Q. Who is the punt returner? (Zach Berman)
MICHAEL CLAY: We have enough guys that we feel comfortable, so we will wait until Sunday at 1:00 when we kickoff in Detroit.
Q. Who are the candidates, or who do you see trying out for that spot? (Jeff McLane)
MICHAEL CLAY: I mean, there are plenty of guys we’ve had out there from [WR] Quez [Watkins], we have [RB] Kenny [Gainwell], [RB] Boston [Scott] has done it, [CB] Avonte [Maddox] has been back there catching punts.
We have enough guys where we feel comfortable enough when push comes to shove and we want to get out there and get some returns, we have enough guys out there.
Q. Do you know who is going to return punts today and you’re not saying it for competitive advantage, or are you still debating who is going to be the punt returner? (John McMullen)
MICHAEL CLAY: We’ll keep it for the competitive advantage for the most part. In my mind I know who is going to be out there the first punt return.
Q. What are the specific attributes you’re looking for as a punt returner? Obviously catch the ball, but what other attributes are you looking for at that position? (Chris Franklin)
MICHAEL CLAY: Obviously like you said, catch the ball. You also want to have the vision and the feel to get — we like to say get a first down. When we say get a first down, getting ten yards, getting north and south, getting down the field, protecting the ball, making the first guy miss.
Because there are guys out there, in this league there are gunners out there that run 4.3. They are going to make some guys miss on the outside, but if they make the first one miss and we get a next level block, that ten yards turns into a 20-yard return.
So, making the first guy miss, catching the ball, and just giving that extra juice that may help propel the team to some momentum swings.
Q. How about kick returner, who are your candidates there? (Tim McManus)
MICHAEL CLAY: There are plenty of guys out there that we feel comfortable doing some things like that. Again, for competitive advantage, we’ll just wait until Sunday when we put that ball on the tee.
Q. How about kicker? (Bo Wulf)
MICHAEL CLAY: Kicker? We’ll keep that, again, as a question for everybody else to find out at 1:00 in Detroit.
Q. What do you like about having WR Britain Covey on the practice squad and what did he show you this summer? (Josh Tolentino)
MICHAEL CLAY: There are plenty of guys I like on our practice squad. When we have enough players out there that – they have their name called at any point, really gives you a lot of confidence when you get into game planning.
Not just [WR] Britain [Covey], but other guys on the practice squad that help us get ready for the game. I know to lean on them just in case something happens all the way up until Sunday, which has happened before, where you have to wait for a guy at the last minute, but he’s ready to go.
So, it’s not just Britain, everybody else on the practice squad has to be ready to go in case their name is called.
Q. What have you seen from P Arryn Siposs this summer that might make you feel more confident in him after some struggles last year? (Dave Zangaro)
MICHAEL CLAY: My confidence never wavered in [P] Arryn [Siposs]. Obviously, we’ve already talked about this enough. He had a bad couple games last year and you guys have asked him and he’s talked about it. But him coming back and having a very good off-season in terms of just working on some things mechanically with [Special Teams Quality Control] Tyler Brown as well and then going back to himself. It’s all credit to him getting ready for his second year.
Just like anything else in this league, no one is ever a finished product. It was his first year last year really doing it. He had his ups, he had his downs, just like anybody else in this league. But him coming back, putting his head down, getting ready for this upcoming year to help our team, I think he’s done a really good job.
Those preseason games I thought he did a really good job of flipping the field, especially in that Miami game. He was out there, and he flipped the field for those guys.
So, we’re going to keep that momentum going. There is good rapport with Arryn, with [K] Jake [Elliott], with [LS] Rick [Lovato]. It’s not just a one-man show out there, then getting the guys on the outside and interior to block for him.
It’s just keeping the confidence we’ve been striving for all camp.
Q. I know we probably talked about this last year, but when you go up against Lions Special Teams Coordinator Dave Fipp, is there an extra level to the chess match going up against a guy who you know so well and who you know knows you so well? (Bo Wulf)
MICHAEL CLAY: You know what? That’s actually a very good question. I wouldn’t say there’s an extra incentive towards it, but all 31 other coordinators, they’re at a coordinating spot because they are very good coaches and I respect every one of them.
With [Lions Special Teams Coordinator Dave] Fipp, working under him and just how hard he game plans and tries to find an extra advantage. So just being able to try and match that and give our guys the same type of energy and the same type of game plan, so when they’re going out there, they’re confident doing whatever they’re doing.
Once again, Fipp, you can just look at the stats he’s done in the past ten years as a coordinator. I think he has something like 18 total blocks, 12 total touchdowns.
His work is very much something that you strive for, regardless of if you work for him or don’t work for him. He’s one of those coordinators that’s well respected throughout the league. I was just very fortunate to first get into special teams learning under him back in ’14.
So, just with Fipp, you just have to be ready for anything. He’s done a very good job last year in Detroit, and I have the utmost respect for him.
