Saturday, 28 July 2012 11:25

Two symbols of New Orleans Saints rebirth: Steve Gleason unveiled, Sean Payton presence remains

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gleasonTwo glowing reminders of the rebirth of the New Orleans Saints from the depths of Katrina despair, Steve Gleason and Sean Payton, are playing ironically, two different roles.

Gleason’s presence is obvious; Payton’s presence is dominant, but subtle.



Despite a one-season suspension and a glowing absence from practices, coach Sean Payton still looms large over Saints headquarters.

The team is leaving empty seats for the coach on buses (and will on planes) and in meeting rooms. A large photo of Payton appears in the team's practice facility mandates at the bottom in large letters "DO YOU JOB," the non-profane version of the notorious mantra of Payton's mentor, Bill Parcells, as PFT's Mike Florio notes. The Saints are wearing "Do YOUR JOB" T-shirts.

The team wants the players to feel Payton's presence -- both to capitalize on his "fumes" and to let players know that, if there is any loafing in his absence, there will be accountability.

Florio noted "eventually, Daddy is coming home. And he's gonna kick butt of anyone who wasn't doing his (expletive deleted) job.

The Saints unveiled the "Rebirth" statue at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome that shows former Saints safety and special teams standout Steve Gleason blocking a punt against Atlanta that sparked a Saints' victory over the Falcons in their return to the Dome after Katrina. It was one of the highlights of the franchise's history. Saints radio announcers Jim Henderson and Hokie Gajan said they were teary-eyed driving to the game that night.

Gleason, now suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease, blocked a ball of the foot of Falcons punter Michael Koenen on Sept. 26, 2006. The materialization of the moment omits the Falcons logo or Koenen's name, according to Jim Varney of The Times-Picayune.

Varney writes that the Falcons declined to grant permission for the use of the logo and name, with multiple requests from the Saints culminating in an appeal to owner Arthur Blank.

The Dirty Birds owner didn't make a decision to allow use of the logo or the player's name.

While we understand the reluctance, the Falcons were part of that moment. Keeping the logo and name off of the sculpture won't change that fact.

Below are two media availabilities from Friday:

New Orleans Saints Offensive Coordinator Pete Carmichael

Media Availability

Friday, July 27, 2012


Adrian Arrington has been in the wide receivers position group battle for a long time, and now with Robert Meachem gone this could be his chance to step in.  Is the wide receiver position battle crowded now more than ever?

“I think right now that’s a spot we feel pretty good about with the depth we have.  We have a lot of young guys competing.  Adrian had a heck of a day today.  He’s had a heck of two days.  When it comes down to it and we decide the 53-man roster, some of these guys are going to have to contribute in other roles as well like special teams.  But he really had a great day today.”


As far as being a receiver, what more does Adrian Arrington have to do?  Is it about putting together more consistent good days?

“I think he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do since he’s been here.  It’s just been crowded at that spot.”


Do you think Adrian Arrington understands the opportunities he has right now at the wide receiver spot?

“Absolutely.  He’s a professional.  He’s been a professional since the day that he got here.”


Adrian Arrington said it’s at the point where the game is slowing down and it’s just going out and reacting out there.  Do you see that when you’re watching the film?

“I think he’s always been a very sharp kid.  I’ve never known for the last couple of years for him to slow down because he learns as he goes.  He’s a sharp guy.  He can play a couple of different positions.  I really think this training camp is going to be really important for him and for all the receivers, but really had a good day.”


How much has your job changed since you’ve been here without Sean Payton?

“He’s obviously significantly missed.  As far as what’s been happening up to this point, not much.”


What has Michael Higgins done over the offseason and the first couple of days that has made him stand out a little bit more?

“He was in the system last year.  Now he’s here, he knows the offense, he’s a sharp kid as well.  I think he has a little bit of a uniqueness at that position that we feel like we can be a pass receiving tight end as well as a blocking tight end.  We’re going to get the pads on here starting tomorrow, so that will something important to is to see him in the pads.  But he’s really shined as a route runner as well.”


Is it also kind of an opportunity for Michael Higgins to prove himself in training camp?

“I think last year he was still in our mind developing.  He’s put on some weight.  He’s gotten bigger, stronger and faster.  This is in between his rookie here where he was just kind of getting a feel for the system, but this is his time.”


Can you talk about how some of the younger guys are looking, specifically Travaris Cadet and Nick Toon?

