Saints head coach Sean Payton and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams met with the media following their final full-length practice prior to Sunday's NFC matchup with the Carolina Panthers. Below are transcripts of Payton's and Williams' media availabilities:
New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
"We'll go through the personnel first in regards to the injury report: center Jonathan Goodwin with his groin was full today and probable; Tracy Porter (knee) was full, probable; Scott Shanle (hamstring) was full, probable; Marques Colston (hand) was full, probable; Chris Ivory (head) was full, probable; Jabari Greer (shoulder) was full, probable; Pierson Prioleau (ankle) was limited and he'll be questionable; kicker Garrett Hartley (ankle) was full, probable; Reggie Bush (fibula) was limited and he'll be doubtful; Jon Stinchcomb (knee) was limited, probable; and lastly these two players are out: Patrick Robinson (ankle) did not practice and Pierre Thomas (ankle) did not practice and they're out."
How did Reggie Bush look today?
"He's moving around and still you wouldn't list him at 100%. But he's making progress. He's actually going to travel and work out Sunday prior to the game. We'll see where he's at but in these last couple of days, he's been making visible progress which is encouraging."
Would you say he'll be a game-time decision?
"He would be a game-time decision. Otherwise we'd list him as out and we wouldn't travel him. So we are going to work him out and se where he's at on Sunday."
He said yesterday that he'd like to get some time in on grass. Do you ever factor that kind of thing into it? Does it make a difference that you didn't get to practice on grass?
"Not really. I think we went 95% of '06 (practicing) inside. We like to get on grass when we can but it was fairly windy so we stayed inside. I think that you consider the playing conditions to some degree, and yet if a player is healthy to go, he's probably healthy to go whether it's grass or artificial surface."
Will Tracy Porter and Jabari Greer start on Sunday?
New Orleans Saints Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams
What are you guys happy with midway through the season and what do you feel a need to improve on?
"I said back in training camp. I was able to quickly see the way we had our offseason program, the way the guys came back on April 19, I thought we had a chance to be better and we do. I think we played very solid. It's been fun to be around these guys and to see their tenacity to improve. They're thinking so much faster than last year, because everything is routine as far as what we do. We always have to be better to play situationally. We always have to be better understanding the opponent's offense and their personnel. That's an ongoing thing and it will never, ever stop, even if you're as old as (Darren) Sharper. Because I tell him that. That's always going to work. The other thing is that when you take the ball away we'll be extremely dominant. We've had opportunities and I look back on those games where we caused numerous fumbles. It's hard to cause a fumble. We're up there pretty high in the league in causing them, but you need to get them to bounce your way, as well as putting our hands on interceptions. I never make excuses in this respect, but you need to study how conservative people are. That is a show of respect on our DBs. That is a show of respect on how fast they're getting the ball out and on how fast they're holding the ball. Last week, they cooperated with us. I was in the old AFC Central and had to play those guys (Steelers) twice a year, a Chuck Noll team and Bill Cowher team. Whoever has come in there has had their way about playing offense, but the consistency has been amazing, no matter who the coordinator is and what they believe they are going to do in that organization. I thought we'd have some chances to get after the quarterback a little bit in that game, because they're down the field throwing teams. They're not a quick, fast, throwing team. So, I feel like we've been playing very solid. We've been playing very stingy. Our best football's still in front of us. You take another positive in battling through the injuries. Just like we battled through the injuries last year, that's a positive. That's not a negative. Look at the depth we've created under stress. The depth that we have created, now when a guy goes in, he has game stress reps. He doesn't have practice reps. We try to practice that. We try to practice under what I call organized chaos. I'm under them hard trying to get them to block me out and all that kind of stuff, so it's like what you have in a ballgame. You can't simulate that. We try to. You can't. These guys have gotten some good reps, a lot of different guy, in different situations. The second half of the season will be upon us quick. This is the most important game that we've had this year coming up. Our guys have done a very good job of blocking out (distractions), not looking ahead. This is a divisional game. History here has been pretty tough to win over there. John Fox is a tremendous football coach. I have a lot of respect for him and his coaches. They've kept them fighting hard. We're in for a tough tussle. We're in for a tough ballgame over there because of the pride on that team and that it's a divisional game for them too, not only for us, but them too."
