New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton and QB Drew Brees met with the media at today's practice. Both of them discussed the effect the absence of RB Reggie Bush due to a fibula injury as well as the challenges that the Atlanta Falcons pose. Below is a transcript
"With today's injury report, Anthony Waters (hamstring) did not practice; Reggie Bush (leg) did not practice; Randall Gay (concussion) did not practice; Usama Young (quad) did not practice. Zach Strief (knee) was limited and Chris Ivory (knee) was limited. We signed running back Ladell Betts and released running back DeShawn Wynn and then practice squad-wise, we re-signed fullback Jed Collins and released quarterback Sean Canfield. The schedule was first and second down; a little bit abbreviated but nonetheless our normal Wednesday type of practice, just later in the afternoon."
Having let DeShawn Wynn go, does that indicate that Chris Ivory is further along than he has been? Do you expect him to play on Sunday?
"He was limited and he hasn't been limited if we're looking at his progress, and with the way he moved around today he looked pretty good."
What's the latest on Reggie Bush?
"He has a fibula fracture and we're looking ballpark at probably four-to-six weeks, depending on how quickly it heals."
How does Bush being out change what you do offensively?
"There obviously are some nuances that are different in regards to personnel groupings but if you go back and look – not just with Reggie, but with a few of the offensive players – periodically we've had to play without guys and you adjust your personnel and you put the plan together accordingly. That's what we'll do. We've had to do it before. It changes the roles for some players as well."
What is the treatment for Reggie's injury?
"You're on crutches. He's basically keeping the weight off of it. He'll do that; he'll get his treatment. Basically it's just trying to keep the weight off of that leg."
Do you think it changes the way teams will defend you?
"We've gone through this before. This isn't a first. I think teams defensively have a plan in place. It probably affects more man-technique or man-principles and maybe eliminates some personnel packages that they might look at us with, but it's no different than the adjustments that we have to make offensively and you go on."
Are you seeing new things teams are doing defensively to keep you from getting the ball downfield as much?
"We look and each week make sure we have enough shot plays. Without forcing the issue, sometimes you're forced to check it down. We've seen two good defenses in the first two weeks but we'll continue to make sure we have enough stuff going down the field along with the intermediate and short throws."
So is it a new trend that you're seeing that you'll have to adjust to?
"I don't know that that's the case. You might say safeties or corners are playing with a little more depth but again, I don't see it as a new trend."
How has Malcolm Jenkins played so far?
"Real well. He played real well on Monday night. He's doing exceptionally well."
How was Reggie doing emotionally right after the injury and how is he now?
"He's doing fine. Like anyone would be when you get injured and you're going to miss some games you have disappointment, but he's someone who is real diligent in his rehab and his preparation and I'm sure he will be through this injury."
Will Lance Moore be the primary punt returner with Reggie out?
"We have a couple of options but certainly he'll be in the mix."
Are you satisfied with the pressure that your defense has been getting on opposing quarterbacks? Do you feel that it almost exclusively has to come from the front four?
"We'll mix it up, whether it's coming from the front four or whether it's coming from your blitz packages. You want to be unpredictable; you want to have the flexibility to get pressure with a four-man rush but also get it if you decide to use pressure. We'll continue to mix it up. That's one of the things that we do a good job with."
Are you satisfied with it thus far?
What was your thought process in making Patrick Robinson inactive at San Francisco?
"Just some special teams work with Leigh (Torrence). We were able to get him on the field for basically all of the special teams snaps."
Can you give an example of how things might change with your personnel without Reggie Bush?
"There are certain packages that you won't have. For instance, there are a handful of plays in a week that would have Pierre (Thomas) and Reggie in – two halfbacks – and that package we wouldn't utilize with him being down. Because when Pierre and Reggie are both in there, Reggie can line up at receiver or line up in the backfield, it's a two-halfback package for us. That would be a good example."
Do you foresee Chris Ivory or Ladell Betts being able to fit into those packages?
"I wouldn't want to get into it if we did."
Is it fair to say that Reggie's injury could have been worse than it is having happened at the bottom of a scrum as it did?
"It's a fracture, but that being said with the location and the type of fracture and the bone, those were positives in the degree in which it was fractured. It's one of those unfortunate things that happens with contact and you go on."
If you had to choose, would you rather him be out now rather than in a December playoff push?
"Certainly, if you were trying to pick a time."
Is Betts further ahead of Wynn as a tailback?
"Probably so, and Wynn gave us some special teams flexibility. I think that would be accurate."
What have you seen from the Falcons? Could you talk about the importance of a division game?
"Number one, they played real well last week and they're playing with a lot of confidence. Their team speed is noticeable when you watch them on tape. They have a very good offense. Defensively, each year they have gotten better and played exceptionally well last weekend. They do a lot of things. They can certainly bring a lot of pressure. They're a team that likes to blitz and they do a good job of it. They added a corner in the offseason, Dunta Robinson, and he's played well. They have good team speed and they're a team that is playing with a lot of confidence."
Did you see a difference in Betts' health in the weeks since he was here at the end of the preseason?
"Three weeks have gone by and he looked better in the workout this morning than when he was here last. I think that would be expected, but he's in good shape. He did a good job this morning and practiced well this afternoon."
Did you look at several running backs?
"He and Aaron Stecker were both here."
What might the plan be with Leigh Torrence and Patrick Robinson going forward as far as who might play in future weeks?
"We'll see week by week just how we handle it."
Are some of the missed opportunities for the offense just an execution matter?
"I think more than anything, the goal line second-and-one was one where you leave the game and you say, 'We were down there and we had an opportunity to go up by more than a touchdown.' There were a couple of things for us offensively; the two-minute drive defensively; the field goal that we made got tipped. Those are just a few of the things when the game is over – although it was a win – that you're trying to evaluate and a couple of things that you point out. When you get down as close as we were in that goal-line situation, that's something that specifically we feel like we have to be better at and be able to convert that into a touchdown."
