Payton's opening statement:
“These four players did not practice today: linebacker Jonathan Casillas (right knee), running back Mark Ingram (heel), linebacker Jon Vilma (knee), and defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis (ankle). These five players were all limited: tight end John Gilmore, tight end David Thomas (concussion), tight end Jimmy Graham (ankle), linebacker Will Herring (hamstring), and tackle Zach Strief (right knee). Defensive end Turk McBride (shoulder) was full.
We signed tight end Tory Humphrey to the active roster and waived quarterback Sean Canfield off the active roster. Running back Chris Ivory returned to practice, which begins his 21-day window for us to make a decision in moving him to the active roster. One other practice squad transaction: wide receiver Andy Tanner we signed and we released defensive tackle Swanson Miller. It was a pretty standard Wednesday schedule-wise. We went outside. We’ll probably be back inside tomorrow.”
How has Zach Strief been doing with the amount of time he has been out?
“He’s doing well. I would say he’s on schedule with the MCL. It’s good to see him back out there. He’s able to get some football work in and today was a big step for him. I feel like he’s my neighbor since I see him every morning, afternoon, and evening in the training room. But he’s close and we’ll see how this week goes with him.”
How do you feel about Mark Ingram coming back based on what you know?
“I think with him it’s day-to-day because really we’re just dealing with soreness and a bruise. We’re dealing with that issue of just the pain and the swelling and those types of things. It’s not an ankle sprain. It’s the bottom of his heel. I think it’s day-to-day. I think tomorrow morning we see how he’s feeling and we just keep tracking his progress.”
If you decide Mark Ingram can’t play this week, would you decide to use Chris Ivory?
“Yes, I think so. Just think about that though. If Mark couldn’t go, we’d go into the game with just two halfbacks. Three weeks ago I think we were discussing him and I would say probably for the last two games he would have been healthy and ready to play and certainly is now. The challenges beginning today are getting acclimated to the football specifics. Not only did he take snaps with our offense, but he took a lot of scout-team snaps. The key is just getting into that football shape where he’s used to contact and used to doing some of the things regardless of rehab and conditioning that you can’t simulate until you play football. That’s the big thing.”
Does Chris Ivory fit into the same packages as Mark Ingram?
“I don’t think you can realistically go into the game and say he could potentially end up with 22 carries or 18 carries. I think you have to monitor that, but there are some of the same things that he does that Mark would be inclined to do, different than if it was Darren (Sproles) or Pierre (Thomas). We’ll balance the reps out accordingly during the week. We’ll track where Mark’s at. Fortunately we have that depth and flexibility with Chris.”
Is it kind of a luxury that you can be a little more cautious with Mark Ingram?
“It’s back to what we discussed in the offseason. We feel like we have a good solid group of running backs and depth. It’s not necessarily the luxury, but if Mark’s healthy enough and we feel like he’s ready to go, he’s going to play. If we feel like he’s not, then Chris will come up and away we go. This would be very typical if a player’s not practicing and he’s missing practice, you have to have that plan in place where you’re practicing someone else with the first team or the second team and that’s what we’re currently doing with Chris.”
How much of a dimension does Chris Ivory bring in short yardage situations?
“That’s getting back I think to the first question. We’ve run Mark in our goal line and short yard packages. The switch if it were to occur would be pretty clean in those areas. It’s an area that he was very good at a year ago. He runs with power. He has real good explosion in through the hole. The key though is again this would have been like the first day of training camp literally in regards to football snaps. We just have to be smart and make sure we’re getting him up to speed. I know he’s in good shape. It’s just getting acclimated to the pads, carrying the pads, the helmet and everything else that goes into playing that position.”
The past couple of years the games with the Rams have been tight. What have you noticed about the difference in feel with this Rams team?
“I think there are a few things. Anytime you lose as many corners as they have, they’ve been bit with the injury bug. Certainly the quarterback being hurt last week, it’s hard to put your finger on any one specific thing, but knowing Steve (Spagnuolo) and a number of guys that are working there, those guys I’m sure are working and preparing their tails off and looking for their first win. We put the numbers up, we discuss them, we go through the pertinent stats, and yet our focus still has to remain in-house in the details of our game plan and our preparation. Those are just some of the things that would appear to be their challenge.”
