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Notes: Brees confident Payton will return; Saints place rookie White on IR, sign Hakim

Corey White (#24) had done a fine job blending into the Saints defense as a rookie before a season-ending knee injury (Photo: Parker Waters).Corey White (#24) had done a fine job blending into the Saints defense as a rookie before a season-ending knee injury (Photo: Parker Waters).

Is Drew Brees concerned that Sean Payton won't be his head coach in New Orleans next season? If so, it did not show on Wednesday.

The Saints quarterback told the Dallas media via conference call that rumors of the Saints' free agent head coach leaving to take over another team are not on his mind.

"Yeah, you know honestly, I haven't really worried about that," Brees said. "It seems like there's been enough going on here for us to focus on and really try not to think about that. I'm very confident that Sean will be back here in New Orleans. So (we've) just been trying to focus on football and not think about that."

Payton, suspended for the 2012 season forthe Saints' alleged bounty program from 2009-11, had his contract voided by the NFL during the season for illegal terms with the deal. The Cowboys, a team where Payton served as an assistant before taking the helm of the Saints, have been rumored to be interested in Payton if Dallas decides to part ways with current head coach Jason Garrett after the season.

Garrett has his team in the thick of the playoff hunt. The Cowboys are tied with the Giants and Redskins with 8-6 records atop the NFC East. Despite fashioning a three-game winning streak and clutch play as of late, the questions about his job security and Payton will not go away for the former Saints and Cowboys quarterback who took over as head coach in Dallas after Wade Phillips was fired in November 2010.

“Yes, again, I’m focused on what we need to do here," Garrett calmed explained Wednesday. "Sean is a great coach and good friend of mine.  He has done a great job in this league for a long time.  I’m focused on doing my job as well as I can do it each and every day, and that’s what I’m trying to do. We have a great challenge this week against New Orleans."

INJURY UPDATE: The Saints placed rookie fifth round pick CB Corey White due to a knee injury. White has played in only one of the last five games, but started four games this season for New Orleans.

Saalim Hakim was promoted from the Saints practice squad to fill White's roster spot. Hakim is the younger brother of former Rams and Saints WR Az-Zahir Hakim,

The 162nd pick in April's draft out of Samford earned the nickel corner back job in training camp. His season ended in a home game versus the Atlanta Falcons not too long after White secuded his first career interception.

Hakim (5'11, 188) played college ball at Palomar College and Tarleton State before a stint in the United Football League with Las Vegas in 2011. Hakim has also spent time on the practice squads of the Rams and Cowboys this season.

Fullback Jed Collins (toe, knee) and tackle Zach Strief (knee) were the only Saints to miss Wednesday's workout. Running back Chris Ivory (hamstring) and cornerback Patrick Robinson (groin) were limited.

INJURY REPORTS

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Pos Player Injury Wed Thurs Fri Game Status
FB Jed Collins Knee/Toe DNP
T Zach Strief Ankle DNP
RB Chris Ivory Hamstring LP
CB Patrick Robinson Groin LP
TE Jimmy Graham Wrist FP
DALLAS COWBOYS
Pos Player Injury Wed Thurs Fri Game Status
RB DeMarco Murray Foot DNP
DT Jay Ratliff Groin DNP
LB Ernie Sims Concussion DNP
WR Dez Bryant Finger LP
LB DeMarcus Ware Elbow LP
CB Morris Clairborne Concussion FP
RB Felix Jones Knee FP
S Charlie Peprah Foot FP
Limited Participation (LP)=less than 100% of a player's normal reps Bold indicates change in status
Full Participation (FP)=100% of a player's normal reps Doubtful=at least 75% chance will not play
Did Not Participate in Practice (DNP) Questionable-50-50 chance will not play
Probable-virtual certainty will be available for normal duty


New Orleans Saints Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers Joe Vitt

