Injuries On New Orleans Saints Mind As Readies For Rival Atlanta Falcons
Written by  // Wednesday, 09 November 2011 23:20 //

PaytonSaints coach Sean Payton issued his weekly injury report and discused Sunday's game with rival Atlanta Falcons at his media briefing after practice on Wednesday.  

Payton said rookie defensive end Greg Romeus  returned to practice to begin a 21-day window as he remains on the reserve-injury list until the Saints decide to activate him.

Romeus was a seventh-round draft choice. He was a consensus All-American preseason selection but was limited to two  games because of back and knee injuries. He is 6-foot-5 and 267 pounds and should contribute on special  teams and add speed to the pass rush as a defensive end atfter he is activated. He was drafted because the Saints coaches believe he'llbe a good contributor after he is injury-free.

Payton said rookie cornerback Johnny Patrick (another "future") will see more snaps as injuries mount among the cornerbacks.

The coach said the Falcons have found their balance and are playing better. He also said Tulane has contacted several Saints assistant coachcs about its vacant  head-coaching job.

Payton's comments:

Opening Statement:
“Let me first give you the injury report for today. LB Jon Vilma (knee) did not practice, DE Turk McBride (ankle) did not practice, CB Patrick Robinson (stomach) did not practice,Tracy Porter (neck/chest) did not practice, and TJermon Bushrod (stomach virus) did not practice. Mark Ingram (heel) was limited today, John Gilmore (neck) was limited, and Chris Ivory (hamstring) was limited. There were a couple of practice squad transactions. We signed CB Kamaal McIlwain to our practice squad along with WR Andy Tanner. We released CB Terrail Lambert and QB Sean Canfield. Greg Romeus returned to practice. This starts his 21 day window as he remains on the reserved/non-injury list until we decide to activate. As always for Wednesday, our schedule was pretty typical in regards to first and second down.”

Did a stomach virus hit both Jermon Bushrod and Patrick Robinson?
“No, they were different deals. With Bushrod it was. With Patrick, the other day he came in and actually had some pretty serious pains so we took him in for some exams. He’s just working through that and getting some tests done. It’s listed as stomach, but with Bushrod it would be more of a virus.”

Do you think Patrick Robinson’s injury is football related?
“No, it wasn’t from the game. I was in the training room when he came in. The first concern was appendicitis. The tests came back on him negative. He’ll continue to get treatment and we’ll see where he’s at day-to-day here.”

Do you see Jon Vilma having a speedy return?
“I’m hopeful, but we’re also going to be pretty smart with the bye coming after this game. We’ll try to keep you abreast each day here. Last week it was at a point where there was still enough soreness, he had missed enough snaps, and we decided not to play him. Looking back, I think it was the right decision. Jo-Lonn Dunbar did a very good job and got all the work during the week. We’ll kind of monitor it this week much the same way and yet be real smart about it.”

Does the bye come into your thinking on a lot of guys?
“Not really, maybe just for a couple. For the most part, you’ve heard me say this, we truly try to look at the player and try to make sure he’s ready to play and can physically and help us win. If the answer is yes, then we’ll play him. Jon would be an example of us trying to pay attention to his injury and the timing of this game with the week off afterwards.”

Considering the similarities between Chris Ivory and Mark Ingram that you’ve talked about, would you ever have them both on the active roster at the same time?
“That’s a good question. I think that some of it would start with the health of Pierre Thomas and the health of Darren Sproles. It’s hard for four (running backs) to have a good rotation, and yet I would never say never. Some weeks it would just be because of other position injuries where you would look to in a game maybe carry more at that position. Three (running backs) are typically what we’ve carried on a game day, and yet we would certainly look at that each week with the opponent we’re playing and maybe the plan we’re putting in.”

With Patrick Robinson and Tracy Porter going through some injuries, will we see Johnny Patrick getting more playing time?
“He’s doing well. He’s been a healthy inactive. Today he got a lot of snaps. Leigh Torrence received a lot of snaps withJabari Greer. He’s doing well. He’s had a couple games where we’ve been able to bring him up based on some other injuries. This is going to be a week where potentially he could be up. A lot of it would be predicated on where we’re at with Tracy and Patrick both.”

How has his football development been coming along? It seemed like he had a good training camp.
“I think it’s been good. First off, he’s a quick study and he’s fairly smart and understands what we’re doing within the framework of our scheme defensively. I think he has good instincts. He’s a good tackler. I would agree with you. I think there were some real positive flashes early in camp with him. When he’s been able to be up on game day, he’s been a good contributor in the kicking game.”

