New Orleans Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis spoke with Sean Kelley on Thursday's Black and Blue Report (interview begins at the 5:30 mark). Below are some highlights from the interview:
What are your initial impressions of this facility for your football team here at The Greenbrier?
"First of all, I think they did a spectacular job in putting together this building and these fields that we're going to have. The meeting rooms, just everything here is going to be perfect. I'm pretty excited about what I have seen so far."
The weather, the altitude and all those things. How do they factor in at least the first couple of days at camp?
"One of our goals was to get to some cooler weather and clearly we've got that. I think that's going to have a good impact on our team. It remains to be seen how that manifests itself, but I like the idea of maybe being ten or fifteen degrees cooler."
You will be addressing the general media later today and the players will take their physicals. Does this first, initial day set the tone for the rest of camp?
"The conditioning test is important to gauge where your team is at physically. We were able to get the guys that reported early – we had a conditioning test with those guys and I think the results were pretty good. I'm expecting more of the same when the rest of the veterans do that conditioning test. The rules are a little bit different now in terms of, we don't really have two-a-days at this point. It's a padded practice and basically a walk-through. We've got some non-padded days, so it's more of a transition period into a training camp than it used to be, and I think that's a good thing."
You talk about the transition into training camp, it signals the end of one of the most important things of the year, and that's building a roster. Does that give you anxiety in regards to what you will see on the field during training camp, or are you pleased with how things went in the offseason?
"I don't have any anxiety over that. Obviously if you have an injury or something unexpected happens and you have to scramble around to replace a roster spot, we've had to do that in the past and are prepared to do that. That causes a little bit of angst, but other than that we are pleased with the roster we have here and are excited to get started."
New Orleans Saints fans are pleased to see Jimmy Graham back on the field this weekend. Did the Jimmy Graham process this offseason go how you thought it would, and how significant was it to get it all wrapped up before camp?
"Obviously it's great to have that contract done and Jimmy under contract for the next four years. As far as the process, nothing surprises me. When you've been around as long as I have, you've pretty much seen all of these contract situations play out before. It doesn't surprise me. I wish we had been able to get it done earlier, but we weren't. I saw some report that said we're used to these deadline negotiations. I think we've only had two. We've signed plenty of guys long before any deadline came through, so I don't know that that's a fair comment. And yet, two of our high profile guys here, Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham, did go down to the last minute. That happens a lot; it's not unexpected. I'm just glad that it's behind us. I think both sides of that negotiation understand that it's a business process and it's behind us."
The New Orleans Saints arrived in West Virginia for 2014 New Orleans Saints Training Camp presented by Verizon on July 23, 2014. Photos by Alex Restrepo (New Orleans Saints photos)
What are some things to watch during this training camp?
"I think the number one thing would be the battle for the center position. We've got some good candidates there. Obviously we've got a familiar face in Jonathan Goodwin back with our team and Tim Lelito battling it out for that spot. We've also got a rookie, Matt Armstrong, that we like what we've seen (from) so far. That will be interesting to see. We've got a good group of corners. Obviously Keenan Lewis is established and Champ Bailey's resume speaks for itself. We've got a good number of young corners that are talented, so that will be interesting to see how that sorts itself out. These young receivers, Kenny Stills and Nick Toon, Brandin Cooks…that's going to be exciting to watch. I'm not as concerned about who's starting or who's playing; they're all going to play. They're all talented and they all have a different skill set, so it will be interesting to see how we take advantage of those players. That's what comes to mind immediately. Obviously there will be other things, but those are the things that come to mind immediately."
I read somewhere that this is the best roster that Sean Payton has ever had at his disposal. Do you want to weigh in on that?
"I don't think of it in terms of that because it doesn't really do us any good. If you say you have the best roster or you don't, that's not winning or losing the games. What we do on the field and how it all comes together as a team, that's what's most important. I don't even think about that to be honest with you."
When I talk to Coach Monty Williams on the basketball side, there's always those guys that play to a certain coach's style and a coach working toward what players he has on his roster. How does that translate to what you and Coach Payton do on the football side here?
"One of Sean's greatest strengths is to be able to assess and understand what every player is capable of doing and then being able to take advantage of that. He does a great job, and our offensive and defensive coaches do a great job of putting players in a position to be successful and not trying to put square pegs in round holes so to speak, and ask them to do things that maybe is not a strength for them. We're in the business of acquiring the best players we can – players that can help us win. And yes, we have things that we're looking for that fit what we're looking for, but I think our coaches do a great job of taking advantage of the skill sets they have. As long as we have that identified, what their strengths are."
Are there guys on this roster that in your eyes have a legitimate chance of becoming the next Khiry Robinson or somebody who finds their way through camp or through your offseason process to make an NFL roster, especially this one?
"I'm not going to name any individuals, but I think we have a number of young unknowns that have a chance, that have flashed some things. You really can't see that and it doesn't manifest itself until you have the pads on and you're hitting in practice, and of course the preseason games. I do think that we have some young guys that will surprise a lot of people."
Last year we had the story line of Coach Payton's return and Rob Ryan and everything else. Is there a steadiness this year with the coaching staff?
"Yeah last year was unique because of the situation with Sean and his return. Each year a third of our roster is turning over. Even for him, there were a lot of new faces. I do think that continuity amongst your players, your staff is important. It's a commodity that's hard to come by in professional sports, so it's really valuable to have continuity and stability. Certainly this year it feels like we have more of that. We did have some turnover with some veteran players that had been with us for a long time and were great players for us and contributed to a lot of our success. We'll miss those guys, but I think we've got some young players that are ready and able to step into those shoes."