Thursday, 06 October 2011 14:57

New Orleans Saints: Brees, Payton Talk Newton, Panthers; Bush vs. Sproles

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Reggie BushReggie Bush believes Tony Sparano is a great coach and has given 0-4 Dolphins coach a vote of confidence. He thinks Dolphins players are to blame for the poor start. One of the players in the locker room who deserves the most blame is Bush who signed a two-year contract with Miami for $9.5 million. The Dolphins thought Bush would be their featured back.  The Saints replaced Bush with Darren Sproles who will get $14 million over four years.Through four games Bush is responsible for 217 all-purpose yards and one touchdown on 54 touches (4.0 average) -- 119 rushing (40 carries, 1 TD), 86 receiving  (13 catches, 1 TD) and 12 punt (1 return).

 By comparison, Sproles has accounted for 716 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns on 56 touches (12.6 yards average) -- 134 rushing (15 carries, 1 TD), 224 receiving yards (26 catches, 1 TD, 106 punt (six returns, 1 TD) and 251 kickoff (nine returns).

The problem with the Dolphins coach is what his former boss Bill Parcells always used to say: You are only as good as your record.

Saints coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees conducted a media briefing after Wednesday's practice.

Payton talked about Cam Newton, Jeremy Shockey, having Will Smith back, Marques Colston's role and how his new defensive tackles were doing.

Brees discussed Darren Sharper, Cam Newton, Jimmy Graham and the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Payton and Brees:

Opening Statement:

“I’ll go through the injury report for today’s practice.  These guys did not practice: C Olin Kreutz (left knee), T Zach Strief (right knee), TE Dave Thomas (concussion), LB Will Herring (left hamstring).  The following players were limited: LB Martez Wilson (shoulder), LB Jon Vilma (knee), and WR Devery Henderson (calf).  One practice squad transaction: we signed T Fenuki Tupou, #72, and released QB Sean Canfield.  So we switched those two guys out.  Most of today, as always on Wednesdays, was spent on our base first and second down.”

What exactly is Zach Strief’s injury?

“It’s his MCL.  He’s probably two to three more weeks we feel.  His progress has gone well and we just have to reduce the swelling and strengthen it and get him healthy.”

When you see an offense that is doing as well as in Carolina but the wins aren’t there, what do you say to your team?

“I think we really try to look closely at the team we’re playing.  We look at what they’re doing well.  Certainly, philosophically they’re completely different than they have been in regards to what they’re doing offensively, and they’re different defensively.  No different than any other game, we pay attention to what we think are the goals going into the game in order for us to win, what are the objectives, what we feel like are important with this game on the road, and then you prepare for what you’re seeing.  But clearly they’re very explosive offensively and they put up real big numbers.  The other thing if you pay real close attention to the games, they’ve been very competitive and very close.  You look at Green Bay - that was a close game.  Two weeks ago with Chicago was the same way.  They’ve been in a bunch of games now in just four weeks where they’ve put themselves in position to win or did win against Jacksonville.  It’s really just trying to acquaint yourselves with what they’re doing, then implementing our plan and studying it closely.”

Did you tell your team that Carolina is right on the threshold of breaking through and they’re dangerous?

“Certainly our players understand that every team we play is dangerous.  Our guys are able to look at the film and see the scores and see who they’ve played and they understand the explosive nature and the type of team they are defensively.  They’re playing well.  I think that’s part of the week as you go into it.  But clearly they’re different.  They haven’t had the wins, but they’re putting up some real impressive numbers.”

Have you seen a rookie quarterback in the NFL with Cam Newton’s ability?

“It would be hard to make a comparison.  The things that’s most impressive that I would say is considering the fact that we really haven’t had an offseason, so there are a lot less reps for all these young quarterbacks who are first year starters or rookies in Cam’s case, what’s been impressive is the way he’s performed just having one training camp and then all of a sudden the regular season is on him.  He has given them a lot of confidence I think.  You see the players playing around him, rallying around him.  He has a very gifted arm, he can escape, and when he does escape he looks to throw and not just run, and when he does run he’s extremely athletic and is someone that can pick up more than just five or six yards, it can be 15 to 20 yards.  There are a lot of challenges that he presents, but the transition for him is what’s been most impressive considering the abbreviated offseason.”

