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NFC Conference Championship Chat with Jonathan Vilma

    <span>              <span style="">New Orleans Saints LB Jonathan Vilma</span>                
            <span style="">Wednesday, January 20, 2010</span>                 
            <span style="">Can you talk about what Darren Sharper has been able to add to your defense this year?  </span>                

"Darren Sharper has been the mainstay in our secondary. He started off real hot early in the season. And got hurt a little bit in the middle of the season, and he's right back to where he left off. It's great to have him.

I remember sitting down with him and Gregg Williams and Mickey Loomis. We went to Emeril's to go eat. We were trying to basically recruit him to get him here. It was great. I told him he would be a perfect fit for us. He was the guy we needed to help lead our secondary and get us to this spot right now."

What is it from the leadership standpoint and his knowledge of the game that helps so much?

"It's the veteran experience he has. He's been in the league 12, 13 years. He's made a ton of plays. I think he's the active leader in interceptions. When you have a guy like that, that means he knows what he's doing. He understands the games. He understands the concepts. He knows how to read the quarterback and make a play on the ball. So to have a guy like that, especially with the resurgence he had this year, it definitely wasn't a dropoff. If you compare his stats this year to any time or any point in his career."

Can you talk about how important it's been and what a difference it's made to have Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter and just your whole team's impact being healthy on the field?

"That has made a huge difference for us. You can see points in our season where at times we were playing lights out defense. Other times we're giving up the big play, giving up some points. We come back, we have everyone healthy to play the divisional game, and we're playing lights out defense again.

"That's a testament to the guys when they come back. They come back ready to go. There is no rust. There is no, Oh, my bad here, there. They go out there and play and perform well."

Sean said that having a guy like Sharper might not help coaches prepare that much. But in the locker room, him having played with Minnesota and with Brett in Green Bay, do you see something tangible as a veteran player that he can help?

"Yeah, he's definitely the guy we're going to go to to try to get the tips on their offense. I know that Drew's going to talk about the defense, and get anything that we can, the little edge. At this point we have two very good teams that are going to play each other, and whatever little edge you can get to help you win, that can make the difference in the game."

How important is it having all of your defensive backs healthy? How important will that be in stopping Adrian Peterson?

"It's going to be important when we try to put eight in the box. With an offense like Minnesota's they're very balanced in the running game and passing game. You can't sit back two deep or three deep. You're going to have to mix it up, disguise a few things. They're good enough to be able to disguise and get back into their spots and lock their guys down if we have to have them do that."

There was a play, the second touchdown pass for Rice by Favre where he gives the ball fake to the defensive lineman. The defensive lineman goes for it. Favre ducks under him. Seems like an opportunity where you just say hit the quarterback no matter what. Don't go for the ball fake and they've got a chance to get him on the ground. Is there a rule of thumb that you guys follow like that when going after a quarterback?

"Yeah, that is the rule of thumb. Don't jump when the quarterback is trying to pump you. It's easier said than done. You can say that in practice, say it when you're in the game. And you've got the adrenaline going and you're trying to make the big play. You see him pump and you try to bat the ball down. It's almost a conscious thing where you have to consciously tell yourself not to leave your feet. Stay on the ground. Try to get him on the ground and worry about the ball."

When you're playing against a quarterback like that and he does things that maybe break the rules of quarterback where he throws the ball against his body or whatever, how does that change things for defensive guys?

"The only thing it changes is understanding that the play is never over. He's not going to be a guy to just go down or suffice and take the sack. He's going to try to get rid of it, get to one of his receivers. He's very accurate when he's throwing off balance, when he's throwing on the run and throwing across his body. For a guy like that, the play's never over."

Much has been made of changing the culture on defense here. What was the culture prior to Gregg Williams' arrival? And what did he do to change the culture? What does it mean when he says that?

"Prior to Gregg's arrival, I was here under Gary (Gibbs) for one year. I couldn't really tell you the culture because I was only here for a year. Now we have Gregg. What I say is that we changed some of the personnel, so we've got a new defensive coordinator. The glaring stat would be the turnovers. That is the biggest thing right now and that's what we preach."

But he speaks about an attitude change. What was the attitude under Gary last year? And how has the attitude changed this year?

"I wouldn't say the attitude has changed where now all of a sudden we're just bigger, meaner, tougher guys. That is not the attitude that's changed. I think the way we go about practice, the way we focus on the details, I think that's changed. I think that's more to a man than to Gregg or Gary comparing the two. I think it's more to a man or a player deciding to focus on the details and understanding that the details are what are going to get us past 8 8 each year. It's going to get us to this level, this point of the season."

You mentioned recruiting Sharper. And Drew was talking earlier about him being recruited here. So many of you guys started out in other places. What is it about this place that makes you want to be here? Is it the organization, the community, little of both?

"It's a little bit of both. It's the organization of course. We have a saying that it starts from the top. You have a guy like Tom Benson who is a great owner. He understands football, and he understands that he's not the football guy. He brings in guys like Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton who are football guys. They understand the game and the type of players that you need to get here and win games. So that's big to have. To have an organization like that where from top to bottom it's topnotch. Top notch coaching, top notch guys, top notch players.

For a guy like myself who was on the outside looking in a couple years ago, I'm looking at guys like Drew Brees. He goes out there and does nothing but make plays out there. It's rare to find quarterbacks like that around the league. For myself, this is the situation I wanted to be in."

What kind of tips can you get from Sharper on Favre that you can't see on film? You say guys are going to go to him. What is an example of what you might ask him?

"Honestly, I don't know if I want to tell you anything (laughing). I'll be honest. It's the game inside the game. That's what you call it. You have the X's and O's, and the play calls and the call that's Gregg is going to call and Sean's going to call. You have the game within the game. When you're on the field, not too many people will notice besides the players."

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