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New Orleans Saints player transcripts from Wednesday

Kenny Stills, Jim Leonhard, Akiem Hicks, Jabari Greer, Drew Brees, Luke McCown and Seneca Wallace met with the media following practice


New Orleans Saints Wide Receiver Kenny Stills
Post-Practice Media Availability
Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Kenny with Joe Morgan out, you are one of the candidates competing to fill the role he had last year. Is that something you feel that you can fill?

"No, I wouldn't say that I automatically fall into that role. We got a lot of guys still out here competing for that spot. But I can definitely stretch the field and it's something that I'm capable of doing.

You ran an offense at Oklahoma that's somewhat similar to the offense here. Looking at your adjustment compared to Nick Toon's last year, it seems you've made yours was a lot faster. Would you say your time at Oklahoma has helped with your adjustment?

"Yes. Definitely the fact that we ran a similar system helps me a lot. Extra hours in the playbook is all I'm doing. It's playbook, practice, meetings and cold tub. (I'm) Just focusing on (that) and if I do that I'm going to get on the field a lot faster.

What is your biggest adjustment so far?

"Just getting on the same page with the quarterback again. Especially having a great quarterback like Drew (Brees). I want to make sure that he can trust me and I'm in the right spot at the right time."

As you approach your first preseason game, what's going through your mind?

"I just want to go out there and show my teammates and my coaches that I can play and that I'm not just a practice player. I want to show them that I can really produce and do some things out there on the field."

New Orleans Saints Safety Jim Leonhard
Post-Practice Media Availability
Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Jim what are the differences you see in the offense and the defense so far in training camp?

"I think you see the defense with a new scheme. Offensively, they're in their third or fourth year and they're rolling. They're testing us every day. We have a lot of veterans and if we keep improving like we are, we have a chance to be a good team."

Defensively, what are the soft spots that you want to see improve?

"I think its communication. We have a lot of talented guys and a lot of depth. It's just getting the communication and avoiding the mental mistakes. If you make a team beat you every single play, you're going to have a lot of success. Anytime you're in a new scheme I think that's what you're worried about. I think we've handled it really well. We're getting to a point in (training) camp where we're putting ourselves in a lot of different positions."

With the announced loss of Kenyon Coleman today and Victor Butler earlier with injuries for potentially a significant period, it's not good news for the Saints?

"It hurts. Anytime you bring in guys like Kenyon and Butler who have been in this system it's going to hurt. Rob (Ryan) was kind of thinking of leaning on those guys as far as teaching. On top of that they're great people so when you lose them it's going to hurt. Unfortunately, that's the way this game is and it's the next man up mentality. You feel sorry for those guys and a lot of us have been through that before."

Do you have enough depth to make up for those losses?


"That's not my decision. I think we've got a lot of talented guys. If they don't like what we have I'm sure they will bring somebody in. This is a team that is going to do what it takes to win. We're going to count on the guys that we have on the roster right now and if they feel like we need help I'm sure they take care of it."

You know this system really well and that's really been a big help. Its certainly a big reason why you're here?

"I think that's one reason why they brought me in. I've played in a lot of different systems and communication has been crucial to why I'm still playing nine years in. Anything I can do to help, whether it's talking through defenses or helping out the young guys, I'm willing to do that. I realize that that's part of my role."

You really made it into this league initially through special teams. Do you stress that to some of the younger guys?

"I always try to stress to the younger guys how important special teams are. It's not like college where there are 120 guys. You've 46 active on game day. If you're not starting on offense or defense, you're going to have to help out. A lot of these guys haven't done that in a while. You always stress it and I think we've done a great job. Sean (Payton) stresses it and Coach (Greg) McMahon does a great job. I think we've got guys responding to the coaching and I think we've done pretty well."

You've seen some pretty good safeties. Tell me your evaluation of Kenny Vaccaro.

