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New Orleans Saints players talk about Monday's practice

Cameron Jordan, Kenny Stills, Joesph Morgan, Mark Ingram, Curtis Lofton and Zach Strief met with the media after practice on Monday, August 18, 2014

New Orleans Saints Wide Receiver Joseph Morgan
Training Camp Presented By Verizon Media Availability
Monday, August 18, 2014

How did it feel to be back out on the field making plays in a game?

"It felt good to be able to go out there and show flashes of the old ability that I still have and actually be able to put it out there on film so everybody can see it. It was a major accomplishment."

How close are you to being 100%?

"I wouldn't call myself 100% right now at this point, but I'm getting there. I'm somewhere between 90 and 100 where I'm able to go out and run and not show anything (that's wrong with me) visually to anyone else. I just know there are things that are still wrong that I need to work on, and I'm getting close to that point right now."

We heard 'significant injury' a couple of times. Was it more than just an ACL?

"In the words of Sean Payton, it was a knee. I don't want to divulge too much of that. It was a little bit more significant and structurally damaged than an ACL. Some guys were coming off of an ACL in like eight months. My injury was going to be at least a year of rehab if not more. To be at the point I'm at right now and to be able to run around and have faith and trust in my knee right now is actually really good. It's speaking volumes for how much work I've been doing so far this past year."

You've put in a lot of work on the intermediate routes, can you talk about that?

"That's something that I've been doing since I've gotten into the league. I'm a speed guy, everyone says, so it's harder for us to transition in other routes. I guess being hurt and not being able to get up to top end speed right away, working with my intermediate route-running was one of the things I had to work on and to this point is something I'm still going to have to work on. It's all about my hips and my pad level, so I've been working on that a lot."

How would you compare this season of competition to previous battles with Lance Moore and Devery Henderson?

"The receiving group's one of the best ones we've had since I have been here. It's always going to be a competition year in and year out, regardless of who you are and what situation you're in. It makes it fun. We all help each other out, but at the end of the day we still have to go out and compete against one another. It's healthy competition and it's not going to do anything except make the team better."

How hard is it to get noticed as somebody who is not just a speed guy, as somebody that can do it all?

"You just have to go out there and show that you're capable in every route in the route tree."

Do you feel like you can do that?

"I feel like I can do every route in the tree, it's just getting better at each of those. Of course I'm going to be better at deeper stuff than I am shorter stuff. It's just about working to get better at every route that you're going to run."

Marques Colston seems to be able to function very well in the middle of the field. Is there anything you can take from that? "It's just one of those things where he has put work in. He has learned how to adjust to certain situations or adjust to certain routes that he's running. If you want to get advice from a guy, that'd probably be one of the best ones."

New Orleans Saints Tackle Zach Strief
Training Camp Presented By Verizon Media Availability
Monday, August 18, 2014

What have you seen from Mark Ingram? He seems to be running the ball more patiently and getting more involved in the passing game.

"I think one overwhelming factor is that Mark is more confident. Mark had some success at the end of last year, started to run the ball really well. He's a guy where if you see him success or no success, he's emotional on the field. That emotion can roll both ways. It can become a negative for us and a positive for us. Mark gets down on himself and at the end of the day, we weren't giving him opportunities to get to the second level to do some damage. That's on us and yet Mark puts that on his own back, but I think you see some confidence from playing well, from breaking some runs and I think getting a better feel for what we're doing and where he wants to be. He's not thinking. He's reacting, which obviously at that position is important. When he gets going and that emotion is positive, he's a tough back. I think it's really a testament to him. He's worked his butt off and is playing well."

Is he the type of back that needs to receive two, three, four, five carries in a row and build up a head of steam?

"We're not big on that in general. Part of that is there are very few backs in this league that can do it for 16 games. We're trying to keep him, Kyrie (Robinson) and Pierre (Thomas) rolling through the season. I don't think it's that the reps have to come on top of each other. But I do think he's a guy where you have to get some success. That's on us. If we can get Mark to the second level, he showed in the postseason last year and has shown in the preseason this year that if he gets through the front seven, he's going to make some plays. That's on us. More than anything, Mark knows that that's coming. I think that there's more patience, not so much in his running style, but knowing that there might be five two-yard runs before there's a 25. That 25 is what gasses him up."

