Life without Suh? Perish the thought, Caldwell says

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Indianapolis — Add Lions coach Jim Caldwell to the list of people who remain optimistic the team will re-sign All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

And he doesn't want to think about what the Lions defense would look like if Suh plays elsewhere in 2015.

"I hope not to have to find that out," Caldwell told local reporters at the NFL combine Thursday. "But if we do, obviously we'll have to cross that bridge when it comes. Do we look at it and think about it because it's a possibility? There's no question about that."

Caldwell, though, stopped short of explaining just how the Lions defense would change if Suh left town. There was even a question about whether his exit would lead to the Lions changing to a 3-4, but Caldwell declined to answer, saying he hopes not to deal with the issue.

Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin's scheme is actually meant to have a 3-4 base, but the team maintained its 4-3 in 2014 because of the personnel, most notably Suh and Nick Fairley in the middle. If Suh leaves, the Lions could be tempted to make a switch.

Suh is intent on becoming the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL, but Caldwell said he's not focused on that aspect of the negotiations.

"I'm worried about him coming back and playing for us, and that's what we're looking at," he said. "Maybe that comes with it, but I think (general manager Martin Mayhew) indicated that we're prepared to do whatever it takes to get him, and that's what negotiations are for. He's a talented, talented guy, who does a lot for us.

Caldwell, Mayhew and president Tom Lewand have all expressed confidence the team will be able to re-sign Suh, but the team has had a similar stance for the past year.

One thing contributing to Caldwell's optimism is the frequency with which he sees Suh in Michigan. On Thursday, Suh visited Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh at Schembechler Hall, according to a picture the Wolverines posted on Twitter.

"I haven't seen him around the facility. I know he's been in town," Caldwell said. "That's one of the unique things about him. You can tell that he loves the city because he's around in Michigan quite a bit here of late."