New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Post-Practice Media Availability
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Opening Statement: "Today's preparation was for us a Wednesday base, some nickel. I thought we had good work. We were a little longer on the field than normal from a reps standpoint, but overall I was pleased with how we practiced. Tomorrow we will move on to more third down and the nickel situations."
What was your thought process on Jonathan Vilma?
"It really made sense. This designation that we have allows us to hold on to a player, not lose him for a season and I think with where he is at in regards to his rehab, it gives us a good chance to look at him. It gives us a little bit of roster space and the ability to get him back."
Does Robert Meachem still have that burst?
"I think so. We saw it on film. Today was his first day, but he is young. He's only 28. I think we have a pretty good idea of who the player is. I like the fact that he is here."
Can you talk about judging him from a year ago with San Diego?
"I think it took him a couple of years here and once he got going, there are a lot of things he does very well. I think, most importantly, when you look at the tape from another team, is he healthy? Can he run? Outside of that though, I am excited we were able to get him. I know he is as well."
Does he fit right back in?
"It will take him a little bit because he is leaving one terminology. He is actually going through a set of terminology a year ago, a coaching change, new terminology, but what he has had most of his career is what we are currently running. I think he will pick that up pretty quickly."
How soon do you think he will be able to contribute?
Can you talk us through the Chris Chamberlain release?
"Basically this happens from time to time. I think just from my experience with it a settlement or a potential grievance is pretty common when it comes to an injury at the end of training camp or at the beginning of the season. From that point, there is nothing more that I have to add than the course will kind of take care of it. I had a chance to visit with him yesterday. He visited with Mickey Loomis and we will just go from there."
Did you have a sense of motivation from Robert Meachem after things didn't work out for him in San Diego?
"I think in our league it happens a lot. It happens with players, it happens with coaches. Sometimes someone has another opportunity and he is familiar with what we want to do and again, he is someone that we feel that can stretch the field. He does a real good job of making plays above his head. He is 28 years old. He was a first round draft pick of ours that really helped us for a number of years. You look at his play in 2009, 2010, 2011. The key is just getting him up to speed and getting him to a certain spot that he plays. Typically he plays the Z and (we are) getting him familiar with what we are doing."
Can you talk about how not a lot teams pick up a guy that they had left the team before?
"In his case, he is a young player."
How much easier is it for a player to not have to live up to the expectation of a major contract deal after accomplishing what Drew Brees and Matt Ryan have accomplished in their careers?
"I think when you are talking about guys are as competitive as the two you mentioned, they are driven by being successful. They are driven by winning and getting to that game and having a chance to play and winning that game. On the flipside, there is a business element to not just that position, but every position, that pertains to the first four years in the league and the first contract. I think that sometimes its fluid, but I think for guys like Matt (Ryan) and Drew (Brees), I think they are driven by a lot more than just money."
New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees
Post-Practice Media Availability
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Is there such thing as a must-win first game?
“No, it’s impossible. But it sure feels good to start it that way, getting a win against a divisional opponent. Knowing the track record between the two teams, these are always close games, always hard-fought games. There’s always a lot at stake when we play each other. It’s the earliest we’ve ever played each other: week one. It doesn’t get any better than this.”
You have played them in a home opener before though going back to 2006?
“Home opener, yes, in ’06. We were both 2-0. I guess we’re both undefeated right now too. The game is meaningful. They all are, especially this one. Being that it’s the home opener, it is a divisional opponent. It is the Atlanta Falcons, the division winner from a year ago. We know the type of team they are, they’re an extremely good team, an extremely well coached team. I know we put up a stat today that seven of our 10 games with the Falcons since Mike Smith has been the head coach have been decided by the last possession, seven out of 10. It just goes to show you the type of battle this always is with these guys.”
How does it feel to have Robert Meachem back?
“Great. Obviously he’s all smiles; he’s happy to be back. Obviously (this is a) familiar place, a familiar offense. We spent some time together yesterday and then out here today. Watching him run around, he looks as good as ever. We look forward to getting him incorporated back in.”
From afar, what do you like about Matt Ryan?
