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New Orleans Saints players talk about first training camp practice

Video and quotes from Cameron Jordan, Zach Strief, Kenny Vaccaro and Curtis Lofton

New Orleans Saints Defensive End Cameron Jordan
Media Availability
Friday, July 25, 2014

How do you like West Virginia so far?
"It's good. I can't complain about this weather. In Louisiana it probably just rained and we'd just be taking the field. I'm happy with this. This is wonderful."

Do you kind of sense a good energy to start camp?
"Yes. Everybody looks fast and light and everybody is just happy to be back on the field and start that first day off of camp."

Do you feel that this change of scenery has refreshed the guys?
"It's definitely something out of the ordinary. I'd like to say my rookie year we went to Oxnard for a week…that was cool. I like the vibe already. Everything is so inclusive. The hotel to the facility is all of two minutes away. I like being here, and I'm just looking forward to becoming a better team."

It's only been one workout, but was it pretty productive?
"Yeah it was pretty productive. The conditioning test yesterday, you guys should have been there for that one. That was a monster. First practice in, I'm looking forward to being a more cohesive unit this year and really displaying that on the field."

Entering your fourth year, do you see your leadership stepping up this camp?
"As far as leadership goes, we have a good group of core guys. Curtis Lofton is a linebacker who calls all the plays; he directs the defense. You have Kenny Vaccaro coming back. You have Jairus Byrd at safety again. You've got Keenan Lewis. Everybody sort of has their guys, and for the defensive line it's everybody trying to help everybody else out."

How much difference can there be between years one and two under Rob Ryan?
"I think it's going to prove to be an immense advantage for us. That being said, I haven't had a second-year defensive coordinator in half-a-decade now. I'm pretty excited about this one."

You said you were looking for more cohesion. Do you sense it yet? Is everything a little bit second nature now?
"Yeah. With all the guys coming back that have played together, and again on defense we've lost a few guys, so we have some young guys stepping up. I think it's going to make us better for it anyways."

A lot of the players have discussed their rooms and how they may not be 'football friendly.' What is your stance?
"I'm here to play football and I'm here to take the field."

Is your room pink?
"I'm here to play football, put on my helmet, and put on pads."

Is it comfortable?
"The beds are nice. I get my full seven hours of sleep, put on my pads, and play football."

How have you improved as a pass-rusher from your time in college?
"I attribute that to just coming up the ranks. Rookie year, I had all the veterans ahead of me, so they taught me that way. I really just progressed every year. I sort of got the feel of it, sort of got how to not only become a better athlete but to stay a better athlete through sixteen games. Whereas in college, as a kid you go out there and if you get injured you keep playing through it. You don't really learn how to maintain your body. That's the big difference, is learning how to maintain your body and break down film and get ready for your opponent the next week."

You haven't been shy about your comments about winning a Super Bowl this year.
"If every year you're not aiming for the Super Bowl, then what are you aiming for? What is the aiming point? The point of the football season is to bring home that championship, and honestly that's what we're here to do. We're not here to be a good defense, we're here to be the best defense. We're not here to a good offense, we're here to be the best. We're all here to be the best that we can be, and so the highest achievement we can get is a Super Bowl."

How has Rob Ryan helped you in your development?
"Rob Ryan, from the jump, just came in and put in his defense, but implemented everyone's best talents in that defense. I think he just brings out the best in a lot of different people, and that's what you get."

What do you see the biggest change being from last year to now?
"We picked up Jairus (Byrd). We picked up Champ (Bailey). That automatically brings a higher level of competition with the defensive backs. Of course on the defensive line, you have Akiem (Hicks) coming into his third year. I'm pretty excited about that. You got Junior (Galette) getting ready. A couple of the first year guys showed some major talent: John Jenkins and Glenn Foster. They're going into their second year and that's sort of where the jump happens. For the defense, it's really exciting to be a part of that, just to see the transition over the next three weeks or however long we're going to be here."

What stood out to you on the offensive side of the ball on day one?
"Everybody's fast. Joe Morgan looks fast and healthy, and that's impressive because everybody knows what he can do when he's healthy. As far as offense goes, it's going to be a battle. In the backfield, I'm seeing a new running back every play. That will be nice. Other than that, you know what the offense is bringing…major points, major offensive weapons. Jimmy (Graham) is happy; Jimmy is getting balls. It's going to be a tight end's world…or a wide receiver world. How are you going to label him? I still don't know. I'm out. You can label him, I will not."

