Notes from opening press conferences of New Orleans Saints traning camp in Metairie:
Won't talk about chances of a long term deal for tight end Jimmy Graham soon other than to say it is possible.
Wouldn't rule out a return of injured linebacker Victor Butler (torn ACL in minicamp) at some point so the team will wait for rehab to produce results.
On defense: no pads yet and no preseason games means it is too early to make any determination about new scheme but players have responded to new DC Rob Ryan in a positive way.
Franchise has been modeled after the New England Patriots during the Sean Payton era.
Marques Colston has a foot injury requiring rest; it will keep him out for a few days up to a week. Patrick Robinson had a knee scoped and is progressing well. Harper had a sports hernia.
PUP likely to include Victor Butler, Patrick Robinson, Roman Harper, Marques Colston and rookie Kenny Stills.
No one will be "flying in the door" to help the Saints off the street, in regards to OLB spot.
Rob Ryan brought enthusiasm to Saints defense.
Mark Ingram is in great shape, and Payton has high expectations for him.
The progress of Charles Brown in efforts to be starting LT will have particular attention from Payton, who has made no qualms about calling that position a serious concern.
"I think I have the best job in football."
Payton confirms he will be team's play-caller on offense again.
Wants to be here for the long-haul.
Says Payton is the same as he ever was, in positive ways.
Transition to 3-4 will not be too difficult since overall scheme is similar to one used under Gregg Williams.
CrossFit addition to conditioning test to open camp added a new, daunting element to it.
Staying under the radar is just fine for the Saints - for now.
He is comfortable with Payton or OC Pete Carmichael as the play-caller but will enjoy having Payton's "voice in (his) ear again."
On the topic of turning 35 before season's end: "35 is the new 25."
This season, the focus is all football with nothing else swirling around (referencing bounty).
New Orleans Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis
Thursday, July 25, 2013
“First of all I want to welcome everyone to 2013 New Orleans Saints Training Camp. We are really excited to get started, we are really excited about the guys on this roster, excited to see how this team unfolds and how it comes together during training camp, excited about some changes that we had in terms of our defense, and excited to have Sean Payton back at training camp as well.”
How do you evaluate how this new defense is shaping up?
“I don’t think it is time for an evaluation yet. I like the things that have happened so far, I think Rob Ryan would tell you he is excited about the guys, how they have taken to it, but we haven’t put any pads on yet, we haven’t had any preseason games, and so I think that still remains to be seen, but all the signs are positive so far.”
Do you have any injuries to report?
“We have a few, one serious in Victor Butler, but the rest of these guys I think will resolve themselves, most of them in the first few days of camp here, a couple might take a little longer than that. I think we are in pretty good shape, relatively speaking except for Victor Butler. I don’t want to get specific about those other guys, but I will say this, Roman Harper’s will resolve itself in the first day or two. I think Patrick Robinson’s will take a little longer, probably the end of the preseason games before he is able to go full go, but Marques Colston may be a few days here. Obviously, Victor Butler is going to take some time, but everyone else’s will resolve itself in the next few days.”
Is there a reason why Victor Butler hasn’t been placed on Injured Reserve yet?
“We don’t have to do that, as long as we keep him on our 90-man roster. We will see how his rehab goes. If there is a possibility if he could be back before the end of the season, maybe into a playoff run, we might have that opportunity to designate him as a player that could return.”
What does it mean to you to see Sean Payton and Drew Brees together on the sideline?
“It’s just that, it’s just back to normal. We have 2012 in our rearview mirror and look, we are just looking ahead, we are not looking in the rearview mirror, so all that just feels normal, and it feels good. It was an excitement that, it’s probably a little fresher excitement than it would be ordinarily because of what happened a year ago. I think we are all a little bit more focused than we would have been otherwise.”
What are your biggest concerns going into training camp?
