<span> <span style="">Opening Statement:</span>
"From an injury update today, the following players did not practice, Malcolm Jenkins, hamstring, did not practice. Jeremy Shockey, knee, did not practice. Robert Meachem, ankle, did not practice. And Bobby McCray, back, was full.
"Then just these roster moves. Running back Deuce McAllister was put on reserve retired, and we signed Adrian Arrington from our practice squad, and then signed Marlon Favorite, jersey number 63, defensive tackle to our practice squad, which puts us right at our numbers. Most of the focus with today's practice was first and second down."
Are you optimistic about Meachem being able to play?
"He was feeling better today. He was out there for walk through, and we'll see where he is as the week progresses. But I don't think it's real significant. But then again, it's something that he'll get treatment on and we'll continue to rehab throughout the week."
Obviously every NFL player is under a lot of pressure. But Reggie Bush came into the league clearly under a spotlight. Can you talk about how he's handled that attention and the season he's been having?
"When you're selected high like that and you're a Heisman Trophy winner, a lot of that comes with the territory. He's doing well. He's been a big reason I said this after the game the other day a big reason for our success offensively. He gives you a lot of dimensions in regards to ways to use him.
"We try to week by week have certain packages that we're able to put in. I thought he ran hard the other day. Obviously, on the punt return game it's significant. He's a big part of what we do offensively, and I was pleased to see him play well."
After the game on Sunday, Brett Favre said that he secretly had told you that he's a Saints fan. Could you just talk about your relationship with him and do you even remember having had that conversation?
"Well, my first year in the NFL was 1997 with the Eagles. My very first project on Monday when I got to work was to cut up all the '96 Brett Favre scrambles. It was a project that Jon Gruden had me do. It was the first time I had a chance to really watch NFL film. So throughout the years certainly I've been able to follow his career.
"Recently, probably not quite a year ago, we shared a bunch of texts just about his decision to play this upcoming season. Periodically throughout the season he might text me or I might text him. From afar, really, I've been a big fan and he's had a great career.
"I knew he was from this region and certainly knew that he had grown up a Saints fan. In fact, I think his brother had come to one of our games early in the year. He got him some tickets and got him taken care of.
"He's been a fantastic player. To see what he's doing right now at this point in his career is really unprecedented in the success he's having and the season he's having. So now is a game where we have to play against him, but he's an amazing talent."
Can you talk about the relationship you may have with Brad Childress and the proximity of where you guys grew up?
"He's from a town not too far from where I'm from in Aurora. Both of us growing in the Chicago-land area and I followed him later on at Eastern Illinois and have really followed his career. He's done a great job coming into the league with Philadelphia and Andy Reid and what they were able to accomplish and now certainly with Minnesota.
"He's been a part of a lot of winning teams. That success is something that he's brought to Minnesota. We probably really didn't know him until the coaching aspect of it. There was an age difference, if you will, from high school to college. But I've known him now for over the years and followed his career. He's done a great job.
Did you think Eastern Illinois would become the cradle of coaches that it has?
"At that time, Mike Shanahan was the guy that I think was coaching and he was the one head coach in the NFL. We were all as student athletes aware of his career there as a quarterback, and then on on as a coach. There have been a number of people passed through that school and had success in football, be it playing or coaching.
"It's probably for all of us an important growth period that we went through although it's unusual a little bit to have three coaches from that school.
"Of course, Tony Romo played there, and Mike Heimerdinger is another one that was with Shanahan for some time. So a lot of successful teams there."
How much are you maybe picking the brain of Darren Sharper considering he used to play with Brett and played with Minnesota? And what has he brought in experience?
"We have so much film now at this point. You get enough tape work done on the looks both teams do with regards to the kicking game, offense and defense. So really most of the game plan, all of the game plan is really based on all the evidence on tape and what you've seen from a video standpoint.
"Other than that, I think often times much is made of that and it's really insignificant."
How much do you value Sharper being in this position?
"Acquiring Darren and having someone with experience that's been in these type of games before, he's had a real good season for us. He's come up with a number of big plays to help us win games. Certainly an important part of what we do."
Do you think you'll have to calm Darren down before the game as he goes against his former team?
