GM Martin Mayhew's state of the Lions
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew doesn’t do many interviews.
He meets with the media maybe a half-dozen times a year, at most. Wednesday was one of those days, his latest state-of-the-team talk, just before the start of a mandatory minicamp practice.
Mayhew was asked a variety of questions, ranging from contract negotiations with defensive end Cliff Avril and coach Jim Schwartz to whether he might try to add another running back or defensive back before the season.
Here are the highlights of his interview:
• On what’s the hold-up in getting Avril to sign either his one-year franchise tender or a long-term deal:
“There’s a lot of dialogue that goes on. I think (Lions president Tom Lewand's) doing an outstanding job with that. (Avril’s agent) Brian Mackler’s doing an outstanding job. I think Cliff has been very level-headed in his thought process.
“I said from the very beginning, our goal is to have a long-term deal done with Cliff Avril. I don’t think the ball’s in anybody’s court. I think the ball’s in everybody’s court. We’re trying to get a long-term deal done.”
• On the status of Schwartz’s contract negotiations and whether it’s expected to get finished before the season:
“I’m not really going to comment on that."
• On how having a coach going into the final year of his contract might impact the locker room:
“I’m not going to comment on that.”
• On why he would comment on Avril’s contract negotiations and not Schwartz’s?
“I think that’s pretty obvious. We have ongoing negotiations with a number of players frequently, all the time. That’s something that’s always commented on.”
• On how the team is improved:
“I think the continuity that we have going for us is one of the special things that a lot of the good teams and franchises have. You look around the league, some of the model franchises really have improved themselves by maintaining that continuity, keeping their coaching staff in place, just building upon what they did the previous year, like the Patriots, the Steelers, Ravens, some of those teams. I think that’s been really big for us.
“I think the maturity of our football team going into this season (is big). Now we’re at a point where Matthew Stafford’s not a young player anymore. Ndamukong Suh’s not a young player anymore. These guys are veterans in the prime of their career. I think that’s really important.
“Obviously, our draft (was key). Riley Reiff’s going to help our offensive line out. I think Ryan Broyles is going to be a big part of our offense going forward. Bill Bentley, all the guys that we drafted have a defined role here. We have a plan for all those guys. I think those guys are going to help us, as well.”
• On his latest words of wisdom for players who have gotten into off-field trouble:
“I don’t know how much wisdom was involved in it, but definitely gave those guys some advice. I think that will stay between us. We had some talks. I talked to all those guys.
“It’s all been said, you’re disappointed, frustrated with those things. But there have been a lot of really good players in this league who’ve had some early bumps in the road. We’re hopeful that those guys will end up being those types of players.”
• On expectations for the franchise getting higher:
“I think the key thing is to continue to perform at a high level to get to the playoffs consistently. Then the chips fall wherever the chips fall. It’s hard to win a championship. Things have to line up for you the right way.
"We expect to do that eventually, but we just want to keep being there, keep knocking on the door consistently.”
• On his comfort level with the current stable of running backs — Jahvid Best (concussions), Mikel Leshoure (two-game suspension and Achilles’ tendon) and Kevin Smith (injury prone) — and whether they need to sign or trade for someone else:
“I like the group of guys that we have. Jahvid has been outstanding. His speed, quickness — he looks great. Mikel’s still recovering from his injury. Kevin Smith has looked good this offseason, but he’s also been injured (in recent years).
“That group of guys, if they’re healthy, which is a really big if, is an outstanding group of players. But the injury questions with all three of them are of concern.
“We talked about adding a guy during the offseason, but the more I saw of those guys, the more I saw of Keiland Williams, Joique Bell — those guys have had a good offseason — I want to see how it plays out before we go a different direction.”
• On expectations for defensive tackle Nick Fairley:
“I have very high expectations for Nick. He’s had an outstanding offseason out here on the field, not so good off the field (two arrests). But he’s been outstanding in practice. He’s worked his butt off. He’s in great condition. He’s done some things on tape, just out here running around, that make you run the tape back and go ‘Who is that?’
"He has tremendous, tremendous talent level. Hopefully, he can fulfill that.”
• On possibly trying to add another safety:
“It’s kind of like the running backs. I kind of wanted to see the young guys, Ricardo Silva, Alonzo Lawrence and some of those guys. We decided to wait on that. We’ll continue the dialogue with some veteran guys, but we’re also watching these guys right now.”
• On who might emerge and have a breakout season, as Avril did last year?
“Nick Fairley has been very impressive out here in practice. Willie Young has been outstanding. Jahvid has really caught my eye. I’m leaving guys out. There are a number of young guys on this team that could really have breakout years.”
• On talking to the players about the 1991 Washington Redskins, a Super Bowl championship team in which Mayhew started at cornerback:
“I talked to some of these guys about the fact that was a team that took ownership. They weren’t waiting on the head coach to do something or the GM to do something. Those guys took ownership of that football team. I’m talking about the Russ Grimms and the Wilber Marshalls, players like that, Darrell Green, Charles Mann.
"That team went as far as it did because the players held each other accountable and we had great leadership on that team. That’s going to be pretty important to us going forward."