Lewis News Conference Transcript 4/25

 

Initial comments ...

        "Welcome. I missed you guys I guess. Here we are. It's been a couple months since Indy, but I think the draft process has gone very well as far as the initial process — the meeting with the players, the traveling by the scouts and coaches and all the evaluation done. I really want to commend them and everything they have done. It's a lot of work that goes into it, a lot of hours and time from trainers, doctors, etc., all the way through to the personnel people and (what) we get involved with as coaches. It will be good to get this over with this weekend, and then we can move on and begin to do real football.

        "Where we are is we are going to choose players that will have an opportunity to impact the football team. Some of the guys will have a chance this year, hopefully this fall. And then, as we move down the draft, (hopefully we will) add depth and competition to the rest of the football team."

There seems to be a lot of medical issues with some of the top prospects in the draft. Was that something you saw?

        "There's probably over a dozen guys that likely will have ability grades in the first three rounds that are recovering from an issue — a surgery or injury that occurred either at the end of their season, or they had postseason surgery because they played through it most of the year. I don't know if it is disproportionate this year or not. It seems to be that every year. I do think what is more common now is the fact that players are electing to have these medical procedures either after the combine or after their season to get themselves healthy for their rookie year."

Will that change how you view things?

        "I think it has to. Depending on where the guy and (his) ability rank, I think, yeah, it changes some things — how ready he will be for September football? I think that matters a little bit in some cases. When will he be ready? What was the nature of the injury? What was the nature of the surgery? And, again, that's well above me, as you guys know, as far as dealing with what that means. The doctors look at the MRIs and the surgical notes and all those things done with all these guys. That's part of the process."

How big of a red flag is a diluted sample?

        "These things can happen for a number of different reasons. Guys come into Indy — they may have the flu, they may be dehydrated, and so forth. Ironically, as you see guys come into your meeting room, they're carrying one of those big gallon jugs of water because they've been told to hydrate. It's an intense few days for them. I'm not going to sit here and explain it to you in here."

You have eight picks on Day 3. Once they get here, what's the biggest key for those guys who are later picks to eventually succeed?

        "I think just understanding (why) they're here and continuing to do everything that keeps them here, whatever it may be. Find the guy that's been in the room the longest, understand why he's still here, and try to mimic his actions. Whatever he's done to stay here this long, I think is a key point, because there is a secret to it. So, how you go about your business, how you mature and grow as a pro, and so forth. There was a reason why we selected you to be here, now continue to do everything (you need to do) to keep yourself here."

Is it a good year to have 11 picks?

        "I believe it is. I believe there are some guys that will be picked that third day that will have an opportunity to have productive NFL careers. They have the NFL dimensions and ability, and, again, it will be the things they do to compete and keep themselves here and stay on an NFL roster."

Is there one specific attribute when looking at a player?

        "We have three things that we're looking for and we stay pretty true to that."

Care to divulge?

        "No."

How has the question of character evolved since you've been in the league?

        "If there are certain questions about a particular player, No. 1, we make sure we know everything about it so we know what we're getting into bringing that young man aboard, and then have a plan for it if you feel like it's something that's manageable. Those are parts of it. And I think, secondly, however you bring that person here, you're betting on him being able to stay here and you having everything in place to help him stay here, because, otherwise, you're passing on another player. There are a lot of good prospects. Let's make sure we get the right ones, and the ones that have an opportunity to continue to stay and prosper. We can't control injury. That's the one thing. Guys get injured in the NFL; it's just part of the process. But sooner or later, they overcome it and move forward, and you have a player. The one thing you can't (overcome) is when the guy doesn't do the right things to stay here."

Have you taken anybody off the board?

        "I'm not going to talk about who's on or off our board."

I'm not saying 'who,' just have you taken anybody off?

        "Again, I'm not going to talk about who's on or off the board."

In your 15 years, how much has the vetting process changed and become it's own cottage industry?

        "Unfortunately, it's become a big part of it because of where we are in our society, and the fact now that news is instantaneous all the time and any misstep by anybody becomes public knowledge right away. So I think there is more that goes into it. Sometimes it's more accessible, but it's far reaching that way. Every day there's something — however it happens, 'leaked' or whatever word you want to use — that comes out about one of these guys. It's incredible. It used to be an occasional thing back in the 90s. Now it's literally one or two a day over the last week or so. We're not even done yet. Hell, we had things last year that came out during the draft, which is ridiculous."

Are kids different, or was there stuff going on in the 90s and we just didn't know it?

        "That's part of it, but I think the one thing that happened is we've made this thing to be bigger than it is. It's about playing football —that's what it is. It's not about going someplace, and being on stage, and doing all this stuff with them. Then we have to get them in here, and we're supposed to change them, after they put them through that and held them up on a pedestal. We're supposed to make them a good person again. Well, they just put them through all this, where they were bigger than that. ... That's how most coaches feel about this — they're here to play football, and to earn an opportunity and a spot."

Do you think that picking a 53-man roster will be a challenge?

        "That's up to the guys. We have to do a good job. There has to be an attribute that keeps them here. I think that's important. There has to be that kind of attribute that keeps them here in this building. Now they're competing with guys, from No. 1 all the way through No. 7b, whatever it is. There isn't (necessarily) an open spot. They're going to have to compete and earn a spot and an opportunity to play. We're blessed to be in that situation."

Is this draft heavy in one certain position or is it across the board as usual?

        "I think there are thinner positions than normal in this draft. Four years from now, we will know that better than we can today. But, at least going into it, in our minds, there are some positions that are thinner than others."

Is the 'best player available' mantra being tested in this draft because you may have some holes that you didn't have before, and maybe the draft isn't a good matchup for you?

        "Well we may have some opportunities for guys to compete for backup positons on the roster, but that remains to be seen with how the draft flows on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday."

Is it still 'best player available' though?

        "If we get some help, it will be."

When it comes to production versus measurables, are there certain positions where you think it's more important to have a guy that has a good 40 time or vertical leap, etc.?

        "Hopefully that all goes into it, but there's no question about it. You can be a productive player in college football, but then say, for instance, if you can't run, you're not going to be very productive here. It just doesn't work. You can't play cornerback here if you can't do certain things. If you don't have enough girth, its hard to be a good protector or run blocker up front on the offensive line. So there's that part of it, but then the tape and the physical part have to go together. It doesn't get overruled by the testing, in my mind, ever. The testing is secondary to that. It's an affirmation — a confirmation — of what the player is. With some guys, you're unsure what their speed is, particularly with as many underclassmen as there are that declare for the draft each and every year. (Those guys) haven't had a rising senior pro day, or whatever it is, for teams to have (good information) about that, so you're gathering information at a faster pace."

With how college offense are nowadays, is it getting harder to evaluate certain position groups on tape?

        "I think, in college offenses — and college defenses, even; they're both the same — there are four positions. There are tackles, there are interior linemen, there are receivers and there are quarterbacks/running backs. Occasionally you see a team that plays a tight end that's NFL ready and has NFL stature. So I think that's part of it. There's no question about it. We talk to kids who have never been in a huddle, things like that. So a lot of it becomes new quickly."

What about the rule prevalent in the PAC12 that prohibits them to participate in activities before they graduate?

        "It's 'quarters' school rule, not PAC 12 rule."

Well it always seems like it affects them the most ...

        "It's very important to the AFCA (American Football Coaches Association) to continue with that."

Is that affecting how you're going to pick a guy?

        "No, it's not going to impact us for a month."

So if it's until June, that's OK?

        "Yeah, it's the player that you are picking. So, that's another reason why you need to have a proper plan."

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