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you thinks of a Saints-Falcons game?
“Let’s get past the long history. I would say in the short-term these are two organizations that have been very successful. Mike Smith, Tom Dimitroff, their players and their staff there have done a great job of building a program and really getting better each season. We certainly have a ton of respect for where they’re at as a team and them having won the division a year ago and securing the number one seed, all those things have been done over a period of time with a lot of good decisions, a lot of good play and a lot of good coaching. More recently, I would say, I don’t know if the term is a rivalry, but it’s more important because the two teams are having success. Certainly we understand and value and appreciate the importance of a divisional game against a very good divisional team.”

With the balance that you had in the game this past Sunday against Tampa Bay, were you satisfied with the balance of running and passing plays and is that what you’re looking for in the second half of the season?
“For that game it was a point of emphasis and it was something we felt was going to be important to win that game. I do think we’re a better football team when we’re able to rush the ball as effectively as we did the other day. I think it helps us in a lot of ways. It helps our defense, it helps set up our play-action pass, and there are a lot of other things that are residuals when you have that type of success running the football. Week-by-week depending on who you’re playing, there are some weeks that may shift heavier towards the run or maybe not as heavy towards the run and there’s also not that in-game adjustment, but those things that take place during the flow of the game that maybe you begin to do as a result of what you’re seeing defensively.”

What do you think the Falcons have done differently over the last three games based on what you’ve seen on film?
“I think they’ve found their balance. They’re an explosive team. They have a lot of real good playmakers offensively. I think the one thing that you’ve seen too is I would say they’re playing as good of football defensively as we’ve seen. They have real good team speed on defense, they tackle very well, and they get to the ball. They’ve been able to pressure other team’s quarterbacks not necessarily with any dogs or blitzes, but they’ve done a good job with their four-man rush. There are a lot of challenges that they present. I think typically when you see three wins in a row, there are some common denominators in the turnover ratio, their ability to have that balance that they I’m sure look for offensively and the way they’re playing defense and the kicking game. They’ve done a lot of things well in these wins and it’s not surprising. They’re a good football team.”

Can you talk about Julio Jones’ maturation as a rookie?
“Like all rookies, there’s so much to learn especially in light of this past offseason with the limited snaps. He’s explosive, he has size, and he has strong hands in traffic. He’s a player that through the evaluation process I think anyone who really studied the tape on him knows he really loves playing. He’s physical in the run game. There are just a lot of things that he does well that you’re looking for at the wide receiver position. It was a big game for him that he just had. I don’t think it comes as a surprise for any of us that know the player. I think it was just a matter of time. I think it helps them also with coverages that might tilt towards Roddy White. That becomes more challenging to just do that now. You get your hands full just in regards to not only the perimeter players that we’re talking about, but Tony Gonzalez inside, Michael Turner in the running game. There are a lot of things that create matchup problems and create scheme problems for us defensively. The one thing you have to do is have some flexibility and change up the looks.”

Can you compare Tony Gonzalez and Jimmy Graham?
“In fairness to Tony Gonzalez, it’s always hard to draw a comparison from a very young player. Certainly there are some things you would look at just in regards to skill set. Tony was a very good basketball player. He’s very athletic and very smart. He takes good care of his body and he’s been able to play this long for a number of reasons. Jimmy Graham is someone who as a young tight end as we’ve had a chance to see is at the very early point of his career and studies guys like Tony Gonzalez and had a chance to play with Jeremy Shockey and understands the work that goes in and the commitment that goes into playing that position that well. What’s impressive about Tony is not only how he’s played it, but it’s been a long time that he’s been real good. That’s staying power for him and consistency and availability is really exceptional.”

You guys have run the ball well to the left side and the Falcons have two good defensive linemen on their right side. How big is that matchup this weekend?
“One of the things that’s pretty interesting that I think just the casual observer that watches a team maybe run left or right, often times we do that because of the matchups on the back side of the running play. In other words, if you’re running left obviously there are some very important blocks that are taking place from the center back to Jahri back to the right tackle to give you the cut-up lanes or the cut-back lanes. We try to pay close attention to the film and look for certain directions we want to emphasize during the week of practice and during the game. Every once in a while there will be a run scheme that may be just one way for that game. When that’s the case, we just put an underline under that play. In other words, that’s the only direction we’d run it. Most of the running game are plays that we could run right or left. A lot of it is based on the hash mark or where we’re choosing to run for that specific instance. I think you see Atlanta doing a very good job. I think they’re in the top seven or eight teams against the run. That starts with their front. Their linebackers are very active. Lofton does a great job and they have a lot of guys that get to the ball very quickly. Not only handling the front four, but being able to get to the second level and being able to block the safeties, all those things lead to statistically having good rushing numbers.”

