New Orleans Saints Quarterback
Interview with WWL Radio
Friday, July 13, 2012
How did the deal go down this morning and what was your reaction when it was finally done?
“I was working out this morning early and I got back in my car and my agent Tom Condon has a text message that says ‘call me ASAP.’ I called him and we talked through everything. Next thing you know, it’s done. It’s interesting because obviously it’s been a long process to get to this point. Once we were here, it was just bam, bam, bam and we are done. Obviously we were all in position to get the deal done.
“I couldn’t be happier or more excited. It’s obviously a pretty surreal moment once you finally get to this point. I am excited to get things started and get back with all the guys in the locker room. I know the Who Dat Nation is ready for that as well.”
What does it to mean to you to be the highest paid player in the league?
“My face is turning red right now because when you talk about the type of contracts that are involved in our league…we have all played the game of football since we were kids because we love the game of football. It has provided such a unique opportunity for us to play at this level in the National Football League. The most popular sport in America with some of the greatest fan bases, including ours. To sit down and think about the opportunity that we all have to do this, it’s truly a blessing. I take it as a huge responsibility as I know all the guys on our team do. I feel like with a contract like this, people can say ‘they are paying you what you earned or what you deserved.’ In my mind, I always feel like I have to go out every day and earn it and show people why you are at that level. It’s not to put added pressure on myself or anything else. It’s just about representing our team and city the right way.”
There were a lot of things reported during the negotiations that may or may not have been true. How did you handle hearing those things?
“I think the phrase that was thrown around a lot was ‘being the highest paid player’ or that I ‘had to be’ the highest paid player in history. There is so much speculation that goes around throughout this process. I think people, from a media standpoint, want to be breaking the story first or providing some kind of new information, quote, or something like that. Unfortunately in a lot of cases, stuff comes out and it’s not entirely true. ‘Sources say this’ or ‘confidants say that.’ So much of it is so far off.
“I can tell you from the start of this negotiation, I have not thought once ‘Hey, I want to be the highest-paid guy.’ In the end, did the contract end up being that? Yes, but it was more about trying to objectively look at the numbers from the last decade for a top-tier quarterback - where it's been and where it's going - and just trying to do what's fair and justified.
“At the same time, there are so many little elements to a contract like this. I know a lot of people sit there and say ‘It’s so much money. What’s the difference between 19 and 20 (million)?’ or ‘How can the contract be that hard to put together?’ Yet, there are so many little elements to it.
“Obviously, from Mickey Loomis’ standpoint, he’s not just thinking of one player. He has to think about the entire team – the future of the team. There’s so many things that he’s juggling and managing. At the same time, my agent Tom Condon, who I think did a tremendous job – the relationship between Tom and Mickey was crucial through this entire process because they have worked together a lot in the past on deals. I think the communication is very good. They know each other well. You’re obviously talking about two sides that are trying to get the right deal done. It just happened to take longer than we all expected. The fact is it got done because of their commitment and steadfastness to the process. Certainly, this is what we all wanted. We all wanted for me to have the opportunity to finish my career in New Orleans. That’s all I ever wanted this entire time. I’m glad to see that’s accomplished.”
How hard was it for you that one of the most important issues in your life was so public?
“I think it stems from our sport being so popular. So many fans love the NFL. They love football. They love the players, coaches and the teams. There are so many things about our sport. People follow it. The media nowadays and the 15-minute media cycle. Online, on the radio or on TV it’s just constant. You can’t avoid it. There are always going to be things that are out there. You hope those things are accurate or at least people are trying to portray them as accurately as they can or stating opinion versus fact. You are never going to be able to completely avoid that. I think you have to understand it’s part of the process.
“When you are talking about the type of contracts that these are and the type of money that is out there, at times it’s hard for people to identify or grasp what’s happening. I think it’s very easy to sit back and say ‘this is ridiculous.’ The fact is I think the desire result was reached. I think we are all excited about that. Now it’s time to get to work. That’s all we wanted to do this entire offseason. This season cannot start fast enough. Everything that we have been through, putting the contract aside, and we are all ready to get back on the field.”
Does having your contract done help transition from the issues of this offseason to focusing on the upcoming season?
“Here is the thing – it would be very easy for us to make excuses after what the organization and everyone has been through this offseason. That’s never the approach we have taken nor will take because the type of people we have on our team as players, coaches, management and owners. I think we have built up a mindset that we will overcome anything that is put before us and we have for the past six years. We will continue. The fact that we have such a great fan base and such a strong city that is united around us, that makes our job so much easier. In fact, it just gives us even more motivation to go out and want to play well and win because we know how much it means to people. That’s what it’s all about.”
Back in late 2005, you are laying in the hospital just coming off surgery and an injury that was potentially career ending. You have no contract or a team. Did you ever imagine you would in the situation you are in today?
