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Joe Vitt Says Saints Players' Focus This Week Has Been Outstanding

Saints Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers Coach Joe Vitt spoke with reporters after Tuesday’s practice


New Orleans Saints Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers Joe Vitt

Post-Practice Media Availability

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Opening Statement:

"Number one, our thoughts and prayers are with our neighbors back in New Orleans right now. We hope everyone is safe. We've had great leadership from our governor and our mayor and think this is a great opportunity for our state to show the rest of the country how we handle a challenge. We'd like to thank the Cincinnati Bengals and the Brown family and Marvin Lewis and his staff for their hospitality here. They have just really helped us with this thing. To bring you up to date we got here last night. We had a team meeting last night. We had a meal. We had 11 p.m. bed check. We tried to catch up on unfinished business. We put closure on our last game. We had a 9 a.m. special teams meeting. Upon conclusion of that we had O and D (offense and defense meetings), we had lunch and came over here for a normal practice. We got through what we wanted to get through today. The only thing we're a little bit behind on is our weightlifting and we'll try to make that up as we go along. We'll meet again tonight. We'll review this practice and move on to Tennessee. We'll have a short practice tomorrow and then fly to Tennessee for our Thursday night game. Then our players will meet on Friday for a one o'clock meeting as we prepare to cut down to 53."

Why did you guys choose to evacuate and set up your operations for a few days in Cincinnati?

"I don't have an answer for that. James Nagaoka, our operations man does a great job. Originally if we could have left on Tuesday, we would have gone to Tennessee and changed hotels and gone through the process. The storm quickened and we had to get out earlier, the arrangement was to come here. This was something we did before in '07, when we practiced with the Bengals. We're in the same hotel. We're really following the same schedule. We have a great relationship with the Cincinnati Bengals and the Brown family, so this was a pretty good fit. It's going to be a short trip from here to Tennessee and when we get to Tennessee, we'll see what holds for us there."

You still have tough decisions to cut down to 53 this week. Does this make the decision-making process tougher?

"No, this is a challenge. We'll have meetings tonight with our players. At approximately 10:30 or 11:00, we'll decide how we want to play our players Thursday night. We'll go through our depth charts again. We'll see who we need to see play Thursday night and then we'll make the proper decisions this weekend. This is what it is and we have to make these decisions. There's no problems. There's just challenges."

Can you discuss the player schedule changes you enacted in order for players to help evacuate their families?

"The original schedule was to give the players off on Sunday, the day after our Saturday night game and we were going to have an eight o'clock meeting on Monday. When we saw where the storm was, we told our players to be on alert. We called our players back into our complex at three o'clock (Sunday) and told them to immediately get their families out of town. We gave them off Monday to get them out of town and then we had to text our players to tell them that we would all meet at the complex at 4:30 (Monday) with wheels up at 5:30, coming to Cincinnati."

Did anyone have any difficulties in following the schedule?

"We had 100 percent participation. Some guys had to drive their families out of town and they had to catch a plane and they caught up with us last night. Everyone was here for the bed check except for Lawrence Wilson. He had a baby boy. He went back to Connecticut and arrived at one o'clock this afternoon. But, everybody (else) was here for full participation at the meetings this morning."

Marvin Lewis had brought up yesterday that one point there was a possibility of a joint practice. Was it just not feasible?

"It wasn't. We wanted to. We've done this before with Cincinnati. They have a kind of similar format as far as practice goes. I don't want to put words in Marvin's mouth, but they were getting off the field at about 12:30, 1:00 and there was no way we could be on the field that early. We had a lot of unfinished business we had on closure from our game on Saturday night. We had to get ready for Tennessee. We couldn't get to the field until 2:30 today. That was the only reason we couldn't mesh (schedules)."

Marvin had mentioned you hadn't done film study from Saturday's game with your players yet?

"Exactly. We did all of it this morning. We had to push it back. We're usually on the field at 11:00 every day, off at 1:15 or 1:30, similar to Marvin. But I explained to Marvin that with our unfinished business we just couldn't make it work. We wanted to. We both wanted to. We would have had good work against each other."