Can you talk about the futures of some of the younger players potentially being on the line?

"These last two games, I hear fans talking not liking the fourth game. You want to hear about people playing for their livelihood, there's a lot of roster spots still not set then, special teams, those real bubble guys. This game, now we look at it as kind of a dress rehearsal for the starters, the guys who are going to play Now they have to see more and more from younger players. They have to see the development, so I think as a young guy there's more stress every game. That last impression is hard. If you have two good game and fizzle out, the last thing they remember is that fizzle. There's a lot of stress in it and to be perfectly honest with you I've felt that more than I was getting ready for a season. I know that feeling very well. The preseason can be stressful for guys, because it's a live dress rehearsal for your job. You can get stressed, but that's part of it. You get stressed every week."

How quickly does that feeling of continuity on the offensive line feel with the return of Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs?

"It's feeling good again. Jah (Jahri Evans) moved great yesterday and is really feeling well. He said he felt good. It's not hard for those guys to bounce back in. I don't know how many reps Jahri has, but it's several thousand, tens of thousands. Certainly communicationwise, when Jah's there, there's that's kind of like my home. That's what I'm comfortable with. It's easy to get back into it, the communication. To be honest with you when Jahri wasn't there I was saying some of the same things to Marcel (Jones) and Marcel was asking what I was talking about. I think Jah, Ben will be fine. They are real good football players and really I think you saw yesterday those guys step back into practice and make a bunch of good blocks."

New Orleans Saints Defensive End Cameron Jordan
Training Camp Presented By Verizon Media Availability
Monday, August 18, 2014

It looked like the defense got the better of the offense in two-minute drills today.

"Yeah we're definitely trying to keep up our tempo. I think the offense definitely came out with the right mentality today. They came out fast and made us match them. By then end of practice, that's what we're looking to do. We're looking to stop something as prolific as our offense. If we keep doing what we need to do, we are riding the right path, and I think it is going to set us, as a team, even better for whoever we go against the upcoming week."

How different is this year's defense compared to last year, being familiar with Rob Ryan's system? How much further along are you guys?

"I definitely think we are in a farther progression than we were last year at this point. That just goes with having the same (defensive) coordinator for the second year. We're not even comparing last year to this year at this point. We're just trying to find who we're going to be for this upcoming season. Honestly, that's where our focus has been."

The defense has kind of started slow defensively through the first two preseason games. You kind of did the same thing last year. Is it more of a feeling out process?

"Yeah it's something that you're not too happy about. We want to come out strong and fast every game, and we have come out a little slow. We're definitely working to correct that, and that's what's real important right now, and that's all of the corrections that need to be made over the next two preseason games."

How much confidence do you have from doing the same thing last year and being able to turn it on and come on strong?

"You can definitely be confident in saying that we have the ability to turn it on, but that's just it. You cannot be satisfied with that. You have to come out at the beginning of the game and start out strong."

New Orleans Saints Inside Linebacker Curtis Lofton
Training Camp Presented By Verizon Media Availability
Monday, August 18, 2014

What's your takeaway from the game the other night after watching the film and everything? Were you able to find positives in the performance after you guys got crushed for penalties?

"We did a lot of good in that game.  Penalties definitely stuck out. I think we executed the game plan but we're (not) getting off the field (in certain circumstances due to penalties). We would have gotten off the field in a couple of circumstances but we got penalties so it continued drives for them. But we did a lot of good in the game and it is some stuff to grow off of. I wish that going into this game our main focus is to do your job, and not get any penalties, and go out and be a physical and tough defense."

Feel like being in here quickens the pace a little bit?

"Oh man. First day back yesterday, we definitely felt the humidity. It was definitely on us. But when you come in here, it's not humid. It's a little thick in here, breathing wise, but always great to come in here – you feel a lot faster and it's easier, you do all your checks and everything."

Would you rather be back in West Virginia?