Media Availability

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Opening Statement: “Jed Collins did not practice today with a toe and knee.  Zach Strief did not practice today.  Chris Ivory was limited.  Patrick Robinson was limited with a groin.  We had a couple of roster moves today:  Corey White went to the IR; (we) added Saalim Hakim who was on the practice squad to our 53; Ryan Lee who was on our practice squad is now on IR, he had surgery today on his groin; now on our practice squad is Phillip Thomas from Syracuse, Wayne Tribue G from Temple, Jarred Fayson WR from Illinois who we have had here before, Ryan Steed DB from Furman.  Today we worked on first and second down.  I think you can make the argument that Dallas is playing, right now, as good as anybody in the National Football League.  Offensively, I think this is the best Tony Romo has ever played, his accuracy, his command of the offense, getting the good plays.  Bill Callahan is doing a great job with the offensive line.  I think they have really cut down on their play selection of the run game, but they really execute.  The wide receivers are making really big plays; if you don’t tackle them they are going the distance.  I can’t say enough about this running back DeMarco Murray.  He will have a one-yard gain, a two-yard gain, and all of a sudden he has a 60-yard gain.  Defensively you got to admire what they have done. They have had some injuries and some things happen to them, but they are playing fast, physical.  They made a big play last week to really win the game for them, so we have our work cut out for us.  We had good work today and we will continue tomorrow.

There seems to be a bigger emphasis on the running game since you’ve been back, is that on purpose?

“I think the situations dictated what we had to do in those first early games and our coaching staff has done a great job putting together a run package formationally and personnelwise to come back.  Listen, I can’t even remember those first seven games, it feels like three years ago.  My hats off to our offense, to our players for their execution and our coaches for the gameplan that they put in.”

Is Mark Ingram playing his best football?

“I think we are finding out a lot about Mark and Mark is finding out a lot about himself.  It’s funny; I think he is one of those backs that he gets stronger as the game goes on.  I think he gets a better feel for where the cut holes are.  I think he has done a real good job of his ball security and is gaining confidence.  I think it’s really a win-win.  If you take a look at the backs we have here, I think it’s a great situation.  I hand it to Mark, he has worked hard and things have come to him. As far as I know this is the healthiest he has been.  He had some nicks in OTAs and he was a little banged up, but he has worked hard and I think he is one of those backs the more you feed him, the more he is comfortable.”

Do you marvel at Drew Brees’ numbers even though he had a rough patch?

“Look, I’ve said this to you on Sunday night, if you want to jump off that bandwagon do it at your own expense.  What he has meant to this organization and what he has meant to our football team, hey listen, how many times have we seen these kinds of performances?  He is a phenomenal player, he’s a great leader, he’s great in the locker room, and he’s a great person.”

But do you marvel at Brees’ chance at 5,000 yards a third time?

“Like I’ve said this before, I’ve been lucky.  In the National Football League, I start in 1979 with a kid from LSU named Bert Jones.  Then I was with David Krieg who really finished in the top five with a quarterback rating after 17 years when he retires.  I’ve been able to be around guys like Trent Green, Mark Bulger, Kurt Warner, Brett Favre, and Drew is the best I’ve ever seen.  He is the best I’ve ever been around, from the preparation, (to) production, and he is steady all the time.  He critiques himself all the time.  He is his worst critic and his resiliency and resolve are just amazing,”

Have you followed Devon Walker from Tulane?

“Yes, I went to visit him also.  It was a special night.  I had the opportunity to talk to that football team twice, once in the spring and once before their opener against Rutgers because I’m close with Curtis and I got to know him a little bit. It was great to see him when we went to Atlanta.  His spirits are just unbelievable. He has an unbelievable support system around him and his family.  It was special.”

Can you talk about Jason Witten?

“He has historical numbers this year.  That is the challenge when you play this football team.  You have two wide receivers that are skilled, big, catch the ball, and finish passes.  So if you roll up on the outside receivers you are leaving the middle of the field, your defense with Jason Witten. I think he is running and playing as well as he has played in a long time. I think he is the healthiest he has ever been.  His pitch count is 97 catches.  His ability to run option routes, his ability to read defenses pre-snap, what we would call a ‘hot-read’, him and he quarterback have been playing together a long time. They are always on the same page.  He is certainly having a great year and I have a lot of respect for him.”

What about Dez Bryant?

“He is a big play wide receiver.  Anytime that you have somebody that is that big and has that kind of length and combines it with game breaking speed and can smell the end zone, he is becoming better and better as a route runner.  I think Tony Romo has gained a lot of confidence in him.  Like I said, offensively they are playing better than anyone in the league right now, and that starts with the quarterback and goes to the skill, and then it goes to the running game.”

