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New Orleans Saints players talk about Monday's practice

Jairus Byrd, Mark Ingram, Zach Strief and Luke McCown spoke with media after practice on Monday, August 25, 2014

New Orleans Saints Safety Jairus Byrd

Post-Practice Media Availability

Monday, August 18, 2014

Do you feel encouraged by your progress and the progress of the defense in forcing turnovers, which has happened at a rapid rate in the past two games?

"Definitely. We're definitely on it now. It's coming right (out) right now. Guys are aware of the emphasis to strip it out. When the ball's in the air, we're going for it."

Is that one of those things that comes in bunches?

"Definitely. I think it's really contagious. That's what I tell the guys too. Once you get that first one, you just have this energy almost like a shark. You feel it. You go for the ball and it gets contagious. Everybody around the whole secondary is looking to get that turnover."

Coach Payton says that it matters when you get them against the first unit in practice. Does that kind of bolster your confidence when you achieve that?

"Yes, to me a turnover is a turnover. Like you say, it's contagious. If I'm getting it against the second team or the third team, it's a turnover. It creates great habits as far as punching the ball out and getting the ball. At the end of the day, no matter who's giving the ball to you, it's a practice or a habit to strip the ball."

Is the fourth preseason game important for you because you are trying to get your rhythm back?

"I care about all the games. Anything you can use to get better. I don't know what the gameplan's going to be, but in whatever capacity that coach (Payton) wants me to be in there, I'm going to take advantage of it. This is still a building process. We have a long time to go and a lot of improvement to go before we've won. We have each day out here and this last preseason game is going to be used to build up to week one."

Do you ever freelance to put yourself in position to make a takeaway, or does it come naturally to you?

"It's a lot of different things. I don't want to get into the exact details, but it's really cool. Coach Rob (Ryan) does a real good job of allowing guys to create things to allow guys to play to their strengths. Hats off to him really. I'm just trying to go out there and execute it."

Why do you try to catch the ball one-handed out of the jugs machine?

"Pretty much I feel I have to be able to catch the ball just as well as a receiver does. The ball's in the air, it's just as much mine as theirs. That's the approach. You never know when it's going to come. I have to have as good hands as they do to catch balls."

Have you made any one-handed interceptions in your career?


The other night you were used as a punt returner. In the past Lance Moore would often catch it from the 10 on in because of his hands, while a faster player handles punts more in the middle of the field. Could you see yourself in that role?

"Yes, I definitely could see myself in that role. I'm preparing for whatever they put me in. That could be it. I don't know. I'm just preparing myself for if I have to return it, I have to return it. Catching it, securing it and getting the ball back to the offense would be what I'd do. I just want to be ready for whatever they want me to do."

Would you like to return a punt in a game just to do it live for once?

"The biggest goal is to get it back to the offense. We have a good enough offense as it is. I'm just trying to make sure I secure the ball and go from there."

New Orleans Saints Running Back Mark Ingram

Post-Practice Media Availability

Monday, August 25, 2014

This is probably the best you have felt coming out of a camp.

"Yes, I feel good. The line is doing just such a great job of getting their aiming points, getting a push off the ball, holding their guys so there's places to run, places to put the ball. I'm more familiar with the scheme. The line is doing a great job. I think the coaches are committed to running the ball, even when we don't have big runs. I think we've been able just to keep building every single week and continue to get better."

With Ben Grubbs and Jahri Evans being in and out of the lineup, what have you seen from the younger guys like Senio Kelemete and Marcel Jones?

"They're both doing a great job. I've run behind both of them and had some good runs on both of their sides. I think they both have been working their butts off and doing a great job of doing what they need to do for us to have success on certain plays. They're growing and learning. Some things are going to be good and some things are going to be bad, but that's all of us. Overall, I haven't noticed much of a difference with them in there. We've been able to produce and be efficient with them in the game. I think they've been doing a real good job."

How does it feel to get handoffs from Coach Payton?

"It was good to have him out there working to see if he still had a little arm on him. It was good to have coach out there in individual drills with us."

Talk about Austin Johnson and how he has progressed.

"It's his second year here and he has just learned the offense so much. He's familiar with what we're doing, he knows what he's doing. He's smart, he's physical. He goes in there and just does a good job. I enjoy running behind him. We are on the same page a lot of the time, and the things we are seeing…a fullback's pretty much just a runner without the football. We are always on the same page. We kind of have an understanding – all of us – we kind of know what he is going to do and know where we're going to hit at on certain runs. Austin's been real good for us."

Has the game slowed down for you?

"Sure. Repetitions and experience…you get more confident and the game slows down for you. When you can go out there and not think so much and know what you have to do when you hear the call in the huddle, when you break the huddle, I think that just helps you play faster and be a lot more effective."

Is this the best run-blocking you've had since you've been here?