“I think there are some position battles, obviously, left tackle (as an example) that we want to see how that unfolds. We like the guys that are going to be a part of that competition. We have some other spots and they aren’t necessarily starter spots, there are some spots that we are going to have some excellent competition at. I think we have a lot of young guys. We have some guys that are in their second year in Nick Toon, Akiem Hicks, and some other guys that we are looking to see some significant progress from and I think we will see that. Those are the kinds of things we look forward to, particularly (in) the early part in training camp.”
Is the working relationship between you and Sean Payton the same or has it changed?
“I don’t think anything has changed. I would say, from my standpoint, it’s stronger than ever. It is certainly not worse. I would probably say it is better, but it was pretty good to begin with.”
Have there been any talks about a new Jimmy Graham deal?
“Look I would probably rather not get into that, those are things that we haven’t (talked about in public in the past) - obviously we have some guys in the last year of their contract that are important players to our team and have been important players to our team. We will talk about it and we have talked about them. Those may or may not happen. We are just going to see how this unfolds these next few weeks and it is possible.”
As far as depth is concerned, is this something that weighs on you when it comes to training camp?
"That question always exists if you get an injury and you lose somebody like a Victor Butler then you start kicking yourself about maybe a move that you contemplated but didn’t make. But I feel good about our roster. We have a good mix of veteran players and of older players as well as a lot of young guys that are hungry and have the right type of talent and attitude so we feel good about our roster; I think all of us do.”
How confident are you that this team will be more like they were in 2011 or is it a mystery?
“I think every team is different and I think that is what training camp is about; trying to gage where you are at. Obviously we have some elements that are the same in Drew Brees, Marques Colston and Lance Moore and a number of core players that have been with us for a good period of time that know how Saints football is played and how Sean Payton likes to run this football team, but every team is different. How we respond during this training camp is going to dictate how we do going forward.”
Do you feel bringing in Rob Ryan is working out?
“It is great so far, I think he is everything that we thought he was as a coach and I think our players are responding to him in a real positive manner. We will get into the meat and potatoes of this training camp and I expect that to continue.”
What do you want to see out of Mark Ingram this season?
“A lot of touchdowns. I think he just needs to stay healthy. That would be a real positive. And then we need to take advantage of his talents and I think we have done (that) in the past, we have utilized the talents of a lot of the running backs on this roster, Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas, and Travaris Cadet. Obviously we will continue to do that. Sean Payton has a great talent for identifying special and unique talents that each guy has and taking advantage of that and we will continue to do that. Obviously Mark is a really fine running back and can run inside and outside and be a part of the passing game. He is much more versatile I think than people give him credit for so we are going to expect a good season, a healthy season from him.”
What do you want to see out of Drew Brees this year?
“Look, I just want to see the same things we have gotten over the past six or seven seasons, that’s part of his value is that he gives you a consistent performance and a consistent effort and consistent leadership every day and not just on gamedays, but every day during the week and the offseason and during the season. So I know that is what we are going to get from him so those are what our expectations are and we probably take it for granted.”
Talk about how everything that happened in New England this offseason and how important it is to evaluate players’ backgrounds.
“We are always concerned about backgrounds, I think every team is. And I want to say when Sean Payton was hired here, we talked an awful lot about modeling ourselves and our program after the New England Patriots. Sometimes you take a risk on someone that you are not quite sure about. We have done that occasionally. No one can expect that to happen, what happened in New England, to happen. So, I think our emphasis has been in the right place, I think it will continue to be in the right place. I’m not going to be critical of any other program or what they have done. We tried to model ourselves after things that they did and have done in New England, so it’s an unusual circumstance..”
Is there a league wide movement where teams are disciplining their players and not the league?
“I think we have always tried to mind our own store, but yet there are rules in place as far as the Collective Bargaining Agreement limiting teams in what they can do, but we always try to take care of our own house. I don’t know how other teams approach it, it’s not something that we talk about with other teams, certainly (we) know how we deal with it. Look, we pay attention to it, we talk to our guys about them representing our organization, our ownership the right way and I think they do a great job, even though you are going to have an incident now and then. Things are going to happen occasionally, but I do think our organization, our team, our coaches and obviously our players do a good job of conducting themselves that make us all proud.”
