New Orleans Saints Offensive Line/Running Game Coach Aaron Kromer
Post-Practice Media Availability
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
"Today the guys that did not practice were: Scott Shanle (illness), Jimmy Graham (right ankle), and David Hawthorne (hamstring). There were two guys that were limited: Jabari Greer (groin) and Jahri Evans (toe). Four guys that were listed before were full: Turk McBride (ankle), Jonathon Casillas (neck), Lance Moore (hamstring) and Travaris Cadet (shoulder). All four of those guys were full. They had an opportunity after the day off to come out and work on first and second down football. I thought the guys responded well. We're getting our mindset back to where we were before we hit that bye week, and we've done a good job over the last three years of playing well after the bye week because we've let the guys rest. We treat them as men, and they respond as men by coming out and practicing hard today. You can see the freshness in their legs. We're not trying to tear them down. It was a good day today and we have to carry it over into the game."
Is Jimmy Graham's injury a low-ankle sprain?
"Jimmy has an ankle sprain. Low or high, wherever it is he was able to run around a little bit today. He just didn't practice. He looks good."
Are there any plans to take it slower with Graham this week?
"Yes, work him into the week. Anytime you have an ankle (injury), you want to slowly work your way back into gameday. We know what he can do on the field and we're just trying to slowly work him in."
Can you talk about Jonathan Vilma?
"Jonathan Vilma is still on PUP. He doesn't count on our roster yet. He's allowed to practice. He's exempt to practice, so he did today and he looked good."
What have you seen different from Drew Brees in these last couple of weeks?
"I think what Drew has done differently is the guys around him have done better to be honest. Drew has been very intent on working with those guys to do that. As I spoke for the last few weeks, we talked about guys that were banged up, especially receivers coming out of training camp and throughout the first three games. As the fourth game came and the fifth, you can see that we're running better at wide receiver positions, so it's allowing them to get open easier and it's showing in Drew's play."
When do you have to make a decision on Jonathan Vilma and when do you expect to make a decision on him?
"We have three weeks to decide whether to put him on the active roster or not. All we can do is see how he practices this week, see how we can work him in and then make a decision on a weekly basis."
Does the fact that Vilma's still on PUP lessen his chances of playing on Sunday?
"No, the fact that he's on PUP is an NFL rule that you're allowed to use him as an extra player until you activate him. That's all we're doing."
Where would you say Vilma is percentage-wise in terms of being healthy? Also, from a playbook standpoint, how much does that weigh in on your decision?
"They do weigh in. It's Jonathan Vilma. He's one of the best football players in the Naitonal Football League. He's an instinctive player and he's been in all the meetings for the entire time he's been on PUP, and it's allowing him to see what's going on and understand the schemes. He's been working out on his own. He hasn't been able to practice and now he is. All we can do is see as it goes on, but I would expect that Jonathan would come back quickly just because he's Jonathan Vilma. But he does look healthy."
Is there a temptation to play him because he plays with swagger and because of everything he's been through?
"Yes, we'd love to play Jon Vilma as the Jon Vilma we all know. We just have to make sure that when Jon Vilma goes out on the field, it's the guy we know."
Does Jonathan Vilma have to be 100 percent to play, or could he still play in a smaller capacity if he's still not 100 percent?
"Yes, he could. When we can get him on the field, we're going to put him on the field. Whether it's every play of the game or partial spots we put him in, we'd love to have Jon Vilma ready."
How much self-evaluation did you guys do during the bye week and what stood out to you that you guys need to do differently?
"A couple of things that stood out when we did our self-scout were pretty obvious. One of them is obviously the running game that we need to improve. We looked back at those schemes, where we put people and how we executed the plays. Quite honestly, sometimes it comes down to certain situations, so you're working situational running game and you're working technique and things and getting the running backs and offensive line put together timing-wise. We really studied that. We obviously need to run it better and eliminate some of the penalties. We had too many penalties in our last game, especially at home. We looked at that definitely. Obviously, defensively when you watch our games, we need to tackle better. We need to have confidence that we can and do it and play fast. Those are the things we've been working on."
With Greg Schiano taking over as Tampa Bay's head coach, how different is this year's Tampa Bay team as opposed to the team's you've played in recent years?
