national television and not play his best game anyway, because a rookie said something? I doubt it. It's poster board stuff. You can look at it as much as you want. To Matt Elam … He's 22 years old; he's a rookie. [Johnson's age of] 28 years old? [Elam] thinks I'm old, and I'm 25. To him, he meant [his remarks] as a veteran, 'Get a hat on him; hit him a lot.' If they're going to take it as, 'That's poster board [material]; we're going to take it even harder now,' then they don't have the right mentality coming to play a Monday night game anyway."* *
On what the biggest difference with him has been this season: "Just being comfortable, relying on my technique, the coaches helping me a lot, and my teammates. Everything gelled together to help me throughout this season – especially my coaches, though."* *
On if he ever had a nickname: "I never had a nickname, not a nickname I'm willing to tell. (laughter) I don't have a nickname."* *
On playing indoors this week: "I'm actually thrilled about it; I'm not going to lie. Being inside on the fast turf, no weather … It's going to be perfect for both teams, so both teams should be at their best."
On if there is a difference between playing indoors versus outdoors:"Inside, it's perfect weather. There's no excuse. I honestly kind of like the fact that we get to play in the elements, because you get to see what other teams are really made of that are indoors all the time."* *
On giving up big plays in the passing game: "Sometimes a team makes a great play, and sometimes it's us with a mental error, doing something that we don't usually do throughout the first four quarters of our game. Something like that [happens], and some big plays pops. Like that last game, if you see us play four quarters of good football, and then at the end we just didn't play like we usually play or how we play simple technique. Simple things that we do every day … It cost us – almost."* *
On if the team will be practicing inside this week:"I think so; I would hope so. We've got to get used to the light and the elements, and it's freezing cold outside. I'm glad we're inside. All the older players with the bad knees want to be outside [on the grass]."* *
On if he'd prefer to shadow WR Calvin Johnson all over the field:"Absolutely. Primetime television in front of the nation? We don't move around a lot because we've got a lot of confidence in our corners. Whatever the game plan we bring is on Monday night, that's how we're going to bring it. If they ask us to move and do things, we're always going to be willing to do that."* *
On the effect of the up and downs of the ending to the Vikings game on the defense's psyche:"You could look at it as the glass half empty or the glass half full. You could take it as, 'Hey, we put our offense's back to the wall, and they came through for us.' The defense … We know that's now how we usually play. We can make those plays. We took it as, 'Look, we can't have those types of mental errors in a big game or it's going to cost us like that.' At the same time, it made our offense step up to the plate bigger than they have all year, with the drive in 45 seconds. That was a tremendous drive."