New Orleans Saints v. Green Bay Packers: Brees, Rodgers, Vilma, Payton
Written by  // Tuesday, 06 September 2011 08:12 //

Sean PaytonDrew Brees and Aaron Rogers will easily be the main attractions when the Saints tackle the Packers on Thursday night in a game featuring the last two Super Bowl champions.

Brees said he trained with Rodgers two years ago in San Diego, and he has tracked his career closely ever since.  "He's a gunslinger," said Brees. "Wow, he plays with an extreme amount of confidence.  His ability to make plays in the pocket, outside the pocket, throwing or running it.. A lot of cases he's been the leading rusher for the team or just see the guy do everything."

Saints defensive captain and middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma said his defensive line needs to put pressure on Rodgers. "He's one of the best three or five quarterbacks in the game. Vilma met with the media after Monday's practice and here are his thoughts on the Packers.  Also, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton discusses the upcoming game against Green Bay.

Can you talk about Green Bay’s offense?

They have great receivers, can catch the ball in space and can go the distance to get extra yards. They have a very good quarterback obviously , probably one of top five or top three quarterbacks right now. We need to find a way to be sound fundamentally in the front line, not let him extend the play by scrambling with his legs, tackling well. We have to do the things we’ve been coached to do.

Can you talk about your emphasis on forcing turnovers?

We were down a little bit in the numbers last year. We want that to be a point of emphasis this year. That’s always been our approach. It was our approach last year we just didn’t get as many turnovers as we did the year before. We know we’re going to come in and that we’re going to go after it.

 How much emphasis do you guys put on this one game and getting off to a good start?

It would be good to get the victory. At the same time, it’s one of 16. We always have to keep things in perspective. Granted it’s a great game. It’s always a great way to start off 1-0 beating the defending champs, but at the end of the day whether we play well, don’t play well, win or lose, there are things to correct and we’ll look to get better the next week.

 How much of an advantage is it having played in the NFL kickoff game last year?

I think you still have some talented guys out there. Turk McBride is a guy that we have seen in Detroit in the past. Losing a guy like Will Smith does not make your defense better. He is one of the top guys, at his position, in the league. I have played against Gregg Williams before. I know what kind of coach he is. He is an extremely talented coach and he gets him team prepared. I know they will have something special for us and I know it will be a big challenge for us.

 How do you deal with things in a game that you haven’t seen before from your opponent?

We weren’t the away team. The scheduling is the same knowing that we have a shorter week of preparation. We haven’t’ been through the traveling part of it being away from our friends and family, getting out a day early.


Did you guys ever say to yourselves before last year’s game that you didn’t want to be the first defending champion to lose this game? Are you now taking motivation that you want to be the first to beat defending champions?

We didn’t look at it last year like we could be the first. We looked at it last year like we were playing a very good Minnesota team coming in. We had a great battle in the NFC Championship game. Unfortunately this time around we hadn’t played them in about two or three years. We weren’t as familiar with them as we were with Minnesota. They’re probably looking at that record saying we’ve never lost. We don’t want to be those guys. We’re looking at it that we want to be 1-0 and not 0-1.

 How many looks do you think you’ll give them that they haven’t seen before?

It’s hard to say, especially with a guy like Aaron Rodgers. He’s seen it all. Not only has he seen it all, he plays well against it all. Whether we give or don’t give different looks. Aaron Rodgers is a smart guy. He’ll figure it out before the end of the game.

Coach Sean Payton's discusses his contract extension, Green Bay game and other issues at a media availability

Sean Payton's opening statement:

“Let me go over our transactions and then the injury report, the first one for this week.  Players that did not participate: K Garrett Hartley (right hip), WR Adrian Arrington (left knee), WR Lance Moore (groin), and DT Tom Johnson (left calf) was limited.  From a transaction standpoint, we officially signed TE John Gilmore, he’ll be in jersey 89.  We released LB Ramon Humber.  From a practice squad transaction standpoint, we signed T William Robinson and G Dennis Landolt along with WR Montez Billings.  We released LS Kyle Nelson, QB Sean Canfield, and C Cecil Newton off the practice squad. Most of the emphasis today was on third downs much like it would be on a Thursday for us and we’ll go from there.”

