Nontheless, Sean Payton is out for the season and Joe Vitt will soon be gone for six weeks.
The only remaining questions are if Jon Vilma will be out for a season and if Will Smith miss four games.
The NFL didn't send its top lawyers down here for Monday's hearings and the suspensions will remain, knowing the law is on their side.
The lawsuits should be history at the end of Thursday, and Drew Brees and the Saints will focus on the practice field.
Speaking of Practice field, Drew Brees and coach Joe Vitt held media advisories on Tuesday where the issues of Bounty, Sean Payton, suspended players, Mark Ingram and other issues surfaced:
New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Does this feel just the same as ever?
“Yeah. The offseason went by fast. A lot of crazy stuff happened obviously, but here we are- first day of training camp. Obviously we are getting in a little earlier than everybody else because of the Hall of Fame Game, but everybody is ready to go.”
Everybody else had the experience of coming here and Sean Payton not being the head coach. You just had it for the first time. What was it like?
“Well the fact that I haven’t been able to talk to him either, makes me feel that I’ve had a little bit of that (experience). Normally I would be talking to him pretty frequently. That’s going to be an adjustment, there’s no way around it. I feel like we were prepared to an extent last year when he got hurt, I believe that was week six against Tampa. There was a stretch there for about four or five weeks, especially early on, where he had had surgery and was on crutches, really was spending a lot of time in the training room trying to rehabilitate and do all those things. He was in there for six hours a day, so there were times that he wasn’t able to be present in the meetings or on the practice field or he would just kind of be on-and-off. In those situations it was Pete Carmichael taking over, calling the plays in practice, and obviously Gregg (Williams) running the defense. So I feel like we kind of just picked up and kept the train moving forward. We were exposed to that a little bit last year with Sean’s absence in that stretch and if anything I can say that maybe that was a blessing in disguise for what we are going to face this year with his absence the entire year.”
What are your early impressions of Joe Vitt as the head coach?
“I’ve known Joe Vitt for a long time. We all came in together in 2006. In fact, a lot of these coaches have been here for that stretch of time, including players. I feel like we have all been through so much together, both the good and the bad. Certainly we’ve been to the mountaintop together, and I think we all know what we’re made of. We all know what to expect from each other and we also know that we can lean on each other at times. This is going to be tough, especially during camp here and the first part of the season as we try to reestablish our identity and just kind of get into the flow without having Sean Payton here. Now listen, I’ve got all the confidence in Pete Carmichael, Joe Lombardi, Aaron Kromer, our entire offensive staff. I haven’t had the chance to be around Steve Spagnuolo a lot yet, but from everything I hear and certainly from playing against him, there’s no guy that I have more respect for on the defensive side on the ball than him. I know he conducts himself as a true professional, he’s a great teacher, and he’s got a great track record. And so as I look at our team and the systems that are in place or are going to be in place, I’m very confident with where we’re at and where we’re headed.”
We all love Joe Vitt’s wisecracks during press conferences, I assume he’s the same way around the team?
“That’s what’s great, you guys might be seeing it for the first time but we get that everyday. That’s why we kind of smile and chuckle and say “Hey, that’s Coach Vitt.” You know what you’re going to get out of him: you’re going to get an honest answer, whether you like it or not. That’s what you love about him, that’s what you appreciate about him. There’s not a guy I’ve ever been around that cares as much about his players as Joe Vitt does. He loves them. He will work your tail off, and you may hate him during training camp, but you love him in life. I know a lot of players will say that he will mold them not only as players, but as the people they become.”
On the same note, when Coach Vitt said that you couldn’t sing or dance. Was that kind of a shock to you when you heard that?
“That was a total joke, I’m sure you saw my response via Twitter. I know that I’m a better player and a more confident player and I have more fun playing this game in this job because of Coach Vitt and the time that I have had the chance to be with him, and I hope we have many many more years to come, and I look forward to this opportunity for him.”
No coach in history has been suspended for even one game. You’re losing Sean Payton for a whole season. Can you define the challenge that this is for you and your team, and how do you plan to conquer it?
