Lions coach Jim Schwartz said last year's slide didn't shake his faith in his system or his preparation methods. (Daniel Mears/Detroit News)
Phoenix — It's been two and a half months since the Lions last lost a football game. Plenty of time for coach Jim Schwartz to get rid of the bitterness of a 4-12 season, right?
"It's still not," he said Wednesday from the NFL league meetings. "You carry everything with you. It makes you more determined."
Schwartz, though, said last year's slide didn't shake his faith in his system or his preparation methods.
"We didn't go into last year with the goal of being complacent, with the goal of saying we just want to keep it the same," he said. "Look, nobody is happy. My kids are just now starting to talk to me again.
"We all want to get that taste out of our mouth. But the only way we're going to get it out is if we move on past it, identify what the unique capabilities of this team are and try to accentuate them, identify our weaknesses and minimize them, work hard every day and have a great game plan each week."
What you can't do, and what Schwartz won't do, is overreact.
"You can lose just as much ground by overreacting," he said. "There is a consistency to the way we approach things. It's not like we came off that playoff season (2011) and said, 'Let's cut it down this season, let's go get a lot of three-day weekends.' And this year we're not saying we're going to work every weekend (in OTAs and training camp).
"We have a process and we need to stick with it. Speaking for myself, everybody is anxious to show we can correct our mistakes and learn from our mistakes and come out ahead in those 10 games where we were one score away."
Some other highlights from Schwartz's hour-long news conference:
On distractions last season: "The number of players on the last year of their contracts can certainly affect a team. I think we had 24 guys, almost half our team didn't know what their status was for the next year. That was the reality of where we were. Some guys handled it well." He singled out Chris Houston, DeAndre Levy and Sammie Hill. Others obviously did not.
"It was there," he said. "It can be a challenge."
On changing three-fifths of the offensive line: "I have confidence in the guys we have who we've worked hard to develop. Last year if it would have happened, we would have been prepared for it."
On Jeff Backus' retirement: "I don't know that there is a player I've been around that I have more respect for than Jeff Backus. I was around Kyle Vanden Bosch in Tennessee and I brought him here. He's a different personality, but both of those guys have incredible toughness. Jeff's durability and ability to be available every week was really incredible. At some point we need to celebrate his retirement and what he accomplished over his career."
On defensive end Jason Jones: "He's going to spend most of his time at left defensive end."
On whether Dominic Raiola has lost any status as a leader because he took such a severe cut in pay. (Raiola will play for the veteran minimum -- $925,000): "I don't think anybody in professional sports looks at how much money a guy makes as far as what his status is. It's all about how you play, your own personal character and effort. Dom has always worked hard and will continue to. His ability to be a leader for us has nothing to do with his salary. Obviously he's closer to the end of his career than the beginning, but there is a reason we brought him back and there is a reason he wants to be back. There is still some unfinished business."