You only had one incident off the field this offseason; do you think that is a testament of the character of your guys?
“I think it’s the character of the players. One is too many and we have talked with that player and we have dealt with that. He has some consequences to deal with that, but (that) we pay attention to it is about all I can say. We try to give our guys the right resources and the right tools and right education to not get themselves in circumstances that they will regret later.”
I know you mentioned normalcy, but what is the biggest difference in having Sean Payton back?
“I can walk down the hall and talk to him. And that is important. I am being a little facetious, but we make a lot of decisions together and if he has an idea he is going to bounce it off me and vice versa. So not having that available was a big void a year ago and having that back, obviously that is the most visible and most obvious thing, just (that) we can talk.”
Does Sean seem more focused, more tense, more relaxed, or the same guy?
“I would probably say he is the same guy, but he does seem really focused. But when I think back to the years before, he was always focused and I know our players would tell you that. Obviously, the big sign we had in the indoor facility you could tell he was focused that day. So, look that is part of his talent, to focus on this team and the task at hand, boy he is right there.”
Talk about the HGH testing talks with the NFLPA.
“That is kind of out of my hand. What goes on with the league and the union in that regard, I’m not privy too. Our players are always educated about performance enhancing drugs, the rules that exist. We educate them. They have other information provided to them by the league and the union. So I think our guys understand the policies and I don’t anticipate it being an issue.”
How refreshing is it to get all of the draft picks signed earlier in the offseason?
“It’s a lot more relaxing for sure. It has worked out well for us. We signed them kind of early this year, which is not typical for me because I usually like waiting. I think there are some good reasons to wait until we get to the period right before training camp. This year we did it a little different, we signed them immediately after the draft. That’s a credit to Khai Harley and our guys on our staff that actually did those particular negotiations. It does make it easier, in terms of getting them signed. I think it is better for the players, in regard that they can feel comfortable getting in our offseason program and they don’t have that worry, am I going to get a contract, is it going to be right? I think it is a positive for both the players and us in terms of timing.”
There is a lot of interest in Terron Armstead, can you revisit what you saw in him in the scouting process?
“I think our guys obviously saw a talented, very athletic player, (with) a lot of physical ability and skills (who) played at a smaller college. He is very intelligent. Look, it is everything you would want, the only bugaboo is that he didn’t play at one of the bigger schools, yet he has done well in this offseason and I think he is going to provide great competition for Charles Brown and Jason Smith at that position.”
In your talks with Jimmy Graham, do you sense that going into his final year on his contract could become a distraction during the season?
“I have not seen one single sign of that from Jimmy and I just saw Jimmy out here a few minutes ago. He knows that we want to have him here for the long term and his entire career and I think he wants to be here for that same period, so those things have a way of working out for us. I think we have had a lot of success in keeping our core players here for the long run so hopefully there is some comfort in that to him.”
Do you give Jimmy Graham credit for not turning into an issue?
New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Thursday, July 25, 2013
“Our players reported today and we just completed the conditioning test. We will have meetings this evening back at the hotel and we will prepare for what are the first two days tomorrow, Friday, and then Saturday of non-padded practices. That really involved just helmets and jerseys and then Sunday will be the first day we get into pads and we will go from there. I was going to hit on a few of these injuries just to fill you guys in on the start. More than likely our PUP list tomorrow will look like (it will have) Victor Butler. Marques Colston has a foot that we are just being cautious on and trying to rest for what I think to be a few days or up to a week. Patrick Robinson, who had a knee scope in the spring, his progress has been outstanding. We will keep monitoring him on a more week by week basis and then go from there. Roman Harper will be limited but I think we will have him. Kenny Stills is battling a wrist but nothing serious. He will be limited and I think we will have him. If I were you and starting off this training camp, those would be the five names that appear and that will be something I will be able to keep you up to speed with as we go.”
