Nate Burleson talks the Lions’ 4-12 season, Titus Young, Jim Schwartz and more

Posted by ttwentyman on January 8, 2013 – 4:41 pm

Lions receiver Nate Burleson appeared live in-studio this morning on NFL Network’s NFL AM. Burleson has been busy appearing on a number of media outlets in recent weeks, preparing for a possible post-football television career.

During his appearance Tuesday, he talked about the Lions’ 4-12 season, Titus Young, Jim Schwartz and more.

On finishing the season 4-12 after making the playoffs in 2011:

“There are so many things you can point to. I’m a guy that doesn’t make excuses; as one of the leaders on the team, I’m going to say it’s on us. It’s our responsibility to make sure that we perform at the same level we did in 2011, and we just didn’t. The type of games that we won so often in 2011 we couldn’t do this year; in the third and fourth quarters, it always seemed there was one play that just shut us down and we couldn’t overcome.

“We have to come back this offseason as leaders and figure out what it is; how to bring that fight back, that dog back, that tenacity and enthusiasm that we played with. I remember in 2011, we felt like we were backed into a corner every game, and in 2012 we just didn’t have that. As leaders, we have to figure that out.”

On if there was a sense of complacency after making the playoffs in 2011:

“From the outside looking in, a lot of people thought that. That might have been the perspective that ‘maybe they feel like they’ve arrived’. That’s not the case. We’re still as hungry, we’re still as passionate and we didn’t become complacent in where we were. It’s just that we didn’t finish, and that’s a big deal in this league. Every game is going to be decided by the seven or three points, and this year we just couldn’t overcome that. That’s what falls on the shoulders of the players.”

On if he was surprised that Lions head coach Jim Schwartz was not fired:

“No, I wasn’t surprised just because he has brought so much to this organization and he has created a different type of attitude. For so long, the Detroit Lions were somewhat of the armpit of the NFL, and nobody cared. Now, people are starting to take notice. This year was a huge step back; 4-12 is not where we wanted to be.

“I was surprised that we fired our receivers coach Shawn Jefferson. He’s a big-time coach, a great asset, a guy that can come in every day and motivate the best player in the game in Calvin Johnson. I was surprised in that but the team has to make moves and you just have to go with the punches.”

On wide receiver Titus Young:

“Titus is like a little brother to me. He’s a guy that I’ve given a lot of energy to over the last couple of years. For a lot of the reasons that people might misunderstand what he does, I appreciate Titus. He’s young, he’s passionate. Guys come into the NFL and they’re complacent in where they are; they got it, they’re drafted, they have the money, now they relax. Titus, he doesn’t want to relax. He wants to be the best, he wants to be the guy, and sometimes that gets in the way of his role on the team.

“I have to talk to him and say, ‘We’re with Calvin, so for so many reasons we have to be the background dancers; we have to go do our thing, we have to be Tito, he’s [Michael Jackson] so let him do his thing and we’ll back him up when he needs us.’ He has a clear understanding of that now. Being exiled, some suspensions, he’s going to get back to where he needs to be because he’s a great asset. He’s one of the great route runners I’ve seen and he’s only a couple of years into the league. He has tremendous hands, so if we can get him on the same page he can help us quite a bit.”

On what element might be missing from Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford’s game:

“I wish I could pinpoint that. Being a receiver, I never claim to be a quarterback coach. I hear everything that everybody says about the way he throws, his mechanics, his footwork, but I could tell you this that there are throws that he makes that nobody else can make. That’s why he’s in the position that he is. Just like every other athlete in the offseason, you go back to the drawing board, you work on the little things; you build on the strengths and you work on the weaknesses. So for Matt, I believe he’s going to do that regardless of whatever it is. He needs to take that next step.

“In my eyes, he’s a really good quarterback; I’m waiting for him to take that elite step and he has the capability of doing that. I’m excited for next year because he’s young. Just because he got thrown into the fire, they expect so much of him and he’s overachieved a lot since he’s come back from his early injuries. Almost two 5,000-yard seasons is hard to do. He’s come back and proved he can be that guy. I want him to be elite though and a lot people do. There is a lot of pressure on him but that’s why you get paid the big bucks.”

