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Joe Vitt's Thanksgiving Practice Recap

Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers Joe Vitt spoke with the media after practice on Thursday


New Orleans Saints Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers Joe Vitt
Post-Practice Media Availability
Thursday, November 22, 2012

Opening Statement: "Happy Thanksgiving guys. Junior Galette did not practice today. Charles Brown did not practice today. Corey White did not practice today. Elbert Mack did not practice today. Ramon Humber did not practice today, he's sick. He'll be better tomorrow. Zach Strief was limited and Darren Sproles was full. We got a full practice in today. We started our meetings an hour early so we were able to get a full practice in. Today we featured third down. San Francisco's defense on third down is playing phenomenal right now. They're second in the league. They can pressure the quarterback. They've got some pretty good, exotic blitzes that we've got to be able to handle. Offensively, they've got a high completion percentage and the passer rating is off the chart right now. It's an area that we're going to have to do well in to have a chance to compete."

How did Zach Strief respond to his second day of practice after suffering an injury?
"Good. So far so good. (He's) Way ahead of schedule. Really good."

How close would you say he is to being able to play?
"I can't say that. Again, I'm not a doctor. This is a day by day process. He did well yesterday. He did better today. He has no residual pain so we will keep increasing the work-load."

What makes Marques Colston so good, particularly on third down?
"Number one, I think he can create mismatches because of his size and his length. Even with great coverage, Drew (Brees) can put the ball near his body and he can extend outside the framework of his body and pluck the ball. Marques has really adapted at reading defenses. Whenever you have a guy like Drew and Marques that have played together for so long and in so many big games, they have a great feel for one-another."

Has the team been boom-or-bust as far as getting to the red zone?
"What happens is this, and you have to go back. Our offense right now is playing red zone offense as well as we've played it in six years here. Right now, I think we are like 25thor 26th in opportunities down there. Now you start doing your homework. Number one, our offense right now has got the worst starting position of any offense in the National Football League. Now you tie that in to the average starting point after a punt, you take that to how much an offense drives on our defense to create field position for themselves. I thought our special teams did a great job last week of getting the return game going to create better field position for our offense. The first series of the second half was a great example of that. Then, I thought our defense did a better job last week of holding them to three-and-outs and forcing turnovers. It's a trickle-down effect. Number one, you want to give the offense better field position so they get into the red zone because when they get down there they're scoring points."

How about with three-and-outs? Have you had more than you're accustomed to?

"We've been better at that the last three weeks. I think early in the season we were struggling a little bit with that. We're better with that now. And we're better defensively at getting people to go more three-and-outs. There is an old adage that they say, and I don't know if I buy in to this, if you can defense to go three straight three-and-outs, it's the equivalent of a turnover and the field position that you buy. I don't know that I buy in to that but I think it's pretty darn close."

Do teams need to be more physical when they play the 49ers?
"Yes. That's what they preach. Since Coach (Jim) Harbaugh has been there, they are big bodied men that can run and they play physical on both sides of the ball. Their offensive line comes off as well as anybody in the league. Their front seven, I think, is the best front seven in defense, defensively. It all starts with physicality. When you play this football team, you better bring your big boy pads because it's an all day sucker."

If Elbert Mack and Corey White are unable to play, could any of the safeties move to corner?
"Yes, one can."

Malcolm Jenkins?
"That would be the one."

Two months ago this team was 0-4. How have you been able to push through all of this and what are you most proud of?
"Listen, we've addressed this every day. I want to address this quickly. It's the character of the people that we have in the locker room. They've stuck together, they've kept their eye on the target. This coaching staff has done an unbelievable job of keeping our guys together, no pointing fingers. But, really, that's all yesterday's news. The only thing that matters to us is three o'clock, the San Francisco 49ers."

Your offense proved last year that they can move the ball on the 49ers defense but the turnovers were a factor. Do they have the right to be confident against these guys?
"Our offense, over the last six and a half years that they've been together, has put up some historic numbers. Our offense has put up some historic points. Our offense has put up some historic offense on third down. That being said, every week takes on a life of its own. To be perfectly honest with you, this defense that we're getting ready to play stymied us for a long time in last year's playoff game. Then, all of a sudden, we burst at the end and we made a couple big plays to get back in the game and take the lead. When you're playing a football team like this, are you confident? Do you prepare confidently? Yeah, they're professional athletes. But we have all the respect in the world for their ability and their body of work since that coach has taken over there."

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