"It's the same line, with a few different pieces. Our scheme, I think the line, the tight ends, the running backs, the fullbacks, I think we're all familiar with the scheme. I think we all know what to expect from each run. We know their aiming points, we know our aiming points. We know where their hat is going to be, and if it's not in the right place, we've got to press the hole and make a cut. I think everybody is more familiar with the scheme and more comfortable with the scheme and know what they have to do when they hear the play in the huddle. I think that's what the difference is. I think that's what is making us effective in the run game."

New Orleans Saints Quarterback Luke McCown

Post-Practice Media Availability

Monday, August 25, 2014

Do you like where the competition is for the quarterback position?

"Yeah, everything's going well. I think our team as a whole is getting better. That's what it's been about since the beginning."

Do you do a lot of self-evaluation?

"Absolutely, every day.  That's why we film the practices; so you can see where you're at, fix your mistakes, (and see) what worked, mental or otherwise.   And then going on and putting better stuff on tape the next day."

Do you get a sense they might keep three quarterbacks on this team?

"Not a question for me. I wish I could tell you.  My sense is I'm working to keep my job.  I'm putting my best foot forward every day. The reps that I get, I'm going to make the most of them, be the most efficient, accurate player that I can be."

Has Ryan Griffin pushed you at all?

"Yes, I hope that our room is an environment of pushing each other.  My hope is to push Drew (Brees) every day.  That's the environment you want in a position room, a unit, so that you're never just being status quo.  It's got to be better. Every day has got to be better and you're always trying to be better than the next guy.  I think that's the kind of environment we've set up in our room.

Do you feel like you've had a good practice today?

"Yes. I did.  It felt good. The tempo's always kind of the buzz word throughout training camps. It is what you want to see.  When you are lining up fast, breaking the huddle fast, and coming off the ball fast that means you know what you are doing.  When that is happening, generally good things are happening on the offense.  I felt like our tempo was good from the onset, (from our) team takeoffs, to the last throw in two minutes.  Overall it was a good practice."

Is your pinky feeling any better than before?  Are you still having trouble gripping the ball and throwing it any distance?

"No, it is what it is.  If you've ever dislocated anything, especially a finger, there's really no magic treatment you can get for it. It's kind of going to be what it is until you get an opportunity to rest.  It's not affecting my accuracy, my arm strength.  The only thing that hurts every now and then is landing on it or every now and then you will hand the ball off and a running back will hold onto your fingers as he's grabbing the ball and that doesn't feel very good.  You just feel a 210 pound jolt coming out of your dislocated finger. But other than that it's fine."

New Orleans Saints Tackle Zach Strief

Post-Practice Media Availability

Monday, August 25, 2014

Are you encouraged by how well the offensive line has played in the preseason?

"Yeah it's better than the alternative. I was talking to (Mark) Ingram in the weight room today and we were kind of talking about those runs. You watch them on tape and you see a lot more yardage there that we weren't getting, yet it's very encouraging the this discussion is coming on, 'We only got three, we should've gotten nine,' instead of, 'We should've gotten three, we got negative three.' That's kind of where we were last year at this time, so that's encouraging. I think we're farther along there and it's better than the alternative. There's places that have given up a lot of hits, and I think we've done pretty well protecting the quarterback and moving the football. We still have too many penalties, and we'll work on that. We're in a good place right now, we've got a lot of work to do."

In West Virginia you said this camp felt different and there was a commitment to running the ball. Over the past years under Sean Payton, the line was pegged as a group that could not run downhill. This year seems different, and the offensive linemen seem happy about it.

"Yes, I think there's always evolution in a team over time. We're in a unique situation in the NFL where we've been in the same program for nine years. I think that we have learned from the past and learned that this offense is most effective when it can do both things. We have seen both sides of it. We have seen years when we could (run the ball effectively) and how beneficial it was. We've seen years when we couldn't run the ball and seen how detrimental that was to the offense and how hard it made it to move the ball. It's got to be a focus, and it has been. I think we're seeing some improvement, and yet you watch the tape and you're like, 'man, there's a lot of stuff left to clean up.'"

Does Mark Ingram feel like a different guy to block for now?

"No. Mark has always been a hard runner. Mark has always taken a lot of the criticism for the inability to move the ball in the running game, 'Mark's not good enough.' Look, he was getting hit in the backfield a lot last year too. I actually saw something the other day, yards after contact, he's one of the better backs in the league and he's been getting hit deep and doing what he can. I think he's been a good runner, and I think like a lot of us, he understand the system a better right now than he ever has and it has given him confidence. He's a dangerous guy when he's running with confidence. You see the games where he breaks a couple of runs early…it almost changes his mindset and the way he runs the football and the energy he runs it with. That's on us to get him into the open early and give him that kind of boost."

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