Minnesota Head Coach Brad Childress met with the New Orleans media on Sunday morning via teleconference. During the session he discussed the progress of his team in camp following the arrival of Brett Favre, the magnitude of Thursday's game in New Orleans as well as discussing how his club has dealt with injury issues of key players such as Favre and WRs Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice. Below is a transcript of the teleconference.
How do you get the players involved in last year's NFC Championship Game to get past that and realize this is a different game, because there was such an emotional weight on that game?
"First of all, at the end of the season, that's a push all your chips to the middle, loser go home (game), which is what we did. Obviously with the first game of the season, it's important because it's an NFC game, but as I've said here often lately, every year kind of stands on its own merits. We've got 15 games after that. Miami's coming to town. You beat New Orleans, Miami's coming to town You lose to New Orleans, Miami's coming to town. First games often carry a lot of emphasis because offseason moves and the enthusiasm that accompanies it and of course this being the first game of the whole NFL. Obviously it will be another electric atmosphere. Our guys understand that. It took a while to get by it, but you keep moving."
Where is your team preparation wise with Brett Favre coming in late, Sidney's Rice's hip surgery and Percy Harvin's migraines? Are you where you want to be at this point?
"Not such that if all those guys were here and they took every rep of the preseason and training camp. We're very much still a work in progress."
A couple of years ago, you recalled being at Wisconsin facing Drew Brees and Purdue. You've seen Drew a long time. As a guy who's coached a lot of quarterbacks, what impresses you about him, not only as a quarterback but as a guy who continues to improve himself after he's reached an elite status?
"It speaks to the mettle of the man. From all the way back, going late to Purdue and scrapping, probably fighting against the odds and the stature that he has, the arm strength that he has, I find him to be probably one of the elite accurate quarterbacks. He's a great anticipatory thrower. He's going to let it go early, not that he can't drill it in there to you. He does just that. He finds another way to condition himself. He's finds another way to know more about your defense than anybody else. He knows pre-snaps if you give him any tells. He has a great team sense from that standpoint. That's what continues to impress."
Last year you guys saw the Gregg Williams approach to defense where he says he wants players living on the edge and he's told us he won't apologize for that and he can accept personal fouls if they're a result of aggression as long as they're not the result of stupidity. I know there was a lot said about that. Heading into this game, could you give us your thoughts on the Saints defense, their approach and that fine line you have to walk between being aggressive and not being dirty?
"His defenses have always been aggressive. We were able to face them for a number of years when we were with the Eagles when he was with Washington. It's always been a storm the castle type of approach. (He's) kind of known for that, even when he was back at Tennessee back with Jeff (Fisher). I understand a quarterback's going to get hit, people are going to get hit. It's football. I don't have any illusions about that. What I hate to see are late hits or attempts to hurt anybody. I don't think there's a place for that in the game."
Did you wonder if that was going on last year in that game?
"Yes, I would have to say that, yes."
Darren Sharper's on PUP, a veteran safety who causes trouble. Now Brett Favre's going to be looking down the field at a second-year converted cornerback to safety at that spot. What are your thoughts on that?
* *"It's kind of like when you move a tight end to the offensive line. You have a more athletic guy in there. My thoughts about Jenkins going back to safety. We probably saw it the same way. He'd be a more athletic free safety. I'm sure it's taken him a little more time to get up to speed, play the middle of the field, but he has corner type skills, so I don't think there's a tremendous downside to that."
From a wide receiver standpoint, how is it going into the regular season?
"As of today Percy's (Harvin) in great shape. As you know with migraines, they can rear their head at any time. You have to manage those things I think. We don't get any alerts. It's not like a hurricane coming where you can see it from far off in the distance. As of today, he's fine. Sidney Rice was a great piece of the puzzle last year. He's back in the building today and he's still on crutches. I don't think he's going to throw them down and be there in New Orleans. It's one of those deals where we have four guys we feel good about. We grabbed Greg Camarillo from Miami and sent them Benny Sapp. You go with the guys we have. This is a typical business from this standpoint. You hate to see guys get injured, but you know the drumbeat's going to continue but you know you're going to show up with your 53 then 45 healthiest guys."
Do you feel like you're the Christians being thrown to the lions on Thursday night with the championship banner dropping?
"No, I just think it was going to be on the calendar somewhere. We had initially heard that Pittsburgh was coming down there. I don't think that happened for whatever reason. You have to look at the upside of it in that you'll have ten days for your next opponent. We knew they were there. We knew we were going to play them. Whether we were going to play them later in the year or not, this one counts, as an NFC win an it's an important one."
Can you talk about the progress Brett Favre is making with the ankle?
"He's battling through that. Aside from putting his foot on the ground everyday as a soon to be 41-year old, he has those aches and pains. I think the thing that's helped him this year is he knows our drill. He knows the coaches. He knows most of our players and so, he's just kind of building his body of work. I would tell you last year against Cleveland, he was going to be a game manager and not be able to throw it deep and all this. I think we've kind of kicked all those things off. It's just ramping things up to full speed. We're a work in progress on offense."
The last time you played a game in this building it was heated, players have been tweeting about this back and forth. Do you anticipate emotions being unusually high?
"I think it will all take care of itself from our standpoint and their standpoint. You better play this game from an emotionally aroused level. I don't have any illusions that they will. All you want to make sure is you give your best shot and that's what I want from my players."
The naysayers say the Saints have had to deal with a lot of distractions being Champions with book signings and ring ceremonies. You guys have had a lot of distractions, the largest to bring number four into the fold. How has your team dealt with them?
"I think they're steeled to it pretty well. It's a really veteran group and to a man with the exception of maybe Sage (Rosenfels) who's a Giant now and Tavaris (Jackson)…Joe Webb's too young to know, probably everyone had open arms to have Brett come back. I don't think they see it as a distraction. We went through it all last year. He's been a good teammate. There haven't been a hell of a lot of other distractions."