“I don’t know. It’s hard to define the challenge at this point just because this is uncharted territory for us, just like it would be for any other team. I mentioned last year no having him for that stretch, and that was weird. But now, just to know for a fact that he’s not going to be here, not even to talk to. At least last year we could go in the training room after hours and have an hour-long conversation about scheme or what have you, while he’s getting his leg propped up or whatever, but now I can’t even talk to the guy which is unfortunate because he’s a friend and he’s a mentor. I also think that at times maybe a guy isn’t fully appreciated or the measure of how valuable he is isn’t until he does step away, and then you see how he is able to influence others (players and coaches) to then just fill the role. A lot of times people say that about a CEO: when he leaves the company, how does the company do? Well, if they continue to succeed, in a lot of cases you could say because he helped mold, develop, and mentor those that would take over after him and I believe that that’s what Sean Payton has done for all of us here, coaches and players alike. “
How do you approach this training camp after missing time during OTAs and with contract negotiations? Now that you are here, can you describe the overall feeling of being back?
“I’m excited. I’m always excited and I love football, I love to compete. The last three off-seasons have been weird for many different reasons. The first one was after the Super Bowl, last season was the lockout, and then this year. I’m excited about the unknown because in a lot of ways we don’t necessarily know what to expect, and with all this stuff swirling around us, all we can worry about is what we can control. We focus on the process and the result will take care of itself. I know the type of guys we have, I know the type of coaches we have. I’m excited to watch it all come together during training camp, as it always does. You’re going to have your good days and your bad days, but I know what we’re made of. I know where we’ve been, we want to go, and there’s no greater opportunity than what we have in front of us.”
Talk about the Drew Brees when you got here, and the Drew Brees you are now.
“Oh man, that feels like light years ago, it really does. Football is really like dog years you know because it’s such a small span of your life, and if you’re lucky to play it for- this is my 12th year, it’s hard to believe it’s been that long, but it’s gone by so fast. I’ll leave this game and I’ll still be a young man at whatever age that is and I will still have my whole life ahead of me. The fact of matter is that it is just a small span and I feel like we have accomplished so much in the time I’ve been here. I’ve been a part of so many good teams and been around so many great people. It’s been ups and downs, but I value every second and don’t take it for granted, and just try to enjoy the moment because you never know when it will end or when it can be taken away and so you worry about today and that’s all you can worry about.”
You usually have a personal battle going on with Jonathan Vilma during training camp. Number 51 is not here, is there someone on the defense that might fill that role?
“I don’t know if you can fill that void or that role. Vilma was Vilma. He was such a charismatic leader. He worked as hard as he talked, you know? I’ve never seen one of those guys who was such a great player himself, spend so much time helping to develop younger players. I was amazed last year during the lockout when we staged our own off-season over at Tulane, at the amount of time he put in with the young players like the young linebackers, installing the defense and getting a lot of young guys to show up to that thing, guys who had not stepped foot in our building yet. He had put playbooks together and he was sitting there installing the defense everyday for six weeks. His commitment level to football and the guys he plays with is immense. He’s such a talented player, such an instinctive player. But beyond that, he’s a great mentor and a great leader. It’s hard to replace a guy like that. If you’re forced to do that, you’re forced to do that. If he were ever to get hurt, or if anybody is ever to be gone, we have always done a great job of guys stepping up and filling a role, filling a void, and you just adapt. You evolve. I would say that’s how a lot of guys that are mainstays on this team got their first start. Pierre Thomas barely made this team in 2007 as a special teams guy. And wouldn’t you know, sixteen weeks later he’s starting the last game of the season against the Chicago Bears and sets a record for 100 yards receiving and 100 yards rushing. That was his opportunity and he took full advantage of it. I believe that there are a number of young guys and a number of new starters that are going to get that opportunity, maybe in the absence of Vilma or somebody else, and they’re going to make the most of it.”
There’s a situation on offense with Robert Meachem gone, between a number of receivers. What do you tell the young guys who are fighting for that job? What do you say to them before camp opens? What do you say to them as the quarterback as to what you’re going to be looking for and what you expect to see from them?
“I didn’t get the offseason; I’d say that’s going to be the biggest thing for me. A guy like Nick Toon and some of these other young guys, young offensive linemen and that kind of thing, I’d say just spending a couple of days getting to know them off the field, watching the way they work, watching their approach, and then just trying to find a way to communicate with them and let them know the sense of urgency and how I see them fitting in and pulling them to the side and working with them maybe before and after practice. That’s fun and exciting for me, but it takes time. Certainly throughout camp they’re going to have their good days and bad days, but certainly it’s my job as quarterback to make sure that they develop and they find their role on this team.”
In reference to Jonathan Vilma, have you submitted an affidavit or do you plan to testify on his behalf?