You talk about how you like having the players that have the flexibility to play more than one position. Has that paid off?
"It really has paid off in huge dividends in the season and a half I've been here and I adopted that many, many, many years ago because this is a violent game, a contact game. You have to be able to plan ahead and play all the what-ifs. This staff is really good. I don't know if you guys have given Dennis Allen enough credit. Dennis Allen's done a great job and I was a culture shock to him coming in here, on how we're going to play in the secondary. The secondary needed tremendous improvement. He has done a great job on dual and triple teaching these guys, in fact there are a couple of guys that will have to be prepared to play four different spots coming into this weekend. That's not easy. There are a lot of early bird meetings, what we call late bird meetings. There are guys getting a lot of individual attention. I tease the coaches and say you just call early bird meetings because you don't want to set meetings with me anymore. You're tired of being around me; you'd rather be around the players. It's true. Dennis and Tony Oden have done a great job in cross-training these people as has Bill (Johnson) and the D-Line. We have several packages where our defensive ends come in and play tackle in certain packages. All of our linebackers have been multiple in what they have to do. When I got here, I really had 22 packages of defense two years ago. Now I have 31 packages of defense. We've invented some new ones here to take care of or highlight some of the strengths that these guys play. They've done a good job. The staff has done a good job in that respect in cross-training and dual-training these guys."
Would Malcolm Jenkins and Usama Young be the guys that have to play both positions?
"They'll be two of them. Pierson (Prioleau), after playing on four different teams with me, he's played every position back there. Leigh (Torrence) played so well last week that people didn't realize that Pierson had to play the packages that he played. Also they don't realize that he severely hurt his ankle in the ballgame. He's over there on the sideline and people are talking about that maybe he shouldn't go back in. He wasn't going to hear about that. His mental toughness is amazing. He goes in and plays on a tough ankle the whole ballgame. Darren's (Sharper) ball skills are amazing, but he started in this league as a corner, so he understands how to play and how to play multiple positions. Roman (Harper) had to play like a nickel corner last week too. When you're down to one corner on your roster, who played those positions this past week? You guys look out there in the regular package and you look out there in some sub packages and you think the guys on the edge are the only people playing corner. The guys in the middle of the defense are playing corner on some of the calls too, and Roman did a phenomenal job in that. He wasn't very good last year when we started out doing that with him. To be honest, in training camp he wasn't. But his pride was that he really started working on that towards the end of training camp and he has gotten much better on his man to man cover skills as a corner and I don't feel hesitant of putting him in those situations now. It makes the defense more flexible when you don't have to adjust to all the multiple personnel, up, down and that kind of stuff. You can keep on trucking."
What has Remi Ayodele meant to your run defense this year?
"First off, I think he's in better condition. I really do believe that. They listened to me last year when I said we were going to be the best conditioned team on that side of the ball, but they really don't know until you put them through it and you shock their bodies on how hard they have to go everyday and how hard they have to play every day. Otherwise they don't play. I'm one of the few guys in the league where I'm not going to argue with them. I'm not going to play them period. He came in in really, really good condition. He's down (in weight) and he's quicker than he was last year. He's been powerful in his past. I think he's playing with excellent technique. And I also believe his comfort level is he understands what we want him to do, especially in the run downs. He's a terrific run player and he has allowed a lot of hits behind him by (Scott) Shanle and (Jonathan) Vilma, because he's taken up two blockers, sometimes three at times. He's made a significant step for us. His next step would be to improve his pass rush skills. Right now I've improved them for him. I don't play him on pass downs.
If Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter are healthy enough to start does Malcolm Jenkins return to free safety?
"I'm going to take a look on how they come out of practice today because we did more contact and all that kind of stuff. We're going to move them around. They're going to play all those positions and again, we're going to play them all in different packages too. We have packages in this week that Malcolm's going to play safety and corner. We have packages where each one of those corners is going to play the nickel alignment. It depends on who we match up with and how they cooperate with us over there. They're all going to move around, every single one of them."
Where specifically would Malcolm play?
"Malcolm's going to play. I will not answer the question. Malcolm's going to play. John (Fox) and those guys don't need to know that. They don't need to know. Guess what, we'll be there. One of those guys will line up at corner."