How much of a dilemma does Newton present deep in the red zone area?

“Anytime that the guy taking snaps is a run threat like he is, there’s another dimension added to what you have to defend that some weeks you don’t have to defend.  That’s not going away.  That’s something you have to deal with.”

Can you see a stamp already on the team since Ron Rivera has gotten there?

“Yes.  There’s no question.  They’re playing with great energy and great effort.  They certainly have bought in and you can see that on tape.  I said this in the offseason, I think the challenge really during this lockout was for the new staffs because there’s so much that they have to not only install, but there’s a lot of evaluation that needs to take place with the current roster they inherited.  I just equate it trying to go back to ’06 envisioning a lot of the key decisions we had to make and part of that process was minicamps and OTAs and not having that is a challenge.”

How strange will it be to not have John Fox on the other side of the field for the Carolina?

“For a while in this division there were some real close friends with John Fox being at Carolina and he and I had worked together in New York and of course Jon Gruden at Tampa Bay.  It’s the nature to some degree of our business.  You pull for those guys.  It’s always more difficult when they’re in your division.  Coach Rivera has done a real good job from the get-go and certainly the wins haven’t come but you can see that the players are playing extremely hard and they’ve been very impressive.  They’re one of the surprise teams just in regards to not only the quarterback, but all the players around him.  Steve Smith right now is having one of the best seasons of his career.  Both Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey are guys that are threats certainly in the passing game and in the running game.  You lose sight a little bit of their running backs and the depth they have there with Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams.  There is a lot offensively that they’re doing well and defensively they’re getting after the passer.  They’re putting up very good number in their rush.  Captain Munnerlyn, their corner, is having an exceptional season.  They have a lot of confidence in him.  You can see that Chris Gamble is a veteran player and they’ve overcome some injuries just like we’ve had to with some players on defense, particularly Jon Beason, their middle linebacker.  This is our first divisional game and an important game.”

Will Smith had a great game last week.  How do you think he’s looked since coming back?

“He did.  He’s looked good.  He’s in great shape.  He had one of his better training camps in the condition he came into camp in and he played very well last week.  It’s good to have him back in the lineup and certainly back playing the way he’s playing right now.”

How much does that help with the rest of the defensive line unit?

“I think that’s important with the snaps of trying to get into a rotation.  We have a number of guys at the end position as well as the tackle position.  We’ve always tried to rest guys and make sure they’re fresh and get guys in and out of the game.  I think that’s one of the things we’ve kind of stuck to.  Each week it can vary depending on the total number of plays.”

What are your thoughts on Marques Colston?

“Last week, we got him back into the flow of things.  His role was somewhat limited and yet he was right at around 20 plays.  I think you’ll continue to see his role increase.  He’s fully healthy, he’s moving around great, and his weight is down.  It’s just a matter of now no different than Tracy Porter, some of these guys have come back after the first week of an injury and now going into the second week you’ll see him more and more involved.”

How would you evaluate what Shaun Rogers and Aubrayo Franklin have done so far this season in the defensive line rotation?

“I think they’ve done well.  There have been a lot of games where we’ve see a lot of nickel and their role has been different.  There have been other games where we’ve seen more base offense and their roles were increased.  Both of them just recently in the last two games have played well.  Each week depends on the front you’re seeing and the offensive philosophy you’re seeing.  Both of those guys are doing well and are certainly acclimated to what we’re doing.”

Were you surprised that John Kasay was unemployed when you picked him up and how fortunate you feel to have a guy with his experience to come in and do what he’s done?

