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Q&A: Aaron Cromer and Drew Brees after Wednesday practice (Sept. 5)

New Orleans Saints Offensive Line/Running Game Coach Aaron Kromer

Post-Practice Media Availability

Wednesday, September 5, 2012 

Opening Statement: “Marques Colston did not practice. Jabari Greer, David Hawthorne, Curtis Lofton were limited and Adrian Arrington was full. Today, we practiced our normal Wednesday practice where we go first and second down. Everything went well. We were practicing fast, they looked fresh. It was a good day.”

What about Darren Sproles?

“Darren is fine.”

What is Marques Colston’s injury?

“Left foot.”

What are your thoughts on if they will play on Sunday?

“It appears that all of these guys should be ready.”

People in the community say that football and the Saints serve as a good distraction from damage caused by Hurricane Isaac. What does that responsibility feel like for you guys?

“More than a responsibility, it’s an honor to be honest. You hear Drew Brees and our leaders on our football team and they feel they are part of the community. The community feels part of us. It is just a feel that you are doing something for your family member. Just as you’ll play for your father and mother who raised you, they feel the same way about the community as in ‘this is just another family member that needs help.’ If this is what helps them, getting excited about a football game, then that is what we’ll do.”

How is your preparation different for a player like Robert Griffin III with no game film from the NFL?

“You can go by what you have seen in college and what you have seen in the preseason. That third preseason game is always important because most teams will play to an ‘A’ game. They will try to play three quarters. Anytime there is a new quarterback or a new player, a team wants to play him as much as they can in the preseason to get them used to playing at the NFL speed and that is what they have done. He has gotten plenty of reps, so I think there is plenty to look at.”

How much from the preseason do you think you will actually see on Sunday?

“I am sure they ran their base plays in the preseason. It’s their scheme they are going to run. They will have plenty of additional things that they will add to their gameplan, I’m sure, they haven’t shown. A lot of people do it. He (Griffin) is a talented guy. He took Baylor and made them into a powerhouse which they hadn’t been in a long time. When one guy can really change your program, and he has shown to do it in college, there is a good chance he could it in the National Football League.”

What is more important in defending him, containment or pressure?

“When you get a guy that can really run, it is important that you contain him, that you keep him within the realms of the defense where you can corner him in and not let him out and run in space. You give a guy like that, that’s that fast and elusive a lot of space, that is a problem.”

If Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma were able to return, would they play Sunday?

“I think those are two individual situations. Will Smith has been practicing all along until this week. I am sure he would be ready. Vilma, we’d just have to judge what kind of shape and what kind of knowledge he has of what’s going on.”

With five running backs on the roster, is there a script in place to utilize as many weapons as possible or is it for situational substitutions?

“When we are designing our offense, it is to get guys involved in the playmaking situations. With each one of those guys, they have what they do best. They cross what they do. If you look at (Darren) Sproles, he can run the ball, but he is a great receiver. If you look at (Travaris) Cadet, he is great receiver and he can run the ball. You look at (Mark) Ingram, he can run the ball but he is a good receiver. All of those guys can do a lot of things which is a benefit to us. We try to get them in. If they are dressed, we are going to use them in some fashion.”

Are you nervous or excited for your first contest in a head coaching role?

“I am excited. Like I said two days ago, it is a huge opportunity for our team to show the resiliency that we have and to show that all of the things we have done over these six years aren’t for waste. We have studied the way that things should go. Drew Brees knows, he has seen it all. Zach Strief has been here the entire time. There are a lot of players that have been here long enough to know what it is supposed to look like and know how we practice. We practiced today like it is supposed to be.”

Did you learn anything in your transition to this role in preseason that you’ll need to do differently against the Redskins?

“The biggest thing that I learned was the timing and how I am going to be able to talk to the offensive line after an offensive drive. I can’t spend a lot of time but I never did anyways. I think, when you are the coach of a position, you prepare your position for the game and the things that could happen. If you have an intelligent group like I have, they solve all of the problems by themselves and want to know ‘is it A  or B? Do I solve it with answer A or B’ and all I have to do is go over  there give them a quick ‘B would be better’ and they will be good. They’re that experienced. With Frank Smith, he will be able to do that as well. It (preseason transition) allowed me (to feel out) the timing, how long do I spend over there and then come back to the sideline.”

