Training Camp Presented By Verizon Media Availability
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Did you just feel a lot better today than you had before? You participated in a lot of individual drills, I guess to get our wind back.
“Yeah I felt good coming back, but like Coach Payton said it was something that we wanted to be smart about. It’s a long season ahead, and I just wanted to make sure that I went through the steps to come back. I wanted to do the process right, and that’s what I did.”
They said they need to get you in football shape. Do you feel like that’s going to be an extended process?
“No, that’s why I’m out there, to get continued back in those football movements and doing those things. That’s the only way you do that, is to replicate those movements.”
What was the procedure you had, and were you hesitant to make that decision?
“I wasn’t hesitant because it is a long season. I don’t want to get into details about what I did have done, but thank God I’m back and moving forward.”
Was it the same issue that dated back to the Pro Bowl?
“It was something that needed to be taken care of, that’s all I’ll say.”
When your teammates are out there, your new family, how much are you itching to get back out there with them?
“It’s hard. Anytime you see those guys putting that work out there, that’s where I want to be. I’m just thankful that I got to be out there today. You appreciate the little things a lot more when you can’t do them. Like I said, I’m thanking God that I’m out there and able to do this.”
When you’re on the sideline observing practice, are you envisioning how it’s all going to come together when you get out there?
“Definitely. It’s a process, a transition, when you watch it on the sidelines. You go through the mental checks and things like that, but when you’re actually back there seeing it, things move a little quicker. That’s the next phase of going through things, and making the right calls and adjustments.”
Do you feel like when you’re a player of much notoriety and get paid a lot of money, is there extra pressure to get back on the field because of all the publicity that gets?
“No. when you’re out there, you know what you have to do to get ready. If you rush yourself, you don’t do anybody any service rushing yourself and getting hurt again. There’s a fine line you need to walk with that, making sure you’re ready to go out there and don’t injure yourself.”
How about just the pressure to make a first impression on the team that invested so much in you in general, health aside?
“I’m approaching this like every time I approach each year. I’m just trying to get better and better each year. I’m not looking at what you guys are saying about the money, things like that. I’m approaching it to get better. How can I get better this year? What’s my role going to be? How can we get better as a team? How can I help this team? Because it’s not about me, it’s about this team.”
You have a reputation for the turnovers. Do you say that’s your specialty?
“I just want to be an impact player. That’s what I strive to be, and takeaways are part of that. Whatever being an impact player encompasses, then that’s what I want to be and that’s what I pride myself in being.”
When you were fielding punts, how does that help you also at the safety position?
“Definitely, with depth perception and tracking the ball. When you get a ball that is that high and that deep, you can track that ball. That emulates what a pass is going to be like, a deep ball. That’s something that a lot of safeties can work on.”
When you haven’t been able to be on the field, you’ve been able to be around your teammates in the classroom. Can you tell us your thoughts on what you’ve come to know from Kenny (Vaccaro) and Rafael (Bush) and the rest of the safeties?
“They’re a great group. Coming down here, you get to learn about them a lot more. They’re just really smart, both of them. What they bring to the game is very valuable and I look forward to playing with both of them in the secondary was well as Champ and Keenan and all the other guys. Those two, Rafael and Kenny, they’re very special players in what they bring to the table.”
Kenny said he looked at tape of you last year to learn about the position. What does that mean to you and what can you help him with, being such a young player?
“It means a lot coming from guys looking up to me and stuff like that and watching film. Kenny, he has a lot of tools that are untapped yet. I think that if you go back to what he played in college, he was kind of a down guy covering nickel, slot, stuff like that, in the box guy. He’s coming back and he can do a lot more things. His talent ranges a lot. I’m looking forward to him tapping into that, which he will. He’s hungry to get more and be more, as well as Rafael is too.”
The coaches haven’t said you are the savior that’s going to bring the turnovers to this defense, but do you kind of feel that is your job or that you can do it alone?
“Like I said, it’s not about me. It’s about our team. I look forward to making an impact on this defense. That’s what I look forward to doing. Whatever category that is, that’s what I look forward to doing.”
Was Rob Ryan’s defense attractive to you when you were going through free agency?
“Yes. Having the ability to do a lot of different things and switch things up and not having to just be statues out there, that’s huge. That confuses a lot of offenses and that creates a lot of opportunities for people to make plays, a lot of movement and confusion. That’s a great thing to have, if you have a coordinator that utilizes those things.”
Growing up in an NFL household, did you learn any tricks of the trade from your dad being an All-Pro cornerback?
“He kind of just got out the way. He coaches when I ask. When I go to him, he’ll give me pointers. For the most part, he let me grow up and learn and let me do my thing and figure it out. He’s always there if I have questions.”
Do you plan to be in the Black and Gold scrimmage Saturday?