“I’ve got a ton of respect for Matt Ryan. First of all, he’s a winner. He’s going into his sixth year now and he’s led his team to the playoffs four out of five seasons. He’s played extremely well both in the regular season and the postseason. He obviously has great command of that offense. I think he’s a great decision maker. He comes across as just one of those highly competitive guys, great work ethic, loves football, tough, all the things you want in a quarterback.”
Yourself and Matt Ryan both are playing with huge contracts. Is there a different approach by the two of you since you have won a championship and he has not?
“I don’t know, I guess I really haven’t thought about that. It was my ninth season that we won a championship, my fourth season here. He’s still very early in his career, only going into his sixth year. He seems like a guy who could play for a really long time. I’m sure there’s going to be many opportunities for him and his teams to make a run at it. But, as long as we’re in their division, we’re going to be fighting for the same thing.”
Is it easier for you to play with the big contract since you have won a championship?
“No. It’s never easier. You’re always thinking about the next one. If anything, maybe when you haven’t won one, you’ve got that edge or chip there saying I need to win it. Once you have won it, you sometimes have to manufacture that chip on your shoulder, that edge. You find it however you can, but it’s as difficult or more difficult once you have won one.”
Do you think Robert Meachem has a chip on his shoulder with the way things ended in San Diego for him?
“I don’t know. I’m not going to speak for Meach. I know it was a tough situation for him. Watching from afar some of their film from last year because we played common opponents, he wasn’t incorporated in there like you would’ve thought. Who knows what the inner workings (were) of that team? Obviously the guy we saw on film and incorporated in the game plan wasn’t the guy that we knew through his contributions here from (2007) to 2011. All I can say is that I’m glad to have him back, and I think it’s all coming right back to him. Talking through stuff out on the field again today, running some routes after practice, it all looks the same.”
What makes this rivalry so intense?
“Just the fact that they’re a very good team and we’re a really good team. Anytime you’ve got two prideful teams, organizations that are used to winning and used to playing well and that kind of thing going at it, that’s a recipe for a very highly competitive, highly intense atmosphere. So I find, you always get that with this game. I’d say that the fan bases are probably more at odds than the teams are. That makes it fun too.”
You guys obviously haven’t had to manufacture an edge this year, coming off of a losing season. Is there maybe a reason to go for a back to basics mentality?
Any time that you have a season where you struggle and you don’t make the playoffs, and obviously there were a lot of mistakes made and the reasons why you lost those games that maybe you shouldn’t have lost. There’s that tendency to say ‘Let’s get back to the basics (and) fundamentals, and regain that confidence from the ground up as to what makes us a great team.’ So that’s what it’s all about. First of all, no game on Sunday is perfect whether you win or lose. We’ve won plenty of big games and you come in on Monday and it wasn’t quite as good as you thought when you watch the film. The win kind of masks a lot of the sins of the game at times. When you lose, you can turn on the film and say ‘We didn’t look as bad as we thought, but we lost. That stinks, and it hurts, and I don’t want to feel this way.’ There’s those emotions that come with it.”
What does Steven Jackson bring to the Falcons?
“He’s a big, powerful back. I just know at times when we played him in the past, that he’s hard to bring down and hard to tackle. I just think he brings a physical element to any offense, so that was a big pickup for them.”
At this point in your career, what still motivates you or drives you to be great?
“I’ve got this opportunity that very few have, and I want to make the most of it. I want to utilize the gifts and talents that God has blessed me with and take care of the opportunities that I’ve been given. At the end of the day, this is part of your legacy. It’s not only what you do on the field; it’s what you do off the field, it’s how you carry yourself, and the type of person you want to be perceived and what type of player you want to be perceived as. I just have a competitive nature where I love to compete; I love to play. If I wasn’t playing professional football, I’d be in the YMCA men’s basketball league and probably whatever baseball league I could get into and play golf on the weekends and maybe get into some kind of tennis league or something. You’ve got to do something to get that competitive edge kind of filled. I’m just blessed to have this opportunity and I’m going to try to do it as long as I can, try to win as many games as we can, and try to win as many championships as we can.”
Is there a common thread between when you have your helmet on, when you’re the business owner, and when you’re being a dad?