New Orleans Saints Inside Linebacker Curtis Lofton
Media Availability
Friday, July 25, 2014

How much did you sweat today compared to the first practice in Metairie?
"I probably lost eight pounds less. The weather here is just amazing, especially for this. Being in New Orleans, it takes you longer to recover (from a practice). Being here doesn't take you as long to recover. You can practice longer and get more work done. Usually in New Orleans I lose about 10 pounds per practice. I'm guessing I lost about two or three right now."

How do you like this setup, being in a hotel room away from friends and family?
"I do like this, but at the same time I did enjoy going home and seeing my family, my dogs and everything. At the same time, this is football. We're concentrating on football. There's no distractions. It's just awesome being away from everybody and it's also good that we're in a different area so it's not the same routine. It's a new season, new place, and we're just ready to get it."

What can you tell us about the rookie linebackers' progression?
"I can say that they're all smart players. You can't really judge how physical somebody's going to be just out here running in a t-shirt and shorts, but they know their plays and that's what we're looking at right now. They're getting better every day."

In your second year in this defense, how second nature is it now?
"Oh it's easy now. The first year I was scrambling. Before the snap I was sitting there running through all the checks in my head. Now it's just second nature. It's just going off my instincts and allows me to concentrate more on what the offense is trying to do to us and allows us to play faster than what we have been."

Prior to stepping on the field here, did you get a sense of how this was going to be a better situation?
"When we first stepped off the airplane I thought I was going to need a sweatshirt. It was kind of cold, it had a nice little breeze. Going out and being able to get all our work in is big. We have to cut periods short (in New Orleans). I remember one time we had 21 guys who had to get IVs. I don't think we'll be having that here. It's just awesome to be out here in this. We've got a nice breeze right now. Usually you guys are drenched in sweat, and you guys aren't even sweating so I guess it's alright."

It is almost a given that Curtis Lofton will have 120 tackles. Is there a number you shoot for or is that something you pride yourself on?
"Yeah I definitely pride myself in getting tackles, stopping the ball, and making plays. But overall, I just want to be a guy that puts my team in the best situation for other guys to succeed and, when my number is called, making a play and sometimes making a play I shouldn't make. Always being out there and never missing plays, that's what I pride myself on. I love football."

The guys up front are developing into real threats to disrupt the offense. How does that help the linebackers?
"When you've got a front four that can get after the passer, you don't have to worry about us covering as long. They can't run the deep routes. When you've got Junior, Cam, Bunk, Akiem…I mean I can name all of our defensive linemen because all of them are special and bring something to the table. It just makes my job a lot easier. It makes it to where I don't really have to do too much, you know? I appreciate that."

New Orleans Saints Tackle Zach Strief
Media Availability
Friday, July 25, 2014

This is a little different than your first year in 2006 in Jackson, Miss., right?

"I'd say it is a lot different.  It's a different setting.  It is beautiful.  The weather, obviously, is kind of the big difference and I think you saw it reflected on the field I think.  Mentally that was as sharp of a first practice as we've ever had which I think is going to serve us well as the season goes on."

Would you rather be in West Virginia in the beginning or end of your career compared to the heat in Mississippi and Louisiana?

"The phrase keeps coming up, 'we started from the bottom now we are here.'  That has come up a bunch.  Look, that first year, well documented, those first couple of years at Millsaps were really tough, tough for a lot of reasons.  I think there was a 45 guy turnover from the year before.  Every position was up for grabs and obviously as much as we appreciate the hospitality at Millsaps, the 98 degrees with I don't know what heat index was tough.  It was brutal and there are things that are good out of that.  We learned a lot about the team and obviously jump started Coach Payton's program here with that.  And yet, this team, a little better established and I think this is really going to allow us to fine tune mentally what we are doing scheme-wise, really understand it because no matter how good of shape you are in when the heat index is 110 it is hard to think.  At the end of the day we don't necessarily play in that.  We are in a dome and it is very unusual to have that type of setting for a game.  I think this is going to serve us really well in terms of keeping guys healthy in the long run for the season and certainly I think mentally we are going into the season in a better place."

Have you felt better in any other offseason?

"I think there is certainly more excitement than I can remember, kind of all around.  I think we feel really good about the team, the guys that are here, complete continuity from the year before.  There are no changes for anybody, certainly from a defensive standpoint, those guys, that's a welcome deal for those guys to have some continuity over there.  Obviously, like I said, we started mentally kind of ahead of the game and then we are coming to this beautiful new facility and really hats off to Mr. (Jim) Justice and really everyone here.  What they have done here in 90 days is remarkable.  Anyone that has tried to build a house, to imagine building a 50,000 square foot one with a few hundred thousand yards of excavating to do to put it in is pretty incredible to do it in three months. Hats off to them."