“I don’t know that we were surprised.  Typically on our short list, depending on position, maybe there’s more depth at some positions than others.  If you went through each position, you would find that at linebacker there’s little depth available in regards to free agents.  At kicker when we picked him up there was more depth and we were fortunate to be able to sign him.  That can vary really depending on the position you’re looking for.  It’s always hard to find corners, offensive tackles, there are some positions that are hard to find to come in and help you play and we were fortunate that kicker wasn’t one of those positions.  We felt that he’s been a real consistent performer and he’s been that way for us and his experience has really helped us too.”

Is there anything that stands out to you that they’re doing that makes Cam Newton so successful so early?

“I think the one thing is he’s had a lot of experience in the shotgun so you’re seeing more shotgun snaps.  He’s very comfortable with shotgun running game in regards to the exchange and then the handoff.  That’s something that he’s had a lot of work with so that transition has gone smooth.  With the offensive set, some of them being spread sets, that just creates space not just for the players he’s looking to throw to, but space for the running backs if it’s a running play and certainly space for him if he’s going to step up and flush or leave the pocket.  Just by watching the tape, there are some things you see that come very natural to him.  I think it’s important to state that he’s an exceptional athlete, but he’s also an exceptional passer.  He has great arm strength.  You can see just the yards per completion that they’re statistically averaging is very impressive.  You see that effort and energy from all the eligible receivers knowing that there’s never a play that they may not get the ball.  If not in the initial part of the read, then down the field if a play is broken.  That’s the challenge.  When the play is extended and the coverage goes from three and a half seconds to seven seconds.  That’s the challenge and you’ve seen each week, he came up with some big plays last week.  He steps out of the pocket, flushes to the left and hits Steve Smith on a ball that was in the airs 65 yards almost moving to the left.  That’s tough defensively.”

How difficult is it for Chase Daniel to simulate a guy like cam Newton?

“We ask him to look at the tape.  They’ll pay attention to some mannerisms.  They’ll pay attention to coming out of the huddle.  Obviously trying to emulate  someone each week can vary and with the type of quarterback we see each week defensively varies.  Chase will look at some of the film and he’ll try to approach the center in a very similar fashion.  He’ll try to look at the shotgun depths, where the launch points are and there will be plays where we ask him to flush and force our guys to extend the play and get used to the play being broken.  It’s something that we spend a lot of time on.  In other words, here are the things that are important defensively and that goes back to each week in our preparation.  It was (Mark) Brunell for a few years.  I remember the two weeks Brunell did a real good job of practicing all the stuff that Peyton Manning did leading up to the Super Bowl.  That’s something that’s important.”

So his physical stature doesn’t necessarily translate?

“We can’t go sign a 6-6 practice squad quarterback.”

Does that make it hard?

“I think it just is what it is.  You have your practice squad player and there comes a time when all of a sudden we’ll implement if we’re going to see some snaps when they’re in Wildcat, we’ll put a running back there because they’ve done that.  As it pertains to the quarterback, you adjust and adapt to it.”

Who on special teams do you feel like has done a good job of covering punts?

“There are some guys that stepped us last week.  Korey Hall got the game ball on special teams.  He was exceptional.  Jonathon Amaya has been very consistent.  We’ve had a number of guys.  Courtney Roby has been very consistent.  It’s the execution, certainly the punter, each week.  (Morstead) has had a good season so far.  When it came to the Chicago game and his location, Houston, the field position changed when all ofa  sudden we’re backed up and the punt’s over and we’re taking the field defensively and the ball’s on their 36 yard line.  Those types of things have been real impressive.  All of those guys in the coverage units have done a good job, but Korey has been up now the last two games and he’s handled that role.  Isa (Abdul-Quddus) is a guy that’s played well.  He’s one of our core guys.  We just keep emphasizing that aspect of the game because it’s huge.”

I think you’ve allowed ten punt return yards in four games.

