New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton
Virtual media availability
Friday, Dec. 31, 2021
Do you feel there was a missed opportunity this year with not playing as well as years past in the Superdome?
"Yeah, we're in the middle of the season., so this isn't a time for reflection. We're fighting right now to play these last two games well. That's something in the offseason that we'll look at. Certainly, we want to play better at home. This will be an important game (on Sunday)."
Are you preparing to face both Sam Darnold and Cam Newton on Sunday?
"Yeah. You have to because you can't control how much both of them play. We know Sam (Darnold) will start, but we're defending both packages."
Are the packages for Sam Darnold and Cam Newton pretty different?
"Well, look, I'm not going to (disagree). It'd be like having a package for when Taysom (Hill) entered the game at quarterback. Just knowing there's a strong run threat for someone who's so gifted at it (Cam Newton), there's sometimes a situational play or red zone situation where there's short yardage. I think it's just about understanding what happens when either quarterback is in the game. I think that's the way to approach it."
Has this work week been back to some sort of normalcy compared to last week with all of the positive Covid cases?
"Well, compared to last week, yeah. We're still dealing with some Covid and injury issues, so I think the next 24 hours will be important relative to a handful of our players. But yeah, it couldn't be anything close to what it was a week ago."
Do you have built in contingencies if someone tests positive for Covid-19 at the last minute, a day or so prior to a game?
"Yep. You have to always prep your roster, regardless of Covid, outside of the 11 starters. In other words, in the event someone pulls a hamstring on a Friday, you have to have someone ready. This (Covid-19) situation) has been more fluid given this situation can indiscriminately come regardless of how much someone practices. So yeah, you are training guys to do multiple things."
What was it about P.J. Williams that made you believe in his ability, going back to when he was drafted in 2015?
"Well, there's two traits. At his pro day, that was Jameis (Winston's) pro-day, I want to say they had six or seven players there (at Florida State). He has really good ball skills and he is smart. Those are good traits for defensive backs and corners, specifically. He's played outside, inside, and free safety, so his football IQ allows him to do some of those things and do them pretty well. If the ball's near him, he can catch it and I think he's pretty good pressure player when he rushes."
How did Pete Werner fill in last week for Demario Davis?
"He's smart and has good instincts. I thought he played well. I thought he played really well. Defensively, we did a lot of things well. I'm encouraged with his first season and how he's doing. He's really instinctive and you can see his progress on tape."
New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins
What was it like watching Monday night's game at home?
"It's been a while since I haven't played in a game. So yeah, it's been a little awkward trying to tune in from home not being able to be around anybody and isolating myself. Watching the game in isolation was a little different, but obviously you feel helpless a little bit as the game takes part. This is just part of the game though. So many players are experiencing that this year, and definitely a lot of guys on our team. That was definitely something I haven't been used to."
How different does Carolina look offensively than they did in week two?
"I believe so. When they have (Sam) Darnold in there and when they have Cam Newton in there, it is the same offense in general, but they have a lot more run-predicated schemes in for Cam. They have a lot of quarterback powers, zone reads, QB keep runs that you have to be really paying attention for in the short-yardage, third downs, and in the red zone. Some of those things don't show up with the other quarterback (Sam Darnold) in. We're preparing to face both quarterbacks on Sunday. You have to be able to turn the page depending on who the quarterback is and what plays are available, but I think you have seen them develop a little different personality than they had earlier in the year."
What is Marcus Williams impact on a secondary?
"I think, to me, watching Marcus' (Williams) tape, he's got more range than anybody in this league, just talking about the ability to erase deep balls between the numbers and that part of the field. We'll miss his range, his leadership on the field with getting guys lined up, he tackles well when he's out of split safety. We ask a lot out of our safeties in split safety with being able to come up and defend the run but also defend the deep passes in the back end. He's got that down pat, so obviously missing him is huge. He's a big part of what we do."
What was your impression of how PJ Williams filled in for you last week?
"PJ is a guy we rely on to be versatile. He's the next up almost at every position, whether it's at corner, nickel, dime, strong safety, free safety, we ask him to know it all. I've been that guy in my career in almost every season, having to learn multiple positions. It's not easy to do, but he's been able to step in and really play well. He's played well all year. Having to bounce around all over the field but still being productive at multiple spots is special. I think P.J. and his play are a big reason why our defense has been consistent throughout the year, even when guys like myself and Marcus Williams are out."
How hard is it to play multiple positions like P.J. is doing?
"It's difficult, but it comes down to your preparation, maturity as a player, and being able to compartmentalize the gameplan. One play you're playing strong safety, then on third down you might be at the nickel or free safety. The language, angles, the caveats at all of those spots are different, so to be able to do that, you really have to have a solid understanding of the entire gameplan. Last week (against Miami) wasn't a dumbed down gameplan, it was the same packages we run every week. That bandwidth gets pretty full on some players, but P.J.'s now been in that role for a couple of seasons. I think he's really starting to step into his own as a player. He's making a ton of plays on the football, he's always been a great tackler, and now, he's able to bounce around different positions. We say it all of the time in this league, the more you can do, the longer you stay around. I think that's a big reason why PJ's been around here."