“No, (laughter) I was just trying to make it day by day and get to the point where I could throw a football again. I am not trying to overdramatize it but that was a scary time. I had never been through anything like that and certainly don’t want to have to do that again. Things like that happen in your life and you learn from them because they make you stronger. First off, had I never had that injury, I never would have ended up in New Orleans. Secondly, I never could have imagined that we would have had the run that we have had thus far. Here I am going into my 12th season and I am 33 years old and yet I feel like a kid. I feel like I can do this for 20 years. I always want to have that passion for the game and that emotion for it. It is hard to believe that those were the circumstances for me six years ago – sitting there wondering if I was going to play football again. Now we are at this point. That’s why you never take anything for granted. You enjoy moments like this because they are few and far between. You know how hard you have to work to get to these places. Never take it for granted and enjoy the moment while you can.”
Was there one particular moment during your time here that you noticed the Saints fan base was different from other places? What role did the city of New Orleans play in your decision to join the Saints?
“The city of New Orleans and everything the city was going through at the time was a huge factor. I have always said for Brittany and I – when we first got to New Orleans, it was six months post Katrina, so when we were driving around you are seeing the city in distress and devastation around every corner. I think a lot of people might have looked at that and say ‘Gosh, I really want no part of this.’ For us, it was a calling. It was truly a calling. We felt like we belonged here and that we could do more than just win football games. We could assimilate ourselves into the city and into everything that is New Orleans and help that city rebuild. We wanted to be part of that culture and charm that everybody loves about New Orleans. There is not a day that goes by that we are not thankful for the opportunity to be in New Orleans. There is not a day that goes by that we don’t think about how we can continue to make this city better. It is truly one of the more unique places in the country. What I am most proud of is that I think in the past the reputation was ‘New Orleans is always one of those places that people want to visit party and have a good time.’ But what I am seeing more and more of is people are moving to New Orleans because they want to start a business there. They want to raise a family there. They want to be a part of the city and culture. I think that says a lot for how far we have come the past six years.”
I know you have known OC Peter Carmichael for a long time, but what do you have to do to build the same chemistry and communication you had with HC Sean Payton with Carmichael?
“First of all, I have been with Peter Carmichael for a long time. My second year in the NFL, back in 2002 when I was with the Chargers, Pete came in and he was the offensive quality control coach from 02-05 then he became the quarterback coach in New Orleans prior to my signing. So Pete and I have been together 10 years. I have watched him grow as a coach. Offensive quality control to quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator but without the play-calling duties because obviously Sean Payton called plays.
“Then last year when Sean got hurt in Tampa, Pete took over the play-calling duties having never done it before – ever. Yet, you just got the feeling he had been preparing for this moment ever since he became coordinator. He knew his time would come and that he would be ready. When you look at our success as an offense, I would have to say that we would have to give the majority of that credit to Pete Carmichael. I think he did a phenomenal job. I felt like we were always on the same page because I think our communication throughout the week, in concert with the other coaches, and the way that we all rallied together and worked together to pick up the slack with not having Coach Payton there due to his injury. I felt like the train kept rolling.
“I also think that there is a lot of credit that Sean Payton deserves for preparing his coaches for an event like that. We didn’t know it would come in that form, or what the circumstances would be. You always hear people talk about how sometimes the greatness of the CEO is not appreciated until he leaves or he is gone and then you see the lessons and wisdom that he passed on to those below him. I think Sean Payton had prepared his coaches as well as you possibly could to fall into that role and do it with class. I feel like so many coaches deserve credit for what we were able to accomplish last year once Sean went down. Maybe that was a blessing in disguise because of what we are going through now. Now Sean is not with us the entire year. Yet, we are somewhat use to that situation on a smaller scale with what we went through last year. I think not having Sean’s presence in the locker room, in the meeting rooms, the facility and the practice field and even on the sideline during the game will be most foreign. You are use to walking in the facility, seeing his face and being able to communicate with him to talk football, concepts and strategy with him and he is not there to do that. Not only that, but you can’t talk to him at all. That is hard. It’s difficult but we will deal with it is as it comes. I have no doubt in my mind that guys like Pete Carmichael, Joe Lombardi, Aaron Kromer and others will do a phenomenal job at picking up that slack offensively. Obviously, Joe Vitt, Steve Spagnuolo and the other defensive coaches will do it as well.”
What was your reaction to the NFL announcing it will allow a little more leeway in their stadium crowd noise rules for the home team to improve crowd interaction?
“I am not sure if our Dome can get any crazier (laughter), but if it can, then I guess this rule just allowed it to get crazier. I am more concerned with when we go on the road and what they are going to try and do to us. You just operate. You do what you do. You are prepared and we always prepare ourselves for loud stadiums and hostile environments. When you look at our offensive lineup, it’s guys that have been together a long time. Our wide receivers, running backs, tight ends – we have all been together a long time. There is a lot of continuity. With that continuity, communication comes in a lot of different forms. It’s body language, signals and so many areas where I feel like we would have the advantage because of that continuity. Obviously we are going to need that when we step in those hostile environments and loud crowds. I am sure we are going to see a lot of crazy stuff this year. The fact is we have to be ready and prepared for it. I am sure this is just one of the ways that the NFL is trying to help out defenses a little bit because I know that a lot of people feel that the rules have been swayed to help offenses. Maybe this is one of the ways to offset that.”