“I think Toon and Cadet have heard these plays before.  They’ve been here.  Now, it’s just an opportunity for them to go out and go full speed.  Both of those guys have stood out, particularly Cadet in the pass game.  That will be something we’ll see once the pads are on again tomorrow.  We’ll see where he stands out as far as running the ball, but he’s really shown some skills in the pass game.  Toon, I’ve said this back in the spring, he’s a great route runner, has real good hands and is sharp.”


Are you seeing any difference in Mark Ingram now that he’s one hundred percent healthy?

“He’s always been a tough, physical runner.  It’s nice to have him healthy.  I think if you go back and look at the film last year, he really played well for us last year.  He really did.  When you go back and look at it and study it, he played really well.”


Based on the reps so far, it looks like Pierre Thomas is kind of getting the first crack at the running back position on offense. 

“It’s kind of unique for us with all the guys we have at that spot in that some of them have different roles for us.  You might say that one of them is a starter, but I think all four of them have a role on this team.”


Jake Byrne, a rookie tight end out of Wisconsin, how has he been looking so far this year?

“He was brought in here primarily as a blocking tight end.  For him to shine, it’s going to be when the pads are on where he can show us that he can man up and take these defensive ends on.”


How is Ben Grubbs fitting in so far with the offensive line?

“Great.  He’s a great person, a great personality, he’s everything we look for in a player here, and he hasn’t missed a beat.  He’s sharp.  He’s a veteran.  It might be different terminology, but he has the experience.”


New Orleans Saints Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo

Media Availability

Friday, July 27, 2012



Let’s talk about the emphasis on your defensive line play in your system.

“It is a four-three scheme just like a lot of four-three places and it’s four down lineman. It really comes down to in the course of the game, are you taking one of those guys out and playing with three and more linebackers than defensive backs or are you keeping four in there. The history that I’ve been around and what we have been used to is I firmly believe you win with big guys offensively and defensively. So you try to keep as many out there as you can. We could put 11 out there but those guys wouldn’t be able to cover the wide receivers. But we do believe in winning the game up front.”

How is Curtis Lofton on the defensive side of the ball?

“He has come in here. He has impressed me. We threw a lot at all of them in the spring. I told him at the end of these spring practices, I had been through four of these in this system where we have put it in for the first time. Fourteen years in the system. Four times I’ve installed it for the first time. I think this group, Curtis Lofton included, has embraced more volume and more in a shorter period of time that anybody else. To do that the Mike linebacker has to be to be doing something right.”

You haven’t seen a lot of Drew Brees but let’s talk about the competition.  How that is going to make this defense better?

“I’ve seen enough of him. He’s already done it because I feel like, and the coaches feel like, you put a scheme in and you’re looking for certain things. You want to find your own weaknesses so you can correct them and he finds them. Our quarterback here finds them. When he finds them, then we can figure it out before we have to go to the real game. So it’s real valuable when you have an offense that functions the way that this one does. Even the little drill that we did at the end, where he does a hurry up offensive play, he operates it so well. It forces us to get good.”

How competitive do you get?

“I’m trying not to because it’s not us against them but we are all human. We’ve got a lot of pride. You get there to the end and the head coach blows it up and it’s a down and distance situation to compete, we’re going to be competitive and I think that Drew Brees likes that.”

Who has been your mentor or influenced you the most?

“It began mostly with Jim Johnson back in Philadelphia. We were doing a little bit in NFL Europe when I was coaching the team in Frankfurt, Germany. It really expanded and all the things that Jim was creative with. That’s kind of where it began. It was that foundation in Philly for eight years. Jim was terrific with it God rest his soul. He had done it a long time.”

You’re worried about the defense now but this team needs a head coach?

“I’ll tell you what I’m doing, your first comment was exactly on. I’m worried about the defense and that is all. That is what I’ve been hired to do here. I will say this, I will do anything the organization needs me to do to help us win. And that is the way I approach it.”

What have you seen out of Jose Gumbs so far?

“He’s been an impressive young rookie at a position that takes a lot of mental capacity. He’s been able to pick it up pretty good. He’s a guy that played small college football and he is from the northeast so he gets an extra plus there. He’s been impressive but we’ve got a long way to go. We haven’t put the pads on and all that but to this point he’s done pretty good.”

Jose Gumbs mentioned the playbook being massive. Do you think that is one of his biggest obstacles?

“I don’t know how you describe massive. I guess if a book is thick, it’s massive. We try to keep it limited. We don’t want to give them more than they can handle but when you’re a rookie and you have to keep up with veterans that have played for six, seven or eight years, it is probably going to feel massive.”

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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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