On who is the league’s MVP:

“That’s Calvin Johnson. If we were winning – say we got to the playoffs – he would definitely be in the conversation. Now, Peyton Manning – unbelievable coming back from the neck, going to Denver and doing more for that city almost than [Tim] Tebow did and Tebow caused hysteria out there. Adrian Peterson coming back from the ACL, I had an ACL in 2008 so I know how difficult that is. But the things that Calvin does, he’s in the same boat as AP: everybody knows he’s going to get the ball but he still gets the ball regardless. He’s out there getting viced in the slot like he’s about to cover a punt, so he creates coverages that I haven’t seen since playing with Randy Moss.”

On whether Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford should be setting records for pass attempts:

“It is a lot but I believe that he should. When you have a guy like Calvin [Johnson], you have no choice but to put the ball up there as many times as you need to … Now, you’re not going to hit every one, but when you get that big catch in fishing it makes it worthwhile. When you go out there and you have that big game, that highlight catch that Calvin creates, it’s worthwhile all of those attempts.”

On how he is recovering him his broken leg:

“It’s good. I have a little hardware in there. I’m early in the rehab stages but I’m ahead of schedule, which is a good thing. I’m trying to get back. I’m 31, have a couple more years on my contract. Trying to get back to where I was and get the team back to where we were.”

Tags: , , , , ,
Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 6 Comments »

All assistant coaches are signed for Lions

Posted by ttwentyman on January 27, 2012 – 4:45 pm

The Lions have confirmed the signing of all of their assistant coaches for the 2012 season.

Defensive backs coach Tim Walton and receivers coach Shawn Jefferson were the last to sign on the dotted line.

Walton interviewed with the Rams for their assistant defensive coordinator position last week, but ultimately decided to rejoin the Lions.

The Lions announced the signing of coordinators Gunther Cunningham (defense), Scott Linehan (offense) and Danny Crossman (special teams) earlier this month.

“I think we have a good group of coaches mixed with experience and younger guys, some former players, some guys that never played, but I like that dynamic and I like the consistency,” Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said after the season. “We were consistent from a preparation standpoint, from a game plan standpoint, from week-to-week.”

The Lions coaching staff has remained one of the most consistent since Schwartz took over in 2009.

Tags: , , , , ,
Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 9 Comments »

Calvin Johnson voted Lions Bobby Layne Offensive MVP

Posted by ttwentyman on January 23, 2012 – 2:29 pm

Lions receiver Calvin Johnson just finished one of the greatest seasons by a wide receiver in NFL history.

He recorded 96 catches for 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns – all career highs – becoming only the third player in league history with at least 95 catches, 1,600 yards and 15 touchdowns in a season.

His receiving yards are the seventh-highest total in NFL history and the most since Rams receiver Torry Holt had 1,696 in 2003.

Johnson finished with three 200-yard receiving games in the Lions’ last four games, including a 211-yard, two-touchdown performance in the playoff loss to the Saints.

He made his second straight Pro Bowl, though he isn’t playing because of injury, and was nearly unanimously named All-Pro.

Johnson’s numbers made him an easy vote by his teammates for the Bobby Layne Offensive MVP Award.

“This kid has an affection and a deep love for wanting to be the best,” said Lions receivers coach Shawn Jefferson. “He’s the first one in the classroom, the first one to ask questions, he’s one of the last guys to leave off the field and he’s first in every drill at practice. He sets the tempo each and every day and when the rest of the guys see that from a Pro Bowl player, they fall into line.”

Only Johnson and former Vikings receiver Randy Moss have ever registered 1,600-plus yards and 16-plus touchdowns in a single season.

“Here’s the deal,” Jefferson said. “Calvin is just entering into the prime of his career. The things you saw Calvin do this year, the next five years, you’re going to see even better things coming. You are going to see even more explosion out of this guy and it’s going to be scary. I think this guy is rewriting the books.”

This wasn’t just one of those breakout seasons for Johnson, either. He’s just the sixth player in league history with 45 touchdowns and 5,500 yards through his first five seasons.

The Lions won 10 games for the first time since 1995 and advanced to their first playoffs since 1999, in part, because of a 5-0 record to begin the season. During that stretch, Johnson had nine total touchdowns – two each in the first four games.