"Kenny has a lot of talent and I think he's going to be a great player. Kenny understands football and that's the main thing. He doesn't act like a rookie or make rookie mistakes. If he makes a mistake he fixes it. I think he's got a very promising future and hopefully I'm around to see it for a while."

New Orleans Saints Cornerback Jabari Greer
Post-Practice Media Availability
Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Do you think Patrick Robinson has the ability to play in the slot?

"I think P-Rob is one of the best athletes on our team. I think if that's what he needs to do, than he's more than capable of doing it. The way I look at it, we have four starting caliber cornerbacks on our team with P-Rob, Keenan (Lewis), myself, and Corey White. This is a truly competitive secondary and I trust that our coaches are going to use us in the best way to help our team. We're excited to have P-Rob back and I know he is a guy that is going to play wherever the coaches tell him to play."

Malcolm Jenkins came into the league as a top cornerback, and made the switch to safety after playing the nickel position for a year. Do you think we could see he and Kenny Vaccaro at some times covering the slot receiver?

"I'm sure that we could. Rob (Ryan) does a great job of creating packages to put our best players on the field. I wouldn't rule it out, but I'm not going to be the source that says we're going to put it in. I think we're going to do something in the end to get our best players on the field."

Can you talk about the losses of Kenyon Coleman and Joseph Morgan?

"This game is tough. If you know me, I am more invested in who they are as men and as friends of mine than as football players. Being that we have lost two guys with the character of Kenyon and Joe, it really hurts you personally because they are good friends of mine. We just pray for them and try to talk to them and see where they are mentally. Kenyon is a strong man of faith, and I actually felt worse for him yesterday than he felt for himself. I tried to come to him real somber and he said everything is good and everything has a purpose. He really encouraged me with his mindset. I haven't spoken with Joe yet, but I realize that he is a guy that wants us to go full steam ahead and lift him up and really forget about it. He realizes that he is still a part of our team, but to move on and to bring those other guys in and embrace them in the role that they have."

Have the young and unproven receivers shown you anything as a defensive back that makes you think that they could find a way on offense to plug the hole left by Joseph Morgan?

"Yes they have. Really the young and unproven receivers we have: Kenny (Stills) has done a great job, his explosion off the line, (and) his explosion in and out of his breaks has really caught my eye. We have some other guys that have come from other teams, Preston Parker and the way he has come up big on situations, Jarred Fayson, he's a young receiver trying to get in here. We have a couple of (the other) guys that are stepping up. Andy Tanner is stepping up incredibly. I like Brent Leonard, (and) the way he's really filling that role. Nick Toon is great with his hands. He's great getting his body position and going up and catching the ball. He's also a young receiver. I forget that Toon is a young receiver because he carries himself with such maturity that I feel like he's been here for a while. He is another guy that's going to get in there and get an opportunity. He is a guy who has shown me that he can embrace the role and he can make plays when called upon. We have a lot of guys that are going to get a lot of opportunities, and I think Toon is going to be one of those guys."

Which receiver(s) do you look at as that over-the-top receiver in the styles of Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem and Joseph Morgan?

"We have a couple of those guys. Stills is one of those guys; Preston Parker is one of those guys. Fayson can get out there. Brent Leonard has actually shown us some real good speed. I don't want to leave anybody out. As soon as I leave here I'm going to walk into the locker room and see somebody I forgot, Saalim Hakim, you tell me. We have Steve Breaston. They've done a great job of getting guys who fit that mold. I don't want to leave anybody out or be disrespectful to anybody who deserves that opportunity, but we have seen it in practice, and I'm sure you have gotten many clips of guys who can fly. We are in a production business, and they (front office) find talent to put in there to complement the system. I have faith that Sean (Payton) and Mickey (Loomis) and the coaches are going to put the best player in that position to fill that role."

Talk about Akiem Hicks, he's got a pretty big opportunity to step up in Kenyon Coleman's absence.