Is it a coaching challenge each year to play a team with a bad record and get your team ready to play them?
“I think a challenge year-in and year-out is you play a 16 game schedule and it’s avoiding the two or three letdowns throughout the season, but more importantly than even that is really the focus on the things that we can control. If you aspire to be a really, really good team then you can’t be back and forth. You have to have some consistency in your play. There are going to be week where you don’t play your best football and yet you still find a way to win. I said a little bit of this after the game against Indianapolis, in our league that line that separates really good teams from good teams or good teams from average teams is a very thin line compared to the collegiate game for instance. There are a lot of real good football players on this team we’re getting ready to play, they just haven’t been able to get the wins or play the way they felt like they were playing a year ago. That being said, it’s a road game and we’re just going to have to handle all the elements to it and really focus on how we can improve not just in the game we just played, but how we can improve or how we can continue to improve throughout the course of this season and continue to get better and build off of a big win this past weekend.”
Do you think Steven Jackson will become more a part of their receiving game than he already is?
“He’s a significant player. He’s a guy we had a chance to coach in 2006 (Pro Bowl) and he can hurt you in a lot of ways. Certainly as a runner, he’s one of the better runners in our league and is a fantastic player. He’s a guy that can handle the underneath throws, he loves competing, he’s physical, and you have to tackle well to get him down. One of the things that I recall the first time having had a chance to meet him was just how big and strong and physical his presence is. He’s one of the handful of players that you have to account for on each snap and be ready for doing that for four quarters.”
How important is it to put a blowout win from Sunday out of your mind and get ready for the next game?
“You’d like to think that our regular season mindset is to digest the tough win or the tough loss and by Wednesday certainly we’re ready for the next challenge. You hear me say that after a game whether it was a close game or not, it’s important that we put games to rest without just not looking at the tape, I’m talking about making sure we evaluate those wins and losses closely but put them to rest and get on to the next week. That really began Monday night and Tuesday and all of a sudden you’re on to the next game with the game plan. Certainly for the players now and all of us Wednesday, that’s where we’re at. Getting in that routine and being able to do that and emphasize that is important.”
Will there be any special accommodations in St. Louis in the press box for you in your first away game with your injury?
“I asked Chief yesterday just logistically how far the locker room is from the elevator, but I’m not familiar with the visiting press box. Some of our coaches are. I think it’s maybe similar to ours, maybe not quite as big. I think for the most part we should be fine there. Generally the newer stadiums have space. Some of the older stadiums are more of a challenge in regards to the visiting press box. Hopefully this one will be alright.”
Do you expect Brandon Lloyd to build off his last game in his second game with the Rams?
“Absolutely. I think with a player like Brandon who has had a Pro Bowl season and come into a team that has had some injuries, you begin to look at targets and guys that are going to have opportunities and certainly he’s one that we have to pay attention to. Josh (McDaniels) had a chance to work with him previously in Denver and I would think you’d expect even more in his second week than in his first week. Certainly I think he’s someone that we have a lot of respect for and that we have to pay a lot of attention to.”
Is that a bad matchup for them with all the injuries they’ve had at corner against a team that’s as proficient at throwing the football as you guys?
“Anytime you have a handful of injuries at a specific position, that stresses you and that’s challenging. I’m sure it can affect maybe some of the things you want to do. When we got banged up at running back last year, then maybe there are some things that we can’t do that we would have liked to have done. That happens in the offensive line when you decide you’re going to limit seven step drops or you’re going to limit some of your deeper throws because you worry about protection, no different than the subject we’re talking about. I think the challenge always for us and for teams are when injuries occur to a specific position in numbers. In our league, you prepare and you potentially sign new players and the game continues and away you go. I think that’s the biggest challenge whenever it happens, specifically to a position group.”
Was it hard when you didn’t have Tracy Porter and Jabari Greer there?
“Yes, it just makes you appreciate when you are healthy and it makes you appreciate the importance of staying healthy as it pertains to winning football games. We know every year you’re going to have injuries, you just hope they’re at a minimum and you hope certainly they don’t come in groups to a certain position.”
QB Drew Brees
Looking back at the film on Sunday’s performance, could you guys have done much better than you did?