“Yes, there is. The same approach that I take with my job, (and) my career, is the same approach I take with our foundation work, our business opportunities off the field, (and) being a dad. I try to be as present as I can in each of those moments. When I’m playing football, my mind shouldn’t be elsewhere. When I’m with the family, my mind shouldn’t be elsewhere; it should be focused on my wife, (and) my kids, and enjoying every second of that time. It’s about being the best you can be at what you’re doing at that moment. That allows you, I think, to be able to do a lot of things and do them well. You’ve got to be able to kind of compartmentalize and say, ‘Look, it’s time to work. If it’s time to lift weights, I’m going to lift weights and think about lifting weights.’”
Do you attribute your good preseason play to the fact that you didn’t have any distractions in the offseason?
“I thought it was a very good offseason. It was a very normal offseason. It was a breath of fresh air, honestly. Coming in in April and just feeling like this is the first normal one we’ve had in about four years. We really had a chance to just really get to work and have it be all about football and nothing else. The work we got done here as a team during April, May, June, and the work that got done in July in preparations for camp, and then obviously training camp, has just been all about football, which is a great thing. It just allows you to focus and really get back to those basics and fundamentals that we talked about. It gets you excited too, because coming off of last season, we’ve got a lot to prove.”
Do you feel like you’re sharper now going into this season?
“I definitely feel more comfortable. People don’t realize that just because I’ve played this game for, this will be my thirteenth season, doesn’t mean that you just step on the field and it just automatically happens. There’s a lot of time and effort that goes into preparing to go out there and play the quarterback position. So much of what you do as a quarterback relies on your trust and confidence in those around you. Even though you might have been together for a long time, you need that work. Missing last offseason certainly, I felt like, put my behind the 8-ball a little bit once I got to camp and then camp seemed to fly by, and then all of the sudden you’re in the season. I think if you look at our play as a team last year and myself, it seemed like it took a while to get going. Obviously, we don’t want that this year. We want to come out with our best stuff to beat the Falcons. That’s the most important thing to us right now. I’m definitely not sitting back comfortably right now because I know I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me this week, and preparation. I definitely feel like I have a lot invested right now and a lot of great work that is part of the foundation of where we are right now as a team and for me personally going into this week.”
As a student of the game and a guy who always tries to get better from past performances, what do you take from your performance against Atlanta the last time you faced them, which was arguably your worst game as a pro?
“Yes, it was crummy. It was funny because I watched the film and it’s like, ‘Well, I easily could’ve thrown five touchdowns instead of five picks.’ Everybody might laugh, but I would turn that film on and say ‘Here, here, here, here, and here. Five touchdowns.’ But listen: coulda, shoulda, woulda. You turn on the game film after (the) game and said ‘Ah! (I) Missed this one (and) missed that one.’ Whatever it might be, a bad throw, a bad decision, or bad luck. Listen, you’ve got to have thick skin and you’ve got to be able to go water off the duck’s back playing this position. You’ve got to have short-term memory in a lot of cases. That one stings. That one will always sting. I can think of about four or five games in my career that I look back on and they still sting me. But that’s also what gives you an edge, and what keeps you motivated. It’s not like you’ve got to go out and right those wrongs in the next game, but certainly that was not the guy that I know.”
Is it hard not to make it personal when you’re getting motivated to play and to try to redeem yourself?
“Yes, sometimes. You just have to put that aside and you really just have to tell yourself, ‘Faceless opponent.’ It doesn’t matter if it’s the Atlanta Falcons or an AFC team that we play once every four years that we don’t know anything about. Obviously we are familiar with these guys and there is a track record, but you have to find a place mentally to go to where you are just playing ball, just operating. It doesn’t matter what jersey color they’re wearing or who you’re playing, you just try to score every time you touch the ball.”
Atlanta Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith
Conference Call with New Orleans Media
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Can you talk a bit about facing Rob Ryan’s 3-4 defense that you don’t have a lot of film on because it is new to the Saints?
“I think the first game of the season creates all kinds of challenges for every team in the league because all of the teams have gone out and vetted their coaching staffs to come up with new ideas, even if you’re running the same scheme. It will be different because we are facing a 3-4 defense. We did play the Dallas Cowboys last year where Rob was coaching, so we do have some film. It’s not like the 3-4 is something that has just been invented. Rob does an outstanding job with his defenses everywhere he’s been. He will create some issues for offenses. In the first week it’s a little more extenuated because you won’t have film and you’re going to have to make adjustments on the sideline.”
