New Orleans Saints Outside Linebacker Victor Butler
Post-Practice Media Availability
Monday, July 28, 2014
Last year you made a comment that your expectation was for this defense to go from the worst in 2012 to the best in 2013. Obviously you had your injury, but your teammates did work towards significant improvement in the unit. Do you carry those same sentiments into this year that you can be the best defense in the league?
"I mean it's the same guys, so I mean yeah you would have to say that. You'd have to say that this year we finished top five, but we want to be number one. That's in every aspect: run, pass, third down, everything like that. I think that this is a group who can do it. The coaches, everybody is focused on the same goals. I think this training camp is getting picked up pretty good. Guys haven't lacked anything, so I'm looking forward to getting out there and I think we should be a number one defense."
How long of a wait has this been for you after last year's injury?
"It felt like ten years. It's been a long time coming and I'm glad to just be back out here in pads, feeling healthy again, being able to run around and hit with my teammates."
How healthy are you?
Do you feel like you're ready for a big spot in the rotation? Do you think starting is still a possibility?
"All you can do is get out there and play football. All that other stuff is up to other people. All I can do is get out there and try to play the best football I can put on film. Whether that leads to a starting job, or a rotational job, or a special teams job…who knows? All I can do is (to) do the best that I can do to my abilities."
Can you talk about the mental versus physical aspects of coming back from injury and what is had been like?
"It's been rough. It's depressing, it's sad, you're angry all at the same time. None of that gets you healed faster, so you just turn your focus to rehabbing and stuff like that. Now that the physical rehab is over, I'll be out there with the mental part. Being reckless and making plays, not worrying about whether somebody is going to hit you in the knee or if you're going to get cut. Those plays happen in football. You've just got to get out there and be a football player again."
Rob Ryan said he was ready to see you out there in a game again. This team was one of the better pass-rushing teams in the league last year. Do you think you can help add to that? Do you maybe have a personal goal of double-digit sacks?
"All personal goals aside, I just want to get out there and help my teammates. Whether that's getting out there as a rotational guy, or starter, or special teams guy. You've got to feel like, as a player and as an individual competitor, you can get out there and add to the betterment of your team. That's what I'm looking to do: get out there, work hard, and add to the team."
Did last year's injury change your perspective of how you look at football?
"No I've always seen that. Being in this league, you understand the business aspect of it too. People come and go, injuries happen. Guys are tremendous players and then get cut down day one of training camp. It happens all the time, and that's why it's such a hard grind. I think a lot of people don't understand how tough it is mentally and physically off the field for you. You suffer an injury, yeah you're done playing football, but that weighs on you when you're at home or you're walking your dog, when you're having dinner with your fiancée or your wife. That stuff carries over, so it is tough."
What were the good and bad of Junior (Galette) having a breakout year and Parys (Haralson) coming in and contributing?
"Where's the bad? We won a playoff game. I didn't see any bad in it. Those guys played tremendous football. They're tremendous football players. When you look at it, they helped the team win. We almost had a Super Bowl ring. I was a fan first, and you've got to appreciate the efforts of your teammates. Those guys played tremendous football. Anytime you can't get on the field it's bad, but when you got Junior and Curtis Lofton and Cam Jordan and Akiem Hicks and guys like that going out there and playing good football…I'm a teammate first, (and) an individual second. It was just great to see my team shine like that."
With Lofton and David Hawthorne in the middle, do you see a special connection between those two?
"Yes, those guys are fearless and they're smart. When you've got two fearless, smart middle linebackers, to me one of the best tandems in the league as far as athleticism and speed and just knowledge of the game, I don't think there's two guys that are better than those guys."
What's it like when Rob Ryan is getting on guys during practice?
"I think that when you've got special guys like that, you expect them to be special all the time. When they're just average, or when they're just good and you know they can be great, you have to get on them. You can't let them slack, and that's all it was."