“There’s always room for improvement, but you look at just the overall body of work and you say we were operating about as efficiently as you could in the run game, pass game. We mixed it all very well. I thought the balance was tremendous. We really didn’t encounter that many third downs. We had only eight third downs, so we were in a lot of first downs in first and second downs, so they came in chunks. When you don’t punt until there’s three minutes left in the game, that’s usually a pretty good sign that things were rolling along.”
In terms of pass distribution were you taking what the defense gave you or did you have a specific plan?
“We go into every game with opportunities for each guy. Once you get into the game, start executing the plan and see how the defense is playing you, then all of a sudden it becomes maybe that we like this matchup or because of the way they’re playing we’re going to have a lot of opportunities with this guy or this scheme, so in a lot of ways, we never know whose day it’s going to be but we always know that it could be anybody’s day. There could be opportunities for each guy. We walk out of that game, Jimmy (Graham) gets two touchdowns, (Darren) Sproles gets two touchdowns one rushing (and) one receiving, (Marques) Colston gets two touchdowns, Pierre (Thomas) gets a huge gain on a screen play and Lance Moore came up with a couple big plays. If you can spread it around like that, it’s hard to defend.”
We talked before about how people’s number is up at different times. Do you think it’s like that around the league or that this is a pretty unselfish locker room?
“I’d say this is a pretty unique locker room, but I’d also say that typically the winning organizations have a big element of that where each guy plays very unselfishly and is very willing to sacrifice for the others, because you know that in the end, the feeling you get when you win is so much better than the other one and when you are working together, sacrificing for one another, you end of winning a lot more. I think that each guy in this system knows that over the last few years that you really never know when a day is going to be your day and this season even we can go and say that (Robert) Meachem caught a touchdown the first three games, then all of a sudden it became Jimmy Graham a little bit, Marques of late has been getting a lot of opportunities. The next guy might be Lance. It might be one of the running backs. It just seems to kind of spread around to each guy in the locker room at some point.”
Did you think a run with these skill players, none who have made a Pro Bowl is possible after one with Antonio Gates and LaDanian Tomlinson in San Diego?
“I take a look at my guys and they’re all those types of players. I know the personal accolades aren’t everything. I know it’s nice to get appreciated. I hope those guys know how much I appreciate them. Maybe they don’t get the respect they deserve around the league from fans and other people, but they’ve helped us win a lot of football games and I think they’re all special players”
When you went back and looked at it were you even in more awe of Marques Colston’s first touchdown grab that happened with one hand?
“Yes, if you watch the tape, you see the corner falling off of (Robert) Meachem to make a play on Marques and obviously Marques being a big guy, I tried to throw it where only he could get it or nobody. As you see it he’s going up with two hands, but the corner kind of grabs his left arm, so he kind of ends up tucking it with his right, coming down. It was a spectacular catch. I’ve seen him catch quite a few of those. That’s Marques.”
Have you guys decided the play-calling arrangement for this week?
“Yes. I believe so. Kind of the plan is Sean (Payton) is going to be up in the box for a while. There’s constant communication like there always has been between Sean, Pete (Carmichael Jr.), Joe Lombardi, Aaron Kromer, where the big diffidence is that it’s not Sean on the sideline talking to me and it’s Pete talking to me, but I think everyone has a tremendous amount of input in what’s going on out there”
Can you talk about the constant communication both on the field and off the field you and Carmichael have always had in New Orleans?
“That’s the thing. Maybe people are only taking notice of that now because of the situation with Sean (Payton), but if you go back and look at every game the last six years, the guy who I’m talking to on the sideline is Pete Carmichael 95 percent of the time. I’ll go down and talk to (Aaron) Kromer from time to time. I’ll talk to Coach Payton or one of the other position coaches if something needs to be communicated. Pete has always been an unsung hero, a guy that you walk around the facility, look in the program or watch on game day, you’re not going to notice him that much until you get into a situation like this where all of a sudden you recognize what his contribution is to this team and our offense as the coordinator. It’s always unique when you have a head coach who calls the plays. Then sometime the offensive coordinator gets overshadowed as far as his responsibilities and the contributions he’s making. I’m just happy to see Pete getting the credit he deserves for a lot of his contributions.”
What’s the challenge in keeping focus when playing a winless team?