With Adrian Arrington missing most of the preseason, will there be an effect?

“There shouldn’t be. He had so much offseason work and has been here long enough. He knows the plays. Obviously, there are tweaks every week that we do within the scheme. He knows the system. As long as he is up to speed, he should be fine as far as running and doing the things that he needs to do.”

How do you weigh which running backs to play going in to this game?

“It depends. There are a lot of factors in who dresses for a game. One of the biggest factors is special teams. If you are active on special teams, whether it is a returner, a coverage unit, or a punt protector, you have a chance to dress. You have more opportunities. When it comes down to offense, defense and whether you are on the line to dress or not, a lot of times it is special teams.”

How important is this game for yourself and for the team to set the pace for the rest of the season?

“It is one of 16 to be honest. It is one of 16. We all want to win this game, obviously, that is why we play but it is not going to make or break the season one way or another. We are preparing to win. The Redskins are preparing to win. We are going to go out and play the game. It is one of sixteen.”

When you signed Darren Sproles last year, did you anticipate the number of touches he received last season? Do you envision using him in a similar fashion this year?

“As many times as we can get Darren Sproles the football, it makes us a lot smarter. Yes, we will get Darren Sproles the ball as many times as we can. Drew (Brees) had played with him in San Diego and knew how he was and who he was as a person. That told us a lot about what he would end up doing when he came here.”

Is it more important to be able to adjust on the fly defensively in this game?

“When you are running a defense, you have an assignment that you have to be successful with and as long as everyone is on their assignment then you will follow the plan. I don’t think that week in and week out that the variation is that great. Is there a difference between a quarterback that could take off running after he dropped back to pass? Yes. Is there is a difference between a quarterback that could possibly run a read option of sort that people are doing, wild-cat type, right now? Yes. Do we have to practice some of those things? Yes. It’s following the rules within the defense (that) will solve most problems.”

“As long as we are solid in our rules and what we do, everything will be fine.”

How do you feel about Ben Grubbs and how he fits in going into this game?

“Ben has done a nice job fitting in, just learning the nuances of our offense. He knows football, he is a smart guy. He is a strong guy and a good football player, obviously, with making the Pro Bowl last year. He is fitting in well with (Jermon) Bushrod and (Brian) de la Puente. They have gotten used to each other and I think they are ready now. Throughout the year, there is going to continue to be some things that come up and they will solve them and they’ll continue to get stronger and stronger as it goes. Our whole program is around getting better each day. At the end of the year, we need to be better than we are right now.”

Is there much difference between Grubbs and Carl Nicks?

“Any individual is going to be different. Whether it’s temperament, technique or size, there are going to be differences. It is just a case of fitting in the piece of the puzzle and getting them used to working in that. What’s different? There are a few things that are different, you couldn’t put this all on paper. They are becoming comfortable because they worked with each other.”

Are you expecting Marques Colston to practice tomorrow?

“His foot was sore and he should be fine tomorrow.”

What about Darren Sproles?

Sproles was there today, I didn’t list him

Talk about the Redskins front seven?

“This front seven is an excellent front seven to be honesty. The two edges rushers with (Brian) Orakpo and (Ryan) Kerrigan are very good passers and they have power in their moves. I believe that in any game, the faster you get open, the faster you better protection it. It’s the combination of a lot of things in pass protection. Not only the protectors, but it’s the routes, it’s the quarterback knowing where to go with the ball, which our guy is excellent with. Our receivers have been excellent getting open quickly. It is a challenge up front with these guys that we are going to be facing but it is a lot every week.”

Have you thought about the win or the loss showing up next to your name?