What is the difference between West Virginia and New Orleans in regards to recovery from day-to-day practice?

"I think a lot of guys will notice with (the) weigh outs, checking what kind of water loss are you losing on a practice.  If you lose nine, 10 pounds in a practice, it's very hard to replace that in a day.  You are drinking to fast to replace it.  At the end of a week, that builds up, it puts wear on your muscles and you see a lot more issues with that kind of stuff.  When you are not hydrated, that practice hurts that much more.  There is that much more tear on your body.  Again, this is a marathon, we are going to work hard here and I know Coach (Sean) Payton is going to push us even more than usual because of the weather.  We wouldn't usually run quite that much after a New Orleans practice.  It would probably be a couple less and yet, I know he is going to amp it up to get the work in and yet, the tear of your body is not going to be as extreme.  I think it is going to serve us well as the season drags on."

How good can Terron Armstead be?

"As good as he wants to. Honestly, from a talent perspective, it's off the charts.  He actually looks strange on tape.  He is so much faster than what you (are) used to (from a player at that position).  His athleticism is really impressive.  What's great about Terron is that he is really humble, quiet and he works.  He wants to be good at it.  He works at it, he listens and he takes advice.  The sky is the limit.  He can be a great player and a lot of it is going to be up to how hard he works and I think if he stays on the path and continues what he is doing, he will be a good player for a long time."

New Orleans Saints Safety Kenny Vaccaro
Media Availability
Friday, July 25, 2014

What are your thoughts on the weather?
"It's great, man. New Orleans is always so humid, but this has been great. I'm glad they gave us a chance to come out here. Nobody is sweating to death, so it's been great."

You're only in your second year, but Cameron Jordan already mentioned you as one of the leaders of the defense. Do you feel that role and do you like that?
"I think we have a lot of leaders on the team, (with) Cameron being one of them. I'm just embracing it. I love football, and I think when you're passionate about football it kind of rubs off on all the guys. I don't have to necessarily be vocal, but I can (lead) with actions."

Are you seeing a lot of depth and athleticism on this defense as we start training camp?
"Definitely. You need depth. The season is so long, like me getting hurt last year and (Rafael) Bush stepping in, guys like that. If you're going to make a long run, you need guys to step in and there be no drop-off."

How much better or more knowledgeable are you this year?
"It's like night and day, especially having a defensive coordinator for the second year, (playing the) same defense. I think as a defense as a whole, everybody is flying around, (and) everybody is faster. Everybody understands what we're trying to do and where we're trying to go."

You came in last year and stamped yourself as a physical guy. Do you feel the need to do the same thing this year?
"That's naturally in me; I'm always going to play like that. I want to grow as a leader. I want to be a guy on this team that people look up to, so I'm going to keep growing."

What is it like to play with a veteran like Champ Bailey on the same team as you, somebody you probably grew up watching?
"We talk about that all the time. Champ is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and anything he says I'm just trying to be like a sponge and soak up because he's seen every defense, been up against every coordinator and seen every quarterback. Anything he says is valuable."

Do you pick the brain of veterans like Champ, Jairus Byrd and last year Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper?
"Definitely. While we're in the meeting room, everybody is talking, everybody is just listening because everybody knows how to play good ball. There's no egos at all."

The Byrd signing surprised a lot of people. What was your reaction?
"I was happy, man. I don't get into salary cap (news) or all that stuff, but I was like, 'Golly, what a signing.' It's good to have him. I was saying last year I was watching his tape in the middle of the year just trying to be like him. It was a surprise, but I'm glad he's here."

You had a great rookie year. How hard was it for it to come to an end the way it did and have to miss the playoffs?
"It was hard man. Watching that game where we played the Eagles was hard. I worked hard during the offseason and I want to take advantage of my opportunity now."

How's your room?
"I got blue waves as the wall, but its fine. I'm just glad to be back."

There's a lot of talk about you and Jairus Byrd at the safety position. Can you talk about what Rafael Bush brings to the group?
"Bush is like my road-dog. We live together, we sit together all the time during meetings. There's no drop-off. Bush is a great player and I'm glad we got him back. I'm glad we don't have to play against him."

What did you see from Brandin Cooks today, especially that one catch over the middle?
"I've seen that in college. I went against him in my last game in college, the Alamo Bowl. I've watched his highlights; he's amazing. He's going to be a big contributor this year."

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