New Orleans Saints Linebacker James LaurinaitisConference Call with New Orleans MediaThursday, March 24, 2016
What attracted you to the Saints in free agency and how many visits did you take?
"When I first became a free agent, I called my agent Tom Condon and we talked about what I wanted to accomplish in free agency. (He asked) What are your goals? What are you looking for and I said I wanted to go to an organization that I really feel is a playoff contender a team that can chase a Super Bowl, the Lombardi trophy and I want to be a part of a team with an offense and a quarterback that has success and the Saints were the first team to call. I took to visit and there were five or six teams interested, but I really felt only a couple had a quarterback, an offense and a roster that I felt could be in the playoffs and when I sat down with Coach Payton, Mickey Loomis and Dennis Allen, I really just felt comfortable and I was excited because it's always nice to have the first team that calls and have them be interested and see the vision for you and in the end that's what worked out."
When you were talking to teams was it a must that you play middle linebacker?
"No, quite frankly every team that was interested really only talked about playing the Mike backer position. Their vision for me was they want someone to come in that has leadership and that had football intelligence to help some of the young players and I don't know exactly what the role will be. (I'm) Just really excited to get in the room with (Stephone) Anthony and a lot of other good players in there. I am excited to join a heck of a linebacker room and to get started."
Is there any kind of adjustment going somewhere new?
"Yes, I think so. I think usually I am on the other end of that stuff in the locker room and (welcoming when) new guys come in, but I wanted to reach out to a couple players and I asked Dennis Allen and Joe Vitt for some (phone) numbers and I wanted to text some of the guys and let them know how excited I was to be joining their defense and the (Saints) organization. I think the difference here is I'm going to an established room, a room that is run a certain way and that I am not used to and I will treat it like a rookie. Where you go in and try to just prove yourself day in day out and prove that you are accountable and a guy that does things the right way and over time the guys will start to really trust you and know that you are dependable and I'm looking forward to it and I can't wait to join the room and join the defense. I have talked to Jo-lonn Dunbar a little bit about the city and about the organization and about the linebacker room and coach Vitt and all of that and he had nothing but great things to say about everything. I have been very excited to get down there and get started."
That idea of proving yourself again, how big of a factor is being motivated and proving yourself again?
"Yes, I had some of the best advice I ever got when I first got into the league was from O.J. Atogwe he played safety for us and he said make sure that you really approach every training camp like you're a rookie, reprove yourself and in the last three years under Gregg Williams he says every day is an interview and that's his theory. When you treat the game that way every single practice and every film you put on of yourself is going to be evaluated not by the team you're on, but everybody else and treat yourself like a rookie with that hunger and with that motivation and that drive. Every year I have tried to approach it that way and every practice really and this year there is obviously extra motivation and whenever you are released by a team or fired because essentially that is what it is and on one hand you are extremely excited that another organization in the Saints that believe in you and wants you and want you to be a part of what they are doing. There is definitely extra motivation to go out there and prove yourself. Look I have a lot left in the tank and can go out there and play great football and (I'm) just excited to get on the field and can't really prove it until the fall when the games start and they matter. I'm excited for the whole offseason, OTAs and everything can't wait to be in there every day learning the defense inside and out, no matter how much its similar somewhat after talking to coach Allen about what he knows from Gregg's system and coach Allen has his own flavor, personality and style and I'm excited to get inside of his head and be an extension of him on the football field."
Did getting cut surprise you and catch you off guard?
"I think I always joked with my family and friends that our parking lot in St. Louis was always if you were in spot two you were the old guy and as you moved closer and closer all those other old guys were cut in front of you. You get to a point at five or six and you never get surprised by anything anymore because you see so many guys you thought would be safe on cut day and guys that would get released or get traded. On one hand you are not really surprised. The thing that caught me off guard and why I was shocked initially was that they sent out information asking players to respond to whether you are going to go out to Los Angeles to attend a voluntary team meeting and I responded yes and I did a media interview for ESPN LA and then two days later I was released. That is what caught me off guard and the whole situation about what they want to do with the roster and all of that and contracts that doesn't really surprise me. You understand it is a business, but the fact that there was really no communication I think to have certain players do interviews for your organization and then be released shocked me, but I'm really excited to go out there and prove it and just play some good ball."
How have you trained in the offseason to be so durable?
"To be honest it is just a blessing. I don't really know, a lot of guys that take care of their body and do the same things that I do for some reason just continually get hurt. I really take great care of my body. I'm big on flexibility and training super hard in the offseason, really big on hot tubs, cold tubs and dry needles and massages anything that can really help to accomplish full recovery and keeping everything lose and good I'm all about it. Quite frankly I have seen a lot of guys do a lot of that stuff too and still get hurt. I don't really know what it is. It has just been a blessing to stay healthy. I remember all those snaps I missed too and I'm mad about them. One of them was in Denver I got poked in the eye that's why I wear a visor now and the other snap I cut my ear believe it or not and had to get four stitches in my ear and we were already up 38-14 on the Colts. I don't like to miss any snaps."
Everyone mentions your intelligence; how do you think your intelligence and approach to the game can help this young defense?
