New Orleans Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey LoomisTraining Camp Presented By Verizon Opening Press ConferenceWednesday, July 27, 2016
"I want to begin by just acknowledging and thanking the folks here at The Greenbrier getting this facility in really great shape for us despite the things that have been going on in this region. They have done a remarkable job every year. We appreciate it."
Do you have an update on contract negotiations with Drew Brees?
"Yes, we haven't made any progress."
Are you under the same belief as Sean Payton that something will eventually work itself out?
"Yes. I don't see it being a distraction. Look, lots of players play into the last year of their contract. It happened the last time with us. It's not our preference, but it happens. Nothing unusual here"
Do you expect negotiations to keep going or do you expect he will play the year out?
"I don't know. I guess I would always hope we would have a deal done, but we don't. I'm available. My phone is on the hook and ready to be run."
Is the start of the regular season a priority?
"I think Drew has said that's his deadline. That's fine."
Is that an advantage or disadvantage the fact that his agent Tom Condon represents a lot of the league's top quarterbacks and that he also represents the market with supply and demand. Do you receive that pressure also?
"I think we're beyond that. Drew's one of the top quarterbacks in the league and is paid as such. We expect to do that. Where he is in terms of that isn't really an issue."
Is it his age that's an issue or overall money?
"I don't want to get into any of the details of that. That's not my style. I think I've said enough really."
With rumors about Anquan Boldin prior to him signing with Detroit and now the rumor of the addition of Hakeem Nicks are you looking for a veteran presence at wide receiver?
"I think it's always nice to have veterans at every position, but I think it's not pressing with the makeup of the group that we have. I know Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead and Brandon Coleman are young players and yet they're mature guys, hard-working, mature, reflective type guys that I think are mature beyond their years really, even though their experience might not reflect that. It's always nice to have experience like I said at every position, yet I don't regard that as fatal in that group."
What is the status with Nicks?
"We'll let you know if something happens."
You aren't denying reports?
"I'm just saying we'll let you know if something happens."
I asked Coach Payton also, have you every been a training camp with so much travel, including an away location and joint practices at two locations?
"'06 we were road warriors the whole time. When I was a part of Seattle (front office), every trip is a long trip, when you are in Seattle. Each preseason you are going to play two at home and two on the road. I don't see it being a big issue. We travel well number one for lots of reasons. Secondly, I think it is a good experience for our team. There is some team-building that happens when you go through some things. Obviously the competition with each of those two teams ramps up the energy level and intensity. I think those are good things, especially as you said when we're in one-a-day practices in this day and age."
This is Year 11 for Sean Payton and he said it feels like it's flown by. Does it feel the same for you in your 11-year partnership with him?
"It depends on the day (laughter). No it doesn't. This is 17 years (in New Orleans). It doesn't seem that long and doesn't seem 10 years ago we hired Sean and (signed) Drew (Brees) and had that core come on board, but it goes by fast."
Sean Payton said that he is placing importance on winning preseason games at times. Do you attribute that to the relative youth of this roster?
"I think it's important to play well in the preseason. The preseason's always this mix of evaluation and preparation, so it kind of depends on what point you're at in the preseason. Whenever you have a competition you want to win and I think it's important to win, but I think it's important to get those other things done. It's important to evaluate our team and make sure we have the right roster when we get to the final cutdown. I think it's important for our guys for our guys to be prepared and ready to go both mentally and physically going into the regular season, so there's a lot of factors, a lot of variables. One is yes you do want to win. You do want to establish a winning culture and especially with a younger team."
Do you feel the sense of urgency?
"I think there's a sense of urgency every year, but yes. We haven't had the success the last two years that we've grown accustomed to and expected. That does create more urgency and that we have to do something a little different here and we do have to instill that amongst the players, staff and organization."
How many question marks do you think this team has entering this camp maybe in relation to other camps? More or less the same?
"I think there's always jobs available. Jobs sometime mean roster spots. Sometimes they mean more roster spots. Sometimes jobs mean who's going to be the starter? Who's going to be the contributor? Who's going to be the guys that do special teams? We have those kinds of guys (and competitions). They're still the same. The volume may be a little different year to year. I think of think this is a normal year in terms of roster spots, but I think there's jobs to be won. I think we have a lot of younger guys that have something to prove and are looking to prove it and fulfill some of the expectations that we have."
How would you rate things in changing the culture of the team last year and heading more in that direction this year?
"I think we made strides in that direction and yet we weren't where we wanted to be. I think we made some more strides this offseason and we'll see where we want to be."
What was the blueprint for fixing the defense this offseason?
"I think the blueprint is always smart, tough football players. We tried to focus on strong, intelligent, tough guys that have been productive and high character. That's been our focus the last two years, not that it's not always been a focus, but maybe we re-dedicated ourselves to that."
Do you envision James Laurinaitis doing some of the things that Jonathan Vilma has for this team?
"Jon Vilma is kind of the standard for us at that position. You're always looking and referencing Jon and how intelligent of a player he was and how he made the guys around him better. Certainly we view James as that type of player and some of those other guys have qualities like that. So I would say yes, there's some of that, an element of that. James is his own player. He's a proven commodity in the NFL in terms of leadership and intelligence. Yes, that's something we value."