“Just the fact that we know the type of team we can be and how we can play. We don’t want to be a week to week team. We want to be a team that is consistent, we know what to expect out of ourselves, we set a standard for how we’re going to play every time out and it doesn’t matter who you play because this league is too hard. There’s too much that goes into it in the preparation throughout the week. You can never look at another team’s record and just assume based off of that the type of game it’s going to be. I was actually surprised at how well the Rams defense has played despite the fact that they’ve had a lot of injuries, especially in the their secondary over the course of the year and really as I look at them playing the Cowboys, a very good offense, the Packers, a very good offense and a couple others, with the exception of giving up a couple of big plays, those guys were stout in those games against those two offenses. We’re playing at their place. They would want nothing more than to get their first win against us and righting the ship there. I think we understand the challenge.”
Is that a challenge as a player to continue that same motivation?
“It is and it’s a long season. Everybody says it’s a marathon. It really is. It’s physically taxing, but also mentally and emotionally. That’s why it takes a pretty strong individual to play the game and be able to play well on a consistent basis. It’s hard to bring that same level of emotion and focus. The great teams are able to do that. We want to be one of those teams.”
Can you talk about the Rams defensive line with Chris Long and James Hall?
“I think obviously for them I know it’s been frustrating because the expectation level is so high going into the season. You’re decimated by injuries on both the offensive side and the defensive side of the ball. You look at their record and you turn on the film and watch it and say these guys are playing really well at times against people and it’s just a big play here and a big play there that have kind of messed it up for them at times. I’m sure that’s what they’re preaching over there, getting some of that stuff corrected, but I have a lot of respect for Coach (Steve) Spagnuolo and the defensive scheme he runs. I think he does a good job of changing it up and trying to confuse opposing offenses, especially when you’re on the road in that type of an environment. You have to make sure you’re prepared for anything.”
Q&A with Rams RB Steven Jackson:
If Sam Bradford is unable to play, how does that affect how big of a load you’re going to have to carry?
“Sam coming back is going to affect the way we approach the game. If he’s not available to us Sunday, I think you can expect us to continue to be heavy on the running game and continue to try to make sure we execute our game plan to the best of our ability and not give the New Orleans Saints more opportunities as an offense by protecting the ball and not allowing them to create turnovers which they’re really good at.”
With the World Series going on there and the tough start you guys have gotten off to, does that make it tough to come to work every day?
“No, it’s business as usual. I’ve been here eight years. I don’t get my feelings caught up in things going on around me, especially something that’s not football. This is a professional game. We’re all professionals and you have to treat it as such.”
You guys barely missed the playoffs last season. How have you and your teammates handled the reversal this season?
“We’re doing well. Everyone’s working hard. The approach is like week one. The most important thing is getting that first win and from there build off of that.”
Does the comeback the St. Louis Cardinals had in September provide some inspiration for you guys?
“What the Cardinals have been able to do is quite inspirational. They’re motivating but we all have to realize it’s two different leagues, two different approaches, and that what we have here as far as a football team is that we’re a very talented football team. We just haven’t been able to put 60 minutes of football together. Either the defense plays really well one week and the offense lacks or vice versa. Our goal now is to get all three phases of the game and put together a complete game and hopefully come out with a win.”
What did you see on film of the Saints defense on Sunday night?
“To be honest with you, we don’t run what the Indianapolis Colts run. That’s not a particular game I would want to study and break down.”
FEELEY LIKELY STARTER: Rams quarterback Sam Bradford (high ankle sprain) was still wearing a boot on Wednesday and it's looking like A.J. Feeley will start against the Saints...The Rams have the worst rushing defense in the NFL, allowing 183.8 yards per game. The Saints rank ninth in the league in rushing yards.
If it weren't for Andrew Luck, the Colts wouldn't have any luck at all...Peyton Manning on the Colts: "I try to help them all I can, but it's not the same."...Eli Manning believes Peyton will play again, but not this season. Peyton is missing the season after two neck surgeries...Dolphins coach Tony Sparano has his house up for sale. The Dolphins are flirting with former Steelers coach Bill Cowher and Titans coach Jeff Fisher to be their next coach...
PHOTO ABOVE: SHAUN ROGERS
by Ed Staton
(Visit Louisiana Sports Talk.com for your LSU and Saints jerseys.)