How difficult is it to play defensive back like Paulson Adebo has as a rookie? How has he developed throughout this year?
"Yeah, when he came in, we saw immediately that he has a mature spirit to him, and the game doesn't seem too fast or too much for him. He still makes some mistakes here and there, but I remember trying to play corner my rookie year. It's not easy and your confidence is one of those things that's hard to maintain, especially when the season is now doubled to what you're used to in college. He's been consistent with his routine, practice habits, demeanor, and attentiveness in meetings. He's continuing to get better as the weeks go on. It's been really impressive watching him as such a young player. Hats off to the coaching staff, the leaders in the room, but really for Adebo, because you see a lot of rookies sometimes get lost in the longevity of the season and lose their consistency. He's been a stable piece of what we're doing on defense."
Does it matter to you where your wins and losses happen?
"There's nothing we can do about it right now. I think stepping outside of the season, you usually want to play well at home. Usually if you split on the road, you are probably looking at 10-11 wins at that point. We're not used to not playing great at home, but at this point in the season, it's all behind us. We're going to do everything we can to get the win this week. So, it really doesn't matter at this moment, but you obviously want to play well at home. I think there are games where we probably, on paper, should not have won, and there are others where we should have won, and we didn't. That is just how the season goes. With where we are right now, we don't have the luxury to nitpick with what's transpired up to this point. We only have the opportunity that's right in front of us if we want to have the opportunity to play in the postseason."
Did you feel any symptoms after you tested positive for Covid-19 last week?
"Yeah, I actually self-tested, just to make sure. I knew Covid was going around so I voluntarily tested. I tested positive and I started feeling symptoms pretty soon thereafter. I know other guys felt symptoms, and I was one of them."
How did you feel Dennis Allen handled being the interim head coach against Tampa Bay?
"When I was here before, DA was the defensive backs coach. But even then, you could see he had the mind of a defensive coordinator. He went on to be a head coach (at Oakland), so he has been in those situations. You could tell that he was prepared to step into it. You could tell it wasn't just your average replacement head coach. We were not only just missing our (head) coach, but also some players. To be able to do it all with the chaos and things happening during the week with having to adjust the game plan and keeping the team together and focused was great. Playing like we did in Tampa and even last week, for as crazy as the week was, we were prepared to go into the game and play as best as we could. His leadership was a huge part of that."
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara
Opening remarks from Mike Triplett (ESPN):
"Big, exciting news, for the second year in a row you won our media appreciation award again!"
"That's what I'm talking about. It's a prestigious award, man, there's not many people that had the honor of hoisting this this trophy, and doing it with such grace and such swagger. So appreciative, man. I was looking forward to this. I appreciate y'all!"
"Grace and swagger, those are actually the top two qualities we look for. Grace and swagger. And you nailed both."
"I just check the boxes."
"We genuinely do appreciate it, though. You give us entertaining answers, but also honest ones. So thank you for that."
"No doubt, I can't tell a lie."
You guys are significantly different offensively than the first time you played this team. Can you put your put your arms around how different you guys are? You don't have Jameis (Winston) obviously, you don't have your two tackles, you don't have Andrus (Peat), a lot of people that weren't there the first time.
"Yeah, I mean, it's kind of what's been going on this season, a lot of ups and downs. a lot of people in and out. I mean, I was hurt for a little bit, like you said, our tackles. I mean, our offensive line is depleted, quarterback gone. I mean, it is what it is. Nobody feels sorry for us. And I mean, football don't stop for nobody, time don't stop for nobody. So we just keep moving and keep countering and trying to counter some of these punches. It is what it is, we have still got a game to play, we are preparing and staying focused and getting ready like any other week. So it is definitely a different team, but I think whoever steps in, they have got the same goal in mind. There's no drop off expected, we expect to go in and try to do what we got to do to get a victory."
Obviously, you were around last week, but a lot of other people weren't just how weird was it 20 plus guys going on and off the Covid list, and not really knowing who was going to be able to play last week and kind of some of that continuing into this week too?
"Yeah, I mean, that doesn't happen really, this is a unique, these are unique circumstances. These past two years have been crazy with this pandemic. So, I mean, you never know what's going to take out. Usually, it'd be a couple of guys, but to have 20 plus guys and guys still out. I mean, you don't know what's going to happen, guys might still catch it. So, I mean, I've never been a part of something like that. It was tough. We know what we were dealing with, we had to go in and try to play the best we could with what we had. And I mean, I think, I don't even think, we barely had any depth. Honestly, we probably had five or six players worth of depth between offense and defense maybe so. I mean, it was tough, but it is what it is, like I said it don't stop, it keeps moving. The NFL don't feel sorry for us. Nobody feels sorry for us. So it is what it is."
