*Do you think the offseason workouts you organized at Tulane helped the team out today? *
It's funny you mention that, because midway through practice I started thinking that it was like we didn't have an off-season. As crazy as this off-season was, where we didn't have Saints organized workouts here at the facility, and the craziness with the negotiations and flying all over the place, I still feel like I'm not stepping in on the first day. I feel like we have been together because, in reality, we have been together. We were together for much of May and June and I feel that the work we put in will pay off as we go through camp and get ready for the start of this season and that was the whole point. Only time will tell, but I feel that way right now.
Do you think your investment in off-season workouts will pay off in week one against Green Bay?
I don't know. I do know that after we won the Super Bowl two years ago, there is a period where you just need to decompress and recharge the battery. That's important. I can't speak for what other teams did or did not do.
Can you talk about the potential acquisition of Darren Sproles?
I think it is awesome. I was in San Diego in 2005 when Sproles was drafted there. I am very familiar with him, although he was a very young player at the time. To think that our backfield at the time was LaDainian Tomlinson, Michael Turner, and Darren Sproles coming in as a rookie. It's been crazy to watch all of those guys careers since then. I actually worked out all off-season with Sproles in San Diego. I am very familiar with him as a person, his work ethic, and the drive and competitiveness that he has. I think he is going to fit in great with this team, in this locker room and in this offensive system. He is a guy who has exceptional skills in a lot of different ways and we are going to be able to use him in a lot of different ways in this offense.
*When you took a safety at the end of the 2008 game against the Chargers were you worried about the ensuing kickoff to him? *
When we took the safety, strategically, and left one second on the clock to kick the ball off to him, I was scared to death. I think that tells you all you need to know about what I think of this guy. He's a playmaker, a game changer.
Will Sproles be used in a similar fashion to Reggie Bush?
Absolutely. When you look at those (two) guys' skills, I think they are very similar in a lot of ways. As I look at our offense and the way that we would plug him in, we will plug him in the exact same way we would Reggie and even be able to do more things.
Was today's up-tempo practice what you expected?
Yes. Obviously it is the first day so everybody is out here working out the kinks. We were excited to get back on the field. You get out in these elements, the heat and humidity, it takes some getting used to. A lot of young players (are out there) because of the free agency rules. A lot of our free agents, even though we have signed quite a few, are unable to be here until next week. With that, there is obviously a big learning curve. I thought our work today was really good and we will get better each day.
Can you talk about the return to training camp after the NFL lockout?
I am glad that we are back on the field. That was a tough process all the way around. In the end, I feel that we got a great deal for both owners and players and it was the best deal we could get when you talk about the future of this league. Just continuing to make this the most popular game in our country and giving our fans what they deserve to see. I feel that a lot of the rule changes are going to be very beneficial to the health and safety of the players. That was a big emphasis for us. I think that is going to show. Like I said, we are excited to be back and playing again and we have all of that behind us.
Can you talk about the opportunity to perform in front of the fans again?
I know this has been extremely difficult on the fans. They obviously were trying to keep up with what was happening in the media and its difficult when you start thinking, is there going to be a football season? Are we going to miss games? That is the last thing that any of us wanted, obviously. I think we are all very happy to be back out here. I know the fans are. I know guys around the league receive Facebook and Twitter responses from fans saying 'please guys, get back out there' and 'make sure football is back again' and football is back.
*Can you talk about how Pierre Thomas looks and your expectations for him? *
Coming off the injury, for all of those guys when you go through an off-season where it's not like you end the season at 100%, you try to build on that. In a lot of cases, if you have an off-season surgery, if you have an injury that you are rehabbing, you kind of take a step back and you try to work yourself back to 100%. I think Pierre is in that situation where he came off of that ankle after all of last year and rehabbed all of this offseason. That can be tough, to start out, at times. We have a few guys that are in that boat, but I think Pierre will progress and get a little bit better each day. I know what he is all about and the road that he has traveled to get where he is. He is an extremely competitive guy. The fire burns bright inside of him. He is going to take that, and use that as motivation to come out next practice and get better.
Do you know all the current wide receivers on the roster?
No, I don't. There are a lot of new guys. That's always the biggest challenge to start a camp. It's 'hey, you, 88, what's your name again?' That's the way it is. I am impressed by those guys coming in because this offense is extensive and what we ask them to do starting on day one is tough. Defensively as well. It's a steep learning curve, but we try to help those guys along.
*Did you think the defense looks a little confused? *
On day one, most defenses just put in basic coverages that are the universal, NCAA coverages. Not our defense. We throw in all kinds of crazy looks with 20 different pressures. There is a lot on those guys' plates. Jonathan Vilma does a great job of getting those guys organized. As you get to the second or third teams, or when you have rookie linebackers having to make a bunch of calls and checks, it gets complicated.
Can you talk about your name being on your helmet, which the equipment staff has done for all players for familiarity reasons?