“I am beyond that to be honest, in my mind. What is important is that we show up, do our job and as a collective group, do the best we can. I think that will be good enough. I am sitting here worried about whether it is a win or a loss for me, it is a win or loss for our team. When we go back in the meeting room the next day, we all have to deal with the win or the loss. I bet if we win, it is not going to be as good as we hoped and vice-versa. I am not worried about labeling one way or the other, I am worried about what is in the best interest of the team.”

New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees

Post-Practice Media Availability

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

We always talk about playing against other quarterbacks, but are you at all intrigued about playing against Robert Griffin III?

“Yes, I think it’s exciting to see these young quarterbacks, their talent level, preparedness and just how far along they are coming into this league, compared to even when I was first coming into this league. It just seems like the style of offenses that they run in college and their coaching; there’s so much overlap between college and pro coaches and the type of systems that each are running. Typically there’s just a lot of similarities and carryover, so it just seems like with guys coming into this league, you see the numbers they put up in college and we have five rookie starters this year at quarterback, which is unbelievable. His talent and athletic ability is phenomenal. I like the guy because he’s a Texas quarterback and we stick together. I admired him afar in his college career knowing that he’s a homegrown Texas boy. I think he carries himself with a lot of confidence.”

How well do you know him personally?

“Funny enough, myself, Jimmy Graham and Tim Tebow played him and a couple of other guys in the Madden Bowl at Super Bowl last year in Indianapolis. We actually beat him on a last second touchdown to Lance Moore. We were the Saints. I can’t remember who they were, but that was fun. It was the first time I met him. I congratulated him on the Heisman. Obviously that was before the draft. We didn’t know he’d be picked up by the Redskins and we’d be opening up against him.”

You were not a full-time starter as a rookie. Are you amazed that all these rookie quarterbacks are starting from day one now?

“Right into the fire. I think their level of preparation is a little bit more than most guys just because of how far the game has come and the carryover from college to the NFL. What they see, what they do, what they’re responsible for, the type of coaching and all that stuff (are responsible). I think it’s a credit to how far the game’s come and the level of talent that comes out of that position now.”

What do you see in the Redskins defense, their front seven especially?

“They’re stout. They’re tough both against the run and getting after the passer. They have some good pressure packages. They’re a veteran group that plays hard and plays well. They’re used to playing in a physical division in the NFC East. We’ve got a little bit of a track record with these guys. In fact, every time I’ve played them it’s come down to the wire. (I’ve had) Two overtime games with them in my career. I think we know the type of team it is and the type of game it can be.”

This game will be the first game after Hurricane Isaac in New Orleans for you guys. Between that and the offseason you guys had do you think there will be a lot of energy Sunday?

“It’s kind of interesting. It’s the first time I thought about it. This will be my seventh year here. In my seven years here, in ’06, our first game in the dome against the Atlanta Falcons was the first game in the dome after Katrina. In ’08, the first game in the dome was the first game of the season after Gustav. We played Tampa. Now, here we are, first game in the dome, first game of the season after Isaac. I guess we’ve been in this situation before. It’s quite emotional and obviously a lot of people are still recovering and struggling with us as a team recognizing what it means to them for us to be out there and our motivation to play for them.”

As far as a fresh perspective check after the offseason the team has had, what is that like?

“It’s been a tumultuous offseason. It’s been a lot of struggles, a lot of adversity, but if there’s one thing I know about with this community is that there’s nothing that can keep us down. We find a way to overcome and to fight back. We do it together in so many ways. We find ways to lean on each other and help each other out and I think we’ve developed this mindset around here as a community, as a team and as a city that we will overcome, we will be successful and we will do it together.”

In touring and conducting interviews in several storm-ravaged areas some people said that if Drew Brees can get through his shoulder injury, we can get through our problems. What do you think when you hear stuff like that?