“Those aren’t questions for me, those are questions for Sean. That’s what they’re going to do, and I’m just preparing for whatever they ask me to do in this process of getting back.”
Has this process of coming back been easy or aggravating at times?
“It’s been frustrating. You always want to be on the field. That’s what I do. You want to practice and get better. The only way you can get better is being out there. Obviously it’s been frustrating, but I know it’s something that I need to do. You don’t want to rush things and have a setback and that messes things up too.”
Has it been a while since you’ve returned a punt?
“Not too long. I did a little bit in Buffalo. The last time I did it consistently was probably college.”
“That was awesome. I knew we had a big play the minute they were bringing pressure from that side and we were able to get it to him. But man, watching his explosive ability to just navigate those blocks and hit a seam – if he hits the seam, he’s gone. I think that just gives you a taste of what we have in him.”
When you hear football speed and speed, is his football speed eye-opening for you?
“Yeah you can say they’re straight-line fast but not real quick or they have long strides, or short area quickness but not long speed. This guy has it all. He’s got short area quickness, great transition ability, and phenomenal straight-line speed.”
To have a great connection on the back shoulder throw with Cooks this early on, that has to be encouraging.
“Very exciting. I think our mindset is no matter how tight the coverage, there’s always a place to throw the ball. We’ve hit a couple of those to other guys like
Has it felt very different for you to look around and see no Darren Sproles, no Lance Moore? Is this the most transition in one offseason?
“Yeah, probably so, (the) most transition. Defensively, you talk about the guys that aren’t here – Will Smith, Jabari Greer, Roman Harper, Jonathan Vilma – that were huge parts of this team for a really long time, certainly big influences in the locker room and that kind of thing. But that just opens up opportunities for other guys. I think the thing that’s been most exciting for me is watching these young receivers develop and knowing that you’re going to get more opportunities, (and) you’re going to get more time. They’re not just sitting back watching, they’re going with the second unit. They’re getting thrust into the action here. I’m getting a lot of time with them during practice, (and) after practice. You can see the development, and that gets you excited.”
How much closely do you track your time to throw?
“My feet tell me when to throw or when to run. We call it the clock in your head, but the clock in your head comes from your feet because you know that this is a three-step drop or this is a five-step drop. One hitch there, two hitch there, and if you get to that third hitch you’re running out of time and there’s going to be guys on top of you. The offensive line appreciates it if you just get it out of your hands or take off. There’s a timing element to everything you do, but it all comes down to your feet.”
Is the screen pass to
“Yes, he’s one of the best screen runners there is, ever. He does such a great job of timing, setting up his blocks, just hitting those seams and hitting the sidewalk. He does a phenomenal job at it. You see these young guys starting to pick up on a little bit of those traits (of Thomas’) too. (Darren) Sproles was great at it. Pierre can do everything. He’s the best all-purpose back in the league in my opinion. Run, pass, screen game, pass protection…you name it, he can do it.”
Is there a concerted effort to get the ball to
“I think all of our backs have the ability to do something with the ball in space. I’m not going to say more of a concerted effort. There’s definitely a concerted effort in regards to discipline with the underneath route structure when it comes to the running backs – being where we need you at the right depth, right timing, all those things. First and foremost, their responsibilities in protection, I think they all do a good job of that. They’re certainly getting better at it. Yeah, he can be a productive guy in the pass game.”
Based on the additions you have gotten in the last couple of drafts, do you think you’re on the edge of record-setting numbers again on offense?
“All I know is if you average 30 or more points per game, you’re going to win a bunch of football games. But there are other elements to that. You’ve got to do a good job taking care of the football, (and) you don’t want to be putting your defense in a lot of bad situations based upon your over-aggressiveness. We’re always going to play with great tempo, great aggressiveness, spread the ball around, but I think there’s just a lot of little things that equate to scoring points like that. Maybe you’ve got to be great on third down, you’ve got to be great in the red zone. Five or six trips to the red zone per game don’t mean anything if you’re kicking four field goals. But if you’re getting four touchdowns, that’s another story.”
Was it good to see Jairus Byrd out there in full pads today?
“Awesome. You can tell it’s just a different vibe when I look back there and see him. I just know you’ve got to be really careful with where you’re putting that ball and how long it’s in the air when he’s back there. He’s so instinctive. He’s got a great jump on the ball in many cases. He kind of knows where you’re looking and where you’re going. It just adds another element back there.”
Who’s in charge of the practice playlist?
“I don’t know. We mixed it up though. I think we had ‘Hell’s Bells’ to start the practice. That was a little different. It’s an element to just change things up. All of the sudden, there’s noise. You can’t communicate as well, so you’ve got to be even sharper. Maybe now it affects the snap count both offensively and defensively in regards to communication. I think that’s been one of the points of emphasis this offseason is, as you prepare yourself to go to hostile environments, you have to practice it.”