Rob Ryan has believed in you for a long time. How has he helped you and what has he meant to you during this process of missing a year?
"Everybody on the staff has just been really helpful. Teammates, down to Mickey Loomis and Khai (Harley) have been real supportive, trying to help me bounce back and get out here and play some football again."
Have you thought about what that first preseason game will be like?
"Nah, not at all. I've been taking camp one day at a time. I haven't been in pads in almost 18 months, two Januarys ago pretty much. It feels good just to be back in pads again. I'm going to take it one day at a time. You treat each training camp day like a game. When you finally get to that first preseason game, hopefully you feel good, you feel fluid, your instincts are back, and you're just able to play football again."
Does working out in the gym and physical therapy get boring?
"Oh yeah, but you know that the end goal and the end result is what's going to pay off for you. You've got to put in those long hours of rehab. I had a lot of bringing donuts and coffee to the trainers and the equipment staff, because I'm the first guy there in the morning. I'm glad that those days are over, and now it's just back to playing football."
What kind of head coach do you think Rob Ryan would be?
"One that wins games. He's a great head coach. He understands how to work guys and when to taper off and his schemes are good. I see him being a winning coach like a (Bill) Belichick, like a Sean Payton, like those guys."
Can you talk about the priority of this camp being turnovers for the defense?
"Even last year we made it a priority to stress taking the ball away. I think that guys have, even more so this year, gotten on top of that. Guys are punching the ball away, whether it's an incomplete pass picking it up and running with it or an interception, fumble, anything like that…guys are trying harder to create turnovers and it's become more of a conscious effort. It's like second nature now."
New Orleans Saints Center Tim Lelito
Post-Practice Media Availability
Monday, July 28, 2014
What are your thoughts on camp so far?
"Just go out there every day and keep grinding. That's basically it. It's the second day, so just keep getting better every day."
Do you think about the competition for the starting position at center, or do you just go out there and do your thing?
"Just going out there and doing what I can. Improve and get better every day as me as a center. When I'm back there, you better believe I'm watching him (Jonathan Goodwin), just watching the little stuff that he does right all the time. I'm trying to pick up on that kind of stuff."
How much time do you spend playing center and guard? Do they shuffle you back and forth?
"No. Just center right now."
What us the setup dynamically between you and Jonathan Goodwin? You said you learn visually, but do you try to pick his brain at all?
"When we're at lunch and stuff and dinner, I'll sit down with him and talk about what we're doing on this and if the shade's here then what do you think. Definitely I think we have a good rapport on and off the field."
Is there anything you're struggling with right now that has stood out to you?
"Yeah, there's a few things (laughter)."
What's it like to have a friendly competition, but still a competition?
"It's definitely a competition. We're both going for the starting center position. It's nice to have a guy that will actually work with you and teach you things. He's not going to dog-test me or (say), 'I'm not saying anything to you because you're my competition.' We're both trying to make this team better."
Is the transition to center easier when you have two Pro-Bowl guards alongside of you?
"That helps, yeah. It definitely helps."
You said you've learned a lot from Goodwin. Have you had the chance to teach him anything yet?
"I don't know if you can teach someone who has been in the league for thirteen years something. That's kind of hard to do."
What's the mindset of trying to be a more balanced offense this year?
"You say, 'Be more balanced.' I think if you go into a game, whatever's working is what we're going to do. The Cardinals last year, when they were in jam front the whole time, we passed the ball all over them. I think when they get in that type of front, it's hard to run the ball on them, so why not pass it? I think Coach Payton is really great at that, and the whole staff is great at looking and seeing what type of defense they're in and what we can run against it."
Has the transition from guard to center been more physical or mental?
"Mental, a lot of mental."
Last year at this time you were just trying to impress and find a spot. Now you're battling for a starting spot. Is the one year difference a big leap?
