New Orleans Saints Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers Joe Vitt
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
"We have our roster set at 90 today. We placed Jonathan Vilma on the reserved/suspended list today. We signed a tight end, Derek Schouman, who had played for the Buffalo Bills and St. Louis Rams, out of Boise State today. We made a roster move and signed Marques Clark, out of Henderson State and we released Kevin Hardy today. So we are at 90 right now. Talking about injured players going in to training camp, talking to Mickey (Loomis) this morning, we had a huge staff meeting this morning, Scottie Patton has done a great job at getting our players ready for training camp. I think this is the healthiest we've ever been going into training camp. They are ready to go. Jonathan Vilma is not going of course. Greg Romeus isn't going, he got hurt in minicamp. Akeim Hicks, as you all know, fractured his hand in OTAs and there is still just a little bit of a spacing there so he is going to miss the first couple of days and may start the beginning of training camp on PUP. We expect to have him back on Sunday or Monday and that will get him ready but everyone else is full go. We will monitor Mark Ingram a little bit but for he is ready to go. I hope everyone has had a great summer. We certainly have here. The inside of our building looks spectacular. The people in our building have worked hard in order to get it up to speed. The upgrades and the additions are going to mean a lot to our football team, the locker room, the meeting rooms. It just looks great. We've had a great summer. Like I said, Scottie Patton has done a great job of getting our players healthy. Our players have had a great summer. I would say that probably for the last ten days we've had anywhere from 25 to 35 guys working out here. Eyeballing our guys, we have our conditioning test tomorrow. Our guys look great. They are excited"
When will an announcement be made about how you are replaced while you are not with the team?
"The discussions have taken place. They are in the infantile stages right now. We are out of the OTAs. Mickey has a couple of coaches that he will talk to. He has a couple people in mind. But again, I think this is critical. We are going to see the personality of this team and what it takes on. Every year is different and the coach that can best serve the needs of this team is the guy that Mickey and Mr. Benson will pick. This is not something that is going to be made in the next week or two. We are going to see who can best serve the needs of our team. We've got great coaches here now. We've got coaches that have been here since 2006 and know our team and roster. We are blessed to have them."
How big of shoes is that to fill not only preparing for the season, but making critical gametime decisions?
"Just like when Sean (Payton) is here. We try to script as many of those critical decisions out before we ever play the game that we can. When we challenge, we have eyes up in the press box that tell Sean when to throw the flag and Sean has done a great job at throwing the flag. There are a lot of things that are going to be staying in place. We are going to do the best job that we can at getting this thing scripted and prepared for the guy that comes in. We'll do a good job."
From the time that the suspensions came out to now, are you surprised at the role and responsibilities that the coaches have taken?
"Well, that was Sean's departing remarks to us, do your job. We have a veteran staff here. We've got a lot of veteran players here. This team has been through a lot together since we've been together in '06. I made the statement and we made the statement at the conclusion of OTAs, (that) Sean would be proud of the body of work we have done until this point. Now we are on the clock. We have our ops meeting tonight, our conditioning test tomorrow. We are on the clock and in 11 days we are playing in a nationally televised game. It is for real now."
Is it somewhat of a relief to have the main topic of discussion be football?
"I've said this before and I don't know if anyone believes me, but football and trying to win football games has always been the main topic here. I don't think that you have the success that this team has had unless that is the main topic of conversation. We've had to overcome some hurdles. We've had to stick together through the tough times but that is always the main discussion here. We try to do everything we can on a daily basis to get better and win games."
Is this the most talent that this team has had since you've been here?
"Yes, I think I alluded that at the end of the OTAs (based on) the job that our college scouts did with the procurement of talent from the college ranks (and) the job that Ryan Pace and his department did with the pro personnel evaluations. I think it is the most talented team we've ever had here. With that being said it means nothing, we've got to put it together. We have to go to work but we certainly have the pieces in place."
You always preach competition in every position, can you highlight a few?
"I don't want to do that. There are a couple positions on a football team that are secure, you don't have to be a genius to know what those are. But we are not going to hand out scholarships. We are not going to hand out positions. Everyone is going to be evaluated on a daily basis. The best guy has always played for s. It doesn't matter if you are a free agent, a high draft pick. It just never mattered. The best players are going to play no matter how they get here, what their draft status is or what their free agent status is. They have to produce because we owe that to the players that we have on our roster."
You never had a doubt that Drew Brees would be back, but what affect has that had on everybody?
