What Lions' Aubrey Pleasant learned from sideline exchange: 'You don't want to be clickbait'

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Detroit Lions secondary coach Aubrey Pleasant learned a valuable lesson from his sideline blowup with cornerback Jeff Okudah last month.

“I learned that you don’t want to be clickbait," Pleasant said Friday in his first public comments since the exchange. "Perception is reality at times. I also learned that I communicate very well and sometimes I don’t always have to do it in that nature, to say the least."

STEVE SMITH: Sideline blowup shows Lions 'a train wreck waiting to happen'

Fox television cameras captured Pleasant yelling animatedly at Okudah on the Lions sideline after Elijah Mitchell's 38-yard touchdown run in a Week 1 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

May 21, 2018; Thousand Oaks, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams cornerbacks coach Aubrey Pleasant during organized team activities at Cal Lutheran University. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
May 21, 2018; Thousand Oaks, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams cornerbacks coach Aubrey Pleasant during organized team activities at Cal Lutheran University. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Pleasant appeared to scream, "Do your job," at Okudah multiple times while pointing his right hand angrily at Okudah's chest and clutching a tablet in his left arm.

Lions safety Tracy Walker came over to quell the confrontation, and linebacker Alex Anzalone stepped in front of Pleasant as Okudah sat on the bench.

NFL Network analyst Steve Smith bashed Pleasant and the Lions for the exchange, questioning whether the organization was serious about its purported culture change and saying "that shit show they got in Detroit, it’s a train wreck waiting to happen."

Pleasant said he was upset with Okudah for a snap two plays before Mitchell's touchdown, when Okudah "had a chance to make an interception and he didn’t push."

"We had been talking about it for a while, so he got kind of fisticuffs, got it kind of going, and then later on there was a more defeating play and I embraced him with a lot of love," Pleasant said. "And I know for the outside eyes, sometimes it’s hard to understand but that’s the nature of this game. You have high stakes and you have high reward."

Pleasant said he would not change anything about his sideline interaction with Okudah and does not intend to scale back his exuberant coaching style. But the first-year Lions assistant acknowledged, "As an adult, as a man that I have learned and I have moved forward from (it)."

"I think you always want to genuinely be yourself, while always still trying to grow," he said. "And grow and get better and learn. And I learned from that experience. I learned. I don’t think that I necessarily did anything wrong, and I don’t think I would do anything differently, I just know that moving forward there’s better ways to be able to handle it, even if that’s what that kid needs at that point in time."

Two Lions defensive backs came to Pleasant's defense in the days after the game, calling him "a really good coach" and saying the exchange was a non-issue in the locker room.

San Francisco 49ers receiver Deebo Samuel makes a catch in front of Detroit Lions cornerback Jeff Okudah in the third quarter and runs for a 79-yard touchdown at Ford Field, Sept. 12, 2021.
San Francisco 49ers receiver Deebo Samuel makes a catch in front of Detroit Lions cornerback Jeff Okudah in the third quarter and runs for a 79-yard touchdown at Ford Field, Sept. 12, 2021.

Okudah, the Lions' first-round pick in 2020, has not spoken publicly since the incident, but has remained in regular contact with Pleasant and the team as he recovers from the ruptured Achilles tendon he suffered in the second half of the 49ers game.

In July, he said being able to work with Pleasant was "a match made in heaven," and Pleasant said the two have an "amazingly good" relationship.

"Very strong," he said. "He’s still here. He’s been in the meetings. When he left and had his surgery, I talked to him that night. He left and went to his family, I talked to him that day. I hope that you guys understand that what I perceive to be is what I really am. There’s nothing that’s fraud or fake about it, and the reason I’m able to coach that hard is because of the relationships I have. More importantly, if what was seen was to be bad, don’t you think some of his teammates would have said something or somebody would have came up and done anything. But it’s the nature of the game. I need to get better, he needs to get better, we all need to get better. And the relationship is great."

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: What Aubrey Pleasant learned from sideline exchange with Jeff Okudah