"No. West Virginia was 67 and had a nice little breeze. This is definitely home. This is New Orleans."

Well I mean it's an indoor facility…

"No. This is New Orleans. It still feels a little bit out there, but it's good to be back. And it's always good to be back home."

If you all had to do one thing to do defensively – looking at where you rank: fourth in sacks, fourth in total defense – what would be the number one thing? Would it be if you could stay number four, top five scoring defense, a key component of the team is that maybe something that Rob Ryan emphasizes that that's one thing that we have to be at that level, maybe even better?

"I think if we continue on what we did last year but add in turnovers in to that, that's what's going to make us elite and make us be the best defense. Anytime you can get more possessions back to our offense, that's only going to help us as a team, and it makes our job a lot easier on defense."

You have a couple guys on your defense who either playfully or openly say they wish they received more recognition.  Keenan Lewis and Junior Galette will have fun with it on twitter and other forms of media.  Is there – I don't like the chip on your shoulder – but is there some rallying cry among you guys not getting all the respect?

"I don't really care what anybody else thinks or what they say. I think if you go out and play the way you play, then you will have people talking about you. That's been our motto and that will continue to be."

With the third preseason game coming up, is there kind of a sense of urgency for some of the guys on the roster because there's going to be some tough cuts in the next couple of weeks down at the bottom of the roster including at your position? Not you specifically, but some of the younger guys on the roster…like this is crunch time for them?

"No. I think every time you step out on that game field, it's your résumé – not only for this team but for the other 31 teams too.  So everyone knows what's on the line. Is there an increased focus and intensity? Yes there is and that's what it needs to be.  This is a tough team to make. But just because you don't make this team doesn't mean you won't make another team. So all guys are locked in and we're looking forward to this next, third preseason game."

Can you think back to when you were in that situation – first, second, third year pro – and that anxiety that builds up as you get closer to that third game knowing that cuts come after? Can you tell me what that was like? Can you think back that far?

"For me, that was a long time ago. For me it was tough on me because I had become really good friends with a couple of undrafted players my rookie year and I didn't know, really, about the cuts. I thought everyone, you know, like college, boom you're on the team, everybody makes the team. And once lockers started showing up empty, that's when I realized I lost a couple good friends that day. But it's a business. And if you don't make that team you have a chance to make 31 other teams."

New Orleans Saints Running Back Mark Ingram
Training Camp Presented By Verizon Media Availability
Monday, August 18, 2014

You caught a few passes today. Do you like getting involved in the passing game a little bit more?

"Yes, I'm just trying to take advantage of the reps that I have a chance to do, just to show that I'm capable of doing it. I like to be involved in every aspect of the game."

Do you think you get a bad reputation for maybe not being as effective out of the backfield or for not being able to catch the ball?

"People say what they want; think what they want.  But sometimes you're just given a roll going into a game and sometimes that's not part of it. So you just grow and learn, and when you have the opportunity to show that you can do it, you just try to take advantage of it."

You had the touchdown catch Friday night, too. Are you optimistic that that will be a little bit more of your role this year?

"I hope so. I want to do everything. I want to be involved in the pass game, run game, picking up pass pro(tection), every single thing like I said to be the most versatile football player I can be.

Do you think you have learned a lot from watching Pierre Thomas and seeing how he operates?

Well I've run the screen a lot when I was in college. So I'm comfortable running screens, but Pierre's probably one of the best. He's real patient and knows how to set them up, so I've definitely learned a lot from him."  

Take us through that play from the other night, your touchdown.

"Pretty much we just had an option route at running back. They blitzed everybody. RG4 (Ryan Griffin) just threw it up and I just cut. I just sped up my route because I saw them bringing the house and it was just to catch it and make somebody miss and get in the end zone."

Do you think too much is made of guys who are playing in their contract year or is that a part of your motivation?

"I think people over-exaggerate it. It is important, obviously. But every year is important.  Just to say 'I put more emphasis on this year than the past three years just because of my contract year' is ridiculous. But it's definitely an important year and you realize that it's your contract year and you want to do good because you want a nice contract. I think that some people over-exaggerate it a little much."   