"He does. That guy has a motor that continues to go. He is a player that we are looking for to have a good season this year. Akiem Hicks has come such a long way from where he was last year, and it's his preparation. His presence in the locker room, he's one of those guys who goes about his work and really takes the job seriously. He's a young professional and I really look forward to seeing what Akiem has for our team this year."

How tough is this heat? A couple of guys left practice early because of it, and you guys are in top shape.

"It's something that we have to face. We realize that we are here in New Orleans and we're going to have to face it when we go out to practice. We have to get acclimated. It's not an excuse, We do have to battle through the adversity. I don't want to stand in front of the cameras and say that it's too much for us, this is what we get paid to do. When I think that it's too hot, I look across the lot at Winn Dixie and say 'Oh, they're hiring and it's nice and cool in the refrigerator section.' I'm glad to be out here and I enjoy this opportunity. So is it too hot for me? No. It's not too hot for me because I'm living a dream…but it's hot though."

(Former Saint) Jonathan Casillas was asked last week in Tampa what's the biggest difference between here and Tampa? He said that in New Orleans we have an indoor facility. What are your thoughts on those comments?

"I love JC. I'm sorry they don't have that indoor facility. I wish they did, I'm sorry. Obviously we are out here, we're getting our work done. When coach feels like it's time for us to get indoors, we do. We're getting great work out here in the field. Coach Payton does a great job of measuring the emotional tempo of his players. When he feels like we need to go in, we do. I wish Tampa had that luxury, but they don't I'm sorry. But you know…Winn Dixie is hiring."

New Orleans Saints Quarterback Seneca Wallace
Post-Practice Media Availability
Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What are your thoughts about going into the first preseason game of the year?

"Excited.  There are a lot of different emotions from me, new system, new organization, new fans and a new atmosphere.  I'm just eager to see.  Last time I played here, I think, was right before Hurricane Katrina when I was with Seattle.  I think we were one of the last teams to play there before the hurricane hit on Sunday.  It's exciting."

How are you feeling and progressing health wise?

"It's progressing.  With the abductor, it makes it difficult for a quarterback to drop back.  I'm just going to keep working, coming out here and getting my reps in, mental reps and doing stuff after practice to make sure I don't lose a step when I get back."

What has it been like with you, Luke McCown and Ryan Griffin competing for the backup quarterback job?

"The good thing is that I can lean on them somewhat because Luke has been here and knows about the system.  Ryan Griffin has played in the system before in college so, leaning on them and ask questions about certain things that I might have questions about on the field.  It's been a good healthy competition. It's been fun so far."

Do you still think you have that ability to make plays early with your feet like you did in college and early in your pro career?

"You take care of your body, as long as you take care of your body the right way during the offseason.  Even though I am 33 years old, I feel like I can run and do everything I use to do when I was 23.  (I'm) Just making sure I maintain my health level and staying on top of things.  Obviously, now in 2013 and the success last year with that type of offense (read-option), people are biting at the bit to try and do a little of it.  It's going to be a little different now that everybody is having different defensive coordinators and the offseason to prepare for.  We will see what happens this season."

What does Mike Holmgren mean to you as far as your development as an NFL quarterback and your ability to last this long?

"It meant a lot. Going into a system like the way he was coaching, he demanded a lot out of the quarterback.  He helped develop me and mold me with the help of a quarterback coach (Jim Zorn) who played.  So, they did a great job in just making sure he honed in on those skills to be a professional quarterback.  It wasn't in my early career that they said, hey you need to run around and do this, you need to stay in the pocket, make your reads, know the coverages and all those different things that they ask for a quarterback to do."

How frustrating was it last year and having to sit at home?

"It was tough. Obviously, when it happened at the end of training camp, it's always tough for a quarterback to go somewhere else. You have to look at the numbers. A guy might have been with a head coach for six or seven months, you might have four quarterbacks and it's tough for a quarterback to get released at the end of training camp, go somewhere else and try and pick up a whole new offense.  It put things in perspective.  I got to sit back and it was the first time in 15, 16 years that I got to watch football on Sundays and be a fan and see it on the (NFL Sunday) Ticket.  You kind of see the product we put out there and it makes you want to get back out there and start playing again."