“It’s humbling to know that your story can inspire others. In the end, that’s what you love about this game. It is such a popular game and what that does is it gives you a platform to make a difference in the lives of a lot of people and affect them in a very positive way. Certainly I think about that all the time, trying to carry myself in that way, understanding it’s a sense of responsibility. There are a lot of people looking at you for inspiration and motivation. If you live your life a certain way, it’s motivating for them to do the same thing. I’m not going to pretend I know what it’s like to lose my house or be flooded out and lose everything I own or anything like that, like some people have, but then again, I know the mindset of trying to overcome a devastating loss or something devastating in my life, thinking about how you're going to overcome this. You take it one day at a time. You set short-term goals, surround yourself with good people and have a sense of belief and faith that’s unwavering. I know the people in this community have that. We have it as a team. I think the more we are able to lean on each other to do that, it’s powerful.”

Do you get an unbelievable sense of support from the fans here as well, as if they are family?

“Absolutely. It always amazes me just how much support we get and how much people care about us and the Saints, not just as players, but as people. There are more people that ask me how my kids are doing; ‘How are the boys? How’s Brittany after giving birth?’ They care about you more than (asking) how many yards you are going to throw for this weekend or what I’m going to do for their fantasy team. The people in this community care about you and love the fact that you’re living uptown in the middle of the city. They see you in Audubon Park and they see you buying a snowball standing in line. I think that’s what’s special and unique about this city in that they care about you as a person and not just as a football player.”

With five running backs on the roster. We know you’re used to the more the merrier mentality on offense. What’s it like having those guys. Do you have intentions when you get on the field to incorporate all of them plus the wideouts?

“We love weapons and obviously we have some weapons at running back. It’s a numbers game when you get to gameday. All of them can’t be active. According to the game plan, injury situations and everything else, you have the guys that are playing, you know how you want to use them. The great thing we have at the running back position is that they’re so versatile. Each one of them can are great at certain things, but they really can do so many things. You plug any of them in in a lot of different situations and you know what you’re going to get out of them. You know you can count on them and I think they push one another as a competitive group. You add that with the receiver position, the tight end position and it’s a pick your poison.”

Scott Shanle has said that Joe Vitt is the “speech” guy. How is it going to be different on gameday with Aaron Kromer?

“We’ll adjust, just like we did with Sean’s (Payton) absence. Obviously we’re used to having Sean address us at the beginning of each day, post-practice, everything else. That kind of changed hands to coach Vitt. Now that coach Vitt’s gone, you take those things that coach Vitt had taken over in addition to the stuff that was coach Vitt stuff like the night before the game (speeches), pregame, that stuff and it’s somebody else’s opportunity, next man up to take that over. I think that’s what’s fun about it. You give guys opportunities to step up, fulfill that role. Can we replace Sean Payton? No. Can we replace coach Vitt? No. But we also know that we have the mentality here that it’s next man up. All it is is an opportunity for somebody else to step up, fill a void and fill a role.”

Aaron Kromer has that opportunity now. Have you seen any change or progression in his process and decision-making dating back from week three or four of the preseason?

“Yes, absolutely. Granted this is just the first game of the season and he has six games with us, but I think like anything, when you step into a role, you gradually gain more comfort in that role. Now, coach Kromer has the responsibility of addressing the team at that 8 a.m. team meeting before the day starts. To hear his voice at the beginning of the day. In his message, it’s the same message, different voice, but it’s him getting into the flow of doing that before practice, after practice and the things that come up during practice that he feels is a coaching point that needs to be addressed and it’s a learning thing for us. (There might be) something where he feels he needs to impart wisdom on the guys, because of something he saw in practice. He’s been a coach in this league a long time. He has a lot of experience. He knows our team. He knows our personnel. He knows the way we do things, yet each guy has a little different personality, so they lead within the personality. But we all respect coach Kromer a great deal. He’s a fiery coach who can give it to us when we deserve it, but also point out the things that kind of cut through all the stuff to get to what’s most important, which is one of the great things that Sean (Payton) has (done).”

How does Adrian Arrington look in practice?

“Yes. A lot of it in similar to (Darren) Sproles, a guy gets dinged in the preseason. It’s not worth the risk, even when he’s healthy of bringing him back for the third or fourth game, when you have the whole season that you’re trying to prepare for. All those guys look good. (Robert) Meachem’s departure left open an opportunity for guys like Adrian Arrington, Joe Morgan and others to kind of jump into the role and fill it a little bit. Still each guy has his own set of strengths, so within the gameplan, we work to those guys’ strengths to try to put them in the position to succeed.”