There was some good news for you going into practice today.  Do you have any comments about your new contract extension?

“It is good news.  I would start with it by recognizing the significant role that Mickey Loomis and Tom Benson have had in not just this contract for me, but the stability and the success we’ve had as an organization.  I’m very thankful to have that opportunity here for another five years through 2015.  I think someone wrote about this not too long ago, that continuity in regards to leadership starting with the owner through our general manager Mickey Loomis, our CFO Dennis Lauscha, who’s very involved in a lot of the behind the scenes things that we do as an organization, through to the head coach and the various players that have been here for quite a while.  I’m very thankful for that and recognize that continuity is important for an organization and am extremely excited about continuing on here for quite some time.”

Based on the value of your contract, are they rewarding you for the Super Bowl you’ve already won or seemingly expecting more?

“I think a coach’s contract is fairly simple to do.  It’s a performance-based business.  Our jobs as coaches, our jobs as front office people, and our jobs as players are to be competitive and win.  I think when you have that success, then these types of things happen.  I also recognize the fluidness of the profession.  Each year you see six or seven head coaches that are out of jobs and we’ve started a while back in 2006 to build something that was consistent with trying to build a program.  That’s something that really never stops.  You don’t ever really arrive, you’re just constantly ongoing, developing players, and with the way our league is now, there’s always that turnover in five to six years.  I think we have seven or eight guys who were here in 2006.  I think when you look around the league, that’s pretty much the case with most teams so it’s not like it was 20 years ago where the draft picks come in and a couple of them beat out a couple veterans and the team stays intact.  The offseason has become important, certainly the continuity with the coaching staff is important, all of those things.”

Would you agree to a long term deal if you were sure number nine would be here longer?

“The two didn’t really cross over at all. They’re really two separate entities.  I know that there have been discussions.  I’m not really in that loop per se in regards to a player’s contract like Mickey would be and yet we have full confidence that it’s coming.  This really wasn’t tied to that.  It could have very easily happened in a different order.  Like I said, I think the contract that we did with the club is a little bit simpler and less complicated than that would be of a player such as Drew Brees.”

When you were talking about the continuity with a front office, I would imagine Drew Brees would factor into that.

“Yes, he sure does, but it’s not like a player or coach would wait on the other.  There’s an order of business, Mickey’s done a great job with that.  It’s been a busy month and a half when you look at not only the team and free agency, and then the final cutdown the last 48 hours.  This is something that had been ongoing for a while and it worked out rely well.  I know with the way Mickey operates, he’ll have a very diligent list and focus his efforts on a contract such as Drew Brees’ and that’s just kind of the way he’s been able to operate and it’s been extremely beneficial to our success.”

Do you look at the statistics with how rare it is for a coach to be with an organization for so long and realize you’ll be with the Saints for the better part of a decade?

“You’re right, we’re playing a team this weekend with a coach (Mike McCarthy) who was hired by them (Green Bay) around the same time and was a coach that went through the same process of putting together and developing a team with their front office and Ted Thompson.  I only bring that up because I think if you look back in that year in 2006 there were nine or ten coaches and just from a percentage standpoint I recognize that I’ve been very fortunate not only with that front office and ownership that I talked about, but also with the assistant coaches and the players that have given us the consistency and the things that a lot of programs are looking for.  So I recognize that and how difficult it is.”

Drew Brees has been a prolific quarterback, but it seems like there’s a point at which he’s depended on too much and I wonder if that’s due to the injuries you had last year at running back and by drafting guys like Mark Ingram you’re trying to balance that out.