“It’s a credit to the cover unit.  It’s a credit to the punter with his hang time and location.  Our kick coverage has been good.  We had the one kick return in Green Bay so what happens is statistically that kind of haunts you like a D on a test in school.  It takes a bunch of games to put that statistically behind you if you know what I mean.  But overall we’ve been pretty consistent in covering, the location, and the depth and hang time of the kicks have been good.  We just keep paying attention to that.  We think it’s real important and we keep working on the return game.”

What have you seen on film from Steve Smith this year?

“All the things that we’ve seen form him, you see right now.  He’s healthy, he’s running well, andhe’s playing with a ton of confidence.  It’s all the things that have made him a great player and he’s having one of his best seasons after four weeks.  After each game you put the tape on him, it doesn’t matter which game, you can put it on him and if I didn’t ask you who to look for, within a quarter of a play you’d ask, ‘Who’s #89?’  We know who he is and he’s playing fantastic.”

Who on the defensive side of the ball for the Panthers are you most concerned about?

“Charles Johnson, the end.  The rush is real good and we’ve seen each week them affect the quarterback in regards to their edge pressure.  The ends are playing well.  Like I said, I think Captain Munnerlyn is playing well.  Each year, there’s a corner or two in our league that just steps up.  (Brent) Grimes a year ago in Atlanta had a great season and I think you’re seeing that from him.  (Chris) Gamble’s an experienced player.  He’s been very consistent.  Their secondary is playing exceptionally well.”

Is there a target for Drew Brees with the number of passes you want him to throw and are you conscious about the balance between running and passing plays during the game?

“There’s never a target number of attempted passes.  That’s somewhat flexible as the game moves on.  We never set a target for attempts.  I’m probably mindful of rushes and passes but I pay more attention in the course of the game to where we are on first down.  That would be a question I would ask each week after five series is what’s our mix on first down and then what are we seeing defensively on first down.  To go along with that, maybe more mindful of how our runners are getting involved in the game.  I try to pay attention to that.”


What do you make of the Mercedes-Benz deal?

“I think it’s strong.  It’s impressive.  In the team meeting on the PowerPoint, I just had that logo up and then I turned it off and turned the lights on and just talked to them a little bit.  I’m not a business major.  I couldn’t handle the math, but I do know with a company like that putting their name with a state, a city, and a team like the Saints, that’s pretty impressive.  They don’t just do that on a regular basis.  It’s a great indication and a great sign of how far we’ve come, not only as a team or as an organization, but certainly as a city and as a region.  I’m not going to get into the other stadium named, but that brand for our team and our city is pretty powerful.  Ten years and the significance of it, it’s certainly a big shot in the arm for everyone here and a credit to Mr. Benson and everyone who put this deal together.  I think it’s fantastic.  I think it’s good for all of Louisiana when you look at the finances of it.”

New Orleans Saints, Mercedes Benz And Superdome: Best Of Class--Read column, watch video



How much more of a concern is it with David Thomas’ injury when it lingers with the concussion?

“It is a concern and it’s something that you just keep looking for symptoms and you keep paying attention to him.  It’s certainly something we pay close attention to and we don’t take lightly.”

Is he having something similar to Randall Gay?

“I wouldn’t describe it as the same.  The difference also is the amount.  I think Randall had a series of (concussions) over a course of time.  It’s just the headaches and getting back to where he’s 100 percent.  We just keep paying attention to it and it’s something where we would never hurry so we’ll just continue waiting for him to get cleared.”

Mark Ingram had more carries than your other running backs.  Is it something where it depends on down and distance or something else?

“I think some of it is just how it unfolded.  There was a point in that second or third quarter where I said to Bret (Ingalls), “Let’s make sure I’m getting Pierre (Thomas) in there.’  There’s no exact science to the rotation.  I do think the important thing is giving these guys the chance to get into a rhythm too.  But it’s mouthing that’s a challenge and there wasn’t anything specific.  Take out the goal line snaps and short yardage and you’re really talking about four or five snaps there.  A lot of it is just how the game unfolded and the personnel groups we were in.”