"It's different, but at the same time it's kind of the same because last year you're competing to get on the team and this year you're competing for a job, an actual starting spot. I still come into it the same way mentally, as this is do or die today. I don't think you can take any plays off or take days off or anything like that, especially when you're going for the starting center position."
What are some of the mental challenges from switching?
"Identifying defenses and who's the Mike and where we're going and basically…I mean it helps with Drew because Drew does a lot of that stuff, but just getting up there for me, just saying the stuff and being like, 'Hey come on Jah!' or 'Hey, come on Ben. We're going this way.'"
Are you comfortable making those calls?
Can this defensive line be as good as any to help you improve your game?
"Yeah, when you go up against a defensive line that's as good, it's only going to make us better. That's crucial."
New Orleans Saints Tackle Zach Strief
Post-Practice Media Availability
Monday, July 28, 2014
In your experience, do a lot of older guys help out the younger guys?
"In my experience that is how it's been. I think that is why it happens here so much is that there has been a culture of it for a long time. I know that I've said 100 times of what Jon Stinchcomb did for me and my career. I played behind him for five years. Every day it was like I had a personal coach. Every time I came out it was like try this, do this, and yet at the same time I am trying to take his job which is why it doesn't happen very much. I think that having that in a team is what creates kind of a culture of success because that knowledge you gain by playing is kind of invaluable. As good as our coaching staff is, there are certain things that only you get from experience. To be able to pass that down I think it keeps this team competitive and it has been the culture and really that is a testament to Mickey Loomis and Coach Payton and the kind of guys that they've brought in here. I think everyone loves coming to work because they brought in good guys and I think guys try to do the right thing and really the right thing is to help those guys behind you."
Do you still workout with Jon Stinchcomb?
"I work out in Atlanta and stay with Jon Stinchcomb. Jon refuses to work out. You'll be able to see that when he comes to do the preseason games. He clearly hasn't been to the gym in a long time. I go and stay with Jon and his wife and kids. I go to where Jon used to workout. He's really how I got hooked up there. Jon doesn't come with me. What Jon does for me is no longer football. I think Jon has given me all the knowledge and wisdom of really that he has to give. What he does now is get me mentally ready to come to camp. I think spending that time with his wife and kids, time at their style of life out in the country, It really slows life down. It really calms me down a lot, (to get) ready for camp. So he still is giving me stuff. He's still a huge part of any success that I get. I will always say that Jon Stinchcomb is probably the biggest reason why I am still around. I appreciate him and love him like family. It is a special relationship that I am fortunate to have."
Do you all get fired up in the meeting room when you are looking at a good play on film?
"I think, first of all look, I have been on a lot of inside drills where there are two safeties and so, and there are supposed to be safeties, sometimes you look at, yesterday for example, we are running the slash game, outside stuff, some of that stuff there is supposed to be a fell guy, there is another guy. I think we look at all these periods as a learning experience. Even in gashes there are probably two guys that could have probably done something better. Look, at the same time we don't want to get stuffed every play. I know the defense doesn't want to give up a play in spite of the fact they know there is another guy coming outside to fill that gap. There is good competition there. I tried to give (Akiem) Hicks a high five after the period and he told me now. There is definitely competitiveness and that is part of training camp. I think that great teams learn to compete in those situations. There is a lot of that and yet we want to have every play be a gash. It is never going to happen so there is always something to learn and something to get better at."
Can you talk about Khiry Robinson?
"He's always worked hard from the very beginning. That is a tough thing to teach so we already had that with him. I think he is a lot more comfortable with what we are doing. I think running backs as a whole are more comfortable in scheme and what exactly we are doing. When you get a player like that that is fast and explosive and can make you change direction and run really with a nasty streak and knows where he is supposed to go and what he is reading. You are kind of unleashing a lot of potential there. I think he knows he has a lot of work to do still, but certainly off on the right foot and a guy I think we are all excited about."
Can this be one of the better rushing attacks in the NFL?