What’s Harper’s situation?
“Just an abdomen or sports hernia that he has recovered from. He will be ready to go but we are just making sure that we progress each day in the right manner. There are a couple of guys that will make up the conditioning test but (in) our estimation would be that he would not be on the list starting tomorrow.”
Have you felt like you have immersed yourself more into this being back and throughout this offseason and just being back into it? How much have you really thrown yourself into it?
“You get into what you know as your offseason or minicamp/OTA mode and, more than anything else, becoming more familiar with players that are new to your eye. That was and still is one of the key things for me. There are a handful of players that as you look at your team are different then what you remember. The goal this year is to find the right 53. That’s the number one thing and us as coaches need to have the proper teaching installation that allows guys to be up to speed, that we can evaluate and that we can make the best decisions concerning the roster.”
Given the fact of your long relationship with Drew Brees, your friendship and your association that you guys have built up over these many years, what does it mean for you to come back and be with him again and to be the old normal coach?
“You don't take anything for granted with regards to your team. I was looking out there today at the conditioning test and you start to count the players that were here in 2006, counting players that were here in 2009, and each year there seems to be changes not only on the team but on the coaching staff. To come back and obviously when your quarterback is someone who has had experience in our system and you’re around guys like Will Smith and Marques Colston. Our first draft class is in year eight now and that’s pretty interesting and it just seems like it’s gone by pretty quickly. Certainly in Drew’s (Brees) case, that experience and leadership is important to our team, locker room, and organization. Those are the things during the course of last year that, more than the football, you miss most.”
Speaking of Drew (Brees), what do you think weighed on him the most and what do you think he wants to change the most from last season?
“The team finished 7-9 and we obviously didn't play well enough on defense. There were a number of things offensively that we didn't do well. When you factor in a handful of those things, that position or job description changes and becomes more difficult. As I’ve said before, we look for that balance offensively, look for those takeaways defensively, and are going to have to improve in a number of areas to improve our team and have a better season. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but fortunately it’s just starting. I thought this spring we got off to a good start. I know Dan Dalrymple and his staff, Charles Byrd, Rob Wenning, and those guys in the weight room were outstanding this year. It was one of our points of emphasis heading into the offseason, as we got ready for the 2013 season, is being better in that area and I think just based on not only the conditioning test but the progress that our players have made in the weight room is going to serve us well going into the season and it’s something that will continue to be a point of emphasis but with regards to your question about Drew (Brees), I think there were a number of things on film that he was exceptional at and I think it’s hard when you are playing from behind or you are chasing points or you are throwing more then you want to be throwing then I think it becomes hard to be efficient at that position.”
His motivation has always been that special thing about him right?
“A 7-9 record doesn't sit well with any of us. There’s an expectation level that we have, we have developed, and have worked hard to create that. He is used to and plans on winning. He had won in 2011, in 2010, and in 2009 a lot of games. More than most anybody else in the league, when you get hit with a season like that, the competitive player you have, whether it’s a quarterback or anyone on your roster, it doesn't sit well with them.”
Speaking of Drew (Brees), how are you feeling at left tackle and what do you need to see out of those contenders to choose who will start?
“It’s been talked about a lot and for good reason. I am looking forward to seeing the competition between those three guys. They are all a little different in regards to how they got here and I think, most importantly, we have to pay attention and go by what we see. I think each player has certain strengths and I think we need the full pads. It’s hard when you go through the offseason with the limitations you have, with regards to uniform, to get a true measure of a pass rush but when we get to the padded practices and the preseason games we will have an opportunity to better evaluate those guys in a competitive environment and I think that’s one of the challenges that Bret (Ingalls) and our offensive coaches will have is just monitoring the reps at positions like that where there is a lot of competition. There is no exact science to doing it but I am anxious to see how those guys play.”