With the weather situation this week is it probably an advantage that you had a fifth preseason game now?

"I think that we always look at that Hall of Fame game as a good thing, because we kind of treat it like a scrimmage, where we can play our starters eight to ten plays and then get a great look at our younger guys. It really gives our younger players a chance to get great exposure (on film and in games). There are some guys who have really gotten better in our training camp and it's going to be a big night for them on Thursday night."

Your franchise has had a lot of experience in dealing with weather-related issues. Does that help in an instance like this?

"Yes. Our organization is amazing. We had a game Saturday night and I was at the complex early Sunday morning. By the time I arrived there at 5:30, 5:45, James Nagaoka, Jay Romig and Danny Lawless our Director of Security had already had a plan in place in case the storm hit. We've done this before. It's the second time for me. Hurricane Gustav was the first for me in '08. We've had to travel. We've been here practicing for a week. We've been to New England twice. We went to Oxnard, California a year ago. We've been to London. Super Bowl week we've experienced getting up and moving. Our organization does a great job of on the move travel."

How has the focus of the players been despite the events at home this week?

"Outstanding. You have to draft a certain kind of player to play for us in New Orleans, because there are certain challenges. This organization went through a catastrophic thing in '05 with Katrina and Mickey Loomis and Mr. (Tom) Benson decided that they were going to draft and hire certain types of people that can deal with these storms. This is a strong franchise. It's not built on 2x4's and clay. It's built with cement and cinder blocks from the bottom up. We have the right people to meet these challenges and we have the right leadership."

How has it gone for you in assuming the duties you have?

"This has been my honor and my privilege in assuming what I am now. We have outstanding players in our organization and it's been my honor and my privilege."

Will there not be a lot of sleep tonight in terms of the timing of the storm?

"This is what it is. We're going to play the hand we're dealt. We have a game Thursday night. We're going to prepare to play the game Thursday night. The people and our neighbors in New Orleans are in our thoughts and our prayers. The toughness and resiliency that our city shows is the same toughness and resiliency that our football team shows."

What do you think of Zach Strief who has local ties?

"A local kid who can't wait to show (us) the menus from around here. I found out what a two way, a three way and a four way were."

He didn't take everybody out to Milford last night?

"We were too busy last night and we're going to be too busy tonight, but he has some food coming in for the guys I think."

Zach was a seventh round pick and he's built his career up to be a starter on one of the best offensive lines in the league. What has he done for that to happen?

"To characterize what he is and who he is, he's durable, dependable, able and has a great work ethic. It doesn't matter where you're drafted or what your draft status is. What matters is where you end up on our roster. He's worked extremely hard the first three years he was in our program going up every day against Charles Grant and then against Will Smith and then when Jon Stinchcomb retired, it was a smooth transition. Last year, his first year as a starter, we put up some historical numbers offensively. He was a big part of that reason. He's turned into a positive role model for our younger guys. He's given us veteran leadership. I really think that his best days are ahead of him."

How are Matt Tennant and Alex Daniels doing?

"Great. They're doing well. I think Matt this year for the first time, he's playing some guard. We're going to look at some more of him at guard on Thursday night. Daniels is finding his way through. We're trying to find a spot for him special team wise now to see where he's going to fit into our plans. Both guys have done a good job and we're looking forward to seeing them play Thursday night."

How do you think Aaron Kromer will do in handling the duties that you are handling now?

"I think he will do absolutely fantastic. Aaron's been in this program. He knows exactly what our protocol is here. He knows what our structure is. He understands the road map to give to our players. The work that he's done as an offensive line coach since he's been here, coaching maybe the best offensive line in football right now (has been outstanding). He's done it with some no-name guys, some undrafted players and some drafted players. We have not been a team except for Ben Grubbs that has gone out and signed high-profile offensive linemen. We've really promoted from within. Aaron will do a great job."

Do you have conversations with him on the challenges of the job?

"Every day."

How have you talked to him about the transition next week?

"At the end of the day, really I'm phasing out and he's phasing in. His role will expand in the game on Thursday night. His role has been expanding. He's talked in front of our team. Our team knows him. He knows our team. The second phase of the transition is going to have to take place."

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