" I've said this before, he is certainly the greatest player that I've ever been around and I'm going on 34 years. This is a player whose character and integrity outweigh his playmaking ability. And I'll say this, we would certainly miss a guy like Drew Brees in the OTAs, his ability getting the team in and out of huddle and stressing the defense with his throws but just more than anything else we missed the person. And he missed being here. He is a joy to be around. He is a natural leader. He loves the game, every aspect of the game (and) brings great energy to the game. He is beloved by his teammates, coaching staff and organization. It was great to see him and get him back in the building."
If you could pick a slogan that the team is embracing, what would that be?
"Do your job. That is what Sean's (Payton) departing words were to us. Do your job. So far our players have embraced that. Our staff and organization have embraced that. And that is what it is, do your job."
What do you think about the us against the world mentality?
"I don't know how long those things last. We could certainly play that up but when the ball is kicked off and the players walk inside of the white lines, and you're talking about technique, alignment and assignment. I think that this us against the world mentality is out of the door. I really do. I think this, our ability to prepare on a daily basis and a weekly basis (is what's important). Take one game at a time and let's add these things up at the end of the year and see where we are. It is what we have always done here. It is what Sean has always preached and that is what we will do."
Is the energy that Drew Brees is going to give you over the next few weeks even more because he hasn't been here?
"I think that he is chopping at the bit to go. But Drew is Drew and again, one of the earmarks of a great player and a great leader is that he is steady. What we've seen in the past is what we will see in the future. He doesn't have highs and lows. His preparation has always been a premium for him. His leadership has always been great. I can't for see him changing one bit. That is the way he is."
Is anything going smoother than expected or has there been anything you haven't expected to happen?
"I go over in my mind everyday, have I forgotten something or have we forgotten something. The support staff that we have here, the people that we have in our building have been unbelievable to our cause. To me, to our coaching staff, this has been a joint effort. And to this point right now, I don't think that there has been a stone that we haven't overturned. I don't think there has been something that we have missed. Now, are we going to get surprises in the future? Absolutely. Are we going to get surprises this year? Absolutely. That is what a season entails. But to this point right here, our organization has pulled together and they have done a phenomenal job. We've all been in this together."
How comfortable have you've felt?
"This is all I've ever done. If someone asks me to go fly an airplane, I'm going to be nervous. If someone asks me to do open heart surgery, I'm going to be nervous. But this is all I've ever done. And when you have a group of players we have and you have the group of coaches that we have and you have the support staff and organization that we have, I think it has been great. It hasn't been a one man effort. It's been a team effort."
You've acknowledged that your staff can deliver a message a little differently?
"I think that we are not screaming as much, that is a conscious effort to do the right thing. I've said this before. I am on board with player safety. What comes out of my mouth and how I deliver things makes a difference and I think our entire coaching staff has made a conscious effort to make sure the right words come out of our mouth."
Can you discuss your difference in opinion in what happened with the NFL's investigation and ruling?
"I've said this before and that is a fair question. The commissioner has suspended me for six games for the spoken word and not the clenched fist. If my words can make the difference in the life of a Steve Gleason or Kevin Turner or a player that I lost two weeks ago, 52 year old Grant Feasel or Lew Bush, then I am on board. What I say and how I say it, I want to make a difference. I'm taking responsibility for that and I'm going to get better at that. I'm making a conscious effort so far to get better at that. Now this is in the eyes of the beholder. We did not have a bounty program, we had a pay for performance program, as do a lot of teams. But we are going to make a conscious effort as an organization and a coaching staff to temper what we say and how we say it. Mickey (Loomis) made a good point as we got ready for our ops meeting tonight. We always let Scottie Patton and our team doctors talk tonight in our ops meeting. But we are going to make this a stand alone meeting tomorrow and give Scottie as much time as he needs and our doctors as much time as they need for constructive protocol, because it is important. So it is a stand alone meeting. We are going to try to make every difference we can to walk hand in hand with the league to make this a safer game."
With regards to the defense, has this made a difference in coaching them?
"No, again I think I watch my tone and I watch how I say it and what I say. I think out a little bit better before I say it. I'm an emotional guy. I have a propensity to think before I speak and I have to do a better job at that. We've got a majority of the same players who play hard, who prepare well and who have great intent and character. We are going to do the best that we can"
You try not to get ahead of the game but with the Super Bowl in New Orleans is your team not shying away from it?