Can you talk about how the defense has improved since Green Bay?

“I think we’ve played two of the better teams in our league offensively.  I’ve said this to you guys earlier, when you look at Green Bay and you look at the Texans, clearly those are two outstanding offenses.  Each week there’s a different way that we feel like we need to win.  I think we try to remove ourselves to some degree from the statistics and pay close attention to what we feel like are the keys to winning.  Obviously the wins and losses are the statistics that are most important.  They played exceptionally last week especially down the stretch with the short fields to defend.  When you look at teams that will go for it on fourth down late in the game, those are additional snaps that you have to defend.  You get past third down and then you have to play another third down really.  Our efficiency there was real impressive and important for us to win. But you could see that confidence.  We’re gradually getting healthy there with some guys coming back, Tracy Porter now being back in the mix and Vilma progressing with his injury, Tom Johnson inside, all of those things have begun to fall into place and yet they recognize that this is another challenge this week, a different type of challenge, and nonetheless a big challenge.”

You’re tied for third in the amount of sack yards defensively.  Can you talk about that?

“Today we put up our first quarter numbers after four games and we kind of went through them all and we also PowerPointed last year’s first quarter.  We’re just trying to pay attention to some of the things we set out to do this year than we’ve done.  We still aren’t handling and the turnover thing is something we still need to get better at, both offensively and defensively and also in the kicking game.  Form a ball security standpoint it’s something we pointed to and from a takeaway standpoint it’s something we pointed to.  There are a lot of positive things after four games and yet there are still some things we view that we can improve on.”


 Saints QB Drew Brees:


Did you ever have a stretch in your career where you personally were playing well but the team was struggling at a 1-3 stretch, possibly comparable to the Panthers with Cam Newton?

“I’m not sure. I think my mentality is that you’re never going to play a perfect game. So even though you might play very well, you’re always going to think about the one or two things you could do differently to affect the outcome of the game. That would be my perspective.”

Were you a little disappointed that even though you racked up over 500 yards on Sunday, you managed only 23 points?

“Yes. I was actually happy that we got a win on the road in a tough environment that you look at statistically in terms of that no NFC South team had ever gone in there and won. We over the last few years can point to a few games that might be similar to that. That was a team that plays very well at home. That was a team that defensively had played very well this season even though the stats in the Jets game might not point to it because they were put in some bad positions, but to put up 500 yards of total offense you shake your head because you look at the scoreboard and that should show up some more. Obviously you look and say why is that? We got down inside the 20 three times and just came away with field goals and not touchdowns. That certainly could have helped. We had a big play or two and it could have gotten us more points. I was, being the personality I am, I’m happy for us as a team to come out of the game healthy, get a big win and keep the streak going, but I’m also upset at myself for some things and feeling like we still have to improve at some things.”

Are you impressed at how Cam Newton has done given the lack of an offseason?

“Yes. I haven’t seen any film on him. The only thing I saw was when they played Jacksonville before us. It (conditions) were really sloppy, so it was hard to get a gauge for the guy. You look at the sheer statistics and shake your head. I don’t care how long you’ve been in this league. It’s hard to put up the numbers he’s put up. He’s certainly a raw talent. We all knew that, but I don’t know if anybody could predict it, so you certainly have to give him credit for what he’s been able to accomplish so far.”

How would you compare and contrast the defensive styles of John Fox and Ron Rivera?

“They’re (Panthers) doing some different things. Some stuff you see a little bit of the Philly carryover with Sean McDermott and his experience there. Ron Rivera being in a 4-3 scheme up in Chicago when he was the defensive coordinator there in ’06 when we played him and then he went on to be the d-coordinator in San Diego where they run the 3-4 and obviously now he’s in Carolina where they do the 4-3, yet they do some stuff in the nickel that looks like there’s some 3-4 ideas. I think it’s a mixture of a little bit of everything. I know they had two big injuries in (Jon) Beason and Thomas Davis but I have a lot of respect for that defense. I lot of those guys have been together for a while. I know they’re pretty young up front. The secondary and those guys have been together for a while and I think it shows.”