"I think we would like to be one of the most efficient rushing attacks (in the NFL). At the end of the day I think that you want to play to your strengths. We have one of the best quarterbacks (Drew Brees) in the history of the NFL and we are going to throw the football, but when we get a chance to run it I know we want five (yards) a carry. I know that we want to be efficient and if you look back at the years that we have been successful, I think that is really where the importance is, can you consistently and efficiently pick up yardage. I think we can be as good as a running team as we have ever been. I don't think that we need to be the 49ers where we are running the ball 50 times a game because I think that we have different pieces in place to be affective in the passing game. But I think the mindset of this camp is that we have to be a lot more efficient than we have been. I think we are off to a good start with it."
Is there anything different this year about the importance of the run game?
"I think that Pierre (Thomas) is right. I think that last year there was kind of a renewed focus and yet there was a big change that happened last year. I think going into this year there is a lot more understanding, a much better consistent understanding, linemen, tight ends, backs, on what exactly we are doing. There's that same emphasis that we had last year and there's a little big success early. I think there is a lot more confidence in it right now and I think guys are really excited in that part of the practice. I think the mindset in the past, I know for me, going in is get out of your stance, get in your set, throw your hands, that is all passing game thoughts because at the end of the day we are protecting Drew Brees and that is a very important job. And yet, now it seems like the mindset of going into practice is much more being physical, getting your aiming points, driving your back leg, all running game thoughts and really that is a testament to Coach (Bret) Ingalls and his focus."
Do you realize that when you are top 10 rushing attack you can't help but be successful under Sean Payton and Drew Brees?
"Absolutely, first of all it takes a ton of pressure not only off Drew but off of us. It's not easy to throw the ball 55 times a game. It is not ideal for a lineman. We want to run the football. There were times last year, and it's our fault. We have no one to blame but ourselves where you get into a game and you are throwing every play because your running isn't getting anything or losing a yard or losing two. We know the importance and we know the value of it. Certainly if you look at our history, most of us do, but the good years, the great offenses that we've had here have been able to run the ball efficiently so it is really important and I think we are off to a great start this year."
How do you take care of your body?
"I think first of all you have to be smart. I think Coach Payton and Drew (Brees) talk a lot about having a routine, spend time in the ice tub. The weight room is extremely important. To keep strong and stay strong, to keep getting stronger, cold tubs, we have all kinds of technology now. We have Norma Tec boots that compress the lactic acid out of your legs. Get off your feet, stretch, eat the right food. I know our nutritionist has done a great job. The nutrition aspect of our program is worlds ahead of where it was eight, nine years ago. I think Coach Payton is very aware of it and it is really a focus of getting your legs back, being smart. You are going to get sore but at the same time you can be proactive and keeping your body ahead of the game. Definitely the 70 degrees helps."
Do you have something that you swear by?
"I live in those Norma Tec boots. It is basically, it makes you look like you are wearing balloon pants. It blows them up and presses your legs and it really just squeezes a lot of the lactic acid out of your legs. The difference I feel before and after is night and day. I do it every day and it has helped me a lot."
New Orleans Saints Wide Receiver Nick Toon
Training Camp Media Availability
Monday, July 28, 2014
Do you feel like this camp is any different for you than it was last year?
"I am just trying to continue doing what I did last year, build off what I did last year and come out here and try to prove myself every day and just do my job. My biggest thing is I'm just trying to come out here and prove myself, stay consistent, and make plays."
Do you think you are having a good camp so far?
"Yeah, it's a good start. There's a lot of work to be done before the regular season gets started. I think I am off to a good start."
Does it feel good to kind of be the go to wide receiver in camp?
"You have to love getting the ball as a receiver. My job is to go out there and make plays. When the ball comes my way I am going to do everything in my power to go up there and make a play on the ball."
Did you know that Drew Brees has been talking highly of you?