Can you talk a little bit about DeMarco Murray?

“When I look at players I ask myself who does he remind me of?  Murray reminds me of Charlie Garner.  He reminds me of a guy that can crease you and take it the distance.  He’s a guy from tackle to tackle that has great balance so when you think you have him down, all of a sudden he’s out and once he’s out he can finish the run.  I think they have done a good job, (and) Bill Callahan has done a good job offensively with their offensive line with their play selection and playing to his strength.  They become more of a zone team now, they still are going to run the power but this kid knows where to go with the ball to finish runs and he’s tough.”

Did you see the Dallas offense try to do different things against Pittsburgh that you haven’t seen before?

“No, I think what they are doing now, is that they have limited what they are doing and they have done a great job executing.  They are doing what they do best and they are not showing a lot of different wrinkles, formations, shifts, and personnel groupings.  They are doing what they do best and they are executing. (Tony) Romo is getting a great pre-snap read, he’s going the right place with the ball.  I’ve said this earlier in the week, he is one of those guys from the far hash, he can throw it deep out to the other side of the field and someone is going to tell me with one-on-one coverage, how you are going to defend that, because you really can’t defend a perfectly thrown ball.  He is putting the ball in locations where only his receiver can catch it and my hat’s off to him.  With a guy like Romo the play action passes are your best deal.  I just watched the last five games, they aren’t in my division so I can’t speak for them like I can for Atlanta and Carolina.  His escapability is as good as it’s ever been.  So the play action pass along with the downfield throws and the way they run the ball now, really compliments each other.  If your eyes are not in the right place, you can get burned on the play action, you can get burned from the naked, you can get burned from the quarterback keeper with him because he is a live threat with his legs.”

Have you seen Rafael Bush and Isa Abdul-Quddus do what they have done in the games in practice?

“Yes, I think this about both of those guys. I have never seen a good defensive player become a really good defensive player until they made their bones on special teams.  I think when you have a young defensive player and all of a sudden you see him on the coverage teams, you see him on the return teams, you see the courage, you see the play making in space, now it is the natural evolution to go play defense or offense.  I think there is a progression, especially with a safety or a linebacker, that if you are a really good special teams player and all of a sudden you are put in the role of playing defense, it’s not that big of a deal.  You’ve made plays in space, you’ve made tackles in space, you’ve tracked the ball, the ball carrier, the proper angles, I think that’s what those guys have done. They have played excellent special teams for us and they have evolved now to the next step.”

How much pressure does it put on defensive backs with Tony Romo’s escapability

“It’s huge.  Once he breaks the pocket you have to understand what their scramble pattern is now.  Is the front side receiver coming back for the ball? Is the backside receiver going deep? And what is the middle receiver doing?  That is something, number one, that you are going to work as hard as you can not to let him out of the pocket and to know exactly where he is going and know exactly where his escape lanes are. And then once he does break the pocket you have got to get a defender on him and make sure you are defending the scramble pattern down the field.”

Do you care much about Pro Bowl for some of your guys?

“No I don’t.  I care about wins around here.  I really don’t.  I think there are some guys that have had a really good year, but we will see how that plays out.  I hope Thomas Morstead makes it.  He has had a great year.  He worked hard.  He is fun to watch, his evolution of a punter and a leader and to see what he does for kickoffs for us.  I hope so, it’ll be great for him.”

Would you put Tony Romo in the elite class of quarterbacks?

“I would.  I think everybody, again, this is an opponent we play every couple of years, we played them two years ago on Thanksgiving, so our defensive players have to do more film study.  Our defensive staff has to have more study.  I think to a man, he has Brett Favre like characteristics.  He has the same arm action.  The ball comes out flat and he has a low trajectory.  He buys time, has pocket awareness, can make the impromptu play and has his A-game going right now.  I know that’s some special company that we are putting him in but that’s kind of the skill he reminds you of when he is hot.”

New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees

Media Availability

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Can you talk about the pride you have in Texas quarterbacks?

