Carolina Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera
Conference Call With New Orleans Media
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
How much do you follow, during this week, the potential news about Drew Brees and his status, and how, if any, does that affect the way you prepare for a game?
"No, it does not affect how we prepare for the game. We have to try and prepare for what we believe they are going to do. It does not matter who the quarterback is because they are going to do what they are going to do. We know who Drew Brees is, he's a special quarterback. We have to continue to prepare and see how things develop and react to that once we get to gameday. We're going to try to prepare for how we feel he is going to try to attack us."
Considering the styles are basically the same (being that) they're (Brees and Luke McCown) both pocket passers, it is not a drastic change; does it allow you to stick with the plan that you anticipate them throwing at you?
"Exactly, that is what we went through last week. We talked about who the Texans would start at quarterback, whether it be (Ryan) Mallet or (Brian) Hoyer. The truth of the matter is that they did what we thought they would do. We are going to approach it that way and try to prepare for what we are anticipating. We've gotten a chance to look at both of their regular season games so far. I kind of like our thoughts and ideas going into this game."
How impressed were you with your defense and them being able to get the job done without Luke Kuechly last week, knowing just how important he is to you guys?
"I was pleased. I think part of it too is that we feel comfortable with who our guys are. We feel that we have four quality linebackers that are kind of interchangeable. A.J. Klein proved that for us. He has the ability to play the middle and play the strong-side outside backer for us. Shaq Thompson has the ability to play either outside position. Thomas Davis did an excellent job for us. He played not just the WILL for us in certain situations, but he played the MIKE for us in certain other situations. I thought those guys did a nice job, and also the fact that the rest of the defense rallied around A.J.. That is what you need to do. If you get the opportunity to play in a football game and you get down a guy, everybody has to rally around him."
How has Kyle Love kind of stepped up for you guys?
"Kyle has been solid, he really has. He's a big physical inside space-eater. He handles the point of attack very nicely. He can split doubles. He can hold his crease. One thing he's done for us is that he's given us a nice inside push, as far as the pass rush is concerned."
How much do you feel the Saints are different from what you have seen in the last several years, considering some of the changes offensively, with no Jimmy Graham or Kenny Stills there?
"Those are probably the two biggest ones (departures) but I think they have some quality football players. Brandin Cooks and Marques Colston are two quality wide receivers in this league. They are guys that can make plays. I look at what they got and who they got and I think Ben Watson is a good quality tight end, in his own right. I like their running game. I think C.J. Spiller is just rounding into shape. There is a little bit about this team just developing its timing and rhythm together. Drew has had to deal with getting used to a whole new group of people. That is the bottom line. I like their offense. I (have) liked what Sean Payton has done for years. It has been successful and is going to be successful. I just think that it is one of those things right now that they're feeling each other out, trying to learn each other and getting the nuances of how to work together. Once that happens, everybody better be careful because again, this is a quality football team."
What about what you guys have been able to do offensively? You lose Kelvin Benjamin and he was such a big piece, but you guys have been able to adapt in the passing game.
"Well, I think it's by committee. In each of our two games, somebody has stepped up and made plays, whether it be Ted Ginn (Jr.), Philly Brown or Jerricho Cotchery. They have stepped up and that is awesome. I think Devin Funchess is learning, developing and getting used to things. Kevin Norwood is doing the same thing. He has only been with us two and a half weeks. We just have guys who are learning, developing and growing. Without Kelvin, that was a big blow to us and what we wanted to do. Everybody has to rally around the guys who are in there trying to make plays."
How is Kuechly coming along?
"Luke is coming along well. He took another step today. He was out on the field today working on the side so that is a huge plus. We'll see how he is tomorrow morning. With this (concussion), it is always how you feel the next day."
I would assume a lot of coaches don't like when their quarterback is upside down, although it seems like yours has the ability to be effective in that position at times.
"He was upside down and then right side up so we'll take that. He's competitive. He wants to score and (will) do whatever it takes to get there. I always hold my breath whenever he does something. He is a tremendous athlete but he tends to put himself in harm's way. Again, it is his competitive nature. He wants to score and is going to do whatever it takes to score."
You'll hold your breath as opposed to asking him to dial it back in those situations?
"Yes, because I don't want to take away what he is. Part of it is us being smart with when we do things, and making sure that when we do call his number, we call it at the appropriate time. "
Carolina Panthers Safety Roman HarperConference Call with Local Media
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
You don't actually believe that Drew Brees is not going to play, do you?
"I've never known Drew to miss a game. What is that 10 years now? I've never never seen him miss a game. I'll believe it when I see it."
What's the closest he's been to missing a game or at one point was he close and was there a late decision to play?
"I don't think it was ever close, close. I think he injured his knee a couple years ago and he wore a knee brace, a little knee sleeve, because he wore it for practice and then he didn't miss practice, maybe he missed one day, that's the closest I recall."