“At this point I do not have any intention on being there. However, I did file that sworn affidavit on behalf of Jonathan Vilma because I believe in the person he is and what he means to this team and to this community.
Given the season that you had last year and the contract that you signed, is there a pressure to match it or even somewhat surpass it?
“Yeah I’ve been down that road and I don’t do that. I do make this goal every camp, every season: I want to be a little bit better this year than I was the year before. You can’t always measure that with statistics. It will be hard to ever match last year’s statistics. There’s a lot of things that have to come together in order to do that. Statistics don’t always equal success in wins and losses and playoffs and championships. Last year’s did, because it was just one of those seasons. Do I feel like there is still some left in the tank for us? Absolutely. Can we get better? Absolutely. Can I get better? Absolutely. I have those things in my mind that each day I am going to approach practice and approach my work with a purpose and to try to improve upon those things. You can’t always measure that with statistics.”
Is this the best talent you’ve been around since you’ve been with the Saints? If that’s the case, does that raise your expectations of how well you think the team will perform even in the absence of Sean Payton?
“Keep in mind that I haven’t been here this off-season so I haven’t seen any of the young guys other than just practice film and that kind of thing, I haven’t seen them in person. I know the type of team that we have coming back, and I know that from the free agents that we signed and the hype around the young guys. I can’t sit here and tell you that this is the most talented team, but when its all said and done, this team will have been through the most if you gauge it off this off-season. You’re always going to face adversity during the season; it comes in different forms. You don’t always know when its going to come but every one of the championship teams during the history of time had their rough stretches during the season. During our Super Bowl year we won thirteen in a row and lost the last three in a row. Everybody was talking about how no team has ever won a playoff game after losing their last three in a row and we debunked that theory and won a championship. I’m all about doing things that have never been done before. But on a talent level, that’s not what’s going to define this team.”
How big a loss is not having Sean Payton here, and what kind of an impact does it have on you?
“Not having him at least to talk to, as a friend, as a mentor, I’ve always known that when I walk into the facility I would see his face. That’s difficult, that’s tough. At this point, I don’t know how that’s going to go down because it’s the first day of training camp and I haven’t been here all off-season. I know it’s going to be adjustment. All I can say about that is how much confidence I have in Pete Carmichael. Keep in mind that you take Sean Payton away, and yet you still have the play-caller for the most part from last year in Pete Carmichael. You have a new defensive coordinator installing a new system, there’s not a more well-respected defensive coach in the league than Steve Spagnuolo. You’ve got your two play-callers on either side of the ball in place. You’ve got Joe Vitt with over 30 years of experience, who’s been an interim head coach before, who has been an assistant head coach for many years, who’s been extremely involved in the important decision making on many different teams throughout his career. It’s not like we’re walking into this with a bunch of rookies. We’ve been down some interesting roads before, now this is uncharted territory. I know we’re equipped to handle whatever comes our way.”
Going back to your CEO analogy, can you describe some of the traits of Sean that you will miss by his physical absence?
“Yes, just fundamental things for me as a quarterback. I’ve grown to know when comments would be coming from him in regards to my fundamentals. If I miss a throw for whatever reason, I know what he’s saying. It would be “elbow up, get your foot out in front, get your hips around, front shoulder down.” I’m going to get a comment based upon how I miss the throw and what type of throw it was. I know its coming before it comes, and now his voice is going to be in my head whether its coming out of his mouth or not, so he’s present even though he’s not present.”
What kind of reflection have you done about the season you guys had offensively last year?
“It’s been a while since I’ve reflected about that besides the ESPYs the other night. The award was given for record-breaking performance and you see the highlights that bring back a lot of emotions from that night and that season and all the guys that were a part of that. It would’ve taken me all night to name the people that had something to do with that, and there was so many that I tried to name as many by nickname as I could. Listen, that was special. That’s in the history books. That’s there forever. Nobody can take that away from me until somebody else breaks the record down the line, which I hope they do because records are made to be broken, but it still doesn’t take away the moment. Just like the Super Bowl moment will always be there, just the 2006 reopening of the Superdome moment will always be there, certain moments will be frozen in time. Even though life goes on and you continue to set goals and aspirations towards creating more of those moments, you still have those moments to look back on and smile on, that kind of thing. And in the end that’s why you play the game, is to experience moments like that.”
How can you personally fill some of the void that has been created by Sean Payton’s absence from the team?
