On the day following the completion of their 2010 minicamp, the Saints took part in their fifth OTA workout today in the indoor practice facility. The club will not be on the field tommorrow as they will instead travel to Buras, La. to show their support for the Gulf Coast as they attempt to contain and recover from the recent oil spill. Below is Saints head coach Sean Payton's post-practice interview.
"After today's work, we used and stayed with the same installations as yesterday in regards to our nickel and third down. Tomorrow the schedule will change, and then back to Wednesday and Thursday with two more OTAs before we break for the weekend. The plan for tomorrow, Governor Jindal had a great idea. He had a plan, initially, for a team lunch with the people up in Baton Rouge being at the Governor's Mansion with the Legislature. And I think the idea that he came up with about having this lunch, but just having it down in Plaquemines Parish, rather than in Baton Rouge with everything that's going on made a ton of sense to us and we're really happy to be invited by him and his staff as a team to come down there. It's been received well by our players. They're looking forward to this opportunity to really get a chance to go down, really just have a presence and see some of the damages that have been done and then also be with the people. The nuts and bolts of the itinerary have us leaving around 8:30 in the morning. We'll get down there to the town called Buras, which is just outside of Venice. We'll arrive there. There will be a period of where our team will have a chance to tour and see that area. The Governor, our ownership, really, all parties will have a chance to visit with the media, will have a chance to have lunch and just be with those people right now in a difficult time. We'll come back in the afternoon. Having never been there, the drive I think is certainly longer than Baton Rouge, so we'll get back in the late afternoon, but everyone's looking forward to it. So I think it's appropriate, certainly in light of everything that's taking place, and the idea that Governor Jindal had about really just changing the location of this lunch and still really having the opportunity to have lunch with the Governor in this area right now. We're excited about it, and we also appreciate the opportunity that he's given us."
The players aren't going to be physically working at the event?
"I think the players are probably going to be more involved with visiting with these people. I think it'll probably be because of the logistics. It would be too complicated for them to get in full gear. our whole team will be there, they'll have a chance to meet with the fishermen, they'll have a chance to meet with the homeowners, the residents there and really just be around them. They'll have a chance, also to tour and see the Wildlife Rescue Center, to spend time with our Governor and state leaders, and really just have a presence. I think more importantly than anything else, they understand what that means to these people that have been a big part of our fan base, a big part of a region that has been very supportive of us, and this is just a way for us to be supportive of them right now, especially right now."
You mentioned yesterday that you called Will Smith a 'three-down' kind of defensive lineman. Are you looking for the same type of player on the other side of the line?
"Well, I think when I used the term of a three-down player, that would mean he has versatility against the run and the pass. I think we try and look at each player's strength and weaknesses and then evaluate how we want them to play within a given scheme, either defensively or offensively. In his case though, I think he's someone that plays the run with real good consistency and he plays the pass the same way. Rather than go through each of the ends on our lineup, but those skill sets vary, and some people are better in the nickel situation, some guys are more versed in the early downs run situations. It's just really applying what we think the strengths and weaknesses of each player are and then applying them."
Are you willing to shuttle players on one side more than you might with Will's side?
"Yes, we might move Will around more, but certainly Will's going to have more snaps because of his playing ability."
Do you have any kind of concrete timetable of Clint Ingram getting back on the field? I know he's a guy you probably wanted to look at his potential to be filling that starting role.
"Our goal with him, along with a couple other players, is to begin giving him work in training camp. (We'll) monitor the amount of snaps he gets, much like we would with Robert Meachem, Darren Sharper. There's a few of those players that we have identified already, and it's just really measuring where he's at in his rehab. It's going well right now, so that hadn't changed."
Can you talk about how Troy Evans has been taking snaps with the starting unit at strongside and if he might fit into the mix even though he has been more of a core special teams player throughout his career.
"He has played and played a number of snaps with injury (to Scott Fujita). He's someone that isn't overlooked by us. He's getting a lot of work, he's experienced, and he provides versatility in that he can play in the base and that he can also play in the kicking game. He's very much a factor in that competition and very much a factor in battling for playing time."
When you have reviewed your special teams from last year, where do you see that you can improve just overall generally?
"I think the latter part of the season, really heading in the playoffs, our return game really—and I know we had big return when we scored against Arizona, I think that's an area that we keep looking to improve on. I think as you get deeper into your roster, a lot's been mentioned about the competition for young players on a Super Bowl team, this time frame basically gives us an opportunity to improve, not only the first portion of the roster, but the bottom half of the roster, and when you do that, you also improve your kicking game. So, I think, without selecting one area, I think we are just always trying to pay attention to what's the player's role and how many snaps will he get in the game outside of offense and defense. As you bring in younger players, that either play defensively or at tight end, or running back, when they can play, on the kicking game and the special teams and not just be inserted there, but actually play and play well. Lynell Hamilton is a good example. He began to play at a level that, on special teams, where he had to be up because he was becoming a factor and so, looking closely at a new group of players and some of the players we brought in, that have already been in the league, that's something that we've paid attention to and no difference than and offense or defense, we look to say hey let's get more consistent in these phases. Let's get more consistent with our punt return game. We struggled earlier in the year with that. Just our return team, we got better and improved, so this is the time of the year where you have a chance to look at all these players and watch them run."
Do you stress with rookies and draft picks that making a positive impression on special teams is the easiest way to make the roster?
