New Orleans Saints defensive tackle David Onyemata
Training camp videoconference with New Orleans media
Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020
You have a pretty good chemistry going in that defensive line group, how would you kind of describe that just from your experience and working with those guys?
"Definitely, it's been a group, we've been together for what, the past, the past four years I would say, or three years. But everyone comes in and we all just gel. The big thing is the guys upstairs actually bring in the guys with the right personality to actually be on this team and in the room. So it's a brotherhood and it's a big bond."
I was just wondering, all the adjustments you guys have had to make in order to pull off this training camp. How have you found it personally going about getting work done?
"It hasn't been too hard. It sure hasn't been too hard. The toughest part was doing the offseason (preparations) from the beginning. But it feels good being back at work, being back a routine, so it's great being back."
How did you settle into that routine? In the offseason everything is so different compared to years past?
"It was a little tough actually finding places to workout because I stayed here the entire offseason so sometimes, you go to a field and it's closed and you have to find the next best alternative, but it's all about making it work."
What do you feel like is left for you to improve? Where do you want to see yourself kind of take the next step?
"I just like every year taking it a day at a time looking at certain things you could improve on, regardless of what year or what stage a person is at. You cannot stop improving on certain things. So that's kind of the approach I take towards it."
Is there anything specific though?
How much are you looking forward to getting the pads going and being able to kind of gauge where you are right now?
"The pads actually change a lot of things. It lets you know where exactly (where) you are at the moment. So it'll be, we get into pads tomorrow. It'll be really good. Just to actually see where you're at with certain things and it's going to give us more things to work off of."
Do you have any personal goals for this season?
"Just go out there and ball."
There won't be fans for at least game one at home. Have you thought about that at all and how different the home field environment will be?
"I think everyone has actually thought about that. Because the home-field advantage plays a big role, especially being on the defensive side and having the crowd cheer you on while you're on the field. Sometimes the offense, they can't get their plays (called and executed properly because of the noise), that plays a big role. But this year, I don't know if anyone has actually experienced anything like that, but it's something we would have to get a feel for, then work off that."
Back when you were playing in college, how many fans were at games back then for you?
"It wasn't too much. There were fans out there cheering though."
I just wanted to ask you about the face guard, are you using the shield or not?
"No, I'm not."
Any of your teammates using it and if so what are hearing from them?
"I wouldn't be the one to talk to about that right now. I guess when you see them, you could ask them that. It might be something personal to them, so (I'll leave it to them)."
What has it been like having Sheldon Rankins back out there and what are you hoping to see out of him this year, just knowing the kind of disappointing way the last couple of years ended for him from injuries?
"Just having the group back together, it is actually big. Everyone plays a big role in this defense. We all kind of go out there and talk things out. Especially if we're out in a NASCAR situation, we have all the guys out there, there's a gel to it, we kind of have, so it's good having him back. Seeing him coming off, something major and seeing how he's moving right now, that's, that's really good."
Last year obviously losing Sheldon, I mean certainly it's not a positive but I just wonder from your standpoint, how much did you feel like it gave you more opportunity to be able to grow and be a part of the defensive line last year?
"Over the last couple years I've been learning from Ryan Nielsen. Our (defensive) coaches, (led by my position coach) Ryan, they take their job to heart and they coach us the right way."
New Orleans Saints tackle Ryan Ramczyk
Training camp conference call with New Orleans media
I don't know if this is football related or not, but are you still able to operate with some anonymity considering now your status as an Associated Press first-team All-Pro or are kind of having people, I don't want to say bombard, but are people recognizing you more?
"Recognize me more in what, like in what way would you say?"
Just normal life, at the gas station, at the grocery store.
"I haven't seen like a huge change, maybe a little bit. I know when I go back home, everyone knows just (be)cause I'm from a small town, so there more so than here, but yeah, I'll get recognized here once in a while."
Is that something you're comfortable with now or how do you receive it?
"Yeah, I'm comfortable with it. It's always awesome to see people in your community recognize an offensive lineman. We don't get a lot of media (attention), a lot of press and so it's cool when people recognize you. I think it's cool."
I'm just curious how difficult you felt like this offseason from a personal standpoint was to be able to get ready for this season. And I know you guys are kind of doing the acclimatization period and whatnot right now, but are you a guy who needs to be within the team environment in order to be able to work out or are you fine being able to do everything on your own and prepare?
