New Orleans Saints QB
How is your knee?
“It’s all right. It’s just sore from the game. It’s gotten a lot better since Monday. My hope is and what I’m very confident that by gameday it will be fine. It’s just a little sore now.
Will you have to wear a knee brace for the game?
“I’m not sure yet. I’m kind of playing with it for stability and comfort. More than likely yes. We’ll see.”
Does it inhibit you?
“No. If I had to run a 40-yard dash yes. It’s more for comfort, confidence and protection too.”
Is this something different you have to deal with considering you’ve had virtually a clean bill of health for four years?
“Yes, It’s maybe this one a little more obvious than others. It seems like you always have something throughout the year whether it’s shoulder, back, knee, whatever, elbow. It’s always something. Some are maybe a little more significant than others and some a little more obvious than others. Nothing that I’ve had to deal with the in past. I’m confident we’ll get through it and be fine.”
Did you have an x-ray and MRI?
Was it diagnosed as a sprain?
“Just soreness and just from the hit that it took, still kind of a bruising or soreness.”
Was it a specific hit or a number of hits?
“No, it was in the fourth quarter of the game on that fourth down play to (Jeremy) Shockey. That’s where it was tweaked.”
Did you think it was a little bit of a late hit?
“No, it was clean.”
Have you ever been close to this before?
“No, not here. I can’t really say in San Diego either. Knock on wood I’ve been pretty lucky. The shoulder was the last game of the 2005 season, so obviously I would have missed some time, but didn’t and suffered a dislocated elbow in the Pro Bowl.”
Was it a scary situation after the game?
“No, not terribly wrong. I think you’re always concerned, because the day after within 24 hours is the worst part of it because the adrenaline rush goes away and there might be swelling or soreness, just like there would the day after any game, especially if you had something that was more acute or isolated, so like I said, from Monday until yesterday until now, it feels a lot better, but you just take it day by day.”
Do you have swelling with it?
“Yes. Anytime there’s an impact, you’re going to have bruising, swelling, all those things”
Are you sort of going against a team disparate for a win just like the 49ers were?
“Yes. These guys and I said it last year when they came in here; they’re a lot better than their record says. They’ve had their share of tough breaks here the last three weeks. The fact of the matter is they’re in our division. We know how these games always shake out, especially with them. They seem to be the team that we’ve had the toughest time with in the division and they obviously I think play with a lot of confidence when they play against us. We know we’re going to get their best game. I know they have a lot of good players, despite losing Julius Peppers and some others. They’ve got a very talented group, especially when I look at guys like Jon Beason, their veteran secondary and some others. They can get after you. As I look at them, they’re a talented group.”
How do you gauge a successful running attack in your offense? Do you base it on yardage or yards per carry?
“Usually yards per carry. If I can make a comparison from this year to last year. Last year I think through or first three games we were averaging 40 points a game and we were beating opponents by 20 plus points a game whereas this year, the margin of victory has been much less. A lot of those yards come in the fourth quarter when you’re protecting the lead and just pound the ball and that’s where it really balances out and evens out. Obviously we haven’t had it this year like last year. I don’t look to that with any kind of worry. There’s definitely a sense of urgency to get the run game going, just to be more efficient. We don’t have to lead the league in yards. What we talk about is efficiency, winning the situation. If it’s goal line and we’re on the one-yard line, all we want is one. We don’t need four. We just need one. If it’s third and one and a half. It’s just one and a half to two yards. If it’s just a first down, get the first down and a win. If it’s regular down and distance you talk about four yards a carry. So, as you look at the averages that’s where you want to be. We’ve fallen a little bit short of that in the last, first few weeks. It’s something you want to address.
In 2008 you had problems on short yardage and third and one or two. Last week you have a problem on a fourth and one. Does that kind of alarm you in that you didn’t pick it up?
“Like I said. It’s not alarming. If we want to be a great offense and know what we want to be and convert those. Last year, we did a great job of that. We haven’t started off this year, but it’s only three games. The good news is we have time here in the very near future to fix that, because moving forward, we obviously need to capitalize on those opportunities.”
When you come off a loss does the preparation and soul-searching change at all?
