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New Orleans Saints players talk about Saturday's practice

Mark Ingram and others met with the press Saturday

New Orleans Saints Outside Linebacker Junior Galette
Post-Practice Media Availability
Saturday, July 26, 2014

I know it's only two days in, but what are your thoughts on the way camp has started?
"You can tell the guys are playing with just a lot more enthusiasm and more focus. I feel like when that heat is not on your back…you're not going to get as much as you would with that heat. I feel like this weather is good and it gives you that edge where you want to push yourself to that limit like I've got another rep in me to prepare for the game."

You're very vocal on the field. Does that kind of stuff fire you up inside to yell and the other team yell?
"It's just who I am. I feel like off the field, on the field, you're going to get the same guy. I make sure I'm that same guy every day. Not change for my teammates, and just make sure the guys are fired up even when they are tired. I've got to be that guy to push everybody else and just encourage all the young guys and just keep doing that. I feel like that's my spot on the team."

Were you outgoing as a child?
"I've always been this way. I'll never change."

How much do you guys have a mental clock on for things that are coming up?
"You take it one day at a time. You basically (have to) be where you're at. That's the mindset. If we've got shorts and helmets – like coach says, he calls it 'pajamas', he always says that – you go as hard as you can with the helmets on."

But you know when the hitting is going to start?
"Of course. It's in the back of your head, but if you have shorts on you go as hard as you can, and you be careful to take care of the guys. When the pads are on, you get to let loose a little bit and play a little more violent…a lot more violent, and just make sure you're getting good reps."

How critical is it to have a bookend like Cameron Jordan?
"If you look around the league and see all the teams that have two or three more dominant pass rushers, those are the teams that are just dominant overall. You look at a team like San Francisco or Baltimore, they have two or three pass rushers that just come in and rotate. Cam coming off the other edge just helps me out, and we just help each other out."

Have you and Cameron talked about the fact that you two were the only duo in the league with 12 sacks or more last year, and maybe people don't talk about you two as much as they should?
"If they're not then it's better for us. You're coming to surprise, then it's just better for us. We're going to keep letting loose. If they don't know now, then they will next year."

Do you two discuss the high expectations you each have?
"Of course. That's how we feed off of each other. If he says he's going to get one every game, I say, 'I'm going to get two every game.' It might sound unrealistic, but it pushes me. If I don't get two a game, I might end up getting one a game. We just keep pushing each other. That's what I do. I just set almost unrealistic goals and just land halfway and it's pretty dominant."

What needs to happen this year to achieve the goal of being the best defense in the league?
"Turnovers. Takeaways. We've got to take away the ball. Like Seattle, that loss still haunts us. We're still mad about, beating ourselves up about it because we feel like if we had a turnover or one or two takeaways that game, it would've been a whole different game. But that's the past, and we know that now we have to take the ball away. We can't just be a dominant defense and get off the field. We have to get the ball back in Drew's hands, number one offense, for them to keep going."

Four and half sacks in 2011, five in 2012, 12 in 2013. Can we go any higher? How high can we go?
"It's (receiving) more playing time. I feel like last year I had about 800 reps. They just have to keep getting higher. That's the plan. I don't want to get 12 sacks and say I got better, which is realistic because you can say you got better, but I want to get more than that. As a team, with the additions of Jairus Byrd and Kenny Vaccaro stepping up to Pro-Bowl caliber, and you've got Keenan Lewis who's dominant, very underrated, and Akiem and Cam and all these young guys coming up, then it's very realistic to set those high goals."

Do you have a goal?
"No I just have to get better than last year."

New Orleans Saints Offensive Guard Ben Grubbs
Post-Practice Media Availability
Saturday, July 26, 2014

What are some of the expectations the offensive line has coming into this season?
"I think the first expectation is to win. We definitely want to run the ball well. That was something that last year there was a lot of questions about our running game. I feel like towards the end of the season, we were able to kind of hit on all cylinders, and that was a plus for us. Also just protecting Drew (Brees). When you have a quarterback like that behind us, you want to give him all the time that he needs to make his appropriate reads. This is where it all starts: training camp. First, we just want to win. At the end of the day when we come into the meeting room, then we analyze the film, but we will take ugly wins as well as pretty wins."

Can you talk about the competition at center? Although you never played with Jonathan Goodwin, how is it different to play with him as opposed to Tim Lelito who you might still be teaching?
"Lelito has a lot of potential. He's young, so he's fresh, strong, and he's also smart. He hasn't played center, so it's new to him. There's going to be a lot of mistakes that he's going to make that he's going to have to work through. So my advice to him – and I told him today – is to forget it. If you make a bad play man, just forget it because we have to move on. It's all about the next play. Whereas with Goody, I don't have to tell him that…he may have to tell me that. I think those are the differences, but I have faith in Lelito and he's doing a really good job here. To have guys such as myself and Jahri Evans and Goody to help him along the way, I think that's a plus for Lelito."

