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Head Coach Sean Payton Talks About the Playoffs

    <span style=""><span style="">New Orleans Saints Head Coach </span>Sean Payton  

Monday, January 4, 2010

Opening Statement:

"After just leaving the training room, by and large I'm pretty optimistic as to how we came out of the game yesterday. I mentioned the hamstring with Malcolm Jenkins, and I think it's fairly mild which is good. A number of these guys will be here throughout the week with treatment and we'll start back up in the later part of the week and wait to see through the weekend who the opponent is. We know it's one of three teams and then we'll set our schedule for next week."

Are you comfortable you can correct the mistakes and re-create the first 13 games of the year?

"I think what's most important is winning, rather than trying to re-create anything. The most important job for us is to win and I think we had a good week of work last week. This same formula we used in '06. I liked how we practiced Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. We'll have a number of practices leading up to this game and I think our players will be ready. What's most important is how you play in the postseason and we're looking forward to the challenge."

Is it helpful to have your playoff opponent narrowed down to three teams?

"I think it helps. It's different than the bye week in the regular season where you know who you're playing. When it's one of three teams, you can begin the statistical breakdowns on all three of those teams and get through the busy work that has to be done on the computers prior to the weekend. It's obviously the norm when you're the one-seed; you're playing four, five or six."

How many days off will the players have this week?

"They're in today and then the middle portion of the week they'll be down. We'll practice twice Saturday and practice twice Sunday and all of that will be closed. We won't be back up until Wednesday of next week with the media with our normal routine going into a regular game. It would be Wednesday with a Sunday game and it would be Tuesday with a Saturday game. We'll set the schedule for next week once we know."

How has Jonathan Goodwin played as a leader of the offensive line?

"He has been steady. He replaced Jeff (Faine) a couple of years back and he's smart. He's a guy that does a great job of making the calls with (Drew) Brees and getting everybody on the same page. He's very consistent. He can play through some nicks – he has all year with an ankle – and he's a tough guy. I think he has done a real good job of really working with not just the guards but the collective unit as a whole in regards to communication and he has been a big reason for the consistency there."

Have your struggles defending the run been tied to the health of the secondary?

"When you get nicked up, you try to get your guys healthy and get your guys on the field. There's probably a combination of a lot of things and I think when we get ready to start the playoffs, we'll be ready to defend the run well. Aside from the big run yesterday – and obviously that's a long run – I thought we tackled well. I thought guys hustled to the ball, guys that were called in on roles that they hadn't played a lot this year. I think they'll be excited about the challenge."

Do you feel this team will be about as healthy as you've been recently going into the playoff game?

"I think we have a chance to be. Jabari (Greer) was back yesterday; I think Pierre (Thomas) is going to back; Usama (Young) has a real good chance of being back; I know Sedrick (Ellis) and Jeremy Shockey could have played yesterday along with Jonathan Vilma. We should be as healthy as we have been in the last month-and-a-half."

How would you evaluate your backup quarterback situation? Do you anticipate making changes there before the 2010 season?

"We're focused on 2009 right now. We're not focused on 2010 at 8:30 on Monday morning."

Are you pleased with where you are at that position?


What is the thought process behind two-a-days on Saturday and Sunday?

"When I say that, there will be meetings, walkthroughs, then back on the field for a full practice. It will be more of offense vs. defense emphasis, which is like a training camp practice where it's competitive rather than carded because we really don't know who we'll be playing. There might be some things we tinker with that get us ready for a certain game."

Is that different than '06?

"It's similar to '06. The way it shakes out is similar to '06. We finished with Carolina and we wait. It ended up being the Philly winner over New York. What we don't know yet is who and we don't know whether it's Saturday or Sunday. We'll wait and find out."

Is it easier to go into the playoffs without the talk of an undefeated season?

"I think the focus is that you start anew in regards to the season. You're in sudden death here. The focus is strictly on one game and playing your best football. The guys will have a break to get away from here and then focus on that specific opponent and away you go. That's the way you have to handle it."