"I'm happy to hear that. I just have to continue to come out here and do what I've done the first few days, continue to be consistent and just repeat what I have been doing. It is all about consistency. You have to be consistent. You have to earn the trust in the quarterback and the older guys, Drew (Brees), (Robert) Meachem, and (Marques) Colston, they have been playing together for a long time. It is very important for me as a younger player to continue to build that trust and be consistent like I keep talking about so that Drew can trust me."
Do you feel like the quarterback trust you?
"Trust comes with time. You can't make up chemistry. Chemistry comes from repetition and it comes with time. I have been here a few years now and it is something I have been trying to continue to develop from the first day I step on the field. Even now I am still trying to work on that every day. I am continuing to build on that chemistry and the relationship with the quarterbacks."
Would a good example be, you are working with Drew (Brees) and all of a sudden you ran a route and Drew threw the ball in the ground and comes back to you and tells you where you need to be?
"Yeah, it is exactly like that. Nothing is ever perfect in this world. The game of football is not perfect. There is always going to be a variable that you can't control, but that is why we practice. We should try to get it as close to perfect as we can. Building at that trust and chemistry, trying to get on the same wave length makes that a lot easier. When you know what one another are thinking, it makes it a lot easier to go out there and make plays."
Has it been hard to be patient in waiting for your opportunity?
"Oh definitely. I think patience is something that is hard for a lot of people. It is never easy to be patient but that is life. You just have to be patient and keep grinding, keep working and ready when your number is called."
Is there anything you've done to speed up your moment getting here a little sooner this offseason?
"I've just been continuing to do the things that have allowed me to have success thus far in my career. I'll continue to do those things throughout the rest of my career. You just have to keep working, do the things that you need to do in order to have success and be ready when your number is called."
Has your dad given you any advice to you?
"Just be patient. Like you said, you just have to be patient and be ready. You can twist it a million different ways but you just have to be ready when you opportunity presents itself."
Do you think your family tree have people saying that your progress should be going a little faster?
"I don't know. That is hard for me to say. I don't know what other people are thinking. Like I said, I just have to keep working and be ready when my number is called. Just keep doing what I've been doing, the things that have allowed me to have success thus far and I think things are going well. I just have to continue doing what I've been doing."
What are your expectations for this season?
"We will see. We have a long ways to go before the season. We have to get through this preseason. We will see."
What are your expectations for this season on a personal level?
"Just continue to build off what I did last year. I don't have any predictions for you. Just go out there and make plays and when my number is called I have to go out there and make a play."
How frustrating was it to get limited snaps last year? Was it a learning experience?
"Definitely, it was extremely frustrating. It was definitely a learning experience but it's something that you have to sit back and look, okay, why did this happen? What can I change? Move forward and take it as a learning experience and move forward. There are new learning experiences every day, positive and negative, you just have to learn from your past and use it to put yourself in a better position for the future."
New Orleans Saints Tight End Benjamin Watson
Post-Practice Media Availability
Monday, July 28, 2014
Can you talk about the difference between practicing with pads on and without?
"The first day of pads is always fun. It is always a little different to get out here and hit but that is how you have to prepare for football. Football is a physical game and so you have to work in pads. It is important that we keep our tempo up and as the days start to pile on, taking care of our bodies while we are off the field so we can get our work done."
Can you talk about the battles between the offense and defense?
"It is amazing how it goes back and forth like a game. One day the offense may get the better of the defense and then the next day the defense will be better. That is kind of how the ebb and flow goes for a good team. Although on offense we want to dominate all the time, if we don't that is also good because that means the defense is kind of adjusting to things that we have done and we have to do the same."
Can you feel the difference of the weather here?
"Yes, when you start to sweat and then the wind blows it's like, oh, we aren't in Louisiana are we? It is a little bit of a chill in the air. I think at night sometimes it gets down in the 50s although we are indoors at that point, but the weather is definitely different and it is a nice change up for a couple of weeks."