From all the years you were here, what is this offense without him?
"That I don't know. I've never seen it besides preseason, so I can't answer that question. I don't know. I don't know the changes or how Sean (Payton) would call it differently. I don't know. I know Luke (McCown) is a very capable, great backup, love his commercial as a matter of fact, but you know Luke is very mobile and has a big time arm. I wouldn't expect too many things to change. Maybe he would take more shots downfield maybe. I don't really know."
They might have to take that commercial off the air?
"If he were the backup, it would be a statement that the backup got the opportunity to do well and with a backup generator, how great it would be with the abilities when it comes on and is used."
Would you rather have to play against Brees this weekend or not know who you have to play against until gametime?
"Defensively, you really don't prepare for that. You prepare for offenses. It's not like you have an option quarterback and a pocket quarterback like you have here (in Carolina). We know the Saints offense here fairly well and so that's who we're facing. We don't get caught up with who's playing in the X's and O's. We have to be able to execute our defensive calls and what we're trying to get accomplished on each call."
Last year you guys started 2-0 also, what kind of perspective are you putting the start in this year?
"It is what it is. At the end of the day we're 2-0. A lot of teams wish they were 2-0, so you take that as a positive, but at the end of the day, we have a lot of things we can improve in. We have two victories despite a lot of mistakes offensively and defensively. We need to put ourselves in better positions. We have to play better to truly accomplish what we want to do. Our goal is not to be 2-0. Our goal is to win a championship here. These are just the steps. This is all a process of us getting to where we want to go and this is the next game for us. We have to try to go out and get better, improve on the mistakes that we made last week and the previous week before that and we have to put our best foot forward and understand how much this game means."
With your memory of Sean Payton you would not expect anyone to know if Drew Brees is playing until Sunday?
"I think you guys know best that Sean does not speak on injuries. You guys know it as well as I know it. You guys talk to him every day."
I guess as an opponent preparing for a Sean Payton-coached team, given that, do you have a certain plan based on personnel and what you know about him?
"The funny thing is I've been in that locker room. I've known when guys have been nicked up a little bit and he says probable, doubtful…Because he knows you guys go through it and he doesn't have to give the injury report until Wednesday even though we come in on a Monday or a Tuesday. It's what he does and you can't get caught up in that. I know here in Carolina, we're not really worried about that. Drew's going to play if he's healthy enough to play. Everybody knows that and everybody knows that you can't put anything past this guy. He's an elite quarterback in this league. He's put up big numbers for a long time. He's got everything going. He's won a Super Bowl there. Everybody knows and respects how much of a warrior Drew is and if he's able to play, he's going to be out there."
You have this injury report thing down pat. Have you considered becoming a coach after playing?
"I've heard that once or twice, but I don't know, coaching takes a lot of time. I like golfing and being around my family a little too much for that."
Have you watched the first couple Saints games on offense as a whole and a lot of people think it lacks the same explosion or punch of previous years. How do you view that going into a game like this?
"Take it with a grain of salt. It could be scheme. It could be the defense in Arizona or Tampa Bay. Tampa Bay looked like they were playing really fast defensively. Arizona is the same type of way, they are an aggressive defense. So you are not going to get as many chances to go downfield or shots unless you max protect all game. You don't want to do that because then you have only two guys out on a route, so you have to be able to attack problems and not people or schemes or anything like that and at the end of the day, it only takes one game. The next thing you get four or five balls over your head and it's an explosive offense again. We have to understand what we are trying to protect against. We have to make them go up and down the field, make them play left-handed, not give up big shots down the field and stay on top of these receivers. (Brandin) Cooks and some other guys, (Marques) Colston and they have this new guys (Brandon) Coleman and (Willie) Snead and some other guys and of course Joe Morgan as well. So they have different types of receivers than in the past. We have to know what each of these guys do well individually and make them do different things. Just understanding what they like to do in each personnel package and what they like to line up at."
And as a strong safety, you come up in the running game. They've been a little inconsistent in the running game and their yards per carry have been low. They also have a new guy in C.J. Spiller who returned last week. What are your thoughts on the running game there?
"It's more zone. They like to do a lot of different things. They're doing a lot more outside stuff this year than they have in the past. I think Mark's (Ingram) an excellent running back, Roll Tide. Khiry (Robinson) and Spiller, I really didn't see a lot of him because I think he just played the last game. You know who he is as a player. He was drafted in the first round because of his speed. He's an outside guy. I think they're trying to use him more in the mold of a Travaris Cadet type deal. He's definitely at matchup problem with his speed. He can run inside too. He's been in this league for a while and you know of him because of the things he's done. You really don't get caught up in the numbers previous to this game, because it takes just one game. We have to fit the run downhill and in this zone scheme and some of these power things they like to do and take advantage of what we are good at as a defense which is up front in our front seven. We have to take advantage of some things up there."