“Somebody, I think it was my grandparents, sent me an article in the Dallas paper a couple weeks back and I didn’t even realize it at the time until I read the article but there are nine starting quarterbacks in the NFL from the state of Texas. I kind of went through the list of guys. This year the list got pumped up a little bit, obviously, with RG3 (Robert Griffin III), Andrew Luck, Nick Foles taking over as the starter in Philly and I believe there might have been one other young guy. I couldn’t believe that there was nine out of 32. Obviously the whole state of Texas takes pride in football and they run a lot of those high school programs like college programs, they have the facilities that way and the coaching staffs. Obviously it’s a very highly recruited state. When I went up to Purdue, we were kind of the first crop of Texas guys going up there, at least my class there weren’t any Texas guys on the team. By the time we left, I think we had 18-20 Texas guys. There is such a vast amount of guys and, obviously, Texas, Texas A&M, and a lot of the Texas schools kind of take their pick but so many are going out of state now to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Missouri or into the Big Ten. It’s something we take a lot of pride in but I guess especially the quarterback position in particular just seems like it’s becoming more and more.”

Before you came to New Orleans, did you ever envision a point in your career where you were regularly putting up 5,000 yard seasons?

“No. Definitely not those kind of numbers. Coming to the Saints in particular, the circumstances surrounding that were I hope I can throw like I’m used to, or like I once did, coming off that injury and hopefully be able to win some games and be able to play for a while.”

When you step back, the numbers are pretty staggering, it’s another great season…

“I haven’t stepped back. I don’t plan on stepping back until somebody tells me the season is over.”

How well is Dallas playing right now? What are some of the challenges in playing a team that is playing it’s best football?

“Yes, and they’re playing for a lot. They’re playing for a playoff spot and division championship. We know we’re going to get their best performance. For us, despite the fact that we have this very small chance still at the playoffs, but I guess we are all but eliminated, we still have a lot to play for to because of the type of guys we have and the way we want to finish this season and our mindset towards building the foundation right now for what we’re going to able to accomplish in the future.”

Talk about their pass rush including DeMarcus Ware and Marcus Spears who had five quarterback hurries between them last week.

“Don’t forget Anthony Spencer, he’s a Purdue guy. Those guys have had a ton of success this year getting after the quarterback. They’ve got a ton of sacks, been able to get a ton of pressure, even with just their four man rush. Obviously, the 3-4 scheme is something different that you have to be able to prepare for and be ready for. They are multiple in their fronts that they’ll show you at times so you just have to have great communication and, certainly, know where those guys are because they can change a game pretty quick if you let them.”

How hard is it to stay on the elite level with your play on the field at the quarterback position in the NFL?

It’s very challenging. The motto I live by is that you’re only as good as your next performance. We enjoyed the Tampa win for 24 hours and now it’s on to the next challenge. One of the great Yankee players back in the day was asked why he played so hard when he went out there and he said because there is somebody in the stands that is watching me play for the first time and I want to give them the impression of the type of player I am. It’s somewhat of that mentality. There is always something to prove, there is always a challenge to be met, and there is always somebody that has you in their crosshairs too that is coming after you so you want to make sure that you’re putting forth your best effect. Certainly with what we’re trying to accomplish as a team too, you just can’t have a down game. I know we’ve had tough stretches at times this season, I’ve had tough stretches, but it’s all about how we want to finish.”

You visited Devon Walker, a Tulane player that broke his neck. Tell me about your impressions of him and the journey he is on now.

“(What is) unbelievable is his attitude and just how positive he was. That’s such a traumatic event, something that anyone who has ever played football, I guess, you put yourself at that risk and yet for it to happen to a guy like that who is such a well-loved guy on his team. Everyone who I’ve talked to, coaches, players, couldn’t say enough great things about the type of guy Devon Walker is. To go there and meet his family, his sister and her little baby, and just to kind of be a part of their lives for a little bit, it was great that we could go and show our support for him and let him know that we’re think about him. (He’s a) diehard Saints fan and I guess it’s ironic that he’s at the facility in Atlanta, right in Falcons country, and yet you walk up to his door and he’s got all Saints gear and who-dat and jerseys and everything when you walk in his room. He certainly is supporting us and we want him to know how much we’re thinking about him? 