Mark Ingram has been waiting for that breakout year. Do you think this will be the year?
"Absolutely. Mark is my guy. He's a hard worker, and we just have to make sure that we're all on the same page. The running game, it takes all 11 guys. A lot of guys, a lot of people, have pointed the fingers at the offensive line. A lot of people point fingers at Mark, but it's a team effort. Every man needs to do their job, so I'm expecting big things out of our running game."

Do you think he has been over-criticized since he has been here?
"Over-criticized? I don't know. Honestly I don't read the newspapers so I don't really know what they're saying."

What do you think was the difference when the running game had success at the end of last year?
"I would like to think we just started clicking. You would like to think that towards the end of the season or as the season progressed, you get better. You don't want to decline. I think that as we made that playoff stretch with the sense of urgency, we knew that we had to capitalize on all of our plays, run and pass. I think that's what we did. Our coaches did a great job putting the game plan together, and we were able to go out there on the field and execute."

At times last year, you would run screen plays basically instead of running the ball.
"I love screen plays. I love getting out there and taking the punishment to the little guys. I don't look at the run plays as only being our physical plays because you can be physical in the run game, it just depends on how aggressive you want to be, how hard you want to punch. I think that's the mindset as an offensive line you try to take because not only is our run game physical, we want to make the pass game physical as well."

What is on the list of things you guys may have done wrong last year that you need to fix for this year?
"Just be more consistent. I think, especially as an offensive lineman, that's my number one goal. You can have a good play and then a bad play, but you don't want those bad plays to have a snowball effect. I think for all of us, just being more consistent and making every play count."

New Orleans Saints Linebacker David Hawthorne
Post-Practice Media Availability
Saturday, July 26, 2014

Everybody usually has somebody that's pushing them to play better, to keep their job, to take their job. Who on this team is pushing you?
"I just think the depth, the depth we have at linebacker. We're all kind of pushing each other for packages, for playing time, for a bunch of different things. We know Rob Ryan is real creative, and good players will play. No matter what you do, he's going to find a spot for you. We're all kind of like giving each other a run for it."

Was today a tougher day for the defense? It looked like the offense completed some busted coverages maybe.
"Not so much tougher, we just didn't execute the way we needed to. Every day is going to be different. There's going to be flows where the offense might get the best of you. Right now we're just training how to forget it and push through it. I think we did a good job of that today, forgetting the last play and moving on to the next."

How rewarding was it last season to have an outstanding year, since you were bothered by injury in 2012, your first year as a Saint?
"It's a good feeling. When you go to a different place, you kind of start from scratch. You've got to make that impression on that town, on that team, on those coaches. Obviously my first year I wasn't able to do that, and it kind of gets you down. Coming back last year healthy, it really gave me back my mojo, where I could come out and do what I came to do. It was kind of overall a rewarding feeling."

How hard is it to cover Jimmy Graham across the seam?
"Personally I don't think there are many people in this game that can cover Jimmy one-on-one. If we ever got into a game situation, we'd definitely game plan him. We wouldn't let a blatant mismatch go unnoticed. Rob Ryan does a great job of that, just making sure we cover it all and putting all the players in the best position in order to be successful."

How will practice change tomorrow when you put the pads on?
"I think that first day everybody is ready to hit. We've been in basketball shorts and just kind of floating around. When you throw the pads on, you get to see what you've got. Some people kind of fall in the back and some people push forward. Some people live for contact, others don't. The coaches really evaluate that. It will be fun. We'll stay safe, we'll stay up like the coaches want us to do, but it will definitely intensify a little bit."

It makes the defense happy too, right?
"Definitely. It's another thing when you can get your hands on a guy, as opposed to just running around the whole field chasing him."

Have you and Curtis Lofton talked about going up against Erik Lorig tomorrow?
"It's one of those deals, definitely we've all got our own pride. As a backer and as a fullback, his job is to knock us back and our job is to knock him back. It will be one of those best man wins kind of deals come tomorrow."

New Orleans Saints Defensive End Akiem Hicks
Post-Practice Media Availability
Saturday, July 26, 2014

Do you think the defense has to get better in year two under Rob Ryan?

"He was right in saying that we definitely have things that we need to improve on.  That is part of the process right?  We aren't expected to get it all in one day, but over the time of the camp we should before we leave here, have a great hold on what we are supposed to do and make sure we are effective over the season."