"Yeah, I wouldn't say I need to be (in the team environment). I think it's beneficial when everyone can get together and you can work with everyone, but this offseason was totally different. I would say it was a little bit more difficult to prepare, but at the same time, it is what it is and you have to still train, you have to get your body right, your mind right and be ready to go for camp. Personally, I think that I was able to handle it all right. I think I'm good and ready to go."
Did you do anything different? Did you work with like a trainer or did you kind of just handle everything individually?
"I was able to work out here for a little bit because I had a knee scope right at the end of the season. I was kind of fortunate enough to be able to have all the resources here and be able to work in that fashion. I guess I cannott really speak too much about not having that. I guess the biggest thing for me was not being able to be around the other guys and talk to them and work with them personally."
Most of you guys on the line, offensive and defensive, kind of look forward to when the pads are going to come on, they're going to come on tomorrow. Is that something that you're really looking forward to so you guys can really start to gauge where you are?
"Every year you go into camp and when those pads come on, it's a different tempo. It is full go. As an offensive lineman, it's something that you kind of look forward to like, alright, let's go time now and you can kind of test yourself again and see where you are, what you need to improve on. When you have the full pads, it's really the only time that you can truly evaluate yourself and kind of see where you are and what you need to improve on. The padded days are definitely a benefit for sure."
What have you seen in Cesar Ruiz and what do you think about Andrus Peat and his new body?
"Cesar has been good. He's a smart football player. I think he's going to be able to adapt well into this league. He's strong, he's physical, kind of going back to the padded thing, he's going to be able to showcase really what kind of player he is when the pads come on. As far as Peat, man he looks great. He said that he's in the best condition of his life so (I'm) happy for him and I'm sure he's excited to get going as well."
What was kind of your reaction when you saw him the first time?
"(laughter) It was a big change. He looks really good. He looks in shape and he looks like an in shape offensive lineman. He looks good."
Does it make any difference for you who plays at guard? I know they aren't certain, at least they're telling us they are certain who's playing where. Does it change anything for you based on who's playing next to you?
"A little bit, in some fashions. There some things in the run and pass game that guards and tackles kind of have to be in sync with each other in different fashions in this game. It will be a little bit different, but like I said, Cesar's very adaptable. He's been going center, guard and when he comes out to guard, we've gotten sets together and we've been working a little bit already. I think he's doing a good job."
You mentioned you got your knee scope. What was that for and I'm assuming you're good now?
"Yeah, there was this a little bit of loose cartilage that they had to take out at the end of the year."
You mentioned the lack of having preseason games. I know sometimes that can kind of break up the monotony of camp. Have you thought about that at all or like how you're going to keep that intensity up during these weeks of practice?
"Yeah. I don't know exactly how it's going to feel yet without having preseason games, but, it'll be a little bit different. It's always nice to go against someone else. You keep going against the same guys, which for me, I get to go against Cam (Jordan). So that's some of the best practice you can possibly get, but it is nice to go test out other defenses, defensive schemes, defensive players, and get that experience. I think for younger players, I think it's even more beneficial. As a rookie, when I came in, that was very beneficial for me, those preseason games. (It's) Kind of a tough spot for them (2020 rookies), but at the same time, this is what we're given and this is what we have to do. We'll make the most of it here. I'm sure we'll have some game like scenarios and it'll be fun. We'll get a lot of good work done still."
How much emphasis do you place on ball security and has that changed at all in your time here just with some of the messaging there?
"As an offensive lineman, obviously we don't hear it that much (in an offensive line meeting since we don't hold the football), but we do hear it on the practice field a ton. Sean (Payton) was talking about it the other day. I can't remember the exact statistics, but we were the best in history with (fewest) turnovers or something like that. I don't remember exactly what it was, but it was an impressive stat and that's definitely something we hear all the time in (team and offensive) meetings, in the locker room, on the field. Ball security is vital in this game."
How much of a role do you think that's played in racking up 37 wins over the last three years? Each year, you've have been up there in terms of turnover margin.
"Yeah, it is huge. Anytime you give the ball away, obviously it gives the opponent the advantage. When you can hold onto the ball, take the ball away from the other team, you are going to win games on that alone. Just the amount of possessions per game. Ball security is essential for sure."