Yeah, check it out. This is day one, freshman football. High school right here. Moving to a new school district.
It seems like you're recognized regardless?
I guess the number nine gives it away with the red jersey.
Is this camp a great opportunity for Tyler Lorenzen?
Yes, he does. He is a guy that I am most rooting for this pre-season. Here is a guy who played quarterback in college, who came into the NFL drafted as a hybrid receiver/tight end to Jacksonville. He ends up getting released and we picked him up two years ago and he is kind of on and off the field. He has really accepted the opportunity to play tight end for us. You watch the way he has worked and the way that his body has changed over this off-season, going from 225 to 250. You have to be a big, physical specimen to play tight end in this league because of all the things you are asked to do: run, block, catch, be tough, versatile and consistent. I see how hard he has worked and it's those guys that deserve to succeed. I really hope the best for him. I know, personally, any chance I get to reach out to a guy like that and help him along, I'm there for him.
Can you talk about differences in this year's free agency period?
In a normal off-season, you have a lot more time. You can anticipate the guys you are going to go after in January or February. They might ask you questions about a guy if they know you have played with them, or trained with them. There is a long period of time before that stuff gets done. In this free agency period, we all knew that Sproles was a great player but I don't know if he was on our radar as of two days ago. Obviously, we still had Reggie and there were a lot of variables. Then, all of a sudden, we are in a situation where we would love to have a guy like Sproles. He fits in well with what we are doing. So, you go out and you make it happen in a very short amount of time. This is one of those, where we might not ever see this again in our careers.
Were you involved in the recruitment of Sproles?
Just the fact that I know Sproles. I trained with him this off-season. I have his number. Call him, talk to him, text him. We need you baby, come join us, you'll fit in great, win a championship, lets break some records, let's do something special, let's go. I pulled out all the stops. I think that what we have built here, our organization, is a culture that guys want to be a part of. I give a lot of credit to Sean (Payton) and Mickey (Loomis) for helping to build that, starting back in 2006. Back in 2006, we were in a situation where you had to over-pay or you had to figure out creative ways to get guys here. This place didn't have the best reputation. Guys weren't jumping to come to a city that was under water for the past six months. I look at what we have been able to accomplish as a team, and the types of guys we have brought in here, and this family atmosphere that we have built and I think guys take notice around the league. Guys want to be a part of that. As guys are looking in free agency, I think a lot of guys think, 'Man, I'd love to be a part of the Saints' because of their team, culture, coaches, and the city and what it has to offer. Guys want to be a part of that and I think that says a lot.
How many players are there like Sproles or Reggie Bush in the NFL?
I don't think there are many, if any, other than them. You look at Reggie's athleticism and the match-up problems that he provided for us. Sproles is that same guy. I would say that Sproles' experience, he has been in the league for six years, hes been a part of some very good football teams in San Diego, he's played in some clutch games and come up with some clutch plays in those games. Here is a guy who has been there and done that and is in the prime of his career. I think he maybe even adds an element that we haven't had.
Can you talk about Jimmy Graham's progress?
I am really excited for Jimmy and the opportunity that he has. Especially when you look where he started last year. He comes in as a third round tight end from the University of Miami where he played four years of basketball and one year of football. The adjustment, having gone through that with (Antonio) Gates in San Diego, a basketball player who didn't play any college football, you have to get used to putting your hand on the ground and getting knocked around here and again and having to block, I think there is just a toughness aspect to it that you have to get used to again. Jimmy has progressed very well when you look at him from the start of the season to the end of the season. He became a guy that we game-planned for and tried to create opportunities for. I think he sees the opportunity that he has. As a second year player, as young, athletic, and smart as he is, I think the sky is the limit. We are going to give him every opportunity possible.
What have you learned about yourself in the last six years?
That is a deep question. Without giving you a really long answer, my road here and the journey that transpired here after that is pretty well documented. What I have learned, just from being a veteran player, through the years, and being a part of this team, and being with Sean for going on six years, and being with Mickey and just watching the way that they operate, and the way that they treat our players, the way that they challenge and motivate, it just makes me believe even more that building a championship organization is all about people and bringing in the right type of people. Guys that care about football, guys that want to win, guys that will sacrifice for the guys next to him, the guys that see football as something bigger than just a game. What it means to this community and to so many people. I would say that those are the things that have been the most evident to me going on the last six years.
*Can you talk about your impression of Mickey Loomis? *
He is so personable and yet, so professional. He is a guy who is so approachable for any player. In a lot of cases, I think that the GM or the owner is a person that a lot of players are afraid to go up to or talk to or say hello to just because it would be like walking past President Obama and feeling like you could just strike up a conversation with him. I think there is an intimidation factor and yet I think that with our organization, with Tom Benson and with Mickey, you feel like they are very approachable. They care so much about the players. They have a philosophy about what builds a winning team and what builds a winning organization. It's all about the people you bring in and their character and personality. That's why we have been as successful as we have been the last five years is for that reason.