What does it mean to you to be in the league for 10 years?

"It's a blessing. Going from where I just came in where they weren't really glorifying short mobile quarterbacks.  I think me, Drew Brees, and maybe Michael Vick were (the only) "too short" quarterbacks in the league when I first came in.  To be able to last this long and be able to play this game, it's been a blessing.  With this day and age you really don't see a lot of people standing around for a long period of time through the injuries or whatever the case may be.  As long as I can continue to keep playing I am happy to be here and be in a Saints uniform."

Do you have any memories about your first preseason game throughout the years?

"Yes, I remember actually when we played here.  I think that might have been my second (or third) year.  I still remember we got down in the red zone and this was my first running touchdown that I had here.  I remember the Saints came with a blitz.  Back there I was sweating, I was just trying to make (a play).  I utilized my legs.  I ran backwards and then ran up the sidelines for about a 30 yard touchdown.  You remember the first preseason game when things like that happen, especially in your younger years."

When you look where you are at now, do you think you can still make plays with your feet, but you're almost looking to extend the play as well?

"Yes, you have to be smart.  Obviously, you are not going to be running around each and every play but you have to pick and choose.  Like you said, it's extending plays.  It's not trying to scramble out and take off 50 yards down the sideline.  It's about extending plays and letting your receivers work to get open and usually that is when big plays happen.  If you can extend a play by making one guy miss, another guy miss, and still keep your eyes down the field and make a big play, it's just a great feeling when you (help someone) get that big catch."

New Orleans Saints Q Drew Brees
Post-Practice Media Availability
Wednesday August 7, 2013

What have the unproven guys shown you that give you confidence that can fill that void left by Joseph Morgan?

"Kenny Stills has been that personnel filling in in that 11 personnel group. He is playing very well. He seems to be grasping the offense, you can tell at times his head is spinning a little bit because it's a lot of information and a lot to think about at times but for a guy like him, for a guy like (Nick) Toon, (Andy) Tanner, and other guys, Preston Parker has really stepped up and played well. There are quite a few guys that are kind of getting back into the mix Jarred Fayson has really shown up the past couple of days after being out the first couple days of camp. All these young receivers can play it's just a matter of how they bee through the big picture."

I know Joe kind of publicly didn't blame Kenny Vaccaro, he said look don't blame him it just happens, I mean it just happens, how is it on his end?

"There is such a free play, you know. He was kind of, you know bang bang. I mean he catches it and Kenny is just there and jumps on his back and in the process of putting his knee down, it kind of buckles on him gets caught in a funny position. Sometimes you have those freak incidents where kind of out of every ones control."

Do the receiver corps have people with the skill sets to replace him?

"That's kind of hard to do, (because) each guy has a little different skill set. There are some guys when you talk about just flat out speed I'm not sure if there is anyone who could run like Joe. There's other things that a guy can bring to the table different than what Joe could do. We take those skill sets and we incorporate them to you know what they do best and that's how we structure the offense and structure the game plan. We are not going to ask a guy that's uncomfortable with or he is not good at. Let's kind of cultivate the things he can do confidently."

New Orleans Saints DE Akiem Hicks
Post-Practice Media Availability
Wednesday, August 7, 2013

How much progress have you seen since the beginning of training camp?

"We work really hard in this hot sun. I feel like our defense has come together, we got everything installed, and everything together ready for the first preseason game."

With the loss of Kenyon Coleman how does that affect the defense?

"That's really tough and that kind of puts our game back a little. Coleman was a tough loss yesterday. You don't want to see that for anybody. Not for your team, the opposing team or anybody."

Does it create more opportunities for you?

"It creates opportunities for everybody. It's opportunity for everybody to get a little bit better, create more reps (and helps others) fit into the system more and (provides) more room (on the roster)."

You have been working at both defensive tackle and defensive end?