"Some of the players are the same and some of the schemes are the same, but a lot of it's different. There were injuries on the defensive line last year that we didn't play against some of their better players, so they're there and they've drafted some young players and then a safety and a linebacker, and those guys are playing well. They're playing aggressive defensively. And then in the running game for their offense, they have a new running back. I would say Davin Joseph getting hurt is different for them, not having a right guard. (Jeremy) Trueblood's not there at right tackle. So there's a little bit of difference there with their offensive line, but I know it's going to be a heck of a challenge going in against a divisional opponent on the road and we're getting ourselves mentally ready for it."
How much do you miss having a guy like Carl Nicks around?
"I miss Carl Nicks personally. He's a good man. He's a good football player. He was good to have in the meetings. We tried to get him back and couldn't. He's been playing well for them, and obviously Ben Grubbs has come in and done a nice job as well for us. I miss him personally just because I was around him every day and now he's not here. It's like a family member."
Is he a little bit different than other players in terms of his personality?
"Carl Nicks is a really good player and an intense player. To work with him each day, you really got to know who he was. He really wanted to be a good football player. When you knew that and you put it all together, you could really enjoy Carl."
Could Nicks provide any input to the Buccaneers' defense about the Saints' offense or is that grossly overrated?
"I would say that's overrated. He probably erased everything he knew to learn the new terminology, the new play calls and the way they call things. I bet if you asked him today, he wouldn't know our calls just because that's what you do as a player and as a coach. When you go into a new situation, you erase everything that you know if you have to change systems and start again so you don't confuse the two. I think that's overrated."
When you were around Carl Nicks everyday, did you get the feeling he wanted to be considered great?
"Absolutely. He worked at it hard and played hard. He wanted to be considered great as does Jahri Evans, and I would say people around the league say that, and as does Ben Grubbs, and I would say that people around the league say that. Those are the three top guards."
Did you get the feeling that second or third wasn't good enough, and that he wanted to be the best?
"I think any professional football player that has that talent and has played at his level would like to be considered the top player at his position. So whether that's by how you get paid or by how you're viewed on your team, he was picked to Pro Bowls and he was picked as All-Pro. When you look at that, I don't know how much better you can do."
Do you think the Saints considered him to be the best at his position last year?
"I think we had the two best guards in football last year, and now I think we again have the best tandem."
Does Tampa Bay present any particular problems this week for the Saints' pass rush?
"They do a good job of running the football, so there's not going to be a lot of pass rush there. They try to grind out plays and move the ball down the field on a consistent basis as opposed to a ton of big plays, so I would not confuse them with us being in four wides dropping back to throw in 50 times a game either. The pass rush will come on third down and it will come in a situation if we can do what we did last week and get up on them."
Do you see any growth in Josh Freeman and where have you been able to see it?
"Josh Freeman is first of all a very talented quarterback. He's a big person, has a strong arm and the ability to throw the deep ball. As you look into what he's gone through, he's gone through a new system now. So as a quarterback, the more reps you get the better off you're going to be in a new system. As the years go on, I could see him improving and improving. But he's a very talented quarterback who can throw it deep and run and he's hard to sack because he's so big."
Is this weekend different for you knowing that this week will be your last week handling Sean Payton's duties?
"I can't think about those things. All I can think about is finding a way to beat Tampa Bay and getting this team ready as a group, as coordinators and players and everybody back on track after a week off to beat Tampa Bay. That's as far as we can look ahead. It sounds simple and it sounds simple-minded, but that's football. What is the task at hand? Today, it was first and second down. How did we do? Evaluate it, go back and then tomorrow third down. How did we do in practice? How did we prepare? Then game time comes. How do we find a way to win the game? That's the only thing you can think about or you'll get distracted."
If you had to pinpoint one part of Carl Nicks' game that makes him an elite guard, what would it be?
"He is overpowering. Carl Nicks is overpowering. He is a matchup win on almost everyone. That's what makes him different."
Does Ben Grubbs meet that same type of guard as Carl Nicks?
"Grubbs is one of the top guards in the league. He's not quite as big as Carl Nicks, but Ben Grubbs is a powerful, strong, quick athlete that I consider one of the top three in the NFL."
Other than the wins and losses, have you enjoyed this experience?
"Definitely, I've enjoyed the experience."
Did you get a game ball after the last win?
"In the locker room, Coach (Steve) Spagnuolo actually stopped the breakdown and did present me with a game ball."
Where would you rank Marques Colston among wide receivers in the league?
"That's a tough one. Marques Colston has been very productive for us. Obviously, breaking the all-time touchdown receptions record for us that Joe Horn had held, he's so valuable for us that I don't know if you can compare him to other teams the way we disperse the ball amongst all our receivers. But for us, he's outstanding."