“There’s no soul-searching. We’re a field goal away from being 3-0, but there are a lot of things that need to be corrected and improved. Even if we were sitting there having won that Atlanta game, we’d be saying my gosh, we’re still at the bottom of the league in these areas. We still have to get better in these areas. It's ’constant improvement, especially when you’re talking about these divisional games, obviously they are worth double. Every game’s important, but especially divisional games at home. We need to find a way to win this game whatever way it is done.”
How much does the drop off in the running game hurt your play action?
“When I look at our lack of points compared to last year. At that time we were scoring 40 points a game and now we’re at the low 20’s, granted the objective is to score as many points as you can, but it’s always to score one more than they do. We’ve been able to do that quite a bit in critical situations. I’m happy about that, but big plays, we haven’t had as many big plays this year so far as we’re used to. I don’t know how much I can contribute lack of play action opportunities to that. I think it’s really maybe a time of possession thing more than anything. We haven’t been great on third downs, therefore we haven’t possessed the ball as much, therefore we haven’t run as many plays, therefore there’s been less opportunities. That’s what I attribute it to.
“Yes. I think for each guy it’s just like, I was getting the comments last week about when will we see
Because he made so many plays last year is he getting more attention?
“Yes, definitely. People see him as a threat just like they do with each one of our guys. The good thing is you have a lot of guys you can spread the ball to, but I think some guys get in their mind as to these are the guys we’re going to try to stop or prevent or they just guessed right on that coverage. We thought we were going to get the opportunity for this big play and they covered it. If you took the first three games, he hasn’t gotten one of those opportunities”
Do you think this is a critical time for
“Yes. I have talked with him. For any young player it’s always a critical time, because as a young player you always want to show improvement. You want to show that you’re never satisfied with where you’re at or you’re thinking about how you can improve or get better. It’s interesting at the kicker position unlike other positions because of what they do. It’s like, how as a kicker what do you think about how you can get better? Well, I can improve my field goal percentage. I can work on my kicks from the left hash if I’m not as good as those from the right hash. In the end, I think you know as a kicker, every kick’s a big kick, but you’re going to have a couple of opportunities for game-winners or kicks that are going to determine the outcome of a game. You see it in the league where guys for whatever reason go through a dry spell or depending on how established they are in the league, there’s a shorter leash than others. I think Garrett’s attitude with this is very good. Bringing in John Carney, a guy who he was able to work with last year. I think John did a lot of great things for him as far as his preparation and mindset and approach to the game, not only throughout the week, but gameday. It’s yet another opportunity to do that. I’ve always been a guy who’s tried to take a positive out of a negative situation. I think Garrett’s doing that, just like last year. He misses the kick against Tampa. He had to go through that to accomplish what he accomplished later, which was make that exact same kick to put us in the Super Bowl and make three 40-plus yarders in the Super Bowl. Just one of those times in his career where maybe he has to take two steps back to take a couple steps forward.”
Have you talked with him about how you’ve been in that situation before?
“I told him I’ve been benched three times. I said, it’s all part of the process. Every young player has to learn it. There’s no shortcut to it. There’s no easy way to it. You just have to learn it the hard way. You’re learning it the hard way. Make the most of it. Absorb everything you can from John Carney. John Carney’s a Hall of Fame kicker. I’ve lost track of how many years he’s played. He’s played more years than Hartley’s been alive probably. Really, we should look that up. Is that true? How many opportunities do you get like that. When I had the opportunity to play with Doug Flutie when I was a rookie and then Mark Brunell, you constantly are a sponge and take in everything you can. Garrett Hartley has a ton of talent and he’s already made some big kicks in his career and there are plenty more that he has to make in the future. This is just one of those times where he has to gut it out a little bit.”
How anxious are you to get a game where all three phases excel?
“Very anxious. It seems like we’ve done just enough to get by with victories, but by no means have we even scratched the surface of playing a complete game. As I look at ourselves offensively. You talk about it a lot here already. You talk about the third downs. You talk about the ability to run the ball more efficiently. You talk about making the big plays when they’re there with those opportunities, red zone efficiency, short yardage, all those areas where we’ve just been very marginal up to this point. What it’s about is finding a way to win in the end or putting yourself in the position and that’s the good thing that we’ve done. But, it’s because we’ve been lacking in those other areas that those games have been so close. I think we’re all ready for one of these three touchdown victories. I hope that comes sooner than later. I think we know each week our opponents are gunning for us and especially when you play divisional opponents. These games are always close. You know that. You just grind it out one play at a time and one drive at a time and just hope you have more points than they do at the end.”