Did he say anything to you?

“Well it was before the Falcons game, unfortunately, and he was talking about how much he wanted us to beat them. We had beaten them the first time, unfortunately we didn’t get it done that time. Just to know that despite everything that he’s been through, (he) still (has) such a positive attitude and (he’s) talking about how he’s going to be going back to school and how he is going to get back on the field. His mind is already thinking about overcoming the next challenge.”

Do you sit back sometimes at night and wonder what is going to happen with Sean Payton after the season?

“No. I don’t think about it. I’m not worried about it. I truly believe that he’ll be here and it will all sort itself out. With everything else going on, (I’m) really trying not to think about the things that would just be distractions at this point.”

When you hear certain reports saying do you understand why it’s such a big deal?

“Sure. Yes, absolutely. We also know how the whole ‘sources’ thing works, don’t we? Sources say… Sources can pretty much say whatever you want them to say because you never really have to be accountable for it. Like I said, I’m not worried. I’d be shocked if he wasn’t here next year but right now there are plenty of other things for us to think about or worry about. Once the season ends, we’ll get back to that.”

How many plays do you script for the beginning of a game and is there a regard to down-and-distance?

“Yeah, there is. You always assume that we’re getting the ball at the 20 (yard line) and this is how we’re going to approach it. All of a sudden if you’re backed up, it might change, inside your own five. All of a sudden if you get a turnover or a big return and you’re inside their 20 maybe it changes. For the most part if you’re just in the meat of the field like you are most of the time, you script out maybe your top 10 plays, top 15 plays, top 20 at times. You also talk about third downs and what we want to call (for) short, medium, or long. You pretty much follow the list as it is listed until there is a situation where then you plug in another play. Or you saw something that just wants you to get to this play that’s maybe midway down the sheet right now. Yeah, it’s something that guys can look at and study and really visualize every look that you could possibly get. There are some great teams, I remember when prepared for the Texans last year, just the talk of how fast they start and how good they are with their first 15. Atlanta has been that way and there are other teams. There are teams that do that very well. Certainly we want to be one of those teams and I think we have been in the past.”

Typically how many plays would Pete Carmichael have on his sheet for a game that you could select from?

“Are you talking about his call-sheet? Have you seen that thing? You need like Superman vision to see how small the script is to fit in all the plays. I wouldn’t even venture to guess, maybe I should sit and count them at some point. There are so many variations to different plays too with formations, personnel groups and that kind of thing. If you literally added every one up, you’re in the hundreds of plays.”

Nick Saban talked about his recruitment of you to the Miami Dolphins in 2006 before you decided to sign with the Saints. Is it surprising that that topic is still hot?

“I don’t know if it’s hot. They’re playing down in Miami for the National Championship so I’m sure he’s getting a lot of questions about his Dolphins days. First of all, I’ll say this. I have a lot of respect for Coach Saban. I felt like he was honest with me when I was down there but I felt like when I was here in New Orleans, I was embraced.  I was given confidence that you are our guy and we know the situation you’re in but we know you’re going to come back and lead this team and this community. The impression that I got when I was there was ‘hey, we like you but we’re not sure’ and I got the sense I was being evaluated every second I was there. I spent an entire day doing physicals, doing the MRI contrast where they inject the saline solution in your arm and I sat in the MRI tube for two hours. It was miserable and they had needles stuck in my arm to see if I had nerve damage. I was just poked and prodded and so the whole time it was we’re not sure, we’re not sure. Listen, I wanted to go somewhere where someone believed in me as much as I believed in myself. I needed that at that time because I was two months in to an eight month rehab. I had heard that somebody said I didn’t pass my physical well I wouldn’t have passed anybody’s physical, I was two months in to an eight month rehab. I couldn’t lift my arm past here. Listen, it all happened the way it was supposed to. He’s at Alabama playing for his third national title and I don’t think he’d trade it for the world. I certainly wouldn’t trade it for the world. We’re all good.”

Nick Saban said the Dolphins offered you a contract, is that true?

“Well, I mean, I think (they) kind of scaled it back. There was an offer and then it was kind of teetering and then it was well, maybe not.”

Was it contingent on anything?