The offensive MVP award is given in memory of quarterback Bobby Layne, who sparked the Lions to three NFL Championships and four Western Division titles during the 1950s, including back-to-back championships in 1952 and 1953. He established virtually every career passing record, including attempts (2,193), completions (1,074), yardage (15,710) and touchdown passes (118). Layne was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1967.

Tags: , ,
Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 6 Comments »

Nate Burleson voted Mike Utley Spirit Award winner

Posted by ttwentyman on January 20, 2012 – 2:17 pm

Before every game, Lions receiver Nate Burleson and some of the other veteran leaders gather the entire team together in one of the end zones to deliver a final message before the game. Burleson is always animated when addressing his teammates and they seem to really respond to him.

Burleson is a natural leader, and a fitting choice for the Lions Mike Utley Spirit Award.

The award, which is voted on by the players, is presented to the Lions player who exhibited tremendous spirit, desire, dedication and work ethic.

“There are a lot of other accolades that you get from people out in the media land and stuff like that but there’s nothing like getting voted by your teammates,” said Lions receivers coach Shawn Jefferson. “They are there everyday, they see what you do, they see your performance on Sunday’s and they know what you bring to the table.”

This is the second-consecutive year Burleson has won the award.

“He’s been great,” Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said of Burleson. “He and Kyle (Vanden Bosch) both have been great leaders for us. They’re great in the locker room, solid vets, they know how to prepare, great leaders for the young guys. Young guys look up to those guys.”

What Burleson brings to the locker room and to the meeting room and to the huddle is invaluable, but it wouldn’t mean as much if he weren’t getting it done on the field, too.

“Nate had 73 catches this year, which is a career-high for him,” Mayhew said. “He was very productive for us. He’s a really good, solid, move the chains type of guy. He has great run after the catch, he’s been a great pick-up for us. He’s worked out very well and we’re glad we have him.”

Burleson also chipped in 757 yards and three touchdowns to go along with those 73 catches. He is a tremendous blitz-buster because of his ability to get the ball quick and make a play after the catch. There isn’t a move Burleson won’t try on a defender one-on-one in the open field.

He also ran the ball 11 times with a 7.7-yard average.

Rookie Titus Young credited Burleson and Calvin Johnson for some of the success he enjoyed this season because of their willingness to work with him and be veteran mentors.

Burleson is always the first guy the media goes to during open locker-room sessions because he has a gage on everything going on in the locker room and with the team.

The award is named in honor of former Lions guard Mike Utley, who suffered a career-ending neck injury that left him paralyzed on November 17, 1991. Minutes after sustaining the injury, Utley flashed his teammates a “thumbs up” sign as he was being carted off the field. The gesture galvanized a team that won its next seven games and advanced to the NFC Championship Game.

Tags: , , , , ,
Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 4 Comments »

Titus Young wins Lions Mel Farr Rookie of the Year Award

Posted by ttwentyman on January 17, 2012 – 4:11 pm

Rookie receiver Titus Young was a bystander for most of Lions training camp this season with a hamstring injury. It wasn’t until the end of camp that Young got back on the practice field, but the late start was less than ideal heading into his first NFL season.

Consequently, Young was inconsistent through the first seven weeks of the season as he tried to find his bearings.

It wasn’t until Week 8 that Young recorded his first NFL touchdown and that seemed to be a springboard for the rest of the season. He scored six touchdowns over the team’s final nine games and showed the potential to be a reliable No. 2 receiver moving forward.

For his efforts, Young was voted the Lions Mel Farr Rookie of the Year by his teammates.

“The sky is the limit for this kid,” said Lions receivers coach Shawn Jefferson. “This kid is one of the most talented receivers I’ve seen a while.

“You look at him and see he’s a small guy but he has the heart of a lion. I love his attitude. He thinks he’s Calvin Johnson. That’s a good and a bad thing. I love the energy and juice he brings to our group.”

Young showed tons of promise with 48 catches for 607 yards and six touchdowns this season. He averaged 12.6 yards per catch, finishing seventh among rookies in catches and yards and fourth in touchdowns.

“He wants so bad for people to mention him when they’re mentioning Calvin and Nate (Burleson) that he goes out there and busts his butt,” Jefferson said.