Who comes up with the ideas for your quarterback competitions?
“It’s a group effort, but we try to incorporate something that happened in practice that day. For example, we just had a quarterback competition out there that involved throwing on the run. We missed a couple of throws on the run today, so obviously it’s something we’ve got to work on, but we can have fun with it too so we made a competition out of it, set up some bags and throw at them. There’s going to be a winner and three losers.”
I hear you have a leader board. Who’s on top now?
“Well, we’ve got a couple of competitions going. We have kind of like a quarterback challenge element that will involve other things than just stuff on the field, and then we’ve got the QB comps. QB comps is just football-related after practice. I think
Are you going to chase them down and grab the lead?
“That’s what I’m saying. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s back and forth, but all that matters is who’s on top in two weeks.”
When you look back at all the struggles on the road, what do you think was the difference on the road and at home?
“That is why we crank up the music at certain times during practice. You kind of do things unexpectedly to just change the vibe, change the momentum, throw another variable into it that makes things more difficult, the music, the noise, adds the element of okay, no longer can we necessarily communicate verbally, now here come the signals, and yet we don’t want to lose tempo. We don’t want to lose the rhythm we’ve created throughout the rest of practice or throughout the rest of the game. That is what we are trying to simulate because if you practice it then you hope that translate to the game”
Do you have to make any type of adjustments with having a new center?
“Each guy is slightly different. I think you have to know who is in there. You just kind of know just because of stance and how low they get, just different things. I have just as much confidence taking a snap from (Jonathan) Goodwin or
How much more comfortable does Nick Toon seem to you?
“He is playing with a lot of confidence right now and he is healthy. I think now going into his third year in this offense, I think he has a chance to see a lot of things, absorb a lot of things, a lot of things are becoming more natural for him, less thinking so he is able to play fast. A lot of these subtle adjustments he has down now. He has watched (Marques) Colston enough times and Lance (Moore) and those guys. I think that has been a big thing for him. More opportunities he gets, the better he will become”
How difficult is it for a team to have three good safeties?
“It is tough and we have three really good ones.
Can you talk about your tweet of how the NFL randomly drug tested you? Was it because they thought you were crazy or that you were on something?
“Obviously I was having fun with that one. We get random drug tested throughout the year. We always joke around. It is always after a real good game that you get drug tested.”
Did you say it seriously that you can play until you are 45?
“I’m serious. I am not delusional. I know that that’s something that would be extremely difficult to do. Not many have done that, George Blanda, he was plenty past 45. I’ve played with a couple of kickers, (John) Carney, John Casey, of course Morten Anderson played past 45. Vinnie Testaverde was 44. It can be done. A lot of things would have to fall into place. I think throughout your career you hit certain milestones. I came in this league as a second round pick to the San Diego Chargers. They signed Doug Flutie in free agency so I knew I was coming into a backup position for Doug Flutie. At that point your goal becomes you know what I just want to become a starter in this league and earn a starting role, (as) a starter in the NFL. So then the minute you kind of get that then (you say) okay, what is the next step? I want to be a really good player. I want to be a Pro Bowl player in this league. Then you accomplish that, now it’s my fourth year, I think I can make it to double digits. I can play 10 years in this league. Then you hit that, then you are like okay, I want to play until I’m 35. Now I’m 35, so what is the next thing? That is where my head is that. I know it’s one year at a time and it is what have you done for me lately. You have to come out each and every year, prove it, be consistent and all of those things. Why not push the envelope a little bit. Crazier things have happened. (It is) Certainly not going to be easy, but I try to play this game like I am a kid and have fun like I did when I was playing it (as a youth) tossing the ball down the street with my brother, buddies from school or whatever. I still have that playful mentality when it comes to it so you enjoy coming to work every day. This is a serious business. They don’t keep you around if you aren’t playing well. You still have to play at a high level. You have to find a way to take care of your body and make good decisions in regards to that. I believe I can do that.”
How has taking care of your body changed over the years?
“Bobby (Hebert) can probably speak to this, you feel like you can go out there and play at the same level and yet, you’re playing like you are 25 years old and the next day you feel like you’re 10 years older than you really are. It’s the recovery aspect of it that I really think probably changes the most dramatically for guys, your ability to recover and then be in a position the next Sunday to put forth that same type of consistent play. Has my training changed from when I first came into this league? Absolutely, I focus solely on the things that will help translate to what I do on the field. I call it cross specific training. If I’m not doing something in the weight room or on the field in preparation for the game, it’s not directly related to what I’m doing on the field, it’s wasting (my) time. I have to do more to take care of my body after a game. It takes a little bit longer. It takes more time I have to devote to those things. That’s probably going to increase, my rest, diet, sleep habits, all those things become that much more important. But listen, if you care about it enough and you are going to be disciplined with it then you are going to find a way.”
Are you gluten free?
