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Joe Vitt: "When You Just Need a Play, Trust Malcolm Jenkins"

Posted Nov 12, 2012

Joe Vitt reviews Sunday's win against the Falcons

Joe Vitt

New Orleans Saints Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers Joe Vitt
Press Conference
Monday, November 12, 2012

Watch Vitt's Press Conference

Opening Statement: “Our football team had a hard-fought, emotional, physical game yesterday. We knew this was going to be tough. Going in to this game we did preach to our football team that this was the best team in football. Their record dictated that. Six of the last eight contests we had against this football team came down to a one possession games, so we knew it was going to be tight. My hat’s off to Atlanta. They’re a good football team. They were well prepared. We prepared well last week and had a chance to compete and won the game. We are certainly proud of our players and the coaching staff for the plan they put together. Now, it’s on to Oakland.”

For the player’s psyche, getting to .500 is a big deal. Can you elaborate on that?
“At this point in the season, and where we are right now, we’re taking one day at a time and one game at a time. You can’t look down the road at who you’re playing in December and the what-ifs or if they play this… You’ll drive yourself crazy. The only thing that we can control this week is how we prepare for our next opponent which is the Raiders out in Oakland. It’s a road game. Dennis Allen is their head coach and Dennis Allen knows this football team very, very well. In fact he knows this football team better than we know them now. The only thing that we can control is how we prepare this week, for this game. This is the only game that counts. We need to win a football game.”

Any thoughts about what Roddy White said yesterday after the game? He said that the Falcons gave you the game.
“That’s his opinion, he’s entitled to that. That’s his opinion.”

Talk about how much Akiem Hicks and Corey White have progressed and contributed at their age.
“We’ve said this from earlier in training camp, our expectancy level for those players was pretty high coming in. After we had them in the OTAs, we had them in training camp and then you watch them progress through the preseason. I think what has been good about those two guys, and why they have (been) fun to coach, is they have high expectancy levels of themselves also. When the coach’s expectancy level meets that of the player’s, it’s a pretty good working relationship. Akiem gets better every game. He’s coming from a small-time program where he is a seeing a lot of things for the first time, same as Corey. Both of those guys really, for young kids, do a good job of preparing themselves during the week and getting themselves prepared to play physically, mentally and emotionally. For those two young kids, the sky is the limit because they fit the profile physically of what you’re looking for with each of those players as it pertains to their position. It’s been fun to watch. What these guys have to understand now is when they’re getting ready to go home for vacation at Thanksgiving, this is the run for us now. This is a marathon. They’ve got a lot of improvement to do. They’ve got a lot of football left to play. They’re ability to handle the mental and the emotional grind of a long season is going to be critical.”

Playing an offense with so many weapons like Atlanta, does it help facing Drew Brees and the Saints offense during preseason?
“Yes I think so. When you take a look at Atlanta’s offense, tell me what they don’t have. They’ve got skilled running backs (Jacquizz Rodgers and Michael Turner), they’ve got a potential MVP quarterback (Matt Ryan), a first ballot Hall of Famer at the tight end position (Tony Gonzalez) and two big wide receivers (Julio Jones and Roddy White) that can burn down the field. They’re going to give you multiple sets, multiple formations and they’re going to give you three or four wrinkles in every game that you haven’t seen which gives a little bit of an advantage to us, defensively, because we have to problem solve every day in training camp against our offense. Obviously, going against Drew (Brees), our receivers and our skill people every day gives us the confidence to make those adjustments in a game when you play against a team like the Atlanta Falcons.”

Has Chris Ivory warranted more carries?
“We’re going to evaluate that tonight. We’re going do exactly what we think is going to be necessary against the Oakland Raiders to beat them. We’ll take a look at what defensive fronts they’re running, our play selection, we’ll give the amount of carries and give the load that we think is warranted to beat that team and it’s going to change on a weekly basis. Chris is playing well.”