I know (Erik) McCoy came in last year and played center his first year, but just given the craziness of this offseason and the terminology and the depth of knowledge that you have to know on this offensive line to be able to run this offense, how realistic do you really think it could be week one for someone like Cesar Ruiz to play center if that is the role that they choose for him?
"I think it's realistic. Is it difficult? Yeah, I think it's difficult. There is a lot to know, there's a lot to learn. How does he mesh with Drew (Brees)? There's a lot that goes into the center position, but I definitely think it's realistic. Cesar's a great player, he's a smart player, and I'm sure that whatever the coaching staff decides, Cesar is going to be able to assume that role."
I'm sure like it at some point during this offseason he was sent the playbook and maybe he was just kind of studying on his own and then also getting with you guys in Zoom meetings, is that kind of where he'd ask most of his questions? Would he lean on you guys or the coaching staff or Drew (Brees), how did that kind of go about?
"I know they had a lot of meetings, especially with Dan (Roushar), our offensive line coach, in the offseason. He's had time to prepare and when I came in, Dan did a great job of preparing me with my knowledge for this game. And then at the end of the day, it really comes out to, all right, you know all this stuff now and now let's go perform out on the field. It is a lot to learn, but so far he's been doing great and he's really getting this stuff down. I think he's putting himself in a good position."
You guys as an offensive line have been together, as a core, pretty consistently. There hasn't been too much turnover. When you get a new guy, like Cesar Ruiz, how do you kind of build chemistry with him considering that you other guys played together for so long?
"Yeah, I think it's really reps, it's repetition. It's trusting him, him trusting us, but I think overall, if you look at that it's reps, it's on the field, it's practice, it's going through all the little details that you have to do to play at this level. So I think at the end of the day, just going out in the field, getting used to how each other at work, how we work together."
Terron (Armstead) said a little while back that the feeling right now is Super Bowl or bust. Do you agree with that and how are y'all trying to achieve that goal when your entire offseason has been disrupted?
"Well, Super Bowl or bust, yeah, I saw Terron said that and absolutely I am on the same page with him. I feel like we have such an incredible team here. I don't know how many years Drew (Brees) has left, Hall of Fame quarterback. It seems like we have all the pieces here to go win this thing, but as far as like preparing in the crazy offseason and stuff, I think that's where kind of more veteran teams will prevail this season. Guys who are focused on their craft and are responsible players and can come and approach this game like they always do and just have that dedication."
Since, since you've been out there seeing everybody, and we haven't so far, who out of the young guys, outside of Cesar has kind of caught your eye?
"I really could not put a name on someone, I think they have all been doing a really good job. As far as a certain player, I don't know."
Jameis (Winston) having being a rival for so long and now he's with your team, what have been some of your early impressions of him when you are in the huddle with him?
"I don't know if I've gotten on the huddle with him. Oh yeah, I have. He's a good dude. He seems like a really genuine person and he seems like he has a real dedication to learn and to understand this offense and he seems like a really good person."
Can you just talk about what your main focus, a couple of things you wanted to work on, whether skills wise or physique wise or anything this offseason that you focused on in your training?
"There's always a whole laundry list of things that I'd like to improve on, but I think there's a couple of things in the run and pass game, just little things that, consistently, I would like to improve on. I'm talking really small details, just like where I carry my hands in my pass game, my pad level in my pass game and run game, certain stuff like footwork on the play side of outside or inside zone run. Really little details like that I have been working on a little bit in the off season."
Just following up on that last answer, just your offseason work, those little details. Does it become more detailed each year as you've settled into the league and kind of ascended to the top of your position?
"I would say so, yeah. Coming in as a rookie and first, second year guy, there's so much that you need to get better at and learn, and it's just an ongoing process and I'm not even close to being where I think I should be. But I think at the same time, as you get experienced and you get a couple more years under your belt, it's like, all right, now I can start to really fine tune my game and pick up some of the more small points in my game that I needed to improve on."
Just like to get an idea of like the hand placement, how much of a difference, are we talking like inches here, just like really small, granular details?
"Literally, small stuff like that. The only way you fix it is by repetition because you go on a pass set and you're thinking, this is where my hands are naturally set. So you have to consciously think about all right, I need to carry this hand a little bit higher and so it is just a repetition thing that you have to ingrain in your brain to just automatically do that every time."