"We are going to go over our goals tonight. Our goals are to win the NFC South to be the one seed, to host a playoff game and to win the World Championship. Now that is the goal. With that being said, we will put that to bed tonight and then everyday we are going to try to win the day. And when the game comes, we are going to prepare for one game at a time. When that game comes, we are going to play one play at a time, one series at a time, one quarter at a time, one half at a time and build up four quarters and see where that body of work leads us. And then you are on to your next opponent. But that is something that you can't get to your goal unless you take care of the early business. And the business at hand right now is to make sure that we get the right 53 players on this football team, that we condition this football team and drill this football team so that they are all in sync. Find out the personality of this football team and what we are going to do best. And then let's go."
Do you think that the personality of this football team is going to be different?
"Every one is. I don't think it is something that the fans and people see right away but every team has a different personality. Every team has a little bit different skill set. Every team you push a different button to teach, motivate and inspire. We're about to find out. When we put the pads on and see where this team leads us and cater to those needs."
With the hearings Thursday will you and Drew Brees be here?
"Yes, I will be here. And he will be here."
With the Collective Bargaining Agreement, there are fewer padded practices. Is this something that the coaching staff is concerned about?
"We had to do this on the run a year ago because the CBA was agreed upon and when it was we had to completely change the structure of our practices. What we did, we have an install meeting at night at the hotel. We come in here and review the install in the morning, have a walk through and then we have a PM practice. That practice structure served us extremely well a year ago, we won 14 games. That is the practice schedule that we will start with. With all teams and what Sean (Payton) would always do, we may tweak it here and there and see where we may need extra work and where we may need to back off. When we may need to be inside when we are getting field work. That is all subject to change based on the needs of the team."
How different is it for everyone when you are installing a new defense?
"The good thing about this is there are three phases in the offseason. What we call opportunity session, where we start to introduce the defense. Then we get into our OTAs, where go back and reinstall the defense again. Then we have the mini camp where we go back and reinstall the defense again. So Steve Spagnuolo made a good point this morning, this defense is getting installed but we are going back to square one and starting all over again like nobody knows anything. This is the fourth install. So is there going to be a learning curve? Are there going to be mistakes? Absolutely. That's why we have a job as coaches. But this has been well prepared during the offseason. It's been well addressed. We are excited about it. We will see what happens. I think that four install periods give us a chance."
With all that has happened in the offseason do you think that you will be watched more closely for penalties?
"I don't know that. That is going to be in the eyes of the beholder. We are going to practice the same and prepare the same. The physicality of this game is not going to change. We are aware of concussion protocol. We are aware of all those things now and we are taking it very, very seriously. But our sport, our game itself is not going to change. It is a physical sport. It is a warrior sport. We are looking to physically reduce the will of our opponents every time we compete. That is just not going to change."
How often are you planning on going full pads?
"That is a good question. We have to go non-pads for three days and then we go into pads. I suspect this. We will probably be in pads for about six days. We play in 11 days. Probably back off the Thursday afternoon or Friday before the Hall of Fame Game. Again, we want to see where we are if we can get our early work done and we feel good about it. We feel good about the pad level at which our players are playing with. The proper fits, the proper footwork. We've got a better team. I understand that some of the guys, I certainly think are kids. Jahri Evans is a man now. He's been here seven years. Devery Henderson, Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Pierre Thomas I still look at them as young rookies because I remember when they were. But they're not, they've been around the block and we well make sure that we monitor that."
If Jonathan Vilma got what he desired, how soon would he be ready?
"I don't know that. I think that if you ask him, he will be ready on Friday to go full speed because that is just his nature. That would be up to our doctors and trainers. He's had a wonderful offseason. He has worked very, very hard. The biggest enemy that he has is that he pushes himself so hard to get on the field early. So we will have to monitor that and see exactly where he is. He feels good. He's worked hard. This is not his first surgery. He is not like he first was when he got here in '08, four years later. We would monitor that."
With the CBA and easing off, how much harder does that make it to assess the rookies?
"I think that is a good question. We have always assessed our rookies and first year players and that come new to the program really based on their game performance and that is not going to change. If we have a rookie that is standing out at practice and doing a great job and not playing very well in games, we'll maybe put a guy like that on the practice squad. Really you are still going to evaluate your rookies and young players based on how they play in these preseason games. How they handle the pressure and how they handle the install or how they handle the speed and formation recognition and all those things. That is not going to change. We've been through this process, this is the second year that we've ben through it so I think there were more questions in the back of everyone's mind than there are now."
In your opinion, how much of an impact was Drew Brees not being here in the offseason?
"We all missed Drew. Drew is a great player and he is a great person. I've said this and we've said this all along, this gave our football team a chance to have game confidence in Chase Daniel. This gave our team the confidence and the knowledge of what Chase Daniel can do and what he can't do. We can be as negative as we want when this was all taking place but I think our football team turned it into a positive. Chase had an outstanding offseason. We know what he can do know and I think that has helped us. Now, Drew is back and I feel like the OTAs were five years ago. We starting new and we are glad to have him here."