Have you ever heard of “running angry” because he looks pissed when he’s running the ball.
“That’s a cute saying. I think he’s run over people since he’s been here. That’s what he does I think he is one of those backs that does a great job of running behind his pads. He is one of those backs that at his size, he can make you miss.  At the same time, he can lower his pads and run over some people. He’s always looking to get extra yards. I think what has been encouraging about Chris, you saw him switch the ball into the proper hand when he finished his touchdown run. Those are the little things that he has really worked on to become a better player. It’s fun to watch and we’re proud of him”

In what different ways have you seen your team develop that identity on a consistent basis over the past few weeks?
“Number one, it’s not my team. This is our team. This is Sean (Payton) and Mickey’s (Loomis) team and this is our team. Listen, we have a formula around here to win and we’ve had one since 2006 and it changes on a yearly basis based on the personality of the football team. This win that we had yesterday was a direct result of how hard this football team has worked from day one, when I wasn’t here. A setback against the Washington Redskins, against Carolina (didn’t get them down). This team has rolled their sleeves up, have weathered the storm, have stuck together, have not pointed fingers and have tried to get better every day. The byproduct  of yesterday’s win has been this football team and this coaching staff’s character, their ability to stick together and just work at the grind.”

What did you get out of Charles Brown yesterday?
“Charles is a high-round draft pick for us. Charles has played a lot of football. Charles is extremely athletic and he has strong hands. He’s played a lot of football for us. He had to step in yesterday and play for a player, Zach Strief, who has played very well for us. I’ve said this (before about next man) up, we have a next-man-up theory. When it’s your turn, it’s your turn to go play. Charles did a good job yesterday. He did a good job.”

Corey White limped off the field yesterday, is he ok?
“He is being examined right now.”

Did you find out if it was a knee or a thigh?
“I did.”

Do you care to share?
“No.”

How much of the team’s motivation do you play a part in? Do you limit yourself to getting the team ready in the X and O column?
“This was a big game for us. It’s an 8-0 football team coming to our building. They’re a good football team, Atlanta. These have been hard fought contests since 2006, since we started playing one-another. It’s a divisional game. All of the things that go in to big games was here yesterday, for us. Our players have been in big games before, they’ve won world championships here, we’ve won playoff games here. So, our players know how to prepare for big games against good opponents. It all goes back to preparation. It doesn’t go back to talking. It doesn’t go back to chirping. It doesn’t go back to somebody mouthing off. It goes back to how well did you prepare for the game and then how well did you play in the game. Talk is cheap in our business. What you do speaks so well, there is no need to hear what you have to say.”

So you will prepare the same for Oakland this week even though they are struggling right now?
“What are you saying, this is a trap game? This is our next game. If we don’t prepare for the Oakland Raiders the same way we prepared for Atlanta, with the same detail, concentration and commitment, it’s going to be a long day on Sunday and we’ll  have no one to blame but ourselves.”

Having an influx of linebackers, has it made it tougher to get Scott Shanle on the field?
“Right now it has, yes. We’re going to play what we think is the best combination of linebackers that gives us the best opportunity to win.”

Are you going out to Oakland a day early like you did for Denver?
“Yes.”

Is it weird for you to see Jonathan Vilma not playing in the middle position?
“Not really. I’ll tell you, it’s such a good feeling to see him out there. It’s such a good feeling to see him getting healthier every snap, every practice and every game. It’s such a good feeling to see his leadership come forward. Really, it’s a very calming effect when you have him and (Curtis) Lofton on the field at the same time because of their leadership and intelligence. They have just outstanding communication skills with their teammates during the course of the game. Anyway that we can get Jonathan Vilma on the field and he’s a part of our football team is a good thing for us.”

Does Curtis Lofton still make the defensive checks?
“Yes. Now, listen, those guys are talking and communicating. Vilma will say to him every once in a while, call this or do this. Curtis will do (it) and then Jonathan will relay it. Those guys really do work well together. There is no pride of authorship with those two guys, they just want to win. They want to win and they want to get better every day.”

Can you talk about the effort by Malcolm Jenkins? He, once again, stopped a player at then one yard line that led to a goal line stand.
“Malcolm is a good football player. This is the first time that Malcolm has had to go through a schematic change in his career. I think this is the third for (Roman) Harper, this is the third for (Scott) Shanle, this is the third for (Jonathan) Vilma. It’s never easy the first time you go through one. You are learning new verbage, new alignments, you’re eye placement is different. Through this whole thing, Malcolm has stayed positive. He is a voted captain on our football team. When the game is on the line and plays have to be made, you just trust Malcolm Jenkins. You trust him because he works so hard and he is so accountable to his teammates. It’s been fun to watch.”

What does it do for a team to have a punter and a kickoff man like Thomas Morstead?
“Your eyes didn’t lie to you yesterday. He kicked them all off out of the end zone so there were no returns. He did an outstanding job punting the ball and placing the ball where we wanted it. Thomas is very stable, hard-working, he is a great teammate and he takes tremendous pride in what he does. Thomas is a valued member of this football team.”