Have you worn a brace before?
“Yes, my senior year in high school. I tore my ACL in my junior year of high school, so I wore a brace my senior year. I’ve done that before.
What is it that you have to do to get comfortable?
“Just like anything it’s strengthening. It’s strenghening the muscles around the knee. It’s making sure you’re getting the swelling out. Swelling prevents mobility. If you get the swelling out, you’re able to move better. The brace more than anything is a comfort thing. It’s providing stability and taking away some of the soreness.”
Did you play very long with the brace in high school?
“I played with it my senior year and then I did not wear it in college at all.”
Do you consider not taking snaps in practice to rest it and would it be a setback if you didn’t take all the reps?
“I don’t think it would be a setback. I think mentally for me I’d have a hard time giving up those reps. If I was told that you’re only making it worse by practicing, that’s one thing, but this isn’t one of those deals. It’s pain tolerance, just do what you can do. I was actually pretty impressed with the way I felt today. I feel like with the progress I’ve made since Monday that by the time gameday rolls around, no problem.”
Is it better the left knee is bothering you because you don’t have to step forward on it?
“I’ll be honest. I could make arguments for both.”
Which knee did you hurt in high school?
With having so many running backs banged up, does that affect the rhythm of the running game?
“Yes, I think obviously when you have guys out, now you’re using younger guys.
Does that position suffer a lot of injuries?
“It takes a beating.”
Does that change where you see the end of people like LaDanian Tomlinson and Deuce McAllister’s who would take all the carries in their prime?
“When you look at the best running teams in the league over the last five years, you could say the Giants have been one of those teams and they had a stable of three backs. Look at us last year, our success running the ball. We had a stable of three or four backs and then teams like Atlanta have a couple backs, Carolina, they have two great backs. You go across the league. I think just because one guy carrying the ball 30 times just isn’t going to happen anymore. It’s extremely physical and I think that you just have to be able to have two or three to keep them fresh. It’s just the way the game is now.”
Based on yesterday’s CBA meetings between the league and players association, is this is a reason not to go to an 18-game schedule?
“That’s a huge concern. Here’s an example. The average NFL career is 3.6 years, which is really a bunch of guys at two years and others and ten and 15 to offset that. The majority's two. John Carney’s accounting for 20 two-year guys. So, right now in order to get five years of post-career medical coverage, you have to play three years, so if you go from 16 games to 18 games, what’s that going to do to the average years a guy plays. Let’s say that goes to 2.9, so basically what you’ve done is there are a bunch of guys in this category that didn’t make it to three. They don’t get five years of post-career benefits. They have to go out and find insurance for themselves, which they won’t so then they have to pay for it themselves which is $250,000. Those are issues as players we are very concerned with. The toll that this game takes on the body, not just when you’re playing, buy ten, twenty, thirty years down the road, we see all kinds of retired players now with head injuries, brain injuries, back, knee joints.”
Did you come away encouraged from yesterday’s meeting?
I haven’t heard a whole lot of what happened yesterday. I’m still getting caught up in that. I would hope. Time is of the essence and the next two months are pretty critical.”
How much pushback do the players give to the 18-game idea?
Quite a bit, just because of the reason I already mentioned being health care. There are a lot of factors that go into that. Do you change roster size? Are there more practice squad players to give other guys breaks? Right now with eight practice squad guys you need 11 on offense and 11 on defense to be the scout team for the defense. Who are the guys fulfilling those roles? I some cases they’re starters when other people have injuries and such and you got guys who basically have to play both ways in a sense in practice. That’s just more wear and tear on the body. A couple more weeks, how does that affect that. It’s not just we’ll give you two more game checks, because what you do when you add two more games is you take life off of a guy’s careers down the road, so it’s much more than two game checks. Risk of injury, salary, number of roster size, there are plenty of other things that need to be considered when you talk about this, length offseason, preseason, the amount of time you’re spending in the facility, wear and tear on the body. There are a lot of things to consider, not just playing two more games and adding two more game checks.”