After coming so close to the Super Bowl last season, what was your approach coming into this offseason and into this new year?
“Our approach doesn’t change. It was tough the way our season ended; there is only one team that is happy at the end of the year. I told our guys when we came back in March that we are not 10 yards away from the Super Bowl, we are however many days we had from the opening of camp to the next Super Bowl. That’s what every team is aspiring to accomplish. It’s a learning experience for us and I reiterate it to the guys all the time (that) you learn from things that go well for you and things that go poorly. There is positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement. We’ve got to learn from it (and) make sure when we’re in that position again that we do everything in our power to have a different outcome.”
What does it mean to play in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in Sean Payton’s first regular season game back from suspension?
“Every year it’s a tough schedule and you never know how tough it is going to be or how it plays out because the NFL is so competitive. We look forward to playing a division game right off the bat. It will be a great measuring stick for us and it’s a great atmosphere there in New Orleans. It’s going to be a fun way to kick off the season playing a division opponent which, in our mind, take a little more weight than a non-division game.”
Does your team do anything extra to try and prepare for the sound that you will face on Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome?
“We play in a lot of loud venues and the Superdome down there in New Orleans is one of the loudest. We have ways that we prepare and we’ve been actually preparing through training camp. We will pipe in crowd noise like most teams do in practice; we’ve done it. After our second preseason game we started going through that process and sporadically doing it during training camp once we close training camp to the public. It’s always a challenge when you go on the road and you’re playing in a loud stadium, and it will be loud this weekend.”
What was attractive to you about trying to get Steven Jackson to sign with your team this past offseason?
“Steven has a very good skill set, not only as a running back but as a receiving back. It gives you options on the offensive side where you don’t necessarily have to have a change of pace back. You can run the same personnel groupings and the same plays with Steven in the game. He’s been very effective as a runner. He’s had nine consecutive 1000-yard seasons and he had one season in which he caught 90+ balls. We like his skill set, not only running the ball, but as a receiving back as well.”
Matt Ryan signed a big contract extension. Is there a danger or concern of a player putting too much pressure on himself to live up to that big contract?
“I don’t think so. We talk about it all of the time (that) in this business we’re all competitors. Pressure that comes from the outside is not even close to the pressure that comes from within. We’re very driven. I would say that 99.9% of the people in this profession are very driven, and the internal pressures that they put on themselves is much more than the external and I don’t think that would be an issue at all.”
Can you talk about having Matt Ryan at quarterback for your club?
“Matt, from day one, came in here and has been a starter from the very beginning, from the very first game that we played and he’s been very successful. Matt works as hard as anybody that I’ve ever been around, in terms of his preparation. I don’t think any of that will change.”
Does the return of Sean Payton add another dimension to this season opener?
“I don’t believe so. Sean is a very good football coach and his record speaks for himself. We’re looking forward to playing him. It’s a division game; it’s going to be a competitive game. I know that we’re anxious to start the season just like you guys are down there.”
Judging from past experiences, this game will probably come down to the fourth quarter. What do you think are the keys for your team to win on Sunday?
“Well, if history repeats itself, it will come down to the fourth quarter. I believe seven of the ten games we have played since we’ve been here have come down to eight points or less. Two of them have gone into overtime. It’s going to be the team who takes care of the football. Early in the season, I believe that turnovers are even more critical than any other part of the season. We are going to have to take care of the ball and try to take it away from them, and they’re going to try to do the same thing to us. I think that’s what it will come down to. The team that wins the turnover battle is probably going to win the game.”
Atlanta Falcons Quarterback Matt Ryan
Conference Call With New Orleans Media
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
What are your overall thoughts about the game against the Saints this Sunday?
“I think everybody is really excited to get the regular season going. Obviously it is a place we are very familiar with, (and) a team we are very familiar with. We know it’s going to be a tough challenge for us down there, (it) always is. There are always a well-coached, tough, physical football team and we are going to have to handle the environment when we get down there, but I think that is something that our veterans can help some of the younger guys come along. We are going to practice hard all week so we are ready to go come Sunday noon central time.”
Are you a little curious to see what they will throw you defensively with a new scheme?