Q. When you look at the Lions, what do you see first? What do they do well on special teams? (John McMullen)
MICHAEL CLAY: Just like everybody else, they play hard, they’re disciplined. They have good specialists out there in [Lions P] Jack Fox and [Lions K Austin] Seibert and everything. They have some guys on the outside that can run. It is going to be a very good test for us come week 1 in terms of that.
But just like anybody else, we have to be ready for everything. You never know what’s going to happen week 1, so we’ll make sure we’re on top of everything and get these guys ready to go.
Q. Is it less challenging as a special teams coordinator once you get the 53-man roster in place, now you can begin to zero in on who’s going to do what job as opposed to training camp or summer when you don’t know who the guys are going to be? (Ed Kracz)
MICHAEL CLAY: Not too much, because during training camp, in the practices, you really get to see other guys in different spots and what they’re most comfortable with.
Probably after the first week you kind of understand, this is the role this guy is going to have and try to get him as confident as possible in that role regarding to if they do make the 53.
To the guys that made the 53, we’re ready to go and just want to get out there tomorrow and practice and make sure we start off with a good note come practice tomorrow.
Q. When you look at the punt return candidates, it’s clear whoever it is, it won’t be someone who’s been a full-time returner in the NFL before, at least on punts. What made you confident and comfortable to go into the season that way? (Zach Berman)
MICHAEL CLAY: Sometimes that’s how the cookie crumbles at times. It’s also the practice habits. There are times out there where you guys see it or don’t see it, when they’re catching the ball off a live leg or off the jugs right there. [Wide receivers coach] Aaron Moorehead does a great job with the returners back there. Say it’s a punt day, but he’s back there with returners, coaching them up, getting them confident enough to win with their feet, catching high hands and everything.
It’s a group effort, but once again it comes down to me making that decision with [Executive Vice President/General Manager] Howie [Roseman] and [Head coach] Nick [Sirianni] and talking through it. We’re trying to have the best 11 out there to give our team the best advantage to win come Sunday.
Q. When you look at the kickoff coverage, how do you think it’s improved this year as opposed where it was last year? (Chris Franklin)
MICHAEL CLAY: Kickoff coverage, in terms of improvement, we don’t want to have the ebbs and flows. For example, we came out in the New Orleans game and we did a really good job with that.
Then say we came out the next week and give up a big one right there. It’s the confidence to get consistent coverage down there with our players, and just working the fundamentals.
A lot of the times when it comes to special teams, yes, you can game plan a lot of it, but a lot of it comes down to special teams fundamentals. Hey, let’s fall back on this, whether it’s a technique here and there to make the returners stop or make them go east and west so everybody can get down there.
So, it’s just refining those techniques, and that’s on me to go back and see why there were some leaks in our coverage last year. How can we get better. That’s on me to get these guys going with drills during training camp, during OTAs.
Once again, it’s all about a mindset when it comes to special teams. When we kick the ball off and if they want to return it from nine deep, we have to make sure we’re down there to give our defense a long field, because in turn that’ll give our offense a shorter field right there.
Q. What’s S Reed Blankenship’s upside on special teams? (Zach Berman)
MICHAEL CLAY: With [S] Reed [Blankenship], he comes in every day ready to work. He wants to work. He wants to get a lot of information in terms of why they do this on special teams, why do we do this on special teams, and he’s done a great job with it.
Just like everybody else on the roster, competition breeds greatness. He’s competing every day with everyone else, and he’s done a great job in terms of understanding. Because he didn’t do a lot of special teams at Middle Tennessee State, but he’s done a great job so far taking command when he’s played the PP, going down there on kickoff coverage especially in those joint practices.
It’s always cool to see a young guy keep growing and getting better each day.
Q. Same thing I guess with LB Nakobe Dean. He didn’t play a lot of special teams in Georgia. How has he adjusted to being on special teams? (Ed Kracz)
MICHAEL CLAY: He’s done a great job. [LB] Nakobe [Dean] is just a very good football player. When you have good football players, they’ll catch up on things really quick regardless if they played it in college or not.
He has a good room to learn from. [LB] TJ Edwards, he came in undrafted free agent and did a heck of a job playing special teams and he earned his right to play some defense.
[LB] Shaun Bradley who has come in as a late-round draft pick. Just getting tidbits here and there from them is always going to help Nakobe. He’s a student of the game. The guy is super smart, so you tell him one thing he’s going to take it to heart every time and he probably won’t make that mistake if he does make a mistake.
Q. What’s the outlook for WR Devon Allen as a special teams player? (Tim McManus)
MICHAEL CLAY: Just like everybody else, you try to get them ready for whatever it is. Kudos to [WR] Devon [Allen]. You take six years off anything it’s going to be a little rusty. He came in every day, got better every day, made some plays out there when we gave him the opportunities.
So it’s him keeping that confidence going and just coaching him every day, regardless if he’s on practice squad or not. Giving him the opportunity, hey, we get some extra reps after practice, regardless if it’s a returner, gunner, blocking-wise, something like that.
For Devon to come in six years out and having the traits he has and making a couple plays, it’s very exciting to at least keep working with him and try to keep him growing just to understand the whole special teams aspect.