"I've said before with the way the NFL is now, each week you're going to play an opponent and each chance there's probably a player on your team you've heard me say this there is a player or two or coach or two that was on your team that was on the opposing roster. I think that's the case every week regardless of who you play. It ends up being more about the game. So to answer your question, no."
You made a point of making a difference and setting a goal with the players and your foundation. Can you talk about that?
"Well, it is a unique relationship that this team has with the city. It's very small. I think the players are very visible because of the nature logistically of the layout of this city. When my wife and I came here with our on children it was shortly after Katrina. There was an obvious need or a feeling to help out.
"We created our foundation, Payton's Play It Forward. A number of our players, almost all of our players, are active that way with their foundations. As a team and an organization we do a number of things locally here and regionally.
"This team, for as much SEC football that is played in this region, the Gulf South, this really has become the NFL team in this region. Not just in New Orleans, but throughout this whole Gulf South area. I think that's part of the deal with what we do. It's certainly unique here, but it's something that we're able to do to help out and that's pretty fulfilling."
Is there one thing you kind of aspire to for your foundation?
"We'll spend most of our efforts and energies with children, families in need, community. We've had a number of big events. A year and a half ago we had a ball at the Superdome. We ended up with over 1,500 people sold out. All of that goes right back into this area. We take probably seven to eight charities and look closely at them, evaluate them, and then assign the money."
Reggie Bush said you called him specifically during the bye week talking to him about what you wanted from him in the playoffs. Can you talk a little more about that?
"It was once during the bye, and periodically through the season with the way our season was unfolding, there would be games where he didn't have as many carries or as many receptions.
"The key with all of those guys is you get in a position to play in the postseason and certainly that's a challenge into itself. But being healthy in games like this, he's someone that can make a difference and he did last weekend. That was really the message."
Is there any mentality you want him to run with the next few weeks?
"He's a guy that's played in big games like this before. So he understands the tempo and the intensity of playoff games. His rookie season he was in a handful. So there are a number of players, a lot of players that have been in these type of games. Certainly last week it gives them experience.
"This one, again, will be a game that will be intense and hard fought. I think he's prepared for that and he understands how he has to play."
How different is this team to the team you had from 2006?
"From a roster standpoint in four years there's a lot that goes on, so it's a lot different. There are some similarities in regards to some positions, but when you look at the overall roster, it's an entirely different team."
Can you talk about the challenge the offensive line will face with the Vikings front? And on the other side of the ball, the defense in shutting down Sidney Rice?
"I think just from a defensive standpoint this is a team that has an outstanding front. They're physical, they have great speed. They play with confidence.
"When you look really at the game last week and how they played against Dallas, a team that everyone saw how good the Cowboys were playing, and to see them win in that fashion was very impressive.
"Defensively against their offense there are a number of weapons. Sidney Rice is someone who has progressed and is having a great season. Starting with the running back Adrian Peterson and Brett and Percy Harvin. I think there are going to be plays made and you have to eliminate the big plays or try to as best you can. But they do a great job and that is the reason they're playing in a game like this."
Can you talk about having Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter on the field what a difference that made to your defense last week?
"When you can get your starting corners back into the lineup, it's significant. It certainly gives Gregg (Williams) confidence in calling defenses. You always hope at the start of the season the injury bug doesn't hit you too bad. We were able to manage, if you will, and get through the latter part of the season with some injuries.
"But when you can get those guys healthy, the bye week, I think, was important for us and important for Jabari in getting him. He got some work against Carolina the last week of the season, but getting him back to 100% was real important."
I know you had that emphasis on being more physical and tougher and everything else. Do you think this is the time of year when that really that stuff kind of shows up?
"I think the emphasis, really, was being able to run the football more efficiently. So I think that that's helped us get to this game. Our ability to have balance and be able to run the football. So it was a big part of winning 13 regular season games. It was a big part of winning last week.
Lynell Hamilton is a guy that doesn't get a ton of carries, about when he gets the football, he seems to give you a lot of power. Can you talk about players like him, role players?
"He is a guy that gives you versatility. He's very good in the kicking game. He'll play in a number of units. When you can get on offensive players, be it running backs or tight ends, receivers that are involved in your special teams and good at it, certainly that's a plus. He runs with good balance and vision, he's a young player that is playing with conversation."
What are Shockey's chances of getting back to close to 100%?