“I think if you are one dimensional and you’re not as efficient at running the football, there’s more stress on the quarterback position.  There are a few things that can alleviate stress at that position: real good defense takes pressure off quarterback play, a running game can take pressure off the quarterback.  I think to some degree if you look at 2009 and 2006, we ran the ball better and there was less on his shoulders.  In this day in age and this game right now, the way teams throw the football, there’s a lot to the workweek for a quarterback in regards to the protections, in regards to progressions, in regards to everything he sees.  There are a lot of different looks.  There will be looks Thursday night that we will not have practiced against in these last three days and we’ll have to midstream adjust, but I think when you have a little balance that certainly helps him and it helps you see the looks you want to see defensively that are more attractive to the quarterback.”

How similar are you and Mike McCarthy’s offenses and does it help you prepare against one another’s offenses?

“To answer your last question first, I think both defenses heading into this game are very confident and have played very well.  I said yesterday when you look at the Super Bowl winner a lot is often times made of the offenses and when you study closely statistically what Green Bay has been able to accomplish defensively, it’s been outstanding.  When you put the tape on, you see that.  That being said, I’m sure they get a lot of different looks from their offenses.  They get no huddle, they get quick count, they get spread sets, odd ball sets that would make it a similar type of attack that they would face and vice versa so there are some similarities that way.  But from an offensive standpoint, I would say terminology might be a little bit different and yet there would be some things that would probably be called similarly.”

You mentioned yesterday that you told Mark Ingram that he won’t be playing against Kent State this weekend but against the Super Bowl champs, how ready do you think he is for that?

“I think he’s more than ready.  He’s anxious.  Here’s why, he’s been very consistent during training camp.  Coaches and players and all of us can talk about being ready, but really signs of being ready are the consistency and the number of snaps where you’ve performed at a high level and you’re ready for the assignment and you’re ready for whatever it is your job is going to be whether it’s running the football or in protection.  I think also he’s a player that, much like a lot of these guys, has been in big games, national championship games.  From a crowd standpoint, I think that’s the easy point of the transition for a young player but the speed of a game as it pertains to the speed of the defense that we’re playing will be different than what he’s seen and probably different than what he’s seen in preseasons.”

What do you say to a like Pierre Thomas with Ingram and Reggie Bush before him getting so much attention?

“I think once the game starts, the player in Pierre’s case will have a very important role with us.  I think the two players that you used probably go along the lines of first round draft picks, there’s always that attention drawn to the first round draft pick.  But he definitely has a significant role with what we do and was a big reason why, and his role is a big reason why the club signed him.  There’ll be plenty of touches not only for Pierre, but for Mark (Ingram) and Darren (Sproles) and it’s our job to mix those up and also to let the running back get comfortable and get in a rhythm when he’s in the game.”

You talked about the readiness of Ingram, does Cam Jordan have the same level of readiness as Ingram does?

“I think the only difference is, just from a rep standpoint, that Mark has probably had more without dealing with an injury.  Cam, we kind of rested him some last week.  But again, there will be a lot of focus and attention to how he plays and that kind of comes with being a first round pick.”

How much does not having Lance Moore or Adrian Arrington potentially play in this game affect you?

“It’s kind of a hypothetical.  I expect we’ll see where Lance is tomorrow, but we’ve always been able to adjust with different personnel groupings and we always try to be mindful of who’s up and then set the game plan accordingly so I think it’s very atypical of any given season when you look at our skill people.  The plan really is developed all week long with who we feel like is healthy and who we think is going to play.  The thing about Lance is that he’s an extremely intelligent player and so the key is just making sure he feels like he’s ready with the groin and yesterday he got good work.  We’ll see where he’s at. We felt it was best to rest him.”

Drew Brees suggested that with the acquisition of Darren Sproles, you might have an even more diverse offense than you did with Reggie Bush.  How much truth do you see in that?