Is there something you can tell Jimmy Graham that can make him better blocking in the run game?
"I don't pretend to know all the answers because I'm working on stuff myself. I am trying to get better at catching the football and as well as blocking myself. One thing we really focus on is footwork. I think one thing that really learned in blocking is that we're overmatched by a lot of defensive ends, (and) a lot of linebackers. They're much bigger than us, much stronger than us, but if we have our footwork right we can get in the right position and our hand placement helps us in the blocking game as you know. That is something that we work on, is our footwork and our hands, and really understanding the whole concept of the play too. Understanding that the back has to take certain steps or cut back or the backs aiming point is out wide, that helps us get defenses to move so that we can get in a position to block."
How impressed are you that you have been able to play this long, but even more so with a fellow Georgia Bulldog in Champ Bailey?
"Any time that a guy goes past 10 (years), past 13, 14, where he is, I told him this morning actually, I said man, what you have to wait five years after you get done to get into the Hall of Fame? I am going to be there with my boys. By then they will know. And he made some joke, that is literally the truth of the matter, he's a first ballot Hall of Famer in my opinion and if not first, he will be there pretty soon. I am looking forward to a chance to represent and a cheer on a Bulldog when that time comes. You learn from people like that. It is great to have people like that on our defense, not just for the defenders obviously, but for the team as a whole to have someone that has made the longevity in the league and kind of see how they do things and how they have been successful for so long."
Do you think you will be around for 16 years?
"I don't know. It is year-to-year. It is day-to-day honestly. It is day-to-day. One of the biggest things you learn is about taking care of your body and being a professional and doing your job. It is not always going to be easy. It is not always going to be fun every day, but as a professional you come out, just like you all are, you come out and do your job when you don't feel like it and when you do feel like it. That is something that I learned very early on from people who have been in the game for a long time. It was the way they approached their craft."
What did you see going against the secondary today?
"They had a lot more movement today I think especially in that blitz package, the blitz period, they did a lot of moving around. They disguised a lot and that is how things go in training camp. You usually start off very vanilla on both sides of the ball and then the offense starts doing shifts and motions and then the defense has to adjust and then the defense starts disguising coverages and showing man when they are playing zone, things like that. By the time you get to the first scrimmage, most of everything will be in and it will really be like a game type situation."
How fired up do you get in the meeting rooms and say that is what we need to do in week one?
"Honestly, right now it is not even about week one. We are preparing, clearly, for week one, but right now we are preparing for the next practice. We are preparing for the next day and trying to bring together good nine on seven drills. There are mistakes made and you go back and look at film. You try not to do the same thing the next day and that is how you build. It is really a narrowed focus right now about each play, taking each play at a time and stringing those together."
How crucial is it to find the balance with the run game this season?
"Well, the run game is very important. For any successful football team I have ever been on, I've ever watched, they've have a good run game and they knew they could run the football when they needed to run the football and when the defense knew they had to run the football. When we look back at our season last year we played well in a lot of areas. We can obviously point at a couple of times where we needed to run the ball when we needed to win the game and we couldn't do so. So that is definitely an emphasis for us but it doesn't negate the fact that we do have an offense that likes to score points, that likes to spread the ball around, that has a lot of weapons as you say. And so we have to be efficient with both and I think when you are able to do that as an offense, be able to run the ball and power football, but you are also able to throw the ball and play the 'finesse football', you've got a defense on their heels and you can really score some points and really be successful. You can pick your spots where you can convert those third and ones that you really need in order to move onto the next round or win championships or whatever you are trying to do."
Do you feel like you need to achieve a better balance?
"Not necessarily a better balance, I think we just need to be more efficient when we have to. Balance is very important but part of balance is being efferent when you have to do something. If you have to run the football 10 times in a game but when you do it, you get the first down that you need, then in my book that is balance and that is what you need to do. When you are not able to do that, that is when you have an issue and when you have to rely heavily on the run or the pass."