Do you think that, from a comfort level, you just look like a different guy out there? Do you feel like any differently? It looks like you're running with a lot of confidence.

"Yes, being four years in, I'm comfortable in the system, comfortable in the offense, familiar with how the offense line is going to do their scheme – how they're going to attack blocks and what their landmarks are and setting up their blocks. So being on page with them, understanding what they've got going on, understanding the entire offense, what I'm supposed to do when I break the huddle, what I'm supposed to look for, not thinking so much, just knowing what I have to do to be successful on a particular play.  That comes with growing a lot, having years and reps in the league.  Going on year four, I'm feeling a lot more comfortable and a lot more confident."    

Do you think you are a better receiver than people give you credit for?

"Yes, I have caught several passes. I have not caught a lot of passes in the NFL, but in high school I played receiver.  If you look at my recruiting thing, it says athlete.  In college I caught a lot of passes and had receiving touchdowns, all that. I haven't done a lot here, but I've always been confident in my ability to contribute in the backfield running routes, line up out wide running routes.  I am comfortable doing all of that."

What do you think the reason why you haven't done a lot here? And when you are in the game do teams think it is going to be a running play?

"I think just the majority of the time, I think just watch our film recently, I think, that most teams feel like when I am in the game it is going to be a run or a play action or something like that.  As far as receiving the ball goes, we had (Darren) Sproles and Pierre (Thomas), we just had a lot of receiving targets all over the field.  I'm just trying to welcome that role and prove that I can do it."

Do you think you might be able to sneak up on teams with you receiving the ball?

"I don't think we are going to sneak up on anybody or I am going to sneak up on anybody, I just think that they will be a little bit caught off guard or surprised if I catch a screen or I actually run a route out the back field because that is something they see too often."

Do you think you have a little receiver in you?

"Of course.  My dad played receiver running routes and catching footballs was one of the first things I did when I was young.  I'm comfortable catching passes, comfortable running routes, and like I said, I haven't had the opportunity to do that a lot here.  I can do it effectively, just as good as anybody else."

Did I see you quoted a couple of weeks ago that your goal is to be the greatest running back of all time in the NFL?

"Of course, if somebody is out here playing the game and they don't want to be the best ever to play the game, I think they are doing the wrong thing.  Of course that is a lofty goal and there are so many greats before me and I respect them to the fullest and I look up to them, but at the end of the day I want to be the best and that is why I am out here every day to try and get better because I want to be the best."

Was that something you would have said as a rookie?

"Yes, I would have said it as a rookie.  I'll say it ten years from now.  I would have said it ten years ago.  It doesn't matter.  I've always wanted to be the best."

Was it like when you were at Alabama and you said you were going to be the first player from the school to win the Heisman?

"I didn't call it.  You always have dreams of winning a Heisman, but I didn't think I was actually going to do it.  It happened."

There are not many three down backs in the league.  Is that something you take a lot of pride in?

"Yes, I don't have to come off the field.  We just have lots of different personnel groupings, different guys that we want on the field in different situations.  I don't ever have to come off the field personally I don't think so.  I feel like I can do everything that's asked of me first, second, third, fourth down, whatever the circumstance may be, run, catch, pass, throw, I can do anything.  I don't think I have to come off the field at all.  I know I am an all-purpose back, a complete back.  I can do everything."

New Orleans Saints Wide Receiver Kenny Stills
Training Camp Presented By Verizon Media Availability
Monday, August 18, 2014

How do you feel?

"I feel good."

How much time do you think you have missed out?

"I feel like I've missed out on a lot.  A lot of team building at camp, getting in shape and getting the reps with Drew (Brees) and with the offense.  So I've missed out on a lot and I've been focused, and paying attention, so I'm taking great notes. I don't feel like I'm too far behind.

I saw you tweet that you feel like a kid in detention, explain that. How hard is it sitting out? Tell me about those thoughts.

