New Orleans Saints Fullback Michael Burton
Conference Call with New Orleans Media
Monday, March 23, 2020
What made New Orleans a good place to come back for the 2020 season?
"I had an outstanding experience. I got hurt at training camp at a very inopportune time, but the experience I had, the coaches I knew over there and the historical playtime percentage that the Saints use both on offense and special teams, they are very fullback-friendly, it's a great opportunity to showcase my skills. When I found out they wanted me back, I was very excited about that."
What is it like playing a position, where with some teams it isn't in great demand in their offensive schemes and where in other instances like the Saints its an integral part?
"It's interesting because it's kind of coming back I think. 11 of the 12 playoff teams this year used the fullback. The top six running teams in 2019 used the fullback. So, it's making a little bit more of a comeback, it certainly had a lot more interest this year than maybe previous years. You saw guys go off the board rather quickly and I just think maybe that it's starting to make that comeback, teams are starting to see success in having fullbacks on the roster and what that can do schematically and just make you more diverse. It was very pleasing this year from my end and just very blessed and thankful that I ended back up with the Saints."
Zach Line retired after the season and returned to become the head coach at his high school. What do you remember in terms of working with him in training camp and the offseason last year?
"Yes, absolutely. He's a great pro. He can do it all. He can run, catch, block, play special teams, was always willing to help me out with the playbook. Whether it was on the field or off the field, a great guy to look up to. Now that he's moved on, (I hope to) be able to fill that void and be one of those great fullbacks that the Saints always have. You look at Zach, the previous years, John Kuhn a few years ago, Austin Johnson, a few years ago, Jed Collins a few years ago, you have had a great fullback in place. That's the goal to have the right guy."
What have you thought about some of the additions to Saints have made, bringing in Emmanuel Sanders on the offense?
"Yeah, absolutely. I think he's going to be a great fit, just in my time being part of the playbook last year, he can run all the routes, has speed, can catch the ball. He's going to thrive in this offense and I think he'll be an exceptional great fit. Just based off my knowledge of what the coaches like in the locker room. I'm sure he's going to be an absolute great locker fit as well. I love to see that. I think he's going to make an immediate impact and all good things."
What about your previous experience made you want to re-sign in New Orleans?
"Just the locker room, the type of guys they have in there, the coaches. I have a great relationship with coach (Joe) Lombardi. He was my offensive coordinator when I was a rookie in Detroit my first year. Coach (Darren) Rizzi is a Rutgers guy, that's where I went to school. Coach Phil Galliano, the assistant special teams coach, coached me (at) Rutgers as well. Just a combination of the type of guys they bring into that locker room, type of coaches that they have and it's just being a very fullback-friendly offense. Not a lot of teams carry so many of these days, but the Saints are one that historically do. There's somewhere between 20-25% playtime for the fullback. That's very exciting and I really enjoyed the area and just really the organization from top down. I'm just really thankful to be back."
How are you adjusting to the coronavirus situation and how has your life been different since then?
"It's an adjustment. It kind of affects your day to day. My wife's a teacher. Her school is closed down, so she's home here with me. All the public gyms are closed down. I'm in Maryland right now. They're shut down. I was going to head out to PA, Pennsylvania, I'm only about 45 minute drive from there to find a gym, but then all those gyms shut down (state shutdown announced this morning. Luckily I had some dumbbells, kettlebells and some bands and stuff on my basis and I've just been kind of doing some at home workouts, being able to run in my basement. I have been able to run outside and do that kind of stuff. Really just spending time with my wife, quality time and just trying to be part of the solution because everybody is dealing with this across the country right now. I want to follow the guidelines of the professionals and the doctors and what they have to say and (doing my part to) just try to ge rid of this virus as quickly as possible. It's just really important to be part of the solution, not the problem."
When you're not working out, hanging out with your wife, do you read and what else are you doing?
"Yes, reading, kind of got into one of my hobbies, getting into real estate this offseason. I've been reading some books on real estate, commercial, residential, real estate, stuff like that. (I) Kind of got interested in that for when I'm done playing. If I'm not reading or doing stuff like that, (I have) just kind of watched some documentaries on Netflix, just some of the new ones that are out right now and watch those with my wife and checking in on family, giving them calls every day. My parents were a little bit older, so (I'm) just checking in to make sure they're doing well. (Reaching out to) friends and family around the country. Just checking in to make sure, like I said, they're doing okay. They are doing well. A lot of them are doing the self-isolation too. Just making sure their day to day is going well too. Just things like that and then just really hoping that this passes as quickly as possible really."
Do you do research on fullback playing percentage and who carries fullbacks at what percentage?
"It's something I keep track of for my position. I think it's really important to show an investment in in my job and be aware of who carries fullbacks, at what percentage, on special teams as well and things like that. I want to put myself in the most ideal situation to be successful. The Saints are definitely one of those for sure. Any given year, they're top four in the league in fullback percentage usage and it just interests me too. I like the analytical side of football as well. I think maybe I want to be a coach or something like that (after the conclusion of playing career). It definitely interests me, so I have no problem doing it and again it just gives me a better understanding of the situation with stuff like that."
Did you take an interest in the Super Bowl with the fullbacks the Chiefs and 49ers have on their roster?
"Absolutely. Both teams have guys that have been in this league for a while. They have been playing at a really high level, so it was great to watch those guys kind of go at it and just really have to see the impact they had on their teams. (Anthony) Sherman had two great blocks at the end of the game that kind of secured that long touchdown run. (Kyle) Juszczyk had a few catches, one went for a touchdown. It just really was nice to see the fullbacks, not only just play, but also make an impact. I think that's important to just show their productivity. It was definitely fun to watch for sure."
What have you learned about Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray from being around them?
"Two really great guys, really good-hearted guys. Again, they are perfectionists and take pride in their work. (They're) very competitive too, which I did not spend a ton of time with them in training camp, obviously sidelined with the injury, but just in OTAs (they were) competitive. When they step on the field, they're ready to work. They want to win their one-on-ones, have productive plays, they take pride in pass protection, all those sorts of things that make them such great backs they take pride in and it was just really nice to see their work ethic in the weight room and then how that transpired onto the field too. Just two really great pros, two very talented players. Me and Zach used to joke about it like they make our jobs so much easier, you don't necessarily block a guy 10 yards out of the way for those guys because as long as you make contact they're going to usually make you right because they're so talented. (I'm) Just really blessed and thankful to be in a room with those two guys for sure."
What about Drew Brees coming back at age 41?
"First ballot Hall of Famer. It's just special, he's special. I can't say enough good things about him, just in my time there. Watching him work and the professionalism he brought every single day, despite how many years he's played, despite how many years he's been in this offense, despite how many offseasons he's had and the work he has put in. I looked at his work ethic and his mentality, like he was a rookie, that's what jumped at me and people ask me how was he and that's what I say, I can't imagine, what he was like when he first got in here because his work ethic is unbelievable. Just his focus, his drive, his competitiveness, just if he would miss a throw, he would get after himself. He holds himself to an extremely high standard and I think that plays such an important role in his success. (For me) Just to be able to be around that greatness, it just ups your level, right? It's just makes you want to be better, makes you want to practice harder, makes you want to do everything at a higher level and I think that's why they found so much success because he's been that guy for them for so long. Anytime you step in the huddle or the room with him, you just want to hold yourself to that standard too. It just really brings everybody around him to be that much better. He's just a very special (player) for sure."