"Yes, I have been working both nose guard and defensive tackle since the beginning of camp, the beginning of OTA's."

Are you comfortable with those positions?

"I really am. I have done them my whole career so I am pretty comfortable."

Lately that defensive end spot is a big spot, I know Rob Ryan says it is the second most important position defensively other than the nose guard position. With Kenyon Coleman out, are you the next man up?

"You are an anchor for the defense (in that position). I take that with a lot of responsibility and I plan on doing my job."

Have you worked a lot on your leverage skills and using your hands since you got into the league?

"That was my focus the whole offseason. I am a 6'5" guy, and (I need to) make sure my pad level is low, I'm getting off the ball at a low angle and exploding into guys."

You think you will be getting more snaps at defensive end now with Coleman out?  You have been working all three positions, but do you think you will focus more on one position?

"You hate to think of it like that. You feel for your guy, but you got to step up and play your role. One of my first thoughts was is Coleman going to be alright? However, you got to step up and play your role."

Kind of the same thing, with Sedrick Ellis leaving that opens up some opportunities for you seeing you are going to be the next man up in every situation?

"We have a few guys that left in the past year and a half. I feel like hopefully I can fill my role and do my job accordingly."

New Orleans Saints Quarterback Luke McCown
Post-Practice Media Availability
Tuesday, August 7, 2013

Just talk a little about the first preseason game and your thoughts knowing that you're going to get some reps.

 "I am looking forward to it. Training camp is such a grind for the first week and a half that you really can't wait until you get on the field and start putting together the things you have been working on against somebody else. Now there is not a whole lot of scheming going on in pre-season so it's really good to work your rules, the fundamentals of what you have been taught, what the coaches have implemented in the system and try it against someone else."

What's it been like, with the competition for the backup role between you Seneca Wallace, and Ryan Griffin?

"It's been great. You can't ask for a better room of quarterbacks. You really can't. It's good competition. We want each other to do well, we want each other obviously to be better players, and anytime you have that interest in the lives of the people that are in your room, it's going to make your team better because your team feeds off of that as well. They say, 'Hey I want to help my teammate help him push him to be better.'"

You were here last year in the preseason and you know a lot of the receivers and tight ends on this team. How much has that really helped you this year because you are on the same page early on with the receivers and tight ends?

"Last training camp, (and) preseason I didn't receive a lot of reps for obvious reasons. Being around the guys, the camaraderie, the chemistry and building daily interaction always helps. Going through this first week and a half of (training) camp and receiving reps with them only makes you feel more comfortable and really can't wait to get on the field with them."

You have seen Kenny Stills come in and make an impact. Has he made a pretty quick adjustment to the NFL?

"Yes, and he has got a load of talent. He is a smooth runner, runs every route in the book.  Kenny will do whatever Kenny will do in this league I really believe that. He has played on big stages. He is not going to be intimidated by it. It's just a matter of growing up into the system, performing in the system the way it will allow him to perform and then being consistent with it."

You never played on an NFL team with two tight ends like Jimmy Graham and Benjamin Watson. Basically they are two of the best tight ends in the NFL as far as receiving is concerned and that's got to be a comfort to you?

"Absolutely, it's comforting to any quarterback. You have to be able to throw the ball to the tight end in this league. Corners and safeties are getting better just like receivers are getting better. Coverages are getting more complicated to decipher in the drop. So you have to be able to rely on a big target that will be able to go up and get the ball over the top of a linebacker, over the top of a safety, or you can spread out wide and get a matchup versus man coverage that is favorable to you. We have two guys who can do that for us."

In your career in your first preseason game, does anything stand out from your years in the NFL?

"I remember my rookie year I played Kansas City, I was drafted by Cleveland, we hit kind of a desperation play to win the game, (a) scramble to the left to about the 40-yard line, and the receiver had a wonderful play in the back corner of the end zone to beat Kansas City with no time left. That was the one of first things I remember about my rookie year."

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