How do you feel going into the off day tomorrow?
“Good. I am just going to hang out with the fellas, do a few things to enjoy what we have here and then probably watch a little film and get ready for some more football on Thursday.”
Post-Practice Media Availability
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Was it nice to get Jairus (Byrd) out there in pads?
“Yeah I think we were very excited to have him back to see what he can do. I think he brings another good part of our defense, so we’re glad to have him back.”
What has it been like working with
“Champ’s a future Hall of Famer. He knows the game very well, and we’re just trying to pick his brain as much as we can. We enjoy having him out there and he’s doing a great job so far in (training) camp.”
You guys played so much three-safety defense last year. I assume this year won’t be much different in that regard with you, Jairus, and Kenny (Vaccaro). How quickly do you think Jairus can get acclimated with it? You and Kenny know what’s going on and have played together. How quickly do you think you guys can get acclimated together?
“I think he’s a smart player. I don’t think it will take too much of his time. He’s in the meeting room, he’s studying, he’s asking me and Kenny (Vaccaro) questions. I think once he gets out there he’s going to hit the ground running, so we’re excited.”
How much did it mean to you that they didn’t let you go to Atlanta to show you that you are an important part of this defense?
“I think that just shows how they plan to use me in a role this year. With the Saints matching the deal and Atlanta offering me a contract, that’s past tense. We’re focused on winning, and I’m excited to see this game one going against the Falcons.”
How much better do you think you are as a player and a playmaker?
“Ten times better. It’s the second year in Rob’s (Ryan) scheme. I’m more assertive. I know what I’m doing, I know my job, and I’m not as passive as I was last year. I’m more aggressive, more vocal, and just more confident.”
You were saying to the defensive backs, ‘No deep balls today!’ Is that something you guys have been working on?
“Definitely. If you give up deep balls in this league, you’re going to lose games. We try to keep everything in front of us and make plays. Creating turnovers, that’s our biggest aspect, and making sure no balls go over our heads.”
We can see a lot of competitiveness between the defensive backs and receivers, especially during the seven-on-seven drills.
“I just think we’re a competitive unit, period. We’re going to compete, even against each other. When we’re against guys like our receivers, we’re definitely going to compete and we want to beat them every time.”
How nice is it to have a pair of middle linebackers like
“Curtis is our leader on defense. Dave Hawthorne is one of our other leaders. Those guys are very smart players, and they understand the game well. They make it a lot easier for us on the back end.”
Training Camp Presented by Verizon Media Availability
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
How would you describe your relationship with David Hawthorne?
“He’s been a middle linebacker and I’ve been a middle linebacker, so we go well together. Whether we are playing a 3-4, 4-3, tarantula, all of our packages and it makes my job a lot easier because we are talking back and forth. We are communicating. He will see something I won’t see and it just flows real well with David in there.”
Is there any friendly competition going on between you and David Hawthorne?
“Oh that’s a given. Every single time, every game we are seeing who gets the most tackles. We always want to see who will get bragging rights and I guess I got them the past two years. This is a new year and I am looking forward to competing against him again.”
How good is it to see Jairus Byrd on the field?
“We finally got Byrd man out there today. It’s a great step. We have a really good defense and adding a player like him is going to make us even better. Just ready to get him back into full swings. He received a couple of reps today to see how he felt. He looked great and can’t wait to get him back out there for more reps.”
What were your thoughts on adding Jairus Byrd this offseason?
“Number one thing that stood out in my mind is that he has been to the Pro Bowl every single year. He is a great talent but not only that; he is just a great person. I got to meet him, spent time with him, went to church with him, went to lunch, and got to really know him. I love him off the field and then on the field I definitely love his game, what he brings. He is a ballhawking safety. Our turnover ratio is going to go up by just having him and that is a plus for us.”
How good is it seeing him shouting out there?
“Yes he’s a veteran safety so he brings more veteran leadership to those young guys (in the secondary) and helps them. He is just another guy talking out there. A loud defense is a productive defense and that is what we have been trying to do in this training camp and continue to do throughout the season.”
How do you see the d-line pushing each other?
“You look at, you got Cam (Jordan), Junior (Galette), Bunk (Broderick Bunkley), Akiem (Hicks), (Tyrunn) Walker, (Glenn) Foster, you got eight guys in there that are all pushing each other, friendly competition and that is what is pushing them from good to great. That is what they need. Last year was a good season for both of them but with that extra push it is going to push them into great. I am excited to play behind those guys and see what they do this year.”
How does Champ Bailey fit in so far?
“Oh man, Champ is a future Hall of Famer. We love having him out there (and) we love having him in the locker room. He gives us that veteran leadership we need and he’s played in many games. You can go up to Champ and say how did you play this or what would you have done right here. He has great advice (for his teammates). It is good for those young guys to bounce things off of him and make them a better player.”