Does the real fun start tomorrow with the pads?

"Oh definitely, especially for the offensive and defensive linemen.  That is something that we look forward to all year.  Now we get to run around in our pajamas for most of the year, but when the pads come on you get to hit that guy that was talking a little trash earlier in the year."

You flipped that tackling sled over today, does that mean bad technique?

"It means that I had too much strength for it (joking).  No I'm kidding, no, sometimes it happens.  It happens to everybody.  Sometimes you get a hold of it and it goes where it wants to go."

How good can this d-line be?

"I have to say that that is something that people talk about but that is not something that we look into as a unit.  We want to get better every day we are out here.  We are a young defensive line. Everybody knows that.  It is something that we are just going to have to keep improving on."

Do you like the expectations you have this year?

"That is just the way it goes.  They pick a guy out that they think is going to do good.  But as a player, you can't focus on that because you are never as good as they say you are and you are never as bad as they say you are.  You just have to keep working and doing the things you know how to do.  That's how I feel about it."

What are those expectations for yourself?

"Play hard and be consistent.  Consistency is something that Bill Johnson has hammered on me since I've been here.  There are some times where he says he thinks I can be a dominant player and there are times where I need to do better.  For me, consistency throughout the year is something I am working on."

What is it about Rob Ryan that players respond to?

"His personality, his coaching style.  I mean, you can list a million things, but the way he takes over a room when he comes in and the way he delivers his message and allows us to receive it.  He makes it your choice whether you want to be successful or not.  When you come out there you have to do what you are supposed to do for the team.  That is something that he preaches and that is something that we hold on to."

How has your game evolved over the past few years?

"Everything, kind of going off what I just said, more consistency is what I am working on."

How are you enjoying the weather out here?

"It is a couple degrees cooler than Louisiana.  It has been good.  The air is different."

Are you more comfortable on the outside than the inside?

"I am pretty comfortable in both places, it just depends on what defense we are in.  For me as a guy, I've always been a big guy, but I've always been able to move a little bit.  I've always played in different spots.  I wish I could give you a better answer than that but it really depends on what our scheme is."

Do you think it is going to be more difficult now that more teams have film on you?

"I can't say, I haven't experienced that yet.  I'm definitely going to try and come out and do better than last year and better (than) I did the year before that.  I can't tell you what they are going to do."

Do you like that people call you underrated and that you fly under the radar?

"It is better than being overrated right?  I'm just ready to work hard.  That is just my personality.  I just want to do well.  I just want to be consistent. I just want to work hard.  I want my teammates to respect me for it."

New Orleans Saints Running Back Mark Ingram
Post-Practice Media Availability
Saturday, July 26, 2014

How are you feeling so far in the start of camp?
"I'm feeling good. It feels good to get back out here and get back into the swing of things. I'm feeling good."

Can you talk about the weather and how fresh everyone seems out there. Have you noticed a difference?
"Yeah you can tell the difference. The weather is nice. You've got a nice breeze up here. It's not crazy hot, so the weather is definitely a positive."

How excited are you for tomorrow's padded practice?
"It's going to get crazy out there. I know the defense is looking forward to it, (and) I know the linemen are looking forward to it. I'm sure it's going to be a lot of big collisions and a couple of fights too. That's part of camp. Everybody is looking forward to that first day of pads."

Can you talk about what a big year this is for you and what a big camp this is for you?
"I'm coming into a contract year, so of course. Every year is a big year, but (there is a) special emphasis on this year. It's important to come out, have a great (training) camp, and get off to a fast start. I just want to come out here, get better every day, stay healthy, and have a big year."

Do you like having that kind of pressure on you?
"I wouldn't say it's pressure. I'm just going to go out there and do what I do: play football, do what I've been doing my whole life, be the best I can be, and everything else will handle itself."

Can you take the momentum from the playoffs into camp this year?
"Of course. I think I started touching the ball more, we started running the ball more. I think when I get a chance to have those opportunities to run the ball and touch it, I can be effective."

Was it just opportunities? It seemed like the running game was missing much of the year, then in the playoffs it was a running game.
"When we only had a yard or no yards, we kept running it. We just kept running it. That's what you've got to do with a running game. That's why it's a battle. Every run isn't going to be ten yards, fifteen yards. You have to live with some two yard runs, getting back to the line of scrimmage runs. You just have to keep plugging away at it, and you'll pop those forty yarders, those thirty yarders, those long ones. It's a battle and you just have to keep at it."