“I know Sean has said this, and I’ve said this too. It’s easy for us all to say “Hey we have to pick up all this slack,” and put this undue pressure on ourselves. The fact of the matter is that the pieces have been put in place in this organization since 2006 to withstand anything that will come our way. You create the environment, the culture, the belief, and the faith. You go out and get the individuals: the coaches and players, so you can withstand anything that is thrown your way. I think it would be easy for us to sit here and want to lump too much of that pressure on us in Sean’s absence. But in the end, it really is just about doing your job and fulfilling your role and focusing on the process, and knowing that the end result will take care of itself if you can just do that. I can throw all kinds of clichés at you, its one day at a time. At the end of camp I’ll probably have some better answers for you, but at this point you’re reestablishing your identity. We are going to see how it flows during these three weeks, five weeks, and we are going to be better off for it.”
Going back to 2006, what’s the most important thing you learned that season?
“‘06, I wasn’t sure if we were going to win a game to be honest with you. I think a lot of people would say that. We were still finding ourselves big time. We were just a group of vagabonds that were kind of got pulled from all across the country. A bunch of castaways brought to New Orleans and kind of put together. We were the ultimate team. I think we defined that term in the way we played and the way we all came together and sacrificed for one another. We weren’t the most talented, but we pulled it together and found a way to win a lot of games. I think we were, in a lot of cases, carried by the emotions and the spirit of the city and everybody coming off of Katrina. I believe that here we are six years later and we’ve established ourselves as one of the contenders in this league. Each and every year when people see the New Orleans Saints on their calendar, they’ve got to get their mind right because we’re a team that believes we can win every time we step on the field and should win every time we step on the field, no matter who we’re playing against. Whether we’re outmatched physically or talent-wise or whatever it might be, we believe. We’ve been through too much at this point. We have too much invested to not believe that. That’s the mindset that has been created. I don’t see that changing any time soon.”
You just signed a major contract, tops in the NFL. What does that mean to you and how much additional pressure has that placed on you?
“It’s not pressure, it’s a sense of responsibility. I’m careful not to put that extra pressure on myself. There might be plenty of reasons where that would be easy to do given all the circumstances – Sean (Payton) not being here, (me) not being here during the offseason, the big contract. The fact is that I just need to be me. I know the things I need to improve upon to get better at. I know the type of leader I need to be. I know the type of example I need to be. I also know that it’s a process and that it doesn’t happen overnight. To me it’s business as usual. I’ll be honest. You might look at me and think I’m crazy, especially after the way the whole contract process went this entire offseason, the ups and downs and how it was dragged out to the last minute. But for me, I could not wait to get back here, to get back to work, to get back to playing football, to get back being around the guys in the locker room, on the field, with the fans and just soaking it all in again and enjoying the moment. And thinking about each day trying to improve and helping to fulfill my role to take this team where we want to go.”
You were a $60 million man in 2006, you’re a $100 million man now. What’s the difference?
Nothing. Somebody asked me what I did right when I found out that the contract was done. It was two Fridays ago. … The minute I got off the phone, I changed Bowen’s poopy diaper. I then went downstairs and did a little whites in the washer. And then I went upstairs and put Baylen’s lunch in the refrigerator. That was pretty much standard operation every day during the offseason so nothing changed. Didn’t jump up and down. Didn’t do anything. Was I excited that it was done, was it a relief? Yes. But other than that, I had the same mindset every day. I was preparing like I was here or like I was getting ready to go to work every moment.”
“We have our roster set at 90 today. We placed Jonathan Vilma on the reserved/suspended list today. We signed a tight end, Derek Schouman, who had played for the Buffalo Bills and St. Louis Rams, out of Boise State today. We made a roster move and signed Marques Clark, out of Henderson State and we released Kevin Hardy today. So we are at 90 right now. Talking about injured players going in to training camp, talking to Mickey (Loomis) this morning, we had a huge staff meeting this morning, Scottie Patton has done a great job at getting our players ready for training camp. I think this is the healthiest we’ve ever been going into training camp. They are ready to go. Jonathan Vilma is not going of course. Greg Romeus isn’t going, he got hurt in minicamp. Akeim Hicks, as you all know, fractured his hand in OTAs and there is still just a little bit of a spacing there so he is going to miss the first couple of days and may start the beginning of training camp on PUP. We expect to have him back on Sunday or Monday and that will get him ready but everyone else is full go. We will monitor Mark Ingram a little bit but for he is ready to go. I hope everyone has had a great summer. We certainly have here. The inside of our building looks spectacular. The people in our building have worked hard in order to get it up to speed. The upgrades and the additions are going to mean a lot to our football team, the locker room, the meeting rooms. It just looks great. We’ve had a great summer. Like I said, Scottie Patton has done a great job of getting our players healthy. Our players have had a great summer. I would say that probably for the last ten days we’ve had anywhere from 25 to 35 guys working out here. Eyeballing our guys, we have our conditioning test tomorrow. Our guys look great. They are excited”
When will an announcement be made about how you are replaced while you are not with the team?