What has your wife Brittany meant to you in your time here and during this process?
“Are you trying to get me emotional here? (Laughter) I think balance in life is the most important thing, especially with the situation we are in. We play a game for a living but it is a game that we all take very seriously. It takes a lot of time and commitment. There is a lot of pressure, at times, to perform and to perform well. You feel like you represent so many people when you play. Therefore, you feel that sense of responsibility and that pressure at all times.
“What allows me to be able to relax and go to the facility and work hard and focus on my job and then go out and perform on the highest level is because I know that at home everything is taken care of and it is because of the strength of my wife and the love and support she provides me during the good times and the bad.
“We have had times where I was struggling in my career, or whatever, and she has always been my rock. She has been so supportive. She knows when it is time to make me laugh. Or, she is the one that gets angry for me because she knows that maybe I can’t (laughter).
“Whatever the situation is, I feel like she always knows how to put me at ease and make it to where I can relax and go do my job and do it well. I am not worried because I know she is OK, she is a strong individual; she’s got the kids, and whatever it might be.
“We have two beautiful little boys, Baylen and Bowen. She is due with our third boy in mid-August, right in the middle of training camp. Of course I am worried about her and me not being there every day to help her because I will be in training camp.
“She is sitting there telling me ‘not to sweat it, you have a job to do and this is mine.’ I can’t even tell you what that does for me. I think that certainly provides a balance in my life just knowing that when I leave the facility, I am going home, I am kissing my wife, I am reading my boys a book before they go to bed and life is good. We have that special bond and that relationship and that love.”
What is your message to your teammates? If you were in a huddle with your teammates right now, what would you tell them?
“Well, only those guys are going to hear that message (laughter). The excuses are there as to why we shouldn’t succeed this year, because of the suspension and the bad publicity and all of these other things.
“The fact of the matter is this team is built on the philosophy of creating a winning environment. The culture that is to bring the best out of everybody, to create competition, to lean on one another when times are tough, when somebody is not there, the next man is up. We have a job to do and we are never going to make excuses. That is what has been built. Everybody that is in the organization, you conform to that mentality. No matter where you were or what you were doing before, you conform to that mentality.
“I think that is why we have been so successful because we have those types of guys, guys that buy into that, guys that have taken on leadership roles to help inspire others and bring out the best in others. It is because of guys like
What do you think are the odds that it will be a black-and-gold Super Bowl in New Orleans?
“I know our city can handle a lot of events, but it would go off their rocker if that happened (laughter). I hope that is the case. That is the mindset that we take every day - that it’s going to be a black-and-gold Super Bowl.
“We know the journey, we have been on that journey before, and so we know what goes in to something like that. It is not all rosy. It is a struggle. It is a battle. There are ups and downs. There are going to be times throughout the season, no matter who you are, where you have to face adversity and it comes in a lot of different forms. You are ready for that. You are ready to overcome it and you know that it makes you stronger after you do. You just hope for that opportunity.
“I know what our coaching staff, Mickey Loomis, and our organization has tried to build is a team that can sustain over a long period of time. We will continue to rebuild, recharge, but we are always going to be in a position to make a run at it. I feel as good about our situation right now then I have with any other team. You might say that sounds crazy because I haven’t been there this offseason with free agents or rookies or anything else.
“More important than any of the talent that we might have, or don’t have, we have the mindset. Throughout the course of training camp and the start of the season, you are creating an identity. No matter what you did the year before, no matter who you were the year before, you have to continue to re-establish that identity every year. The guys that have been a part of organization, like Zach and others, know what that process is like. It is hard and it’s grueling but it’s fun. That is what you look back on when you do accomplish something great. Those are the moments you appreciate. I think those are also the moments you miss when it is all said and done.”
What is the name going to be for your third child?
“This sounds crazy but there has been so much going on this offseason that we really haven’t thought of name at this point.”
Is it going to be something with a “B?”
“I think we kind of forced ourselves in to that one (laughter). We have Baylen and Bowen. If we have a boy here and then maybe a girl and the boy doesn’t have a ‘B’ name he is going to feel kind of left out. I think we have to stick with it.
“I don’t know if I am going to tweet about it or tweet for a bunch of recommendations. But recommendations don’t hurt so if anybody has any, throw them out there. We will see. We are going to have to figure that out pretty soon though, we are about a month away. We have to get rolling on the name.”
Is there anything you want to add?
“I can’t wait to get back to work, I can’t wait to get back on the field with my guys and the Who Dat Nation and start the journey. It starts now. We can’t get on the field fast enough. We have so much to accomplish. We just have to take it one day at a time. Focus on the process and it will take care of itself. There are going to be ups and downs but hang with us Who Dat Nation and we will make you proud.”