Cam Newton says he’s a big fan of yours and would love to learn how you run an offense. How would you size him up and what words of wisdom would you give?

“How would I size him up? He towers over me. Maybe some words of wisdom after the game. I think there’s always a competitive thing between quarterbacks when you’re playing against each other even though I’m not directly facing Cam Newton and he’s not directly facing me. He’s facing our defense and I’m facing his defense. It’s hard to go into any game against a talented young player or seasoned veteran that you know has a lot of talent and you have a lot of respect for and has a little bit of extra oomph and your kind of going step for step. But, in the end, I’m focused on scoring as many points as I can, hopefully that’s more than they score, but he’s obviously in our division. We’re going to be seeing a lot of this guy.”

What do you remember about Darren Sproles when he came to San Diego? Did you wonder what type of role he would have at his size?

“We drafted him in ’05. He walks in the door and you think gosh this guy is tiny by NFL standards in terms of a running back. He had accomplished some great things in college. He was coming into a situation where we had LaDanian Tomlinson and Michael Turner, so really he was just fulfilling that special teams role the first year. Then from afar, I’m watching him because I liked him and wanted him to succeed. I’m watching his role increase and increase. He really was doing some great things in San Diego by the time he entered his fourth, fifth, sixth season and that was a big reason why this offseason, training with him and watching the way he works, he’s a pro. He does anything you ask. When it came time to go back to camp, I said to Sean (Payton”, ‘You might want to go after this guy.’.”

Was this the first offseason you and Todd Durkin worked with Sproles?


What was his mentality?

“He’s a quiet guy, competitive though. There are guys like that. Marques Colston (is) competitive but quiet. Devery (Henderson), (Robert) Meachem, you don’t hear a lot from those guys vocally, but deep down there’s a fire inside that burns. Sproles has got unbelievable spirit and that competitive fire. You can see little things. I think that’s why he’s so good with a lot of things. If you find a thing he hasn’t mastered yet or quite worked on, he’s going to find a way to get better at it. I see it when there’s a big play to be made and he doesn’t make it. It’s on to the next play too. He’s not one to dwell. I really like him. It’s hard because my perspective that first year in San Diego, him looking at LaDanian Tomlinson who’s in the prime of his career, Michael Turner who I believe was in his second year, but we know what kind of player he’s become, so I’m sure Sprolesie was thinking he was going to watch these guys, learn how to be a pro, learn how to get it done and contribute. Did I think Sproles would be the player he now is when he first came in? I don’t know. He’s just a rare talent, not just physically, but his mental makeup. I think it takes a really tough person, physically, mentally, at his size to do what he’s done.”

How often were you making casual references to him to join the Saints?

“Just when we trained. I didn’t know what was going to happen with Reggie (Bush). I told him if Reggie’s not here, you’re going to be here.”

Maybe in San Diego he didn’t have that many snaps, but what’s been the difference here?

“I’m not sure. You’d have to ask him.”

Is it a situation where he’s used more?

“San Diego played a few primetime games. I’m a fan so I watch those. It seems like his name was always coming up. Always, whether it was a catch out of the backfield for a 50-yard touchdown, a punt return, his name was always getting thrown around. He was making plays. I never really counted the snaps, but I think here, maybe what’s so great about his role here is the fact with our three backs in Pierre (Thomas), Mark (Ingram) and Sproles, each one of them has a role and yet you can plug them all in at any place. I feel very confident about all their skill sets. I think when you take his contributions in all phases…I think he has a hand in everything. He knows his number will get called and he’ll have opportunities. I have to give a lot of credit to Sean, because Sean has a knack for everything. Every guy has their plays, their opportunities. They’re in the plan. They’re going to get (their number) called. That keeps guys excited and focused, knowing that my number’s going to get called and I have to get ready.”