“The discussions have taken place. They are in the infantile stages right now. We are out of the OTAs. Mickey has a couple of coaches that he will talk to. He has a couple people in mind. But again, I think this is critical. We are going to see the personality of this team and what it takes on. Every year is different and the coach that can best serve the needs of this team is the guy that Mickey and Mr. Benson will pick. This is not something that is going to be made in the next week or two. We are going to see who can best serve the needs of our team. We’ve got great coaches here now. We’ve got coaches that have been here since 2006 and know our team and roster. We are blessed to have them.”
How big of shoes is that to fill not only preparing for the season, but making critical gametime decisions?
“Just like when Sean (Payton) is here. We try to script as many of those critical decisions out before we ever play the game that we can. When we challenge, we have eyes up in the press box that tell Sean when to throw the flag and Sean has done a great job at throwing the flag. There are a lot of things that are going to be staying in place. We are going to do the best job that we can at getting this thing scripted and prepared for the guy that comes in. We’ll do a good job.”
From the time that the suspensions came out to now, are you surprised at the role and responsibilities that the coaches have taken?
“Well, that was Sean’s departing remarks to us, do your job. We have a veteran staff here. We’ve got a lot of veteran players here. This team has been through a lot together since we’ve been together in ’06. I made the statement and we made the statement at the conclusion of OTAs, (that) Sean would be proud of the body of work we have done until this point. Now we are on the clock. We have our ops meeting tonight, our conditioning test tomorrow. We are on the clock and in 11 days we are playing in a nationally televised game. It is for real now.”
Is it somewhat of a relief to have the main topic of discussion be football?
“I’ve said this before and I don’t know if anyone believes me, but football and trying to win football games has always been the main topic here. I don’t think that you have the success that this team has had unless that is the main topic of conversation. We’ve had to overcome some hurdles. We’ve had to stick together through the tough times but that is always the main discussion here. We try to do everything we can on a daily basis to get better and win games.”
Is this the most talent that this team has had since you’ve been here?
“Yes, I think I alluded that at the end of the OTAs (based on) the job that our college scouts did with the procurement of talent from the college ranks (and) the job that Ryan Pace and his department did with the pro personnel evaluations. I think it is the most talented team we’ve ever had here. With that being said it means nothing, we’ve got to put it together. We have to go to work but we certainly have the pieces in place.”
You always preach competition in every position, can you highlight a few?
“I don’t want to do that. There are a couple positions on a football team that are secure, you don’t have to be a genius to know what those are. But we are not going to hand out scholarships. We are not going to hand out positions. Everyone is going to be evaluated on a daily basis. The best guy has always played for s. It doesn’t matter if you are a free agent, a high draft pick. It just never mattered. The best players are going to play no matter how they get here, what their draft status is or what their free agent status is. They have to produce because we owe that to the players that we have on our roster.”
You never had a doubt that Drew Brees would be back, but what affect has that had on everybody?
“ I’ve said this before, he is certainly the greatest player that I’ve ever been around and I’m going on 34 years. This is a player whose character and integrity outweigh his playmaking ability. And I’ll say this, we would certainly miss a guy like Drew Brees in the OTAs, his ability getting the team in and out of huddle and stressing the defense with his throws but just more than anything else we missed the person. And he missed being here. He is a joy to be around. He is a natural leader. He loves the game, every aspect of the game (and) brings great energy to the game. He is beloved by his teammates, coaching staff and organization. It was great to see him and get him back in the building.”
If you could pick a slogan that the team is embracing, what would that be?
“Do your job. That is what Sean’s (Payton) departing words were to us. Do your job. So far our players have embraced that. Our staff and organization have embraced that. And that is what it is, do your job.”
What do you think about the us against the world mentality?