After missing OTAs and minicamps, how is Benjamin Watson? Is he ready to go?
“He is Healthy. He is 100 percent healthy. I think most importantly because he has missed that time, we have to be smart in the early week or week and a half so that all of a sudden he doesn't try to do too much not having had that time.”
Did (Terron) Armstead pick up a lot of ground during OTAs?
“It’s hard for those guys, in the spring, to make up ground. I think the key for the young players is to learn and know what to do so when the competition and the live bullets come in the fall, they give themselves the best chance but it’s hard to do in the spring when everything is none contact.”
How did the players receive Rob Ryan?
“I think he has brought that enthusiasm. It’s contagious to that room. I think they have responded very well. I think the coaches on defense have worked very hard at just teaching the scheme and making sure the players understand what goes along with good defense and the points of emphasis such as tackling and blocking. some of those things are hard to do without the pads but pursuit, effort, and energy, all of those things that accompany a good defense, we saw glimpses of.”
You talk about balance on offense. You invested a lot in Mark Ingram. What are your expectations for him this year?
“I know we have high expectations for Mark and he has high expectations for himself. He is in great shape right now. I know he is anxious, being healthy, and probably I would say going into his third year as healthy and as good of shape as he has been (since being here). I expect him to be a big part of what we do running the football. We have veterans like Pierre (Thomas) and Darren Sproles. We have a young player like (Travaris) Cadet but I think Mark (Ingram) is looking forward to this season. I think it will be an important year for him.”
What will your feeling be when you step onto the field for the first day of training camp?
“We kind of went through that in minicamp. I think this time of the year people are excited because the season is getting ready to start and there is some uniqueness to it because our whole team is intact including the coaching staff. It’s good to be back though. I know I’m excited and our staff is. Our players are in good shape and I was pleased with how the worked out today.”
Now that Chris Ivory has been traded to the Jets and since you have had four running backs for so long, how much do you feel like that helps you as a play-caller having three backs?
“Four presents challenges but four is still better than three. I only say that meaning that there are some challenges with how you activate and how you play those guys and in today’s game it’s tough when you look at your overall salary with the roster and with Chris one year from becoming a free agent that you have to find ways to improve your team and it might come from a position where you have some depth. That being said I do think that it’s a little easier to visualize a game with three backs up and possibly a fourth on special teams but it’s also a position where, most likely, you go through a season and there are going to be some nicks and guys are not ready to go so hopefully we can remain healthy. I think the experience in that room is important, the versatility is important, and I think they are anxious to improve on last year’s numbers with regards to the running game.”
After Victor Butler’s injury, you didn't bring in another veteran linebacker. Did you look hard and consider that or were you happy with the guys you have?
“We looked closely at it but we weren't just going to sign someone just to sign someone. Noone special is going to come flying through the doors here from here on out so we are going to develop the young players that we have, some of the new players that we have, and some of the veteran players. We have a few guys that have some versatility that can go outside and play inside and the disappointing thing that I’m sure for Victor as well as us was that he had come in here and knew the system and quickly had adapted and adjusted to it. I’m proud of his rehab. He is doing very well with the injury he had and as disappointing and as frustrating as that can be I know he is looking forward to being healthy. We haven't made any decisions with regards to him this year. He will be in the PUP list and I'm really pleased with where he is from a rehab standpoint.”
Based on the fact that you have said you need to play better defense and you have to run the ball better, will there be more contact in this camp as opposed to one of your normal camps?
“I don't know that I would say that. We have had a lot of contact. With regards to how the rules are set up now, I don't think that’s ever going to happen.”
New Orleans Saints Safety Malcolm Jenkins
Thursday, July 25, 2013
How important is this camp for you personally with the new defense, (with the team) drafting a new safety and being in the last year of your contract? How important is this for you this season?