Do you encourage your players to get out of town to get away during these off days?

"I'm fine with guys traveling. The key is just being careful in what they're doing. A number of guys will stay here for treatment. There are certain places that are under more of a microscope. The key is just having the trust in the players and I think our team has real good leadership and understands how we need to approach this week and that means getting rest and having some time away and being ready to come back with a focus when they get back in the building. I think they'll handle that well."

Do you encourage them to clear their minds and not think about football this week?

"I really don't encourage or talk about what I think they should do with their time away other than just making sure that they're getting rest. I think people will handle it differently. Some will travel; some won't. We really don't discuss it much other than just making sure that they're traveling safe and getting plenty of rest."

Did any of the guys that got extended playing time stand out yesterday?

"One player was Lynell Hamilton, who plays running back and has been active for the better part of the season. Normally you don't take four halfbacks into a game, but you do when the fourth halfback is a contributor in the kicking game like he has been. He has done a real good job in that area. Yesterday, certainly he played a lot offensively but he's playing as well in the kicking game right now as any of our core guys in regards to the coverage teams. He's physical. When you get that from a running back, that's a plus. If you have it from a linebacker, I think you expect it, but when you get it from a running back, when it comes to your 45 or 46 players on gameday, that's a plus."

Do you still plan on using starters on special teams in the playoffs or did anything yesterday change that at all?

"Yesterday we weren't going to do that but that's the plan going into the postseason. Basically with the one game at a time approach of where we're at, all players will be available. So you'll see Roman Harper, Scott Fujita, Scott Shanle. You'll see our best players playing on those units along with the Lynell Hamiltons because one punt or one kick return can be the difference in winning and losing. We're at that point in the season where we'll use all of our best personnel."

Do you expect Pierre Thomas to be back for the Divisional game?

"I think so. He's feeling well. It's just the dealing with the pain and already that has begun to diminish. He's feeling better and that's encouraging. You have the 24- or 48-hour period afterwards where there's soreness and then a couple of days and now we're a week removed and the news on him is real good."

What are some of the things you miss when he's out of the lineup?

"He runs with good vision and he runs with real good balance. He's consistent and catches the ball well out of the backfield. He's not a one-dimensional player and he has versatility. I think all of those things along with his consistency and his balance are things that you see on a down-in and down-out basis."

When you get to your playoff game you won't have won a game in about a month. Do you need to say anything to your team about getting back to winning?

"I don't think so. Certainly I wouldn't want it to sound like that. I think it's about playing our best game. What we're in a position to do is clean up and make corrections. There will be a break here, but I look forward to the practices we'll have leading up to finding out who our opponent is and getting more work offensively and defensively against each other. I think out players are excited about the challenge and I think they're anxious to play. The hard thing always is having to wait like we'll have to and that's part of the deal, but I think they'll be ready for it."

Did you see commissioner Goodell's comments regarding incentives for teams such as yourselves and the Colts who clinch their most optimal situation early getting incentives for continuing to pay starters?

"I didn't see it. I know it's been something that's been talked about a lot. Really we visited this issue two or three years ago. The only reason we're talking about it now is probably a result of a 14-0 team. The reason it's a hot item this postseason is because of a case that happened in Indianapolis. I think teams are smart enough to understand what's best for their team. I think having the ability to communication is important, so that people understand prior to the game, the approach we're taking. It's something we pay attention to, so nobody's caught off guard. I said yesterday, the whole incentive based idea with a significant injury and a draft pick I think becomes challenging. It's about communication. It's something that's been fairly healthy and became an issue this year I think because of one example."

Do you think it is something that will be addressed at NFL meetings in the off-season?

"I don't know how they go about changing that or something like that. I think each coach and general manager know their team well and know what's best for their team. We should never lose sight of our fan base and be able to communicate with them in I think making sure we're all on the same page. I think it goes a long way, but again, I know it's come up in years past."

What are the factors in your decision to put some of your starters on special teams?

"I think it's pretty common at this point in the season. You're going to see probably every game played this weekend with guys putting their best possible players at those positions because of the weight in the game."

