NewOrleansSaints.com is giving fans an opportunity to submit their questions for their favorite players. Throughout training camp, the Saints will announce a selected player via the team’s Twitter account (@Saints) and fans will be able to reply with questions.
On Thursday, fans were able to submit questions for S
Harper was selected by the Saints in the second round (43rd overall) in the 2006 NFL Draft. Since then, he has emerged into one of the Saints top defensive players and a staple in the New Orleans secondary. He has started in all 83 games he has appeared in at strong safety and has totaled 577 tackles (405 solo), four interceptions, 43 passes defensed, 17 sacks, 12 forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. The former Alabama stand-out had a lot of success in 2011, registering 116 tackles (77 solo), a career-high 7 ½ sacks, nine pass defenses, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery on the way to being named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week in Weeks 2 and 10. Harper is the only Saints safety to have been selected to two Pro Bowls.
How much more do you think you will be able to get your hands on the ball in this new defense?
“I think a lot more. It just depends on my eyes and my reaction time. Pretty much, it is all on me. I know this defense is going to me more opportunities to be back in the back and not just always blitzing and things like that. That is a part that I am really enjoying. I like this defense so far. It gives both of us, Malcolm and myself, some different opportunities to make some plays.”
How have your specific responsibilities changed?
“I am on the open side now, I am not always on the strong side so it is more free safety now than strong. In this defense, I still get to come down in the box a little bit too. It is just lining up on a different side.”
Are you planning on going for more interceptions or staying closer to the line?
“My biggest thing is that I am not going to have expectations. I am going to go into it with an open mind and just let my abilities take over. I don’t want to put a limit or number on anything. I just want to go out there and play. Whatever I end up with at the end of the year, that is what I end up with.”
How comfortable do you feel so far?
“We have installed it three times now so I feel very comfortable in it. I am learning, I kind of understand what coach (Spagnuolo) is thinking when he makes certain calls and the responsibilities that I have. That is the biggest difference, I get what I need to do and I am able to line up and make some adjustments and some checks. Now I am not so much thinking about what I need to do but I can just react and play what is in front of me.”
How has the defense as a whole been grasping this system?
“I think we are taking it with open arms. It is a lot of different faces than we had in the past couple of years. We are all in it together. I think that is one good thing, it doesn’t seem like we have a selfish guy in the room. Everybody is trying to help each other out. On so many other teams you see older guys that don’t help younger guys and try to make those guys better. It is not like that at all. We are all cheering for each other, we all want to do well. We are all brand new. We are trying to form a tight bond, a nice brotherhood, between each other and just go out there and compete for the guy next to you and not just always for yourself.”
Which offense in the NFC South do you believe provides the toughest matchup?
“That is tough. People want to say Atlanta because they have so many weapons and they have done it. Carolina, mismatch wise is just very tough to deal with because of Cam (Newton) and then they have two running backs instead of one, then they spread you out and they have Steve Smith on the outside and they have all of these different weapons and these tight ends so they have weapons all over, across the board. The biggest thing last year was Carolina just didn’t know how to completely finish a game off. They lost a lot of games down the stretch in the fourth quarter. They are talented and they have mismatch problems all across the board especially with Cam being back there.”
How has this camp in comparison to past camps?
“I am not going to say easier because no camp is easy. It is definitely not the wear-and-tear of two-a-days and things like that. A lot of the young guys don’t know what it was like when we were out in Jackson, Mississippi or at Milsaps the first couple of years. It was pretty rough out there. It probably took a couple years off most of our careers back then but it was well worth it. We set the foundation for this team and this organization back then. We have won a lot of games since. I wouldn’t take it back for anything. The relationships, the people we have had in and out of the locker room, it has been a great run.”
Do you think that this year was one of the hottest training camps?
“No, not at all. It is not even close. We got rain a couple of times. The first week, we were indoors the whole time. In Jackson, we didn’t have any of that. Your cleats were melting on the outside turf. We were actually in dorm rooms and you were bunking up. It was pretty rough, especially for the youngest when I was a rookie. We had to walk what seemed like a mile to get to practice. We all had to go get scooters and then scooters ran out and people were stealing your scooter. It was rough man. It was pretty bad. Then, once you got to the complex, you had to walk up a hill just to get to practice. Then up a hill, then down another hill if we were practicing on the far field. I would definitely say that Milsaps was the toughest.”
If you had the option to be an athlete in any league but the NFL, what would you pick?
“Money-wise, you have baseball and basketball. Me, I would probably go for the European love and play soccer over there for like Manchester United and be a star over there like Ronaldo. That would be great. Him and Rooney over there. I’d definitely love that. I like soccer and I am in to it. If I go out there and score some goals like that, it would be a huge thing. I could be a European sensation over there and be an international playboy. That would be fun.”
Which position would you play?
“I would definitely play left forward where I can go in there and I am right footed, so I would be able to use on that left side and just go out there and try to score some goals. I would go out there and try to be an enforcer and do a bicycle kick and be on top ten on ESPN. That would be fun. That would be a dream that I would never do. I have never played soccer competitively but it is definitely something I really enjoy.”
Do you have any pregame superstitions?
“I used to in college. I kind of stopped it now. I try to get in there and focus on my playbook. I read my little scriptures and my prayers and things like that. I try to make sure everybody stays healthy. Now, my biggest thing before the game is that I have a different handshake with every guy. I go to all of the defensive backs and have a different handshake. Then I go talk to our linebackers. Before each game, I try to tell everybody little keys and tips about playing and what it is going to take to go and win the game. That is about the only thing I have but it is not really a superstition. I wouldn’t call it a superstition. It is just something I do.”
Do you have a favorite place to eat in New Orleans?
“There are so many different places. I really enjoy Mr. John’s off St. Charles. The typical stuff. There are some really good mom and pop places that I really enjoy. It is really hard to have a favorite there are just so many great eateries here and there are restaurants everywhere.”