"It's the very first topic that comes up at the first team meeting, that you are all fighting for a roster spot, their versatility, their ability to play in the kicking game is vital. Malcolm Jenkins, a year ago, as a first year player, excelled in the kicking game, as well as playing on defense. For some of them there's a little bit less experience maybe at the college level in doing that, but they need to, certainly, embrace it and understand with the roster sizes, that it's much different than college football. There's not 80 or 90 guys on a team when the season starts. So you've got to be able to do a number of things, especially as a young player trying to establish yourself."
What do you think Clint Gresham will have to do to make this club?
"It'll be a chance for him to compete. Certainly he's a guy that we think has got real good consistency and velocity. We evaluated him as one of the top long snappers in the draft. He's going to battle a veteran player in Jason Kyle. I think it's difficult for a lot of these young players, and yet he's someone that has a unique skill set and has done well. In our evaluation, we felt strong about him, thought he might get drafted and fortunately were able to sign him after the draft."
If both of those guys do their job well in the preseason, isn't it kind of like splitting hairs?
"I think you have to look really closely at the consistency, the times, get offs, all those things. But it is a more measureable position maybe than some positions that are a little bit more gray. You just look for the consistency, the time, the location, and all those things. He'll get a lot of work and get a lot of snaps."
Knowing that you had a guy here who's a longtime veteran, how hard was it to convince him to maybe that this was a good spot for him?
"I think that challenge exists after the draft with all of the free agents because usually they are on the phone with their agent, and they're trying to look closely at each team's depth chart, and trying to find the team with the best fit. Back to Pierre Thomas, as we are recruiting him after the draft, the depth chart ahead of him was pretty filled. In fact we had drafted a running back that same year in the fourth round, and he came anyway. I think that exists with any free agent, especially the ones that are maybe more coveted right after the draft. All the depth charts have competition. In other words, none of them are coming into a spot where we need you because we don't have anyone. They are going to have to come in and beat at least one or two players out. I'm sure he paid close attention to the various teams; it comes to your ability as a staff to sell your program, and fortunately for us, he selected our team."
Did you sign any of the tryout guys?
"We are going to announce later today. We'll have one transaction. I don't want to give it to you right yet, but there will be one transaction we'll make."
Without setting up a game plan, mini-camp, OTAs, and looking at practice this morning, how much comes in to play in an offensive perspective, when it seems like Patrick Robinson, not necessarily are you going after him, but he was exploited for giving up a number of plays, is that when you're with the quarterbacks and talking about particular plays?
"I think I know what you're saying, I think we're not at the point where we're targeting individual players, I think there's a progression in this early installation of where you go versus certain coverage's. Today there was a handful of nickel snaps that we got, some favorable matchups, based on the coverage looks that Drew saw, he came inside to either (Marques) Colston or Lance Moore. I think that as you progress in the preseason you begin to really look at not only the play designed but the personnel defending it and begin to attack certain defenders. An experienced player like Drew, is going to go after a player like Patrick. In time that's going to make him better, no different than a year ago with Malcolm (Jenkins). You're going to find out quickly how he adjusts and that will be no different in how Will Smith might rush a certain tackle that maybe hasn't the same experience, Charles Brown, for instance. That only gets those players better and that's part of the learning curve and that's why we are out here right now, getting the work. At that position, especially at the corner position, you have a short memory, get right back in the huddle and you learn from that last mistake, maybe you gave up inside leverage. Someone with Lance Moore's experience was able to get an inside breaking route and Gregg (Williams), Tony (Oden), and Dennis (Allen) will make the corrections and he'll learn from that snap. I think that learning curve takes place a lot with various young players. That's why these OTA works are important for us right now."
You had singled out Junior Galette back in the rookie mini-camp, as a guy that kind of stood out, after seeing these guys a lot more times, does anybody else kind of catch your attention?
"I don't know that there's been anyone specific, some guys have had some good work and they haven't been just young players. Jo-Lonn Dunbar had a couple good practices. Stanley Arnoux is coming back off an injury and is getting a lot of good work. (Matthew) Tennant, our center that we drafted, they are all getting a lot of snaps which is encouraging. We've got the seven or eight players that can't go full speed right yet, and because of that you get to a number of 70 players that are splitting these reps. We just got to—the challenge always is that it gets competitive but you just got to be able to work with each other, and I think they've done a good job with that. We had a good spirited practice this morning. I think tomorrow's break in change of pace will be good. Over the years we have kind of done something like this, it's varied. We've had some different team building activities, but I think we will be a better team on the bus ride home tomorrow than we were on the bus ride there. That's important and I think our players get it, and I think they have for some time now, and I think that's part of what makes this relationship unique with this region."
You view this not only as a way to give back to the community, but also your team can benefit by seeing the hardships of others?
"I think by any endeavor, often times, initially you view it in one way and yet we all come away from an experience like this and feel like we've benefited ourselves and I think that will be the case tomorrow."
At the end of preseason last year, you look at Rod Harper and you look at the plays, he's on the active roster We all know what Courtney Roby did not only as the returner, but with the coverage unit. How important is a guy like Adrian Arrington to produce on the field as well as possibly on special teams? Here's a guy who has been dealing with injuries, but you've had to have seen something considering how he's really lasted on this team and not really contributing in the end, but how important is it for Arrington to show you something come the rest of the OTAs and training camp?
"I think in his case, and there's a handful of others like Adrian, this is an important year for him. He's developed; he received a lot of scout team work, practice squad work a year ago and he did get up to the active roster. I like his size and hand strength and we think he's someone that can pick things up quick. Being healthy is part of it* *and getting to where he can play on a consistent basis in these preseason games but it'll be an important training camp for him. And there's a number of players like him that get to that spot where you're wanting to see, in some cases it's remaining healthy, but you're wanting to see that next step and I think that he's someone that will embrace that challenge."