"Personally, it's a big season for all the reasons you just named. It's a contract year and this is a city that I love playing for and that I want to play for in the future. With that in mind I'm definitely motivated. Just the opportunity that we have this year with the type of players we've acquired this offseason and having Sean Payton back. I really think that we have the tools to take this team far. That's enough motivation for me, so I'm coming into training camp pretty motivated."
How important is it to have that sense of normalcy back to the organization?
"It's cool. This whole offseason we've been able to focus solely on football and that's refreshing. Especially to have Sean (Payton) back and just to not have any distractions in the offseason (is important). When Sean came back he established that he wanted (us) to work out (a little differently) in the weight room and (he) really changed some things up. So the pace has been changed and guys have been focused. Guys have been here and holding each other accountable. We showed up in shape today. We're looking forward to the momentum that we have going into the season."
Having Sean back for a little while now, have you found him to be more intense or the same guy?
"Probably the same guy. He's a leader and he picks something to improve on every year. He focuses on that and we follow his lead. It's definitely nice to have him back but it's the same old Sean that we know. He's competitive, he wants to win, he's going to have a plan to win and now we're just trying to follow that plan."
You've gone through minicamp and OTA's so is this a non-story now with not having distractions?
"Yeah this is the first normal offseason that I've had since I've been with the Saints. We had the Super Bowl and then the lockout and then something else, I don't know. Every year it's something. This has been a pretty uneventful offseason, which has been nice. Like I said we can focus on football, this new defense we're installing and competition and guys are having fun and we're excited."
Do you think more is being made with the switch to the 3-4 defense? Are we making more out of it then there really is?
"I think you have a reason for it. It is a big switch schematically and in theory, but in execution its really not. I think the good thing is it fits our personnel really well. We have a lot of players that are very versatile and can play different positions. When you have that 3-4 scheme and you can add those types of players, I think that's when it becomes dangerous. There is a little bit to learn from a verbiage standpoint and from an alignment (standpoint) because you have a couple guys switching positions. Its really more similar to what we did when Gregg (Williams)was here so a lot of guys are familiar with most of it already. I don't think it will be a big transition for us."
Scheme wise, how close is this to what you were running with Gregg Williams?
"I think it's similar in the fact that it's very versatile so you have a bunch of different packages and a lot of people moving around. The goal is to get to the quarterback and get some pressure. We'll use the talent in our secondary with our corners to play man-to-man and change it up and play some zone. It's not a cookie cutter defense, it'll be different people moving around in different spots all in an attempt to get to the quarterback."
New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees
Thursday, July 25, 2013
Is Sean Payton more immersed in this than ever, since being away last season? I know it has been a storyline we have talked about a lot, but still, with training camp, it has been a while since he has been in this sort of atmosphere.
“Today was the first time I had seen him since we broke (from the offseason program) in mid-June, but the feelings and emotions are still very much the same from when we came back in April and started the offseason program. We are all excited. We are all glad to get back to a sense of normalcy. Finally, we get a training camp that is just all about football. We started off with a bang with today’s conditioning test that was a little different than what has been the norm around here. It was challenging for all. It becomes very evident as to who is doing a great job of staying in shape and maybe who wasn’t. You paid the price if you had been a little lackluster there, but I would say that the effort was tremendous, today. Yet again, it just proves that we have a bunch of guys who have worked hard, that have prepared themselves, and that really care a lot about this team and what we are trying to accomplish.”
Malcolm Jenkins said it was the first normal offseason that he has had as a member of the Saints. Has it been the first one that you have had in four years?
“Yes, because Malcolm came here in ’09, so his first year was the Super Bowl (year). He didn’t know what a normal offseason looked like. You go into that post-Super Bowl offseason, and straight into the lockout, and then you go straight into all of the bounty stuff. Here we are, really four offseasons later, and it is the first normal one in a while. That is why it was a breath of fresh air to get back in this building in April, just knowing that it is a new year. The goals, (and) the structure is still very much the same, but with a renewed sense of urgency and a few little wrinkles to challenge everyone and to make sure that we all know that you have to work to earn your spot around here always. No matter what you have accomplished in the past. We like that.”
