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Joe Vitt: "San Francisco 49ers Are Certainly Going to be a Challenge"

Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers Joe Vitt spoke with the media Wednesday about the team's home game against the San Francisco 49ers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday


New Orleans Saints Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers Joe Vitt
Post-Practice Media Availability
Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Opening Statement: "We should announce a couple of transactions first. We signed William Robinson to our active roster and we terminated the contract of Greg Camarillo. We signed Jermarcus Hardrick to our practice squad. Harland Gunn, who was on our practice squad, was claimed by Atlanta and goes to their active roster. Today was our work on first and second down. A little bit about San Francisco: since (Jim) Harbaugh has been there, they've got a phenomenal record. Number one, they've got the best road record in the National Football League since he's been there. Since he has been there, they are plus over-thirty in the turnover/takeaway ratio. Offensively this year, they're on course to break the all-time record in the National Football League of runs of ten yards or more. They're throwing the ball less than anybody in the National Football League but have a high completion percentage and are making big plays. Defensively, they're the same defense as a year ago. They are stout, they are effective, and they're outstanding versus the run. They do force takeaways. Special teams, their special teams were number one in the National Football League last year. We know they've got dangerous return people so this is certainly going to be a challenge for us."

How concerned are you about their pass rush because of their ability and the injuries here at the right tackle position?
"I can only be concerned with what we have and who we're going to line up with. We had a good practice today. They have outstanding pass rushers and you all saw it Monday night. They've got great edge pressure, they've got strong people in the middle that can get in Drew's (Brees) face. Our ability to create a firm pocket for Drew is going to be critical so Drew can see the field. We worked long and hard on it today. We're going to get their best and they're awful good."

How is the team looking with injuries?
"Junior Galette did not practice. Charles Brown did not practice. Corey White did not practice but Corey White is getting better quickly. Elbert Mack is going the concussion protocol and he did not practice. Zach Strief was limited and Darren Sproles was full."

Are you going to prepare for both San Francisco quarterbacks?
"That's exactly right. Listen, that's going to be their call. Both of those quarterbacks do a great job of functioning within the system. This is a run first offense. They are running the ball in the National Football League better than anybody is right now. Mike Solari, their offensive line coach, is doing a great job. They are proficient at a gap scheme. They are proficient at the toss crack perimeter scheme. They are proficient at what we call the press pulling a guard to the front side scheme. They've got a great wham scheme where they are going to wham a nose or a three technique. They also have some of this pistol offense in right now that you see in college. Both of those quarterbacks can do that. What we're doing now is we're working on defending plays right now in the run game and in the pass game and whatever quarterback plays, plays."

Do you at least feel fortunate that you got to see a complete game from 49ers QBColin Kaepernick?
"Yeah. And he has played enough in spurts that you have a good feel for him. He is very functional in the offense, he knows where to go with the ball, he makes quick decisions and can extend a down with his feet."

Given how the running game has performed recently, how important is it to get off to a good start on the ground?
"Critical. We want to run the ball well. We're going to try to do what we do best and that's have good balance and get the ball into our playmakers hands."

Do you think that your running backs have been playing as well as they have?
"I think we can get better. I think we can get a lot better, that's why we practice every day. We got a long way to go."

Does the issue with Harbaugh and the quarterbacks give you more to work on?
"It gives you more to work on and more to prepare for but you can't be consumed with it. They have a set of plays that we have to defend. Each quarterback has a unique skill set that he brings to the table but that's something you can't consume yourself with."

They are so good running the football and on defense, do you think there is a direct correlation between that and their road record?
"I do. I think it's amazing when you go back and look at the formula that they've had for winning of the last two years. Last year they led the league in protecting the football. Last year, they led the league in taking the ball away. Last year, they led the league in defense. Last year they led the league in stopping the run. Last year they led the league in short field possessions, taking the ball over inside the 50 (yard line). Last year they led the league in short field points. I think it all starts from being a physical football team and they want to grind it and wear you down. I think that's really the staple in the foundation of what they do. They stop the run and they run the ball."

What did you think about the performance of Bryce Harris?
"I think his athleticism(is good) (and he has good) footwork for a big man. He plays with a great base. He can transition. He's got good hand placement. Very, very smart. He's very smart. He jumped in there last week without a lot of reps and played with some poise. I think it really helps him that he's playing next to Jahri(Evans). Jahri is a good communicator in the game. He had good work today."

When he played Sunday, were there a few leaks? In the second half?
"The one leak that he had, he blocked his man well. The end came all the way across the field and Drew stepped up to make the throw and Drew took a hit after he launched the ball. I don't know that Zach (Strief) or Stinch (Jon Stinchcomb) or anybody is going to make that play. He's not going to track that guy all the way back across the hash. He was ok for the first time and he'll get better this week."

Is help on Aldon Smith a necessity?
"It will be in our plan."

What is it about Vernon Davis that is so tough?
"I think this, I think he's really a wide receiver playing tight end at 60 pounds heavier than Marques Colston. He is a 4.4 guy, he's got great hands, he can drop his weight and come out of routes, he is doing a good job now of reading coverages, the quarterbacks that are in that system right now have great confidence in him. He can beat you on intermediate routes and he can beat you on the deep ball. Very rarely do you see him drop a ball."

Can you give your thoughts on the schedule for Paul Tagliabue's decision?
"I have no idea what you're talking about. I am thinking about the San Francisco 49ers now."

Do you have to guard against the players trying to overcompensate for the playoff loss?
"I think it's like anything else. I think when San Francisco got this schedule, they circled us and we got this schedule, we circled them. Both teams are going to be prepared. Both teams are going to play hard. When that whistle starts on Sunday, all of the stuff that happened a year ago is out the window. You're think about the present and you're thinking about this game."

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