Why have you guys had trouble against Carolina in the past?

“They’re a tough team. I think they play us tough. This is no excuse, two times we played them in the last game of the season when we were resting starters, still if you were looking at it, it’s even and I believe in that case it’s 4-4. We’ve traded punches many times, had some close games.”

Have other division games been like that?

“Yes, you could say the same thing for Atlanta. Those have been close. Tampa, the last two years has been weird. We’ve gone to their place the last two years and dominated and they’ve come to ours and beaten us. What the heck? It’s divisional opponents, where you know each other well. You know each other’s personnel. You really try to beat each other up each time you play. Anything can happen

Can you talk about the importance of your third down conversion percentage?

“Third down conversions are big, because those sustained drives, you wear a defense down, the more points you score, at least the more opportunities you will have to score points, the longer you can rest your defense, so they can come out there and give you the ball right back. That’s a big stat. Turnover ratio is a big stat. Red Zone efficiency is a big stat. Those are a couple that I pay attention to.”

What is your explanation for what you think is a league trend for how much yardage and scoring is occuring?

“I don’t know. Who knows? We’re only four games into the season. I’d like to think that trend’s going to continue for us with the yardage, points and everything else. It’s hard to put your finger on it because we were all in the same boat this season, offenses and defenses. There’s always the argument about what side of the ball needs the most time to execute. You could say offensively if one guy messes up it could mess up a whole play, you could probably say the same for defense. So much of what you do defensively is just reacting, whereas on offense your interacting. I don’t know. I’m just kind of talking. I don’t know.

What do you think of currently having six quarterbacks on pace to beat Dan Marino’s single season yardage record that you came close to breaking three years ago?

“That’s unusual. The rules I would say. Even though there weren’t any rules changes this offseason that I can think of that with the exception of even more emphasis of protecting players down the field with hits. Guys aren’t worried about catching balls and having their head taken off because of penalties and a fine. Guys have more of a chance to catch it because they’re hit in the body rather than the head. But other than that, they’re protecting the quarterbacks the same as they always have in the pocket. You get out, throw the ball  away, not go past the line of scrimmage. All those rules are the same. Why this year instead of last year? Everybody’s searching for the answers. A lot want to blame it on the lockout. I just think there are some good quarterbacks and skill position players in this league. You see what Calvin Johnson’s doing. There’s some freak athletes out there. Did anybody expect Cam Newton to be doing what he’s doing? It’s hard to believe. Buffalo putting up the points and numbers they’re putting up, (Ryan) Fitzpatrick. There are tons of guys that are playing at a high level around the league. It’s fun to watch. For a guy like me who’s involved in it. It’s still fun to watch. I keep up with it.”

What did you think of the Mercedes-Benz announcement?

“Mr. Benson has obviously had a longstanding relationship with Mercedes-Benz both here and in San Antonio. When you think about international brands that really garner respect and stand for quality and excellence it’s definitely Mercedes-Benz. I think we’re all real proud to have that hanging in the Superdome.”

Trivia time: Panther coach Ron Rivera is the third Latino head coach in the NFL. Can  you name the other two? The Saints' Jimmy Graham leads NFL tight ends in receiving yards with 367 yards on 24 receptions, averaging 15.3 yards per catch and three touchdowns. "Jeremy Shockey had a lot to do with Jimmy's development," said Sean Payton "When were able to bring in a young TE and kind of put him behind Jeremy and let him see Jeremy do some things that he's done for so many years, that was instrumental for Jimmy. Payton said releasing Shockey didn't come easily. Three Panthers players -- Shockey (concussion), OG Geoff Hangartner (back) and Jeff Otah (back) didn't practice Wednesday. Rivera said Shockey is going through the league-mandated concussion protocol and will be re-evaluated on Thursday....Trivia answer: Tom Flores (Raiders) and Tom Fears (Saints)

New Orleans Saints, Mercedes Benz And Superdome: Best Of Class--Read column, watch video


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. | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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