Was there anything you have done differently these last five weeks after the end of the offseason program?
“There are always new little wrinkles. I would say that the base structure is very much the same. I trained back in San Diego with Todd Durkin. I have for 10 years. There are guys that have been there consistently, and there are guys that have rolled through at different times. We have a great group down there. We have a great workout plan from week to week with lifting, conditioning, throwing, agility, and recovery, all of those things. You have to get your mind right for that. Every year, he has something a little bit different. There are certain things that maybe each one of us knows that we have to work on and improve upon, and maybe that becomes an added element. I have a group of mentors that I reach out to when appropriate to fine tune some things. Every offseason, you are searching for that edge. What is going to be that little edge, that little wrinkle, this year that is going to help get you where you want to go.”
There have been a few network rankings and articles that have turned a lot of heads that have said that really the Saints’ star had fallen after last year. Does that motivate you or this team, at all, that people are sleeping on you guys after just one year?
“We were all motivated anyway, but we will stay under the radar until it’s time.”
What are your expectations about the running game with Mark Ingram having the vote of confidence?
“Whatever it takes to win. Mark certainly deserved that opportunity. Every time he has had that number of carries or those opportunities with a more substantial role, he has always taken great advantage of it. He has been impressive. Pierre (Thomas) has done a great job. Darren Sproles has done a great job. We have a good stable of backs that can all do the job. Whatever you ask them to do. It is not just the base run game, but it could be nickel packages. It could be out of the backfield. They all have the ability to do that, and that is what makes them great, especially as a group. There are some guys too that you just know, with every rep, that they are getting better, and Mark Ingram is definitely one of those guys.”
Can you provide some insight and your perspective on what it will entail for Sean Payton to be calling the offensive plays again, for the first time since early 2011, and what that will mean for the team?
“Sean calling the plays again…here’s the thing, that is the way it was for five and a half years until he got hurt, and then Pete Carmichael kind of took over for the remainder of the year (2011) and, obviously, last year. I thought that Pete Carmichael did a phenomenal job. Now, I had Sean Payton in my year for five and a half years previous to that, and I am very familiar with that voice and those instructions as well. I have confidence in whoever is calling the plays whether it is Sean Payton or Pete Carmichael. I love the fact that Sean is back, and he is taking the reins and that he is going to be the voice in my ear.”
Can you give some sense of what the conditioning test was like and how it was different?
“I won’t tell you exactly what it is, but it wasn’t just running. Normally, when you think conditioning test, you think straight conditioning. It was a combination of some weights and some body weight exercises. It was all-inclusive. It was like a ten minute wrestling match.”
Did Jimmy Graham challenge you this year?
“You can ask him. We didn’t go at the same time. It wasn’t like we were going side by side like we were competing. We were in different groups, but somebody’s time was better than somebody else’s, so you can ask him.”
What do you think you missed most in Sean Payton’s absence, of all the things that he means to you, as a coach, as a friend and as a confidante?
“A mentor, and that includes a lot of things. That is not just necessarily X’s and O’s, football. Although there is a lot of that. Obviously there is a great player-coach relationship. There is also a personal relationship. You are talking about the guy who believed in me enough to bring me here and give me the opportunity that not a lot of people were willing to give me. Certainly, he was sticking his neck out by doing that. (He was) a first-time head coach coming to New Orleans post-Katrina. There will always be a special relationship there. What I feel like is regardless of what has happened in the past, regardless of our accomplishments or the number of wins, every day that I step into this building it is how can I still justify to him that I am the guy that can lead this team and be his quarterback. I hope that I can do that for a long, long time. The fact is there is always a challenge every single day. (I) Never get complacent. (I) Never take it for granted.”
Have you ever played for a coach that has motivated you like Sean Payton?