Do you think that Arrington’s opportunity to play in the postseason last year gave him confidence?

“Definitely, what’s interesting is that every opportunity Adrian has gotten, he just goes out there and looks like an old pro. I recall 2010, we brought him up from the practice squad for the last regular season game against Tampa Bay, I think he had around seven catches for seventy something (79) yards. Me throwing to him, from an outsider’s perspective, people can wonder who I’m throwing to, how we can look on the same page. It’s because he’s been around. He’s been one of the guys here for a long time. He’s just never really received that opportunity. When he steps in there, he makes it look like it’s old hat. He belongs there. I think his mentality is that he thinks he’s a competitive guy. He’s prideful. It shows in the way he plays. He’s extremely smart and tough. He can play all the receiver positions and makes it look pretty easy.”

Do you feel this is the most talented team you have been a part of?

“I feel like we have the potential to be. Just as you watch it, I would agree this was one of the harder teams to make since we’ve been here with talent across the board. It was so competitive at so many different positions with guys vying for a spot on this team and it’s a reason why we took five running backs. This guy (Travaris Cadet) can play. How do we find a way to keep this guy, even though it’s a little bit unusual. We know this, the 53 guys that made it deserve to be here. They worked their tails off to have this opportunity. We’re going to need everybody down the stretch. That’s for sure.”

How important do you feel this game is even though it’s one of 16?

“It’s very important. It’s your home opener. We take a lot of pride in the way we play at home. (It involves) the circumstances following Hurricane Isaac, where we understand that going out and playing well and giving some hope and inspiration to our fan base is important. (With) everything that happened this offseason, you want to come out and put your best foot forward and make sure people know that we’re unfazed and we’re business as usual. We have a lot of high expectations for this season. Every win counts a lot.”

Do you expect to see a Pete Carmichael stamp on this offense at all or will it remain pretty much what we’ve seen the last six years?

“Every play-caller has his own stamp. I just think over time that evolves. That progresses. As good as Pete was last year with his opportunities to call plays when Sean (Payton) got hurt, I think it’s only prepared him to continue to evolve and elevate as he goes on here. There is a system. There is a way that we do things around here. I think Pete’s experience with Sean (Payton) having been here with him for six years and having worked with Sean Payton and having learned from Sean Payton, just like I have mentors for me that have played the quarterback position like Doug Flutie and Mark Brunell with things I’ve picked up from them along the way with coaches as well. There are things I’ve learned from them. There are things Pete’s going to do based on the things he’s learned from Sean. There are also things you are going to do because it’s within your personality or the things you’ve done from experience. But, yes, we have a system. We have a way we do things and certainly there will be a lot of Sean Payton in what Pete does, but Pete’s Pete.”

What impresses you most about Darren Sproles? You talk about receivers with the ability to stretch the field. Doesn’t Darren have that same ability?

“Yes. He’s one of the most complete football players I’ve ever played with. He has the ability to do so many things. He’s extremely dangerous when you get him in space and get him out of the backfield. You talk to any defensive player in the league and they (say) they don’t want to cover that guy. Because like you said, he can go a lot of places and get there very quickly and if you’re trying to track him across the field, good luck to you. That allows him to be quite a weapon.”

Does his durability impress you?

“Yes. I think that’s what makes him such a complete football player as well. You look at his size and stature, but pound for pound he’s one of the toughest guys in the league and strongest. If you watch him practice, you see why. The guy’s full speed all the time. He takes so much pride in what he does, no matter if it’s the run game, pass game, protections. He loves football. He wants to be great and he also more so than anything wants to be reliable and dependable.  He’s going to fight through (injuries). If you play the running back position in this league, you’re going to take shots and you’re going to get dinged up. Your ability to be on the field and be present for the guys is extremely important and he’s been able to do that. That’s another thing that makes him special.”


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