ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- They all are in the room by 7:30 every Thursday morning. No coaches are around. It's a players-only meeting by design.
If you want to understand how important communication is in the Detroit Lions secondary and how they have excelled there, a lot of it starts in this room, in this meeting. The players are free to talk amongst themselves. They make suggestions. They critique. They study. But most important, they are talking to each other.
Rashean Mathis, the veteran cornerback who started instituting the meetings prior to this season, holds the clicker in charge of the film they are going to watch. Sometimes Mathis, the “elder statesman” of the Lions’ defensive backs, leads the meetings. Otherwise it is one of Detroit’s veteran safeties, Glover Quin and James Ihedigbo.
It’s an all-business, no joking meeting going between 30 and 45 minutes before an 8:15 a.m. special teams meeting.
“It’s interacting between us and seeing how guys see things,” Mathis said. “It is very important because once you wait on the coach to do that and you don’t actually have a meeting yourself, you become unsure and you’re not really talking about it. You’re going on what coach is saying and you’re not ironing it out yourself.
“It could be tough on game day.”
The film session is always focused on who Detroit is playing Sunday, never who the Lions played the prior week. They do this so they can start to anticipate what they might need to communicate to each other. They take the game plan they’ve started studying on Wednesdays and talk so they can be prepared for questions for the coaches in Thursday’s coaches-included defensive backs meeting.
The purpose goes beyond actual game-planning. This gives the younger defensive backs -- including starter Darius Slay -- a glimpse into how the veterans think and what they’re seeing. By presenting that in the present, Mathis is hoping it benefits all of their futures.
“That’s all of us talking and we’re coaching ourselves,” Slay said. “We didn’t have the coach coach us. We’re coaching ourselves, making sure we’re in the right spot just in case you’re in the meeting with coach, we already know what’s going to happen.”
Mathis said most of the benefits of the meeting come during practices Thursday and Friday because they can figure out what they went over on the field. But the communication has been vital on Sundays.
It also gives the defensive backs another chance to get on each other and bond while also getting work done. Joking is minimal, though.
“Nah,” said Cassius Vaughn, perhaps the loudest and most talkative of the defensive backs. “When we about business, it’s time for business.”
Slay said the meeting is important enough that if a player is late, he is fined by the room. As much as Detroit’s coaches have worked well with the secondary, they have to be able to talk amongst themselves on the field. This meeting, which Slay called a “vet move” by Mathis for instituting, forces that weekly.
“That’s why we’re having that meeting,” Mathis said. “To get the younger guys seeing how we look at things, how we communicate and these things happen on game day.
“If you’re not able to communicate during the week, nine times out of 10, you’re not going to be able to communicate on game day.”
For the most part this season, Detroit has had no issues there. These meetings are a big reason why.