The New Orelans Saints' final week of OTAs started this week at the club's practice facility in Metairie today. In a busy week for the club, which will include a ring ceremony on Wednesday, Head Coach Sean Payton addressed the media following today's workout. Below is a Q & A transcript of the session.
"Today's emphasis in practice was two-minute, so we got our two-minute offense and defense installed and got some good work at it at the end of practice. We'll go again tomorrow full and Wednesday. Thursday will just be meetings so we're backing off the Thursday OTA practice."
Is Jimmy Graham a tight end that can stretch the field?
"He's a guy that can run and you're able to see that. He has good size and good ball skills. We'll just keep getting him as much work now as we can now in just helmets. When we come to training camp, the learning curve will start again for him and all these rookies. He is a guy that can run."
Is he kind of in the same mold as Billy Miller at that position?
"To some degree. He does some of the same things. He's a little bit bigger in stature. We think he has a bright future. He has a real good work ethic; he's driven to be good and so far he has handled it. We're throwing a lot at him."
There were a few players that were absent today. I know these OTAs are voluntary but were those excused absences?
"Yes, I had talked with Reggie (Bush) last night. I hadn't talked with Jeremy (Shockey) or Roman (Harper). It's not uncommon and I'll what their plans are for the rest of the week. I know that Reggie is flying today and we'll see where we're at with Jeremy and Roman."
Do you expect the restricted free agents to sign this week?
"I don't know that with the guys we're waiting on whether that will affect whether they will practice for the last couple of OTAs. These are voluntary, regardless of whether they're under contract or not. But in regards to whether or not they sign their tender, we'll report that as soon as we find out."
Have any of them signed today?
"Nothing has happened today. Today's the 14th."
Do you have any thoughts on the USC investigation that might have involved Reggie Bush?
"Really nothing new. A lot of it is I don't want say old news to us, but it's certainly something that's affecting USC now and there's really nothing more for me to shed light on other than that one of our players is involved. But for him that news has really been existent already so really there's nothing new. Our focus is really just on this season. There's not any comment that I would make that would be relevant to that case."
Have you talked to him about it?
"Just briefly. We talked about it two years ago. I think it was just a matter from a timing standpoint of when they would come to a conclusion."
A few teams have had some OTAs taken away this spring. What is your take on that?
"I've seen it in years past. We typically operate underneath the total amount anyway. You're given 14 of these OTA opportunities and I don't know that we've ever used all 14. I think you just have to monitor the drill work you're doing and the time the players are here. From our perspective, right now more is not necessarily better and it really hasn't been in the offseasons previous. We've looked at each offseason after each year and like I said, I don't think we've used 14 one time. We haven't had any issues with it. I think the key is just understanding the Collective Bargaining Agreement and being smart about what we're doing."
Have the OTAs here been even a little less this year?
"A little less this year just because of the late calendar and the dates that we've been working with. We'll end up with probably 10 that we've run and that was planned, except for Thursday's and we've backed off Thursday's, which I've done in years past, picked a day where we hold off on it. Following the ring ceremony, we're just going to have team meetings and film study on Thursday."
How big of a learning curve does Patrick Robinson have?
"As a corner, he'll have a lot. He's someone who has handled it. He's getting reps right now outside; he's getting reps nickel position inside. There's a lot being thrown at him and he's doing a good job. He's in good shape and he can run. The key is just getting him the reps that he needs."
Have you been happy with what you've seen from your backup quarterbacks?
"They've had their days; they've had their moments. Chase (Daniel) made some plays today that were encouraging. They can't get enough work right now; they can't get enough reps. Sean (Canfield) is the same way. He's getting a lot thrown at him. This period of this offseason has given those guys at least the beginning of what has been a lot of work; not only in the film room but a lot of work on the field."
If they progress the way you'd like, is it conceivable that they could be the backups to Drew Brees going into the season?
"They're competing for that spot right now. Whether we sign another player, we'll see how this offseason unfolds."
What have you seen from Al Woods so far?
"It's a little bit more difficult with the bigger guys inside because we're not in pads, but he's picked up our defensive scheme pretty quickly. He's a big body and he's smart and he's playing with the intensity that we're looking for. I think the pads will have a chance to define a lot of these players more, but he has done a good job of filling in and really picking up the scheme and the nuances of what we're doing and the different packages that we're doing them in."
Could this be a telling offseason for Adrian Arrington?
"I think there are a handful of players that you'd point to that are going to be looking forward to having a good camp and he's one of them. There a number of guys; Usama Young is going to be looking to have a good camp. Both of those guys have gotten nicked up and whether it was through injuries or something has kept them from playing more. But certainly there is a group of players that are going to relying on having a good training camp and he's one of them."
How many roster spots would you say are open when you head into training camp?
"We don't really look at it that way. We take the approach that we're going to bring 80 players to camp and certainly you could look at spots that are secured but we try to really evaluate each practice and the preseason games and then you're also evaluating the other 31 teams. When we talk to a player, he's not only competing against his position group out here, he's competing against the 31 other position groups because we've acquired players the week before the start of the regular season and I think they all understand that. It would be difficult for me to list the spots that are open. There is competition at some spots where maybe a starter has left, but we're looking for all these guys to compete and make a run at making the team. Certainly when training camp comes, that becomes challenging. But that has been the approach that we've taken and we'll continue to do that and see how it unfolds."
Do you have a number in your head for how many new faces might be on the roster this fall?
"Not at all. So much of that is predicated on how they're playing and how the guys that have been on the team are playing. That number changes. If we tried to put a number on it, it would only be premature."
Is it fair to say that you're confident in Reggie's ability to compartmentalize the USC investigation and it won't affect his performance here?
"Yes, really because it's something that has taken place years ago. He's going into his fifth year now and I think his focus is squarely on us being successful and him being the best player he can be. So I don't see it being a big distraction."