Without Brees present, did that prevent you from doing anything?
"No. We have program that we have done here. We have a confirmed validity in our approach here and this is what we do. We had to find out really what Chase could do best. Is it outside the pocket? Is it a naked squeeze or a sprint series? What are his best play actions? Is he better to the left or the right, throwing corner outs? That experimentation is always going to go on with a new player. But our system is our system and it is the same install."
How Sean Payton's intentions continue to be with the team?
"I will tell you this, there is a huge hole in my chest, personally and professionally because I am not around him. I'm not going to lie to you. I miss him. I know Mickey misses him. Mr. Benson misses him and our players miss him. But because of the respect that we have for Sean and the only thing that he asked us to do was to do our jobs, that is what we are going to do. The next time we see him, I hope that he is going to be proud of us for the job that we have done and we haven't let him down."
If you guys win, as you hope to, I guess it would be too simplistic to say I guess Sean wasn't as important as you thought he was?
"I think that you know that this man has Hall of Fame potential. This coach was on his was to 100 victories faster than anybody in the history of our game. We won 41 games, we won more games than anyone in the National Football League in the last three years. You don't do that through osmosis. You do that through great leadership, great coaches, great players and picking the right 53. Knowing how to teach, motivate and inspire. I think his track record speaks for itself."
How do you recapture the intensity that he brings to the offense?
"That is going to be the challenge. You coach harder, you coach smarter, you make sure you get the right people, you can't leave a stone unturned. Our preparation has to be meticulous. There has got to be 100 percent buy in. All of the things that go into winning this league. I don't think that anyone on our staff or anyone in this building is trying to replace Sean. We are trying to make him proud of us and do the best job that we can. I've said this before and I know that Mickey has said this before, there is no place that I would rather be than in this town, with this organization, with this team and going through this challenge. There is no place I would rather be. We are going to do everything we can to make them proud."
What have you seen from Curtis Lofton?
"You see Curtis play on film, I probably say this more when he was at Oklahoma coming out than with Atlanta because I'm not on that side of the ball. You say a tackle to tackle thumper. And now when Curtis gets here, he has really reshaped his body. He has lost 15 pounds, he probably has a 34 inch waist. You see now his range, communication skills and leadership at practice. He and David Hawthorne have been here for the last 15 days working out in the heat here. There are a lot of things that are unknown about players until you actually get them in the building and get around them. What a great pleasant surprise this player has been. He loves being here. His teammates love him. He has been outstanding. He really has. I know that we all hope he has a great year but I know this, he has but in the time that he deserves to have a great year."
Why is it important to testify for Jonathan Vilma?
"I said this to everybody in my first press conference and I have shared this with the Commissioner and the league: At no time did our players ever cross the white lines with the intent of hurting or injuring another player. Jonathan Vilma and Scott Fujita were in my meeting rooms when these allegations have come out. I know Jonathan Vilma's intent. I know his work habits, leadership qualities and what he means to this team. The leadership qualities that he has, he has always put his team and his teammates first and I stand behind Jonathan Vilma."
Are you all as a staff conscious of being without Vilma and Will Smith and are you looking for new guys to emerge?
"You always are and I think this, I'm watching Remember the Titans the other night and coach Boone gets up there and says, you cannot replace a Gerry Bertier. Well you cannot replace a Jonathan Vilma. But let me tell you something. We have kid in here named Curtis Lofton and he has come as close to a player come to emulate and be what Jonathan Vilma does. We been through this with Will Smith a year ago. So he understands the training schedule. We are looking for players to emerge. We know right now it stands with the hand we have been dealt and now we have to go play the hand. I hope I've answered that question."
You mentioned that you will be on national television soon, will that preseason game be anymore important than others?
"The motto here has always been that preseason games do not count but they do matter. We have to play well individually. We have to want to play well collectively. There are certain people that we want to see play and we want them to play well but anytime you put the pads on and any time you put the New Orleans Saints helmet. We want to play well so we certainly want to play well in this game coming up."
I guess to borrow a phrase from a Louisiana sports fan, if you start playing well and people start saying that you're just doing it with Sean Payton's players, how do you feel about that?
"This football team has paid the price. This football team is about winning. And I've said this before, I am nothing more than a spoke on this wheel and that is all I am. We've got a lot of great people in this building. We've got a great support staff that has worked extremely hard this season to get where we are. It's all about winning and that is what we are going to work hard to do."