Do you feel like you're a runner who needs to develop a rhythm?
"Whenever I touch the ball I get into a rhythm and get a feel for how the defense is playing runs, how the offensive line is blocking the defensive line, how the linebackers are flowing, if they're aggressive, if they're not. You just get into the flow of the game, get some sweat going when you touch the ball consistently."

Do you see yourself in a battle for the number one running back spot?
"Definitely. It's always a battle. Everybody out here is going to battle. That's what's awesome about it. We all push each other to get better, and ultimately just be the best you can be and do what you can to go out there and help the team win games. Everybody is in a battle, that's part of the NFL."

It seems like at times you are hard on yourself because of the expectations you have for yourself. Do you feel like you have learned from that?
"I have higher expectations for myself than anybody…any coach, anybody. I'm definitely hard on myself. I work my butt off to be the best I can be, and I just try to stay even keel about it. You're never as good as they say you are and you're never as bad as they say you are. Always stay even keel, come out here and work my butt off, and everything else will handle itself."

Does your approach change at all, being that you are playing for a contract?
"I'm just focused, man. I've always been focused. It's a contract year, but I just have to go out there and play football. I just have to go out there, be the best player I can be, and everything else will take care of itself."

Is that easy to do?
"It's simple. Just come out here one day at a time, (and) focus on the rep that I'm practicing. When I'm in the film (room), focus on that film session. When we go to the games, take it one play at a time. That's all you can do. There's no need to get anxious about what can happen in the future. You just have to handle what you can handle, and that's today."

New Orleans Saints Cornerback Keenan Lewis
Post-Practice Media Availability
Saturday, July 26, 2014

You've got to be enjoying this weather.
"Yes, (I'm) definitely enjoying the weather, but also missing New Orleans – family and things like that. Training camp is training camp, and just a tough time of the season and you've got to get through it."

What are the steps to becoming the best defense in the league?
"Like coach (Sean Payton) has been emphasizing this whole offseason, all of OTAs, is trying to create turnovers. Coach pulled up some great statistics yesterday in meetings. The team that won the Super Bowl I think the last five years has been a leader in turnovers. That's something that we on the back end need to make, more turnovers."

I noticed you and Jairus Byrd having a discussion and going over a few things with Champ Bailey, kind of like a player-coach. Can you talk about those meetings a little bit?
"It's always an honor when you have a guy of that caliber who's been doing it forever, one of the best to ever do it, to coach us up. Any time we can pick his brain, any time we get a break, we are always asking some questions so that we could develop our game as well. He's been a tremendous help to me this offseason as far as trying to fix and tune my weaknesses, so I'm glad to have him."

Are you looking forward to wearing pads tomorrow?
"Me? I don't tackle like that (laughter). Yeah it's always great to have the opportunity to let some of your anger out, but I hope everybody stays healthy so we can go into the season ready."

What have you seen from Patrick Robinson so far?
"He scares me. That's a guy that I feel like could have a great opportunity to go up against the number one receiver no matter what team, but also a great teammate. I watched him this offseason, had the opportunity to really work with him as well. He's been working extremely hard to get back and I think he will be ready to go."

How many times have you gotten to go up against Brandin Cooks?
"I try to stay away from that guy (laughter). No I've been going against him a lot, and also help him as well. He's a young guy, new to the league. I'm just trying to help him learn things that cornerbacks will try to do to him. He's been trying to pick my brain as well, and it seems to work."

What stands out about him on the field?
"The guy is humble and a leader and hard-working. That's something that we need in this locker room and I'm glad to have him."

When Patrick Robinson is healthy, do you think he's good enough to start?
"Definitely. That's a guy who I feel as though we missed a lot last year. A lot of times we had to double-team in the slot and things like that. That's a guy who can play inside and outside, so he's definitely a starter."

Do you think you need to have back-to-back seasons of great performance to be called a shut-down corner and perhaps make a Pro Bowl?
"That isn't my goal to worry about the Pro-Bowl. If it comes, it comes. My goal is to get to Arizona, so whatever I can do to help my team get there I'm willing to do."

But it would be a nice cherry on top…
"It definitely would be a great opportunity to have the opportunity to play with the best and the elite, but that's not my goal. My goal is to get to the Super Bowl."

New Orleans Saints Running Back Pierre Thomas
Media Availability
Saturday, July 26, 2014

Can you talk about the vibe of this team?

"I can tell you one thing, I see a lot of focus in guys, focus on their assignments, doing the right things and being accountable for one another.  I see a lot of guys pulling each other up too.  It is starting to look like a team even though we have new faces, a lot of new guys, but we are starting to look like a team and you can start to see that.  It is not there yet, not where we wanted to be, but it is forming in that direction."

