Patricia Not Concerned About Overworking His Players

He's run a demanding training camp in year one as a head coach.

Will Burchfield
August 18, 2018 - 3:45 am

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Whatever was at the root of the Lions' ugly performance against the Giants on Friday night, Matt Patricia is sure of this: It wasn't fatigue.

Patricia has run a hard training camp in his first year as a head coach, including back-to-back weeks of joint practices -- first in Oakland with the Raiders, then in Allen Park with the Giants -- and lots (and lots and lots) of running. 

But he doesn't think he's worked his players too hard. 

"No, it’s football. We’re out there trying to get better every day. And really, to be honest with you, the practices are critically important. That’s where we have to make improvements, and we’re able to do some things in practice that we can’t do in the game and look at some different areas. It’s important that we get those looks. That’s part of the game and that’s part of training camp. That’s what it’s supposed to be," Patricia said. 

Training camp began July 27. Thursday marked Detroit's 15th practice, many of which have been padded. Cornerback Nevin Lawson noted early on -- in approval -- that Patricia's practices are much more physical than Jim Caldwell's were. Under Caldwell, the Lions weren't allowed to tackle until the first preseason game. Patricia had his players running the Oklahoma drill in the first week of camp. 

He's also had them running, period. This was the most obvious theme during OTAs, with players taking laps around the field after any mistake, and things haven't changed in camp. Patricia said some three weeks ago he's trying to "wear (the players) out" each practice in order to evaluate their ability to play tired. He said it's "a critical part of what we're trying to do."

If they appeared tired in Friday night's 30-17 loss to the Giants in which the starters were badly outplayed, particularly in the trenches, Patricia didn't see it. 

"You know, I’ll say this: I thought from a different conditioning level standpoint, it didn’t really look like we were tired. I’ll look at the film and evaluate that, but from a conditioning standpoint it looks like we’re moving in the right direction. We’re not there. We haven’t arrived as far as that is concerned, but we’re moving in the right direction and hopefully we’ll be able to keep building the reps and the game reps and work towards that goal of being ready for a full game," he said. 

The players have expressed no issue with Patricia's demanding practices, and they certainly weren't interested in excuses Friday night. Guard Kenny Wiggins, who wasn't exactly a stalwart on the offensive line, shot down the idea that fatigue played a role in his performance. Defensive tackle Rickey Jean-Francois, a 10-year vet who played under Patricia last season in New England, scoffed at the notion the players haven't had enough days to rest and recover. 

"You got days, you got hours. You just gotta know how to manage your own time," he said. "They put everything in that building for us to be successful, it’s up to you to take advantage of that. There’s no such thing as tired. We should not be tired for no reason. You got enough time to go home, you got enough time to get sleep, you got enough time to study, you got time to take care of your body.

"There’s no excuses, we have no excuses. We have to come in tomorrow, we have to come together as a group, we have to look in the mirror at ourselves and we have to get this done right.”

Jean-Francois did not mince words in his critique of Friday's performance, demanding that the players fix things immediately. He was the last one in the locker room, and he spoke with the kind of frustration and concern that's rarely heard in the preseason -- in Week 2, no less. 

“It’s disheartening to see us not perfect our technique. It’s disheartening to see us not execute what we executed the whole week. It’s disheartening not to see certain things that you sit in a building from morning to night going over, then when we get on the field, we don’t see it done," Jean-Francois said. 

"The coaches can talk until they’re blue in the face," he went on. "We have to come together as a team, and we have to show Matt Patricia that we can master everything that he asks us to do, because if we don’t, it’s going to be a long season. And we aren’t trying to have no long season around here this year.”

If there was a portion of the game that spoke to possible fatigue on the part of the Lions, it was the Giants' 79-yard, 17-play touchdown that began in the first quarter and ended in the second. It lasted nine minutes. Detroit's first-team defense had three opportunities on third down and another on fourth, but it couldn't get off the field. 

Patricia said such drives are a good way to measure the players' stamina. 

"It’s one of those situations where you’re sitting there saying, 'Alright, this isn’t particularly good, but it’s a good opportunity for us to evaluate the players in a 10-play drive and (see) how they respond and how they react and what kind of conditioning levels they have when they get into that drive. That’s definitely part of the process because you don’t want to wait and find out Week 1. That’ll be too late," he said. 

If the Lions were, in fact, tired Friday, Patricia might need to scale things back in practice -- which wouldn't exactly be ideal for a team trying to learn an entirely new scheme on defense. More likely, they just had a bad night. It happens, particularly in the preseason, particularly with a new head coach trying to implement a new system. 

"If you look at the play count here for some of our guys, I don’t think we’re really rolling 110 plays (in practice) from that aspect of it. I think it’s okay that we work them through training camp and get better," Patricia said.