"It's tough not playing, especially you go through the offseason and you're so excited to get back and play. So, to get hurt on the first day was rough for me, and I had to go through the whole thing with dealing with patience, and learning patience. That's been rough, but I'm happy to be back and I'm feeling good. Hopefully, I can continue to progress and get better."

The good news was that you had Drew (Brees) to yourself, right?

"Yeah we got to work a little bit together since he's been hurt a little bit. You miss out on the timing, and you miss being out there with all 11 guys. It's been good the last few days to get back out there, like I just want to continue to build and get better."

Most players break out in year two, whereas you broke out in year one. How much better can you get?

"There's a ton of me that I can improve on. This season I'm learning some new spots in the offense, and hopefully I can get a chance to make some more plays, so there's a ton of room for me to improve, and I am excited for the season to start."

What have you noticed about Brandin Cooks and some of the other receivers?

"Just to be excited about this offense. A very explosive receiving core. We have fast guys that can make big plays and I just want to get back and make my contribution to the team."

What happened when you got hurt?

"Just took off and got off too fast, just felt it tweak. Like Coach (Payton) said, I had pulled it a month before working out with Drew, and I thought I was healthy. I guess it wasn't."

You surprised a lot of people last year, would you say that you surprised yourself?

"No I wouldn't say that I surprised myself. You know, that's one of those things that I have high expectations for myself. I didn't come to the Saints thinking that I was going to play right away, or make the plays that I did, but things worked out the way they did, and I got a chance and an opportunity to go out and make big plays, and I did."

How have you seen the competition at receiver work out at training camp so far?

"It's been great. Our room is a lot different with (Marques) Colston being the head of our room; we're all helping each other out; there's no animosity between each other. We're all just going to compete, but we want to help each other and have a fun camp. And our room is just awesome."

Drew Brees plans on playing Saturday, do you?

"Yeah as long as I continue to improve this week, I plan on playing this weekend."

Were you like him and a lot of the guys out this week, where they've been targeting that third preseason game when they would receive playing time and when they would play and how much?

"I was targeting last week and targeting the first game. You know I wanted to play whenever I get healthy, and I'm feeling good right now."

How different are preseason reps now compared to your rookie year?

"I would say I have the same sense of urgency, I've had a few setbacks last week, and I tried to get out there the week before. I want to be back out there; I don't want to miss anything, I don't care if it's preseason or the Super Bowl. There's no different sense of urgency. I just want to get out there."

How different is it for a receiver in general, from rookie year to the second year, and the amount of reps, though?

"I've had the reps last year, so I kind of know what I'm doing. I still want to get out there, so I need to, and I need to get that timing with Drew (Brees) so that I'm able to make those plays."

With so many young guys, do you find yourself as a leader already?

"There's just things I can pass down to guys that are – I can't even say 'younger' because we're the same age, so it's just one year of experience and there's some things to pass down. It's not like I am a leader; I can tell them the information and the things that I went through."

Given how well last year went for you, and opening this year with a little bit of adversity, not that you didn't earn everything you got (last year), can you talk about the value of working back from injury and learning patience?

"It's a lot different having to learn that patience. So I've learned a lesson with injuries (and) hopefully it will not happen again. You get a greater appreciation when you are missing out (on time on the field). You miss something when it's taken away from you. I'm so happy to be out here, there was a smile on my face all day. And so it was great to be able to practice and be able to compete with those guys.

Did you lean on your dad or uncle to deal with this injury and the patience aspect?

"Not at all; no. My dad texted me and told me to be patient. There's nothing that he can tell me that is going to change anything. You know, I tried to force it a few times, and we're at this spot now, and it feels good. Hopefully I can progress."

Did a lot of people realize your connection to Gary (Stills)?

"Nope, no one really asked me about it. There was a lot of Oklahoma fans and West Virginia fans, and they remember the game that we played. It was high scoring, and I had a few touchdowns in that game."

He was a big star in the 90s.

"Nobody mentioned it."

Are you worried that Corey White is putting pressure on you in the hairstyle category?

"Not at all, I've considered cutting it a few times, but we'll see what it does."

What do you think about his hair?

"Looks good. To each his own. It's just hair."

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