In '07 and '08 you miss the playoffs and then win the Super Bowl. The last two years you missed the playoffs. Do you take anything from the experience of '07 and '08 and how you turned it around?
"I think some of us can that experienced that, but we have a roster of guys that weren't anywhere near that. They weren't part of our team. There were very few guys that were a part of that that are currently on our roster. We have to impart those experiences as a staff and as a coaching staff. I think they do a great job of that. We reference it and yet this is a different team and different guys. We have to push the right buttons to make a similar experience."
Looking at a guy like Charles Tillman who forced a lot of fumbles and even last year Hau'oli Kikaha is that by chance or skillset?
"For Tillman that was definitely a skillset. He had that punch that he did. It was a technique he perfected. I can't think of anybody that did it better than him. I know our coaches have made cut-ups of the technique. It's definitely a skill and something you focus on and something our coaches focus on. Hopefully we will have some players that develop that as a skill. Kikaha did a great job of that, especially in the early part of the season before he was injured."
Is there a hope Kikaha could be back and that maybe he could be placed on short-term injured reserve?
"I think that's unlikely. We'll discuss that toward the end of training camp when we have to make decisions like that, but I think that's unlikely."
When you look at players that create turnovers, is there a different value placed on guys that can kind of create their own? Do you differentiate that from guys that potentially get it as part of a system?
"We pay attention to it, because it is a skill and sometimes the skill is being at the right place at the right time and having a nose for the football, but we pay attention to it when we evaluate players coming out of college (and) when we evaluate free agents. We look at those plays because a turnover's an impact play in our game, a significant impact play. We pay a lot of attention to it and we look at the specific turnovers and how they were created as opposed to just taking a number."
Is that an area where you would like to see some improvement?
"I think every team looks at improvement in that area. Your win percentage if you create turnovers and in turnover margin is so significant in our game that we have to pay attention to it. Coaches pay attention to it, scouts pay attention to it, everybody in the building pays attention to it."
What gives you confidence the pass rush will improve this year, especially off the edge?
"We have some guys. We have some candidates. Cam (Jordan) has proven that he can rush the passer and we drafted Sheldon Rankins who was a good pass rusher in college. We have some other candidates, Nick Fairley who can affect the quarterback. We have some other guys and we'll see how they'll perform."
Who are some players who after OTAs and minicamp you are waiting to take that next step?
"I think there's a lot of guys in that category. I think you mentioned two of them (P.J. Williams and Craig Robertson). I think Davis Tull is a guy who has a great skill set we're interested in. Obum Gwachum is a guy. Steph Anthony did some things last year, not just rookies but second and third year players. You're looking for that next step. I kind of think it takes three or four years before you acclimate yourself to the NFL. That's when the significant steps are made. We have some guys in that category that we're anxious to see."
What do you think of some who say that the warmer temperatures down south harden a team as opposed to a more temperate climate such as The Greenbrier?
"There's a balance. First of all, because of the rules now, I don't know we can have the tough camp the way I would envision or Bobby (Hebert) would envision or you guys who have been around a long time would envision when you had 55 or 60 practices in a training camp and you could use a lot of those practices and just make it survival of the fittest. Now we have 31, 32 practices. Our coaches have a lot of stuff to cram in a short period of time, so you can't really sacrifice that time to create the survival of the fittest test. We have to create toughness and test toughness in different ways. I think our coaches do a good job of that."
With the new CBA, has it affected how you run the ball and how you stop the run?
"That's always this tough question of going live (tackling drills) and risking injury in this day and age of a hard salary cap and of a team that's up against the camp. It's hard to put players up for greater risk of injury and you also have to develop these skills. It's a balance. It's why we have Sean Payton. It falls mostly on his shoulders to make that determination of what that line is, but we talk about it a lot. That's one of the real challenges of the NFL today."
When the flooding happened in the Greenbrier area was there any question about coming back here?
"The only question was this. First of all, we made a lot of friends and acquaintances that we made up here. The first concern is everyone safe and then when you see the destruction and you saw the photographs of the golf course, your question is how are the facilities and my first call was, "Hey, we're coming as long as we're not a burden." It wasn't a question of if we were going to come back or not. We were coming. We went thorugh a similar experience obviously in New Orleans. I know how important it is for things to resume in a normal fashion, but we clearly wanted to make sure we weren't going to be a burden and they, The Greenbrier people said 'We want you to come. You aren't a burden. In fact it's just the opposite.' We were excited to hear it. We're excited to be back and we had a good experience today in the community. It was really a small thing we could do as an organization, but I would say we probably got more out of it than we gave and hopefully we'll be able to do some more things."
Are you confident you will return next year?
"We'll evaluate that. We do that at the end of each year. We'll evaluate our experience. I haven't even thought about that to be honest with you because that's a year to year thing we will evaluate."
Is there a certain point where you will have to make a decision?
"I'm sure there will be a decision point. We'll make it in plenty of time. Not right now. We've had a real good experience here the last two years and expect to have another great experience here. Ultimately it comes down to what gives us the best chance to be successful and prepare our team