“I don’t know how long those things last. We could certainly play that up but when the ball is kicked off and the players walk inside of the white lines, and you’re talking about technique, alignment and assignment. I think that this us against the world mentality is out of the door. I really do. I think this, our ability to prepare on a daily basis and a weekly basis (is what’s important). Take one game at a time and let’s add these things up at the end of the year and see where we are. It is what we have always done here. It is what Sean has always preached and that is what we will do.”
Is the energy that Drew Brees is going to give you over the next few weeks even more because he hasn’t been here?
“I think that he is chopping at the bit to go. But Drew is Drew and again, one of the earmarks of a great player and a great leader is that he is steady. What we’ve seen in the past is what we will see in the future. He doesn’t have highs and lows. His preparation has always been a premium for him. His leadership has always been great. I can’t for see him changing one bit. That is the way he is.”
Is anything going smoother than expected or has there been anything you haven’t expected to happen?
“I go over in my mind everyday, have I forgotten something or have we forgotten something. The support staff that we have here, the people that we have in our building have been unbelievable to our cause. To me, to our coaching staff, this has been a joint effort. And to this point right now, I don’t think that there has been a stone that we haven’t overturned. I don’t think there has been something that we have missed. Now, are we going to get surprises in the future? Absolutely. Are we going to get surprises this year? Absolutely. That is what a season entails. But to this point right here, our organization has pulled together and they have done a phenomenal job. We’ve all been in this together.”
How comfortable have you’ve felt?
“This is all I’ve ever done. If someone asks me to go fly an airplane, I’m going to be nervous. If someone asks me to do open heart surgery, I’m going to be nervous. But this is all I’ve ever done. And when you have a group of players we have and you have the group of coaches that we have and you have the support staff and organization that we have, I think it has been great. It hasn’t been a one man effort. It’s been a team effort.”
You’ve acknowledged that your staff can deliver a message a little differently?
“I think that we are not screaming as much, that is a conscious effort to do the right thing. I’ve said this before. I am on board with player safety. What comes out of my mouth and how I deliver things makes a difference and I think our entire coaching staff has made a conscious effort to make sure the right words come out of our mouth.”
Can you discuss your difference in opinion in what happened with the NFL’s investigation and ruling?
“I’ve said this before and that is a fair question. The commissioner has suspended me for six games for the spoken word and not the clenched fist. If my words can make the difference in the life of a Steve Gleason or Kevin Turner or a player that I lost two weeks ago, 52 year old Grant Feasel or Lew Bush, then I am on board. What I say and how I say it, I want to make a difference. I’m taking responsibility for that and I’m going to get better at that. I’m making a conscious effort so far to get better at that. Now this is in the eyes of the beholder. We did not have a bounty program, we had a pay for performance program, as do a lot of teams. But we are going to make a conscious effort as an organization and a coaching staff to temper what we say and how we say it. Mickey (Loomis) made a good point as we got ready for our ops meeting tonight. We always let Scottie Patton and our team doctors talk tonight in our ops meeting. But we are going to make this a stand alone meeting tomorrow and give Scottie as much time as he needs and our doctors as much time as they need for constructive protocol, because it is important. So it is a stand alone meeting. We are going to try to make every difference we can to walk hand in hand with the league to make this a safer game.”
With regards to the defense, has this made a difference in coaching them?
“No, again I think I watch my tone and I watch how I say it and what I say. I think out a little bit better before I say it. I’m an emotional guy. I have a propensity to think before I speak and I have to do a better job at that. We’ve got a majority of the same players who play hard, who prepare well and who have great intent and character. We are going to do the best that we can”
You try not to get ahead of the game but with the Super Bowl in New Orleans is your team not shying away from it?
“We are going to go over our goals tonight. Our goals are to win the NFC South to be the one seed, to host a playoff game and to win the World Championship. Now that is the goal. With that being said, we will put that to bed tonight and then everyday we are going to try to win the day. And when the game comes, we are going to prepare for one game at a time. When that game comes, we are going to play one play at a time, one series at a time, one quarter at a time, one half at a time and build up four quarters and see where that body of work leads us. And then you are on to your next opponent. But that is something that you can’t get to your goal unless you take care of the early business. And the business at hand right now is to make sure that we get the right 53 players on this football team, that we condition this football team and drill this football team so that they are all in sync. Find out the personality of this football team and what we are going to do best. And then let’s go.”
Do you think that the personality of this football team is going to be different?