“I think there’s some truth to it.  Darren’s a veteran player who when you really go back and study his role in San Diego, they did a really good job.  First off, you see him in the kicking game and we’ll have an opportunity to see him play in those roles for us.  You’ll see him in packages not only on third down, but on first and second down.  He’s very intelligent and I think the one thing that surprised us that may be harder to see on film but we’ve seen in person is his ability as a running back not just outside but with a lot of the things we do with our running game.  We’ll see, as the season goes on you develop a personality as an offense and you begin to settle in on things that you feel like you do well.”

What’s your biggest concern about this game?

“The biggest concern would be protecting the football and recognizing the importance of the turnover margin and recognizing the significance in that as it pertains to the outcome.  Playing on the road, crowd noise, and protecting the passer. These guys rush the passer very well, they were second in the league last year with sacks so dealing with the environment and ball security are two things.”

Anything different with Lambeau and other stadiums?

“No, but I think it is one of the best road venues though to experience for fans.  There’s only a handful of venues that you’d feel comfortable if your wife and children were going to an away game to watch your team play.  This is one of those venues where there’s such a great appreciation and history for the game.  The best way for me to describe it as you drive into the stadium is it’s a lot like you’re arriving at a Big Ten stadium in a neighborhood.  It could be Iowa or Illinois, but it has that type of feel when you arrive there.  Then when you study the type of history the team and the history of Lambeau Field, there’s none other like it in our league.”

Did you ever meet Lombardi?

“No.  I met his grandson though.”

What are your thoughts on Jermichael Finley and how he affects their offense?

“Certainly he’s an added weapon.  When you have that threat inside, the matchup issues versus linebackers or safeties becomes challenging.  That type of player changes your third down preparation.  That type of player really changes your red zone preparation because in close quarters he’s a big target, he’s exceptionally explosive, and he can run and he’s very athletic.  It changes the look of an offense.  He’s had a real good preseason and he’s healthy and he’s a player that knows the offense so he’s not young or new, but he’s a player with a lot of experience who’s coming off an injury and who’s one of the best tight ends in our game.”

Who has a bigger challenge in this game, you or Gregg Williams?

“I think all of us collectively have a big challenge.  It would just be guessing trying to answer that.  I think our team, our coaching staff, all of us going on the road to play in a game where the visiting teams against the Super Bowl champions are 0-6.  We recognize the challenge and we recognize and certainly have a ton of respect for what Green Bay has accomplished.  The only way we know how to prepare for games like this is to put good work days together back to back and have another good day tomorrow and keep working on all the details of the plan. 

SOME hither, others yon: Drew Brees on rookie Mark Ingram: "Mark Ingram has the ability to have a pretty significant role on our team as the season progresses. He's a pure runner. You watch him run and you say, 'this guy's born to be a running back.,' With his body type and the way he approaches the game. He's a great addition to our backfield."...Trivia time: Name the oldest NFL stadium in use today...Random joke: At a wedding reception, someone yelled "All the married men, please stand next to one person who has made your life worth living." The bartender was crushed to death....

Aside to Lew Murray of Metairie: As of 2006, NFL practice team players make $4,000 per week for the 17-week season (about $85.000), but don't receive fringe benefits like the roster players...Ex-LSU quarterback Ryan Perrilloux has made the Giants practice squad...Trivia answer: Soldier Field in Chicago is the oldest stadium still in  use, built in 1924. Lambeau Field in Green Bay is the current stadium with the earliest tenancy. The Packers moved to Lambeau in 1957...Packers coach Mike McCarthy was the Saints offensive coordinator from 2000-04. Sean Payton wanted the Packers job, but they hired McCarthy and Payton came to the Saints...

by Ed Staton

(Visit Louisiana Sports t\Talk.com to order you Matt Ingram jerseys and LSU/Oregon game shirts).



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Ed Staton

Ed Staton is a former sports writer for the Times Picayune and New Orleans States Item.  He also served as the New Orleans Saints Information Director.  He has won 43 media awards in writing, design and photography.  


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