"I think today was the day we didn't practice him. I think it's good. We'll continue to update you like we normally do with injuries. We really don't get into predicting what guys are going to be like toward the end of the week. So with the nature of the injury, the news is good."
Can you talk about Jared Allen and the task of trying to contain him?
"He's a guy who has great talent. He has a lot of confidence. He gives you power, he gives you speed. He's one of these elite ends. We've seen a few during the course of the season, and those are the type of players that can change games. You have to pay attention to what he can do. So you try to change your launch points. You change protections. You do things to not just be one dimensional, and I think that's a big challenge this week."
How do you prepare defensively to play against a quarterback who has seen it all?
"I think you prepare like you do every week. You go in, you spend time on the tape. You look at the runs you have to stop and the passes you have to stop. Sometimes you're seeing a guy with it's not so much his experience, it's his skill set.
"There have been guys that have played in our league a long time, but he's played very well and is playing as well as he has throughout his career right now. So he's got a quick release. He's decisive. He knows where he wants to go with the football. He's got great arm strength still. So those are the challenges."
What are similarities you see between Reggie Bush and Percy Harvin?
"That's a good question. I think they're built differently. They're different type of players. Yet there would be some in regards to the flexibility to carry the football to return the ball in the kicking game. Obviously they are guys that can be used in the passing game. So from that standpoint, there would be some similarities. But I do think they're different type players."
With the long touchdown runs that you have given up on the first series of games, is there any sort of theme that goes through those?
"No, I don't think so. I guess the similarity being when they happen early in the game. But they've been plays that have been different schemes, different type of runs. When it happened last week, certainly on the first play of the game, it takes a little of the energy out of the stadium. But we were able to come back with the next drive and score. So I think it's just been the start, and I know Gregg and those guys on defense are working their tails off to start games the right way and will continue to do that."
Is facing Allen and their front anywhere similar to facing the Dallas front?
"Well, the fronts are different. It's an even front compared to a three four defense. So from a theme standpoint it's different. Yet from a skill set or talent level there would be some similarities."
Can you talk about maximizing all the things you've worked so hard to get with the No. 1 seed at home and playing at home this weekend?
"You start the season really with the goal of getting into the postseason and winning your division, and then securing the best seed possible. Down the stretch Minnesota and ourselves were battling for the one seed. It's important just from a crowd noise standpoint and how that impacts you on third down and how that impacts you with the cadence. Those are some of the things that are specific. Especially when you're playing inside."
Do you gain anything from the fact you were able to keep Adrian Peterson in check last year coming into this game? Or is that totally different?
"That's different. We're a different defense and they're a different offense really when you look at what they're doing. So you have some experience in regards to the talent level of the player. He's explosive and he's got great speed and vision. He can circle the defense if you're not careful and you don't set the right edge. But it's different. The teams are different."
Both as a former quarterback and a guy in his 40's, can you kind of relate to the fascination there seems to be with Favre playing at such a high level at his age?
"Well, what I said earlier, it's really unprecedented with the level he's playing at. I can't really think of someone that's played we can all think of players that have had long careers. But I can't think of someone who has played at the level he's playing at this many years into it. He's in great shape. You see the velocity on his throws, the decision making. He can create. You can go back and look at the throw he made against San Francisco with no time left, that's amazing. So he's a big challenge."
You mentioned a special relationship this team has with this city. What would it mean to this city to get their first Super Bowl appearance?
"Like I said earlier, when we talked about the foundation, there is a strong fan base, strong following. The relationship is unique, so certainly there is an excitement level here in that it is the first time there's ever been a home championship game. In '06 it was the first time we'd ever gone to a championship game. So I think that winning brings a lot of excitement here to this town and to this region."
What does it mean to you personally that you've been able to accomplish those things in your first stint as head coach?
"Well, I think first off we've been able to get in the postseason. I guess there's things that we've been able to accomplish that this team or organization hasn't seen before. Yet the ultimate goal is to win a Super Bowl. I think more than anything what it brings to the people here is the excitement. I think that is different than what you could ever have imagined, maybe.
"And for me this being my first head coaching opportunity, there's things you learn along the way. And someone who has not been from here could never really appreciate the tie that this team has to the city and how that has really grown stronger and become really special and unique."