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Last week we talked about you scripting six plays coming back for the second half. Do you think you’ll do that again this week?
“I’d like to. It’s easy once you know you lose the toss. We’ve kind of been on a roll here. We’ve lost every toss. When that’s the case and you know you start the half with the football, it’s easier to go ahead and script out six or seven plays. I also think in a very short period of time it can help the players with the idea that maybe they have a mental vision of how the half is going to begin. I think that can help. It’s almost like having the first five or six questions of a test before it’s given. That’s one of the reasons we try to do that to start a game. But I think we’d like to do that again this week in the second half.”

Do you think you’ll be able to come down at halftime?
“I’d like to think so. I haven’t gotten the logistics yet from Chief in regards to where the press box is as it pertains to our locker room. Hopefully I can and hopefully this is the last time being up there. Overall the logistics have worked out well. At home it’s easy because we’re pretty close to the elevator and it’s not a long walk or there’s not a lot of distance.”

Based on what happened to Tracy Porter, are you extra careful about bringing him back?
“In regards to Tracy, the first thing is let’s go through every test that’s necessary to make sure there’s absolutely no risk when he returns. That being said, all of that has happened. Now he’s dealing with pretty much the soreness of the play. I’m kind of cautiously optimistic with him in regards to him being able to practice some tomorrow and being ready for this game.”

He’s been cleared with all the tests?
“Yes. It was a significant collision and the soreness he’s having now would probably be much like someone who was in an automobile accident and is sore and is going to take some days to recover. We’re fortunate and he’s in great shape. It’s just getting through the soreness and the stiffness that comes with a tackle like that.”

Has Tulane asked to speak with any of your assistants?
“They have and Mickey Loomis and I have talked about it. I really don’t want to get into the candidates. I think number one, we have a ton of respect for Tulane and the process and we’re going to help them in any way. Again, I always consider that a positive that there’s interest possibly in some of your assistant coaches. We really look at that as number one, any way we can help in regards to their search and number two, if it happens to be a coach on our staff that has interest in it we’d say the same thing – any way we can help. The only challenge with the collegiate game and the NFL is the calendars are different. We’ve had interest in Tulane with a couple of assistants. It would probably be best to just leave it at that. Rick Dickson has a great relationship with Mickey and myself. This offseason they were fantastic and we weren’t directly involved with it, but the players being able to go over there and train. It’s a school that we want to see do well, just like we want to see LSU do well.”

Logistically, how did it work when Doug Marrone did it?
“He had an interview and it actually happened prior to the end of the season. He had an interview at the end of the year when we were playing in Chicago. I believe it was a Thursday night game. It wasn’t a playoff season. That’s when he found out he had gotten the position. We both agreed mutually that it was best that he take the job immediately. It made sense for him to get started with recruiting. His replacement, Aaron Kromer, was already in the building coaching the running backs. That transition was fairly smooth. The challenge though is always the time frame and the timeline with which they’re operating at the college level compared to our season.”

Can you talk about the challenges your secondary will have facing Matt Ryan?
“The specific challenges with Atlanta are number one, your ability to mix up your run fronts and your pass fronts. In other words with calls that we make that Gregg makes defensively, there are calls favored more to stopping the run than stopping the pass and vice versa. Matt Ryan is one of those players much like Drew Breesthat can get out of a certain play and into a more advantageous play based on the looks he gets. When you’re on the road and you’re dealing with an offense that can quickly get to the ball with tempo, they can no huddle – they’ve done that and have done it very well, they can audible or get into plays that we’ve talked about here. I think the challenges for the secondary are, there are a number of them, you’re dealing with very talented players outside so it’s – when is it you’re playing cloud, when is it you’re playing single-safety zone or single-safety man, when is it you’re playing bump-and-run and staying on top of the big plays. There’s a lot that goes into defending a team that has weapons like Atlanta and then you throw in the tight end and the running game. It’s easier when a team is one-dimensional and I think when Atlanta is playing their best offense, they’re two-dimensional. They have the ability to run it very well. They’ve been a team that I would say prides themselves in rushing the football, but also a team that can be very explosive and dangerous in the passing game. I think that’s when it’s a challenging week for the secondary. That’s not even getting into some of the logistics we’re looking at today with today being Wednesday’s practice. Hopefully, this clears up a little more by tomorrow and I think it will. Like I said, I’m optimistic about Tracy, we’ll see where Patrick’s at, the other players got good work in today and that’s kind of the way our league is. The next guy’s up and he’s getting the practice reps and you just have to be able to adjust during the course of the week.”

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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