“Every one is. I don’t think it is something that the fans and people see right away but every team has a different personality. Every team has a little bit different skill set. Every team you push a different button to teach, motivate and inspire. We’re about to find out. When we put the pads on and see where this team leads us and cater to those needs.”
With the hearings Thursday will you and Drew Brees be here?
“Yes, I will be here. And he will be here.”
With the Collective Bargaining Agreement, there are fewer padded practices. Is this something that the coaching staff is concerned about?
“We had to do this on the run a year ago because the CBA was agreed upon and when it was we had to completely change the structure of our practices. What we did, we have an install meeting at night at the hotel. We come in here and review the install in the morning, have a walk through and then we have a PM practice. That practice structure served us extremely well a year ago, we won 14 games. That is the practice schedule that we will start with. With all teams and what Sean (Payton) would always do, we may tweak it here and there and see where we may need extra work and where we may need to back off. When we may need to be inside when we are getting field work. That is all subject to change based on the needs of the team.”
How different is it for everyone when you are installing a new defense?
“The good thing about this is there are three phases in the offseason. What we call opportunity session, where we start to introduce the defense. Then we get into our OTAs, where go back and reinstall the defense again. Then we have the mini camp where we go back and reinstall the defense again. So Steve Spagnuolo made a good point this morning, this defense is getting installed but we are going back to square one and starting all over again like nobody knows anything. This is the fourth install. So is there going to be a learning curve? Are there going to be mistakes? Absolutely. That’s why we have a job as coaches. But this has been well prepared during the offseason. It’s been well addressed. We are excited about it. We will see what happens. I think that four install periods give us a chance.”
With all that has happened in the offseason do you think that you will be watched more closely for penalties?
“I don’t know that. That is going to be in the eyes of the beholder. We are going to practice the same and prepare the same. The physicality of this game is not going to change. We are aware of concussion protocol. We are aware of all those things now and we are taking it very, very seriously. But our sport, our game itself is not going to change. It is a physical sport. It is a warrior sport. We are looking to physically reduce the will of our opponents every time we compete. That is just not going to change.”
How often are you planning on going full pads?
“That is a good question. We have to go non-pads for three days and then we go into pads. I suspect this. We will probably be in pads for about six days. We play in 11 days. Probably back off the Thursday afternoon or Friday before the Hall of Fame Game. Again, we want to see where we are if we can get our early work done and we feel good about it. We feel good about the pad level at which our players are playing with. The proper fits, the proper footwork. We’ve got a better team. I understand that some of the guys, I certainly think are kids. Jahri Evans is a man now. He’s been here seven years. Devery Henderson, Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Pierre Thomas I still look at them as young rookies because I remember when they were. But they’re not, they’ve been around the block and we well make sure that we monitor that.”
If Jonathan Vilma got what he desired, how soon would he be ready?
“I don’t know that. I think that if you ask him, he will be ready on Friday to go full speed because that is just his nature. That would be up to our doctors and trainers. He’s had a wonderful offseason. He has worked very, very hard. The biggest enemy that he has is that he pushes himself so hard to get on the field early. So we will have to monitor that and see exactly where he is. He feels good. He’s worked hard. This is not his first surgery. He is not like he first was when he got here in ’08, four years later. We would monitor that.”
With the CBA and easing off, how much harder does that make it to assess the rookies?
“I think that is a good question. We have always assessed our rookies and first year players and that come new to the program really based on their game performance and that is not going to change. If we have a rookie that is standing out at practice and doing a great job and not playing very well in games, we’ll maybe put a guy like that on the practice squad. Really you are still going to evaluate your rookies and young players based on how they play in these preseason games. How they handle the pressure and how they handle the install or how they handle the speed and formation recognition and all those things. That is not going to change. We’ve been through this process, this is the second year that we’ve ben through it so I think there were more questions in the back of everyone’s mind than there are now.”
In your opinion, how much of an impact was Drew Brees not being here in the offseason?
“We all missed Drew. Drew is a great player and he is a great person. I’ve said this and we’ve said this all along, this gave our football team a chance to have game confidence in Chase Daniel. This gave our team the confidence and the knowledge of what Chase Daniel can do and what he can’t do. We can be as negative as we want when this was all taking place but I think our football team turned it into a positive. Chase had an outstanding offseason. We know what he can do know and I think that has helped us. Now, Drew is back and I feel like the OTAs were five years ago. We starting new and we are glad to have him here.”
Without Brees present, did that prevent you from doing anything?