“Definitely. It is one of those things early in the year, it’s always a little more difficult when you are going against a new coordinator. We have obviously played against Rob Ryan before and know the challenges that his scheme presents and certainly there are some. There is nothing you can do about it. We will have to make adjustments as we see during the game and get a feel for what they are trying to do and who is going to be out there. That’s the case for everybody this time of the year.”
Were you a little surprised this was the first game on the 2013 schedule for both clubs?
“No, I’m never surprised with the way the schedule shakes out. It’s different every year and like I said, I think everyone is just excited to get this season underway.”
How do you think the Saints defense will respond after being the worst defense in NFL history last year?
“They have talent. They have talented players and they are a very prideful bunch. I know that every time we played against them it has been a physical matchup and a tough matchup. I expect them to play very well, I really do. It’s going to take our best and a really good effort from us to go out there and be successful.”
What can you tell us about Steven Jackson and the impact he has on your team?
“Steven has been great for our football team. He is a great leader. Obviously, he has been an incredible player for his tenure in the league. He is a huge addition for us. I think on the field, his diverse skill set adds to our offense. But, even more so off the field, just his work ethic, his experience and his leadership has been huge for our locker room. I think guys have been very impressed and have tried to emulate some of the things that he does.”
What stands out to you that has made Drew Brees so successful for a long period here in New Orleans?
“I think it is his work ethic and I say that from watching him from afar. I think he is always extremely well-prepared. It’s like every week he is extremely consistent and he knows how to attack defenses. He is aggressive, but he is also, during the offseason, is an extremely hard worker. So I think there is no shortcut to that kind of success. I think you have to work towards it and he has certainly done that and been an incredible player.”
You and Drew both received lofty contracts the last two years; do you feel a burden on you to play up to that contract?
“I can only speak for myself, but I set high expectations for my own performance in the way that I work. I think at the end of the day if you are worrying about what everybody else thinks, it’s taking away from you being the best player that you can be. For me, I am going to continue to work and prepare the same way that I always have in trying (to find) ways to get better, improve, and work harder. I’m going to focus on that and then try and let all the other stuff take care of itself. That’s been the way I have approached my career and that’s the way it’s going to be the way I continue to approach it.”
How did you approach this offseason after being so close to the Super Bowl last year?
“I think it’s important to learn from your past experiences whether they be good or bad and try and use that as motivation moving forward. I think guys have done a great job of that. You don’t want to be consumed with what we did last year because obviously, it has no bearing on what’s going to happen this season. For the most part during the offseason, training, and training camp, it has provided the motivation that we need, that we needed at those times, but I think for everybody and specifically myself, I think the exciting part is what’s in front of us, the opportunity that is in front of us this season. I think we learned from it. I think we used it as motivation, but I think we are on to what we need to do now.”
Is the Mercedes-Benz Superdome one of the louder crowds to deal with?
“It’s definitely one of the most intense and one of the loudest venues in the NFL and we know that. I’ve been down there five times now and played down there five times and I know every time it’s loud and it’s hostile. With the veteran guys that we have, we understand what it takes to go down there and execute at a high level and we need to be at our best.”
Can you talk about the comparison to the Falcons Saints game in 2006 after the reopening of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to the game this Sunday?
“It’s tough to compare the returning of a coach and what happened with Hurricane Katrina. I think they are two different things. Certainly I watched that game in 2006, I think as did everyone in the country. It was an awesome win for that organization at that time and I think it kind of lifted everybody’s spirits. At this point, I think they are two different things. We are just going to prepare the same way we always do to go out on a road game and prepare for a tough road test. We are going to try and do everything we can during the course of the week to have ourselves ready to go with whatever shakes out on Sunday. We know it’s going to be loud. We know it’s going to be tough. And we know it’s going to be a 60 minute football game. That’s really where our mindset is at.”
Can you talk about not having Todd McClure back as your center?
“It’s tough. It’s one of those things where I have played with him for five years, my entire career and he had been such an important part of helping me come along and specifically with this game, I would say it would be a homecoming game for Todd going back to Louisiana where he grew up and where he lives. It kind of brings a little extra to it, but our guy Peter Konz, who is playing center for us now, has done a great job in that transition. I think that some of my experiences can help him out in a similar way that Todd helped me out because there is always a unique relationship between a quarterback and a center.”
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