“No. But like I said, I described the feelings and emotions I had for both places and the feelings certainly that I got here from everyone, I knew where I belonged.”

Going back to Texas where your grandfather had such a great career. You’ve talked about him before. Why is he so influential to you and your career and your life?

“This is funny. I was at Mr. John’s Steakhouse the other night and there was a guy who handed his business card to somebody to give to me and he had written something on the back and he said, ‘My name is so-and-so. I work for a company down in Corpus Christie.’ My grandfather coached at Portland, right outside of Corpus Christie, Gregory-Portland High School for 22 years. And he said, ‘I played for your grandfather. You used to give us water during two-a-days when I was playing.’ 

“He just brought back this rush of memories. Me and my brother, we used to go down and we’d stay with my grandparents for weeks at a time during the summer time during two-a-days and we’d go out there and my grandpa would serve this green electrolyte water, it was kind of funky  and we’d be over there, me and my brother, filling them up and giving them to the guys and tossing the ball on the side and just thought that was the greatest thing ever, being a part of that and watching grandpa coach and going to his games. He was an extremely successful high school coach. Coached for 38 years, from 1950 to 1988 and then retired and lives out on his ranch in East Texas. He and my grandmother are still alive doing great. So much of me as a kid playing sports and everything, my grandparents were at a lot of those events and always coaching me up, encouraging me. If you could hear the conversations now, too – my grandpa left me a message after this last game and he didn’t say anything about the passing. Nothing. He said, ‘I saw you take off and run on that one. That made me so proud.’ Because they were all, it was option, wishbone, this and that, traps. My uncle Marty, who was his son, played at the University of Texas with Darrell Royal, ran the wishbone there in the 70s with Earl Campbell and that crew and so he always loves it when I take off and run. But he agrees with the slide part. He says, eh, you might want to slide.”

Does he ever get to a game?

“He came to the Atlanta game this year. Usually they make it out to one game a year. It’s harder for them to travel. Listen, he still walks around the ranch. He still has about 100 head of cattle. He has guys that help him. If he had it his way, he’d be baling hay, tossing the feed out for the cows and doing everything else. He kind of walks around and instructs a little and delegates a little more now. But he’s unbelievable.”

Did you cross paths with Joe Montana at all over the weekend?

“No. I heard he was here though. I heard he was here. I did not cross paths. I’ve met him many times though.” 

Do you ever get called in from Tiger that they’ve got a big recruit they’d like you shake hands with? Do you get that now that CJ is over at Tulane?

“ You said Tiger. I was like, gosh, you’re in on the nicknames.”

That’s what you call him, right?

“Yeah. Obviously my affiliation with Tulane is. Well, actually I guess I’ve got a pretty good affiliation with Tulane. They let us work out there during the lockout and everything else, I feel like I’m an honorary member. They’ve been really good to us and obviously CJ being over there and some of our other coaches, guys that have been in this building before. Obviously I stay really tight with my Purdue program. We’ve got a great group of former players and we’ve got a new coach this year. We all love the coach that was there prior, but I think we all stay very, very involved. It’s always fun to make those calls or get guys recruited. That’s kind of the fun, exciting part.

You don’t do that for Tulane?

“I’ve never been asked.”

Drew, I want to clear something up that you said earlier for the fans that don’t talk to you every day. When you said you feel like Sean Payton is coming back, is that wishful thinking? Is that knowing the Saints organization? Is that knowing him?

“All of the above. But I have not even thought for a second that he wouldn’t be here. Honestly. Not even thought for a second. I haven’t talked to him. But I haven’t even thought it for a second that he wouldn’t be here.”

Are you a Cowboys fan?

“When I was growing up, absolutely. I was born in Dallas, moved to Austin in ’86 and loved the Cowboys. They used to have training camp at St. Edwards University, which is in Austin, so I’d go to training camp, watch Deion (Sanders) drive around in his black Mercedes golf cart. Troy (Aikman) and the fellas winning all those Super Bowls. You’d gather around on Thanksgiving Day and you were eating turkey and watching the Cowboys game and then going out, throwing your sweats on and playing a little tackle football game of your own in the yard. That’s what it was all about so, yeah, I was.”

 

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