How special is it that you have been on this team as a running back for eight years?

"All the glory goes to God.  He got me here.  He got me in this position.  He gave me the gift to continue to be consistent and to show my talent to the whole NFL and the whole organization here.  It is just a blessing to be on the same team for eight years.  I've talked to plenty of guys who don't play running back but just have been in this league for so long and play different positions, and it is tough as it is.  You hear the average years for a running back and it's three years and just knowing that I am on my eighth year is truly a blessing. I am just happy to be where I am at.  I always stay humble and keep myself grounded.  Don't look into the limelight of who I am or where I am at, day in and day out I tell myself I have to keep grinding no matter what.  I still have to go out here and show everybody what I am capable of doing and let the coaches now what I am capable of doing every time I step on the field."

Do you still feel like you have a lot of gas left in the tank?

"Definitely, I'm just waiting for my opportunity to show it.  We have a lot of good running backs here.  We are going to split the time.  I am happy with that too because we have a lot of talent on this team.  I want these guys to shine also, but I also told them it's going to be tough because I am going to make sure it's tough. I am going to go out here and I am going to make sure you have to beat me out.  You have to put me on the bench.  I am not just going to sit on the bench easy.  I told these guys.  It is the same thing, I don't take it to heart. They don't take it to heart.  They know, they always come to me with questions.  I have been here the longest and I know what Sean (Payton) wants and what direction this organization wants to go.  They come to me with questions.  I am just trying to be that leader.

When you are in the running back meeting room, you are the boss?

"The coach is the boss but I'm his assistant. I just make sure everything is going right and making sure the guys are listening.  The coaches are going to do their jobs and coach.  The coaches try not to be our friend, but, because they have to do their job.  They have to teach and us as players we have to be the students.  We have to learn and listen and take criticism when coach says hey man, you messed up on this, you have to learn how to take that as a player and as a student. He is just teaching you and trying to get you better as a person.  That's why I try and come in as a player standpoint for guys to ease them just in case they get frustrated with a coach coming at him and breathing down their neck all the time.  They are doing that to get you better. That is what I am trying to tell these guys.  I am trying to calm their nerves down and try to put them in the right position."

Did you ever have to stop yourself about thinking about the future when you were a rookie?

"When I was a rook, one thing I tell myself since then and now, take everything one step at a time.  When I am on this field knowing everybody messes up, my attitude is try and do better than what you did yesterday.  Go out here and try and make less mistakes as you did yesterday.  Say I made five mistakes yesterday, I am coming out here today, I might make five but I am not trying to get to that number.  I am trying to make minimal mistakes as possible.  I try to tell these guys each and every day.  Go out here and do the best job you can.  If you made three mistakes, try and figure out those mistakes you made and try to figure out those mistakes you made and correct them.  Go out here and don't make those same mistakes.  If the coaches see you improving, that is the next step they want to see to be one of the starters, to play in this league, and be in this league as long as possible.  I tell these guys every day just to be focused and be humble.  Listen, listen to what everybody has to tell you.  Listen and play the game you know how to play it."

Did you pull Mark Ingram aside last year when he was hard on himself?

"He does, you can see it in his face.  He is passionate about his game and how he performs.  That is what you want to see in a player. That is what you want to see. You see Drew (Brees) do it a lot. I don't know how many times I've seen Drew if he threw a bad pass or an interception, he gets mad at himself.  That is what you should do.  Any guy I think would do the same thing.  You have to tell him you have to stay focused and that is me coming in this year and say hey man, focus, you messed up, let's move on to the next play.  Get better, show everybody that you forgot about that play you messed up on and show everybody that you can improve and go forward from a mistake."

Are you optimistic about the running game getting better?

"I know one thing we talked about this camp is focusing more on the run game.  We want to get back to where we were in the past of having a nice balanced offense and having out run game established.  That is one thing we are focusing on.  We are putting more time in on the running game than I have ever seen before this year.  I think it is a real focus point on what we are trying to do this year.  We are trying to show that we can run the ball this year.  We have great running backs.  We have an outstanding line that get the job done.  We just have to go out there and put it together. I think our run game this year is going to be solid and something that we are going to be happy about."

When you look at this team overall, do you think the run game is the missing element to make it all the way?

"I could say yes and no. I feel like last year we did OK for ourselves but we could have done better.  At this point it is hard to tell.  We have a bunch of new guys, a bunch of new faces.  We are trying to put every piece together at this point we don't know what piece is going to be in the right spot.  Right now we are focused on getting better as a team and come together as a team."

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