Would you like to be a television analysts so that you can second guess people like you are second- guessed someday?

"I'm not worried about being second-guessed. I don't pay attention to it. I think what's most important is accomplishing the goals. I think we're on the right track when we're 13-3 in New Orleans and being second-guessed. We're doing something right. We just keep plugging. I think what's most important is the feeling in the locker room among the players and the coaches. I think that's always making sure that group is together. That's why I like this team's chances."

Besides getting out of yesterday's game healthy, where there any other things that you had a chance to work on yesterday?

"Yes. Just looking at part of the tape. We had a few different schemes in there. We snapped the ball to a running back and tinkered with a few things we'll look at in the postseason. I think more than anything else, we had a chance to see some young guys play a long time, not just five snaps. That's always good to evaluated and find out. For these players, any snap on film is part of their resume that is collected and the league is so good at evaluating everybody else's games. There's really no tape that goes unnoticed. I think it's important for those players as they continue in their careers."

Did you have any reservations in playing Jabari Greer yesterday?

"No. Only because he's practiced the last two weeks. We thought about playing him last week, just to give you an idea of where we are at with him, I would describe his progress much like Tracy's (Porter) was, when he had a week of practice and we didn't put him out. He had another full week and he played. We kind of did the same thing with Jabari. He worked leading up the Tampa week. We held him out and then certainly he practiced all last week. He'll be ready. We're fortunate in that his rehab has gone well. He's somebody who takes real good care of his body and he'll be here in training. There weren't' any reservations about playing him. There were reservations and discussion about a week ago."

Have you been missing Greer as a run supporter as much as a cover corner?

"I think that goes hand in hand. When you're able to get good cornerback play and have your starters out there, there's a lot more confidence in your down safety run fits and blitzes. All of that fits together. Us being able to run the ball well on offense complement the snaps we have to play on defense. It all fits together."

What is Courtney Roby's status?

"He'll be fine.

What have you seen from Anthony Hargrove and how valuable has he been to your team?

"He's a guy that's very committed to the change he's made. That's something that's proven rather than talked about. In his case, he lives that daily and he works on that daily. He's one of the guys that I think our players in the locker room would be most proud of from where he's come. All that, we talk about prior to even talking about his football, because that's more important. From a football standpoint, he's active. He enjoys playing. He's obviously played more snaps at defensive tackle than he has earlier in his career and can go outside and play. He plays with good energy. He's a real good foot athlete for his size. He's a guy we're real proud of."

What do you do the next two weeks to avoid being rusty?

"I think the work when you come back is critical. We'll have some good long practices. It's always the challenge, but I think that we tried to last week even, maybe change the routine up in regards to how we worked Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and we'll do the same maybe this coming week. That's a challenge. I think we'll be able to handle it though."

What is the mood in the locker room?

"I think it's pretty good. I think it's a confident group. When you win 13 games and earn a one seed, it's part of what you started out to accomplish. When you start your season you want to get in the postseason. You want to win your division, give yourself the best chance in the postseason. I think those parts have been checked off, but you want to win a championship as well. I think this is a group that's ready for this challenge. The good news is that we're going to see here soon. I like the locker room. I like the leadership we have, the commitment to doing things well and the right way. I think that will serve us well here in the postseason."

Can you talk about the trend where teams that have lost their last three regular season games have never made a Super Bowl? Why do you think that is the case?

"Is that a trend or is that a statistic. The Saints have never won a Super Bowl. That's a statistic. It's a statistic not a trend. I hear what you're saying. Trend is something that's happened lately and I think that's a number that's just matter of fact. Certainly we understand the importance of getting on this second season. There's so many of these numbers we've heard them all year long. We heard it at eight wins. We heard it at nine wins. We heard it at ten wins. Then all of a sudden we were paying closer attention to how we beat Washington and Atlanta, not realizing we had to come back and beat the Jets. We had to come back and beat a Carolina team. That's the nature of our game. We'll be ready for all the trends."

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