Young had some rookie moments (a personal foul against the Saints in the regular season and slowing up on a touchdown a week later against the Vikings) but he learned from those errors and never repeated the same mistake twice.

Young has already established himself as the team’s best route-runner and might have the best pair of hands, too. The Lions appear to have found the third receiver they’ve been searching years for. The way Young played as a rookie, the Lions have feel like they now have two No. 2 receivers on the roster in Burleson and Young.

The rookie of the year award is given in honor of Mel Farr, who enjoyed one of the finest rookie campaigns in team history. In 1967, Farr led the Lions in both rushing (860 yards) and receiving (317) and tied for the club lead with six touchdowns. As a result, he was named the Lions’ Offensive MVP and was honored as the NFL Rookie of the Year by the Sporting News.

Tags: , , ,
Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 10 Comments »

Gilyard, Bell Speak of Jefferson and Gash in High Regard

Posted by Chrissie Wywrot on February 27, 2010 – 7:17 pm

The Detroit Lions consider it a significant benefit to have spent time with many of the top senior prospects in this year’s draft class by way of the 2010 Senior Bowl.

Those prospects having moved on to the NFL Scouting Combine, are speaking about the fact that they, too, benefitted from the interactions with the Lions’ staff.

Cincinnati WR Mardy Gilyard was one of the North Team’s top performers in the Senior Bowl and one of the sought-after prospects at the combine.

Gilyard: “The Lions staff is just one of a kind. Those were the coaches that I felt like I really needed as a player. Shawn Jefferson, the coach, was really, really, really, really strict amongst (all the) guys, but it seemed like he was real strict on me. He did a lot of yelling, getting in my face a lot. I can remember day one, he’s like, ‘Man, we want to send you home, man.’

“I needed stuff like that because, as a player, when you’re good and you feel like you’re good – not that you take anything for granted – but sometimes you get lackadaisical and you need that kick in your butt to get you moving. They gave me that.

“The coaches really gave me what I needed – my position coach – and they worked my butt off there. It was just an experience I’ll never forget.”

Gilyard is a player who went through adversity in his collegiate career, losing his scholarship after his sophomore season due to academics.

He lived in his car and worked four jobs before going back to Cincinnati.

Gilyard: “Me and Coach Jefferson spoke a lot about life (and) this whole process of me leaving the Senior Bowl coming in to when I would actually be drafted. He was also telling me, ‘Mardy, you need to make sure that you just stay out of the way. You don’t need to get in any trouble. If you hang with a crew, tell your crew you’ll hang with them when you get time to. This is the time that you need to be indoors.’

“He’s like, ‘You got a dog? You got a girl?’ I was like, ‘Well, I got a dog; I ain’t got no girl.’ He was like, ‘Well, you need to spend all your time with your dog, inside the house.’”

Gilyard says he has been spending time with his dog, Kane’O, to follow Jefferson’s advice.

Wayne State RB Joique Bell was also on the North Team roster with the Lions’ staff. Bell says he benefitted from the week of practice more than he did the actual game.

Bell: “The practices (are) where you make your name. They say a lot of the scouts don’t really stay for the game – they leave before the game. For me, my effort that I gave out there on the field, I think is what really stood out to the scouts, so of course I think that practice helped me out more than the game.”

Like Gilyard, Bell also received words of wisdom from his position coach and former NFL player, Sam Gash.

Bell: “He’s a good guy. He stayed on us – he stayed on us a lot. He wanted the best out of us. He demanded it and didn’t expect anything less. It wasn’t anything that I expected less of myself. He was a good guy.”

While Gilyard was coming off adversity he experienced during his collegiate career, Bell used the Senior Bowl to put his talent level up against the top Division-I players.

Bell: “It was great being able to get out there with the D-I prospects and being able to showcase my talent.

“Not only that, but meeting new people, making new friends – made a lot of friends with Mardy Gilyard, Jacoby Ford, Sean Witherspoon, Chris Cook, LeGarrette Blount – just to be able to go out there and just to be able to meet the top-tier guys and be able to compete with them was great. It was fun and it was a memorable experience.”

Tags: ,
Posted in Blog | 4 Comments »