“I have been fortunate to play for Marty Schottenheimer who was a great motivator. Joe Tiller, in college, had his way of motivating you. I have had great position coaches. All of these guys who have been mentors for me and have been for a very long time. I feel very lucky to have them in my life and to have been influenced by them in such a way, but I feel like it has helped mold me, not only into the player but also the person that I am in the way, that I handle adversity and that kind of thing. Sean helped take it to another level.”
Along that line, by the time this season is over with, you will have turned 35. Are you getting the sense that the clock is ticking a little bit?
“I think 35 is the new 25, actually. No, I don’t perceive it like that. I don’t sit here and say, ‘Hey, I only have five more years to play or whatever,’ and ‘I have to win one in the next five.’ No, every year is kind of a stand-alone. I think that I am still at that stage in my life where I feel like I can play forever.”
As training camp starts, do you kind of feel the same way, over last year?
“I don’t think angry is the word but very focused. Just locked in. I’m on a mission. Like I said, I walk into training camp, and it is all about football. There is nothing else swirling around, or at least nothing else that we are going to allow to distract us.”
Do you keep tabs on the decision about left tackle?
“No. I think that we have three or four guys that are going to be competing for it. When that decision is made, that guy will have earned that position, and I don’t worry about that because I think they are all extremely capable. I also just know as a unit, our offensive line is so strong. They have been together a long time, even though potentially the guy on the left side could be a new guy who hasn’t been here before. They have all been together for a long time and have played at a high level for a long time. They take a lot of pride in that. That offensive line group is very much a unit. You might say that with the tackles, it is more about the one-on-one matchup or that kind of thing, and that it is the interior guys who are really working together, but, no it is a unit. We find ways to obviously, through our protection plan and packages, we design a game plan for whoever we are playing against to help certain guys and do certain things. Whoever earns that spot at left tackle will have earned it and they will have my vote of confidence.”
Do you expect a level of patience to be a part of adjusting to whomever that new guy is coming in?
“Let’s just say if (Terron) Armstead wins that job (he will have earned it). He’s a rookie, and he has never played an NFL game before, but as I recall, Jermon Bushrod stepped into that role (in a similar situation). He had never played a game before (at left tackle). His first season was ’09, and we go and win a Super Bowl. You never know how that plays out, and Jermon Bushrod just went and signed a big deal (with Chicago) as a free agent. I have a lot of confidence in the guys that we bring in here, the guys that we draft, the guys that we bring in as free agents, and the guys that have been with our program for a while. Charlie Brown has as good a shot as anybody. He has stepped in and played very well when he has had the opportunity. There are a lot of guys that have the chance at being the starter. We will see what happens. “
In 2010, you had three highly-talented tight ends. Jimmy, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski go in the draft. How fortunate do you feel like Jimmy Graham landed here considering here some of the issues that some of those other guys have had?
“Again, a lot of credit (goes) to our scouting department and our GM (Mickey Loomis) for being able to go out and find a guy in the third round like Jimmy Graham. You see his talent level, but what a lot of people don’t see, unless you really dig deep, is this guy’s work ethic, his passion, fire and competitive nature. He wants to be great and loves football. He is a good guy. He is a great locker room guy. You love being around him. Those are all those things that you can’t just turn on the tape and see. You have to spend time and learn about this guy. I am glad he is on our team because I know what he means to our team, and am excited for the opportunity he has this year.”
Along the same line, Gronkowski and Hernandez received big contracts. Jimmy is in his last year of, and he really hasn’t caused any fuss. Obviously, it is not really a distraction for him, but how fortunate do you feel that it is not around, surrounding this camp?
“I guess we are fortunate. I just love that he has the mentality that he always has something to prove. He has had great success in his young career, and yet he knows that he is only scratching the surface, and there is always another challenge.”
Is there any point in the season, where you sprint out of bed, ready to go? Is that maybe tomorrow with the first training camp practice?
“Well, I might be a little sore after that conditioning test. I don’t know about sprinting (joking). No, there are a lot of those days. Tomorrow will absolutely be one of them. “
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