“No. We have program that we have done here. We have a confirmed validity in our approach here and this is what we do. We had to find out really what Chase could do best. Is it outside the pocket? Is it a naked squeeze or a sprint series? What are his best play actions? Is he better to the left or the right, throwing corner outs? That experimentation is always going to go on with a new player. But our system is our system and it is the same install.”
How Sean Payton’s intentions continue to be with the team?
“I will tell you this, there is a huge hole in my chest, personally and professionally because I am not around him. I’m not going to lie to you. I miss him. I know Mickey misses him. Mr. Benson misses him and our players miss him. But because of the respect that we have for Sean and the only thing that he asked us to do was to do our jobs, that is what we are going to do. The next time we see him, I hope that he is going to be proud of us for the job that we have done and we haven’t let him down.”
If you guys win, as you hope to, I guess it would be too simplistic to say I guess Sean wasn’t as important as you thought he was?
“I think that you know that this man has Hall of Fame potential. This coach was on his was to 100 victories faster than anybody in the history of our game. We won 41 games, we won more games than anyone in the National Football League in the last three years. You don’t do that through osmosis. You do that through great leadership, great coaches, great players and picking the right 53. Knowing how to teach, motivate and inspire. I think his track record speaks for itself.”
How do you recapture the intensity that he brings to the offense?
“That is going to be the challenge. You coach harder, you coach smarter, you make sure you get the right people, you can’t leave a stone unturned. Our preparation has to be meticulous. There has got to be 100 percent buy in. All of the things that go into winning this league. I don’t think that anyone on our staff or anyone in this building is trying to replace Sean. We are trying to make him proud of us and do the best job that we can. I’ve said this before and I know that Mickey has said this before, there is no place that I would rather be than in this town, with this organization, with this team and going through this challenge. There is no place I would rather be. We are going to do everything we can to make them proud.”
What have you seen from Curtis Lofton?
“You see Curtis play on film, I probably say this more when he was at Oklahoma coming out than with Atlanta because I’m not on that side of the ball. You say a tackle to tackle thumper. And now when Curtis gets here, he has really reshaped his body. He has lost 15 pounds, he probably has a 34 inch waist. You see now his range, communication skills and leadership at practice. He and David Hawthorne have been here for the last 15 days working out in the heat here. There are a lot of things that are unknown about players until you actually get them in the building and get around them. What a great pleasant surprise this player has been. He loves being here. His teammates love him. He has been outstanding. He really has. I know that we all hope he has a great year but I know this, he has but in the time that he deserves to have a great year.”
Why is it important to testify for Jonathan Vilma?
“I said this to everybody in my first press conference and I have shared this with the Commissioner and the league: At no time did our players ever cross the white lines with the intent of hurting or injuring another player. Jonathan Vilma and Scott Fujita were in my meeting rooms when these allegations have come out. I know Jonathan Vilma’s intent. I know his work habits, leadership qualities and what he means to this team. The leadership qualities that he has, he has always put his team and his teammates first and I stand behind Jonathan Vilma.”
Are you all as a staff conscious of being without Vilma and Will Smith and are you looking for new guys to emerge?
“You always are and I think this, I’m watching Remember the Titans the other night and coach Boone gets up there and says, you cannot replace a Gerry Bertier. Well you cannot replace a Jonathan Vilma. But let me tell you something. We have kid in here named Curtis Lofton and he has come as close to a player come to emulate and be what Jonathan Vilma does. We been through this with Will Smith a year ago. So he understands the training schedule. We are looking for players to emerge. We know right now it stands with the hand we have been dealt and now we have to go play the hand. I hope I’ve answered that question.”
You mentioned that you will be on national television soon, will that preseason game be anymore important than others?
“The motto here has always been that preseason games do not count but they do matter. We have to play well individually. We have to want to play well collectively. There are certain people that we want to see play and we want them to play well but anytime you put the pads on and any time you put the New Orleans Saints helmet. We want to play well so we certainly want to play well in this game coming up.”
I guess to borrow a phrase from a Louisiana sports fan, if you start playing well and people start saying that you’re just doing it with Sean Payton’s players, how do you feel about that?
“This football team has paid the price. This football team is about winning. And I’ve said this before, I am nothing more than a spoke on this wheel and that is all I am. We’ve got a lot of great people in this building. We’ve got a great support staff that has worked extremely hard this season to get where we are. It’s all about winning and that is what we are going to work hard to do.”
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