Tuesday, 23 August 2011 15:12

New Orleans Saints vs. Oakland Raiders: McFadden, Ford, Ellis, Brees

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Raiders running back Darren McFadden and wide receiver Jacoby Ford, who accounted for 17 touchdowns last season and have missed the bulk of training camp and both exhibition games, were back on the practice field on Monday, reports the Oakland Tribune. Whether Raiders coach Hue Jackson allows McFadden to play against the Saints remains to be seen, as the coach might be reluctant to expose his most valuable offensive player to further injury.

McFadden suffered a broken orbital bone in his left eye on Aug. 3. 

Coach Sean Payton wanted to get away from the distractions in New Orleans and finish training camp in cool California in preparing for the upcoming exhibition game against the Oakland Raiders.  Defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis talked about his defense's poor showing in the loss to the Texans after practice in Oxnard, Cal., on Monday .

Coach Payton said he wanted to come out here to expand camp by coming out here. Why couldn’t that be done in Metairie? Are there advantages to playing here in California?

I think his idea is to get away from Louisiana and eliminate distractions for the team, get us together as a group, just us, so we can focus on what we need to do. I think it is a great idea and I think the guys are taking advantage of the opportunity.

 What was Gregg Williams’ message to the team?

The message was about that it is not about what other people do, it’s about what we do. I think it goes back to our fundamentals. If we do the right things on defense, it’s going to be hard for anybody to beat us. I think we let up as a defense in that ideology. I think he is trying to instill that, pound that, into us. With the guys on this team, like I have always said, I don’t think it will be a hard sell.


How do you handle the recent injuries at the defensive tackle position?

Well, we have been there before. You only go into a season with a certain number of defensive linemen anyway. The guys that are healthy will pick it up and fill in for those guys. They will be back when they are healthy and able to be back. Until then, the rest of us get to pick it up.


Aubrayo Franklin was injured in the last game, and he just came to the Saints. How does it hurt? 

We are anticipating him being a big part of this defense. It always hurts a defense when somebody like that goes down. Like I said, I think we will be fine until he gets back. The rest of us just have to pick up the slack.


Was the defense's poor performance against Houston because you were holding back for the regular season?

We don’t use that as an excuse on this team and on this defense. We made a lot of mistakes and they took advantage of them. We have to get better as a defense. There is no excuse. Your vanilla scheme is supposed to be your bread-and-butter. It’s supposed to be what you do best. We have to go back to the drawing board and get better at our techniques and come out and have a better game.


Is there a sense of urgency because of the performance against Houston?

Most definitely. There should be a sense of urgency all the time. When something like that happens, especially on the defensive side of the ball, to me, you have to respond. I think with the guys that we have on this team, and the veteran leadership that we have on this team, I don’t think that shouldn’t be a problem at all.


Did you get a chance to go to the beach at all?

No, I didn’t get a chance to go the beach yesterday, did you? Was it good? No, I didn’t get a chance. I have family in this area. I am originally from the Los Angeles area. I had family come out, we went out to dinner, and I hung with family I hadn’t seen in a while.

 After Monday's practice, Drew Brees said an idyllic camp setting like Oxnard eliminates distractions , affords the players to bond and get more work done in the cooler weather.  Brees' thoughts about California, Jimmy Graham and other matters:  



What are your thoughts about practicing in Oxnard, California?


From a weather standpoint, as hot and humid as it is in New Orleans, you can only go for so long outside until you’re completely drained.  With the climate out here, you’re just able to get more reps while still being able to stay on grass and not have to go inside like we would at home on the turf.  It’s a little easier on the joints and the muscles and you can get more reps and still have a very physical practice.  In a way, just like when we used to go to Jackson, Mississippi, it’s a way to get away from home and eliminate distractions and just think about football.


This is kind of a home in a way for you out here in California.


We’re three hours from San Diego.  Obviously, I spent some time in San Diego in the offseason.  Just the fact that you’re getting 65 and 70 degree weather every afternoon, that’s summer time out here so that’s about as good as you can get weather-wise.


How similar was training camp in La Jolla with the Chargers to being in Oxnard with the Saints?


We were in La Jolla my first two years with San Diego and then in Carson the next two and one year at the Charger facility, but it’s all the same weather.  It’s this type of weather: 70 degrees, sunny, and dry and not a lot of humidity.  You can practice a lot longer, you stay fresh a lot longer.  That’s the main benefit.



You said it’s all business; but the bonding aspect, how does that help the team.


I think it helps the team a lot because you eliminate a lot of distractions.  When you’re home, there’s a lot going on where as when you’re here, all there is to do is eat, sleep, drink, and breathe football and that’s a good thing and I think we absolutely need that right now at this stage in camp.


Jimmy Graham put himself on the map last year if he wasn’t there already.  How do you think he’s handling being a known commodity with high expectations?


I think he’s handling it well.  He’s still a young player who has great potential but hasn’t been playing the tight end position that long.  He just played one year at Miami sparingly, and then played for us really just the last half of the season last year.  When you talk about preparing a guy like that for a 16 plus game regular season schedule, that’s a big demand on a guy and his body.  I think his coach and David Thomas have done a tremendous job with helping him along and teaching him what it’s going to take to be a pro at this level and to be a great player because he certainly has the chance to be a great player.  I’ve seen him do things and react to things this year that would have been way over his head last year, but he’s a smart guy who wants to be great and loves football.  When you have that, you have potential.


Can you talk about the diversity at running back with Mark Ingram, Darren Sproles, and Pierre Thomas?


I think it’s a great trio.  When you look at all their strengths and their abilities with the diverse group we have, it’s hard when you give a defense that 1-2-3 punch because all of them can do so many good things and you’re able to rotate them and keep them fresh and that’s only going to help us and our offense and how complex we’re going to be and what we’re going to be with formations and personnel groups.  It’s really becomes a great weapon for us.


Was there anything in particular you wanted to work on today as a result of the game against Houston?


First and foremost was the turnover battle.  We put in on the ground four times and lost three of them.  That can’t happen.  I was a part of that and that can’t happen. That’s unacceptable so you preach that, you talk about it, you work on it, you do plenty of ball security drills out here after the day something like that happens and you just re-focus.  We know it’s the most telling stat in football but you have to continue to address it.  The run game is something that is very important and I feel like we made strides towards establishing that in the game on Saturday but we can certainly get better offensively.  I know the defense had some things they wanted to work on as far as stopping the run.  The fact that we can get out here and battle it out and really extend practice time because of the conditions, that’s just more work we can get done and the better we become.


Can you talk about spending time at the beach with the offensive line and the surf competition?


The offensive line didn’t come with me to the surf competition.  I have a buddy that works for Quiksilver and they were sponsoring the event and it was on the military base, which any time I get a chance to go see the military, it’s a big honor for me.  A combination of hanging out with the military folks and watch the surf competition which I’ve never watched before, it was pretty cool because there were some pro surfers out there and also some military guys who do some surfing in their spare time that were really good.  It was just fun to spend time with them and watch the competition and enjoy what this area offers.


Given this idyllic setting, is there any concern getting the message across that this is still about camp and football.


I don’t think it’s a concern because I know what type of guys we have.  I’ve been on other teams where that might have been a concern.  You’re worried about guys breaking curfew because there are other fun things to do.   We’re very focused on the task right now, especially coming off a game like Saturday in which we know we have a lot of things we have to improve upon.  There’s a sense of urgency to do the things we need to get done out here.

by Ed Staton

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


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Ed Staton

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


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