New Orleans Saints In Round 2 Versus Tampa Bay
Written by  // Friday, 04 November 2011 11:00 //

Saints coach Sean Payton issued a injury report on his team and himself in his media briefing on Thursday.

Payton said his recovery from the knee surgery and the broken tibia is ahead of schedule and he could return to the sideline after the Giants game (Nov. 28).  He also said the Saints need to handle the turnover battle better in this rematch with the Bucs, and said the players know how important this game is to them and the season. 

 Payton's opening statement:

“Today’s list is the same as yesterday.  Mark Ingram (heel) did not participate and Jon Vilma (knee) did not participate.  These next four players were all full: Junior Galette, Sedrick Ellis, Jonathan Casillas, and Dave Thomas (late add: Zach Strief (knee) full participation).  Most of today was nickel, third down, and some two-minute.” 

You don’t have the brace on today.

“We just came from icing it.  I had an x-ray yesterday and it looked good.  I’m kind of a little bit ahead of schedule.  We just looked at the fracture area and the screws and the plate that are in it.  I didn’t realize there were seven screws in there.  I’ll be setting off some alarms at the airport for the rest of my life.  Overall it’s doing well.” 

Was that one of the reasons you said to the Tampa Bay media on a conference call you might get back on the sideline?

“They had asked a question and I can’t recall it specifically, but I think we have a couple games here and then a bye.  Hopefully after the bye when we return against New York.  A lot of it is really not the MCL, it’s just the fracture and allowing to put some weight on it.” 

Did your answer have anything to do with the St. Louis game?

“You want to get down as soon as you can.  Really the holdup is the fracture area.  Strategically you can begin to learn how to stay behind the ball offensively or defensively, knowing that everything is going to take place going away from you.  After that game and it wasn’t specifically just because of that game, but each Monday we have a chance to meet with the doctors about our own players and then we had a chance to sit down and he wanted to do a follow up x-ray which would be pretty standard.  Things look good.” 

When you’re facing a divisional opponent for the second time, how much can you take away from watching film?

“I think a lot.  We were talking about it yesterday, especially the fact that it was just three weeks ago or not that long ago.  You tweak some things, but you really pay attention to that film on both sides of the ball and the kicking game.  Of course they’ll look at Indianapolis and St. Louis.  We’ll look at Chicago and the games that were played in between that and we’ll still go back prior like we normally would.  Within the division, you start with a very common familiarity with personnel, with the strengths and weaknesses of players.  There are a few guys that will be playing for Tampa that didn’t play in the first game and probably the same for us.  There will be a handful of players in new positions that didn’t necessarily start in that first game.  It’s going to be really important that we handle the turnover battle.  That’s something that statistically has been a big factor in this game.” 

Is it too early to start looking at the standings when it comes to these division games?

“Honestly, I think from a division standpoint, you’re always paying attention to how your division does.  That kind of begins right when the season starts.  I do think we all recognize the importance of November and December.  The league over the last couple of years has moved these division games to later in the season to really encourage that competition within the divisions.  For the most part you look around our league and barring one or two divisions there’s a lot of great competition for the top spot in each division.  These months are critical.” 

Are you guys still happy with the progress of your special teams?

“The one thing we try to work on is, and take away the kick return for a second because that’s a little different, but from a punt return standpoint each week it comes down to the type of punter we’re facing.  We’re doing a really good job with our punt coverage unit.  Thomas Morstead has done a good job with his hang time and location.  So how do we gain an advantage?  That’s one aspect that we’re spending a lot of time on.  The block last week is something that you want to make sure that you’re paying attentions to and cleaning up.  I’d say overall the coverage units have been good and we’re spending more time both in the punt return game and the times you do bring it out in the kick return game.” 

Malcolm Jenkins said yesterday that after a game like St. Louis you can go one of two ways: you can either regroup and come back strong or you can fold.  How do you make sure you come back strong?

“I think the focus and the attention to detail and the preparation and winning each day really beginning on Monday with the review, but more importantly on Wednesday with the preparation today and tomorrow.  It starts with having a good week of practice and finding that balance between the right amount of snaps and yet not too many where they’re going to be fresh and ready for a good physical game.  I think a lot goes into that both from a coaching aspect and a player aspect, leadership on the team and the locker room involved and everyone understanding the significance of the game here to start November in the division against a team that beat you just a few weeks ago.  I think a lot goes into the focus of playing our best football game.” 

Are you noticing that Drew Brees is being a little more vocal this week?

“He has been and I think you see it in a number of veteran players.  Guys like Jon Vilma, Will Smith, and Malcolm Jenkins has really emerged as a guy that has great focus and has a strong personality about him.  It’s the same way with the offensive line and the running backs.  I think overall as a team you understand what these games mean and how important they are.”

SOME hither, others yon: Forbes is out wit4h its annual list of the 10 best and the 10 worst owners in the NFL, and the Saints Tom Benson came in at No. 8 on the best list. Benson's reputation with the fans has improved in recent years. That's because the Saints have been successful, the Super Bowl is returning to New Orleans, and the franchise has agreed to stay for a long time. Forbes cites a 13-per cent in franchise value over five years as one of the reasons for Benson's selection, and also points to the team's five-year winning percentage (61 per cent). Tampa Bay owner Malcolm Glazer is on the list of the league's 10 worst list. The Bucs have a low payroll these days...

Peyton Manning said Thursday he wants to return to Colts practices this season and still holds out hope of playing if doctors say he has finally healed from his Sept. 8 neck surgery. The quarterback hasn't played since having surgery to repair a damaged nerve that caused weakness in his passing arm. It was his third procedure in 19 months. "If the doctors say you can go, then I'd like to do that," said Manning. "That's the way I'm wired, that's my job, and I love my job."...

The Bucs updated their injury report to disclose that quarterback Josh Freeman fully participated in practice on Thursday with a thumb injury. Roy Cumming of the Tampa Tribune reported the update came after the Saints complained to the NFL office.  Mark Florio of PFT.com reports that's what Bucs coach Raheem Morris said after Freeman showed up on NFL Network with his thumb in a bandage, even though he wasn't on the Wednesday injury list. Will Freeman play against the Saints? "Ask the Saints, they reported it," said Morris. "He might not be playing against the Saints, I don't know. I'll go Belichick on you guys." Freeman suffered the injury against the Bears on Oct. 23...

Saints guard Carl Nicks and tight end Jimmy Graham have been selected to SI's Peter KIng's Midseason All-Pro team. Also honored were Bears running back Matt Forte, former Tulane star, and Jets kick returner Joe McKnight, former John Curtis standout. Forte was named offensive player of the med-season...LSU tight end Deangelo Peterson on Saturday's game: "I feel like their linebackers are slow and big so feel like I can beat them one-on-one and get open in zone or man-to-man coverage. So I think if they guard me with a linebacker, I'll get open."...Tigers defensive end Sam Montgomery isn't up on Alabama football history. When asked about Bear Bryant during the off week, he replied, "I don't know anything about Bear Bryant. We haven't looked at film that much."...

Drew Brees  and the Brees Dream Foundation, on Monday are teaming with actor Matthew McConaughey's J.K.  Living' Foundation to introduce local youth to innovative TRX (r) suspension training system and to add physical fitness and  to afterschool programs.

by Ed Staton

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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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