As somebody who's been testing negative throughout that whole time, what's the kind of feeling when everybody's testing positive around you? Like you don't know if you're going to test positive?
"The protocols are a little different now so, I mean, I don't know? It's funny. I'll say that, to say the least. But, I made sure to test, I think Malcolm (Jenkins) was talking about how he self-tested. You've just got to do your best to stay safe. Me personally, I think, just with, despite the protocols, whatever they may be, I think everybody should get tested. I mean, I would not want to not test and come in here and infect my teammates, I am not, I dont care about the like, at in this point in time, if we talking about Covid and this virus, I care about football. It is people's families. It's people's health that's at stake, at risk. So I would want to test every day to figure out, to know if I have Covid so I don't spread it, and to know that I have covered so I don't, if God forbid, it affects me negatively, I would want to be ahead of that. So, I mean, thankfully, I haven't tested positive. I mean, I had it last year, but I haven't tested positive this year. And then thankfully, the guys that have had it they've been pretty healthy. I think everybody kind of has been able to deal with it and not have too many symptoms. So that's a good thing. But I mean, it just sucks. It's kind of where we are as a world right now."
When you're running like, do you like know your blockers? Do you know their tendencies, anticipate things based off what they do or you just kind of run in behind whoever's back there and it doesn't really make a difference?
"No, I think I've got a pretty good feel for everybody that's blocking whether it be a Marquez (Callaway) on outside, whether it be Cesar (Ruiz), whether it be Terron (Armstead), whether it be Juwan (Johnson), I think I've got a pretty good gauge on how guys take on blocks and what their strengths and what their weaknesses are. But I think what people don't know like, you guys know because you guys are always around, but like the average fan watching, like, they think we just come in on Sunday and just play a game. And that's not the case. Like, I mean, we talk like Cesar comes up to me more than anybody and be like, Hey, what are you thinking about on this play? Like, because I'm going to do this. And if you do this, I'll do this. I'm like, bro, just go. I know, I could feel it. I mean, we've got a lot of time on task on a lot of these things. But if it's something that you suggesting then I'll listen. Just like with Terron. Terron will come up in the middle of game and be like, hey, this end is weak. I'm going to just go maul him and just run. I'm like alright, cool. I got you. I'm waiting for you. I'm waiting for your cue. So I'm in tune to all those things as far as like, running behind my blockers goes, because we talk and we communicate."
So like, when guys are going in and out like that, does that affect you? And is it easier to make those adjustments with people that you've been with for a while?
"Yeah, it's easier to make those adjustments for sure. Like with a Terron (Armstead), I've been playing Terron for five years now, with (Ryan) Ramczyk and Cesar has been two and Erik (McCoy three). But I mean, even with guys coming in and coming out, I mean, like, we (Will) Clapp playing and (Calvin) Throckmorton getting time and (James) Hurst. I think I've got a pretty good beat, and they've kind of got a pretty good feel for how I run because, I mean, it's a lot of times when they are talking, they are like, man, I thought you were tackled, and then you just kept going. I'm like, Yeah, so I think, I mean, we all just play off each other. I mean, every game we're learning because even with Terron and those guys, and even Adam (Prentice) just being a new fullback. Like, with him, we're learning every game, and there's stuff that maybe he might do, and I'm like, dang, okay, that's new or something that I might do and he's like man that happened fast. So we're just playing off each other and learning. It's always an evolution. It is always, I think a learning process every game."
Since you haven't tested positive yet, are you taking extra precautions since it's hit 70% of the team? I mean, are you quarantining yourself?
"I think with like last week, it was hard to kind of get a beat on what was going on. Because we tried our best, we kind of went to virtual meetings and did a little bit of that. But, I mean, we still had to get some practices in so we are not knowing who had it and who did not. It was tough and it's hard to say like quarantine yourself, because we're interacting with each other, coaches, players, and then you go home and you might test the next day, you might not have it. Incubation period plays a role. You sit around thinking you're safe and then guys are like, Oh, well, I got it, I got it. So it's hard, but I mean, I don't know. I mean, it's just tough. Outside of this building, I think. I mean, it's easier, you could just go home and chill, kind of stay away from everybody, but in the building and stuff, because we're so close. And when we're all together, whether it's meeting rooms. The protocols are, they've got protocols in place, but I mean, It's not 100% obviously."
What is it about the new protocols that had you scratching your head? I saw you said that on Twitter, too. Is it that you don't have to test as much?
"Yeah, you don't have to test then you can come back within 10 days. Then two days later, they say you can come back within five days. You can come back if you're positive still. I don't know. I mean, I guess the doctors at the NFL figured it out. I'm just an employee."