"I think it's just really situational awareness. I think sometimes in football games, stuff happens and stuff hits the fan, so to speak, where maybe you have to get out of a call or blitz, so you are just letting it ride and you have to play something basic just to make sure all 11 (players on the field) are on the same page. If you have a blitz on and see a quarterback checking and they're going to check to something where they can block it, do we really want to run into a brick wall and expose our secondary to man-to-man coverage or zero coverage? Next thing you know, there's a big play because they knew the blitz was coming. If you have to play something basic and survive the down, and try to trick the quarterback a little bit (that is better than giving up a big play). I think that is something that I have taken great pride in ever since I was in high school. I always wanted to be the guy to kind of be the extension of the coach on the field, and to be in charge of that kind of stuff. I know how hard I study and quite frankly, I do not want to have to rely on other people when it comes to that. I'm very prideful in the fact of being a guy that when coach goes to bed on Saturday night, he does not ever (wonder) if James Laurinaitis is prepared. I always want him to know that I'm going to be prepared. I want to be kind of inside the mind of coach (Dennis) Allen and do things he'd expect or that he would do in certain situations, and be eye-to-eye and be that extension on the field."
How did your elbow injury last year limit you? Is it better now?
"Yes, the elbow is fine. It was awful, to be honest with you. I think it was week Six against the Browns where I hyperextended it. I tore my UCL ligament. If I was a major league pitcher, I would've had to get Tommy John (surgery). Luckily, it just scars over if you don't have to throw with it. It's feeling great. From week Six on, I couldn't do any bench press in the weight room. I couldn't press, I couldn't lock my elbow out and I couldn't bend it fully. I had to wear that ugly brace. I wasn't trying to look like J.J. Watt, but I had to look like it with that big thing on my arm. Gosh, I hated it. It didn't allow me to use my hands as well as I wanted to. I really had to go in and shoulder block because I couldn't lock out. It's healed now. We did the whole physical and everything looks good and clean. I have been working out fully since mid-February. I am excited to be healthy and get that out of the way. It was kind of a fluke deal."
Am I correct that you're good friends with Malcolm Jenkins? Has he told you anything about New Orleans?
"He loves New Orleans. He said that he'll be back down there in the summer for a little bit in July. He said that you're going to absolutely love the people, the city and how it is kind of intertwined with the football team. He loves it. I think that is the last time that I was in New Orleans, was when I was the best man at his wedding down there. I am excited to get back down there. He had nothing but great things to say about the city, the fan base and really the organization."
Where are you right now and where do you plan to spend the rest of the offseason? When do you plan to come to New Orleans and get settled down here?
"Our schedule's crazy, to be honest with you. Right now, I'm in Nashville, Tennessee. That's kind of home base for us. My wife and I have always loved Nashville, Tennessee. I'm training here at D1 Sports down in Franklin. We actually fly down to New Orleans tonight. We have to go house-hunting the next two days and then come back here for Easter. We close on our home in St. Louis on the 15th of April so we have to be there until the 14th. I'm probably going to drive down April 14th and be down there for the offseason. I am excited and we're really excited to get down there. I am excited to show my wife the area. Like I said, we haven't been there for a couple of years now. I am really looking forward to it and I am excited for some good seafood."
I know your dad was a pro wrestler; what was the role he played in your life?
"He was my little league ball coach all of the way up until high school. What he taught me a lot was just about work ethic. I saw how hard my dad worked in the weight room. I saw toughness. I saw him work out and perform in his industry through injuries and stuff. Unless something really couldn't be worked around, he'd be out there wrestling and doing everything that he would have to do. That is what he really taught me – on days that you don't feel good, you have to go in, work out and you have to get after it. He had a mentality that if he ever took a day off or was slacking on a day that he was supposed to be working out, you'd wake up on a Thursday and you're sore from the day before doing legs, if I decide to take that day off, then somebody else is going to be working that day and really try to come and take my spot or my job. I had that same mentality ever since I was in high school. If I tried to skip a day, heck no one wanted to do leg day in high school, so if I wanted to skip leg day, then maybe some kid in Minnesota was going to be doing legs that day and he would take my scholarship away. I've always had that mentality and that is what he kind of taught me growing up. I'm thankful to have seen that firsthand."
You were not at all apprehensive about the fact the Saints have been 7-9 in three out of the last four years, and ranked near the bottom of the league in defense? Can you explain why not?
"I am really excited about the stability. When you have a coach like Sean Payton and you have a quarterback like Drew Brees, you always have a chance. That's all I kept receiving when I would get texts from guys around the league. They would always just say, well, you have number nine at quarterback so you're always going to have a chance. When I see that and I see the talent, really you look and you always have time to fix the roster across the board, but just from playing against coach Payton before and knowing how hard his offenses have been to stop, for some reason we always seemed to have their number whenever they came up to St. Louis, but goodness I remember playing down in that dome (Mercedes-Benz Superdome), and just seeing that whatever he was running was working because we couldn't stop it. The complexity of the offense and the game plan that he has is super-impressive. I saw this roster, I saw this team and I saw the fan base, just really the situation, and I was just excited. I think one of the things I wanted was a head coach that's established and a quarterback that's established. When you add that awesome fan base into the mix, it seemed like a no-brainer for me. "