Were these first two close wins similar to a lot of wins you had last year and the media is making more of them because of the lower point totals?
"I don't think there has been offensive frustration. I think the key for us is to win and to understand how that's going to happen in each game. In both cases, we feel like we've played two real good defenses. Certainly there's a type of plan that you go into a game with and I think more than anything else, and the thing that we try to make sure our players grasp is what the plan is this week to win. I point to the goal-line sequence there where second-and-one there was a missed opportunity there. More than anything else, those are the specifics. We look closely at all of the things, graded plays, how we're grading out efficiency-wise. We look closely at that and all areas and will continue to do that."
You didn't seem overly concerned with Garrett Hartley after his misses in the first game. Did you feel like that was just a hiccup?
"Yes. Just from watching him practice and the way he kicked for us last year, I thought that the reaction was probably a little bit of an overreaction. This guy has great leg talent and the way he responded for us not only in the postseason but in the two years that he's been here, he's been real good. It was good to see him bounce back."
Why do you think more coaches don't take into account wind and other conditions when making decisions?
"I think probably do more than you see. We felt like the conditions were going to be windy going in, we just didn't know if it was going to be an advantage wind. Sometimes there's a wind, but it's not right to left or left to right. When we got out there in warm-ups, clearly we felt like there was an advantage wind. When we deferred when we won the toss, we felt like early in that game we wanted to on the road play that first quarter on their end of the field. The thought was trying to extend the first quarter as long as possible and shorten the second quarter as quickly as possible and still save one timeout in the event that we get in a two-minute drill. Certainly we have the confidence in our two-minute offense if we have a timeout. You don't want to lose all three of your timeouts but it was that mindset."
With a concussion, does the league now require an independent evaluation of Randall Gay?
"He'll have that tomorrow morning."
IF he passes that, can he play in the next game?
"Yes. It's predicated on the results and how he's feeling and how he's doing. That would be the normal protocol."
How much attention do you pay to the individual officiating crews prior to games? Do they affect the way that you gameplan in any way?
"I don't know as much as a gameplan but we do a crew analysis on Fridays with the players. We talk about their tendencies from a year ago and then where they're at this season. We try to give a profile of each crew and what they call; maybe what they call more than the other crews or what they don't call as much and as best we can try to educate our team to what they can expect based on history. That's something that we've done every week."
QB Drew Brees
*Can you talk about having to work without Reggie Bush ? *
"Because of his versatility, you're able to do so much with him. He can sit in the backfield and carry the ball. In a heavy personnel package or nickel you can motion out of the backfield. You can protect. You can split him out to the single receiver side. Certainly as a punt returner, you look at all the things that he can do. The job that he does might have to be broken into two or three different guys picking up the slack where he kind of left off. That's why he's so valuable."
Do you remember anyone drawing more attention without the football than he does?
"I'm not sure if I can think of anybody."
*Is it that noticeable when you look back at the film? *
"He's definitely a guy that teams have to prepare for and have a plan for. "How are we going to defend this guy if he motions out of the backfield? If he just shifts and gets split out to a single receiver side, just in a lot of ways. If anything that's more time they don't have to game plan for him and can spend on something else."
*What do you guys feel you need to work on offensively after watching two weeks of film? *
"The big thing is we're 2-0, so we've found a way to win these games and that's the most important thing, albeit the most important statistic are there which is ball security, taking care of the football. There haven't been as many yards, maybe not as efficient on third down and in the red zone as we want. The thing that I see is when we've gotten turnovers, we haven't' taken great advantage of them, which is frustrating for me and our offense and yet despite all of that because of the key statistic of ball security as well as other things such as defense, special teams wise, we're 2-0. As I look at it, it's just a matter of execution, getting back into the flow and rhythm just as you get back into playing games and the so-called midseason form where you're just back in the routine of playing on Sundays again. We have the routine through the week again. Our preparation's good. We're spreading the ball around. Everybody's getting their touches and opportunities. I look forward to us getting into that rhythm."
*Was the end of the San Francisco game the first two minute drill you guys had run this season? *
"No, we did it in a preseason game against the Chargers."
*Was this the first one where you needed to put your foot on the gas pedal? *
"Yes, the first situation like that this year and then since last year, obviously we had the overtime win against Minnesota. We had that overtime game against Tampa Bay where we drive down the field and put ourselves in field goal position."
*Are there opportunities where you looked back and there were opportunities where you checked down or have you been forced to check down? *
"It's been where I could have probably forced that opportunity in there, but then that would have been exactly what it is, which is forcing it in there. We knew the type of game that was going to be up there. We need to have as few mistakes as possible, play a pretty clean game as far as penalty-free and mental error free and taking care of the football, turnover-free. We might have to punt and play the field position game a little bit, which we did. But, in the end, just give us a chance to win. That game turned out exactly like we thought it would although when we sit there and looked at the film, we saw where we had some opportunities that we probably could have scored some more points and it could have been that close."
Are there any missed opportunities that disappoint you when you look at the film?
"There just haven't been a whole lot of opportunities for big plays. I can think, in the Minnesota game there was the one third down, the deep ball on the right sideline to Devery (Henderson) that was just out of his reach. The one to (Robert) Meachem gets caught in the wind and it's taken five yards further than I wanted it to, so we miss on that. Other than that I'm trying to think of when we really sent the ball down the field. Probably those have been the two big opportunities for that. Other than that, teams have played us so conservatively and so soft, that we'll check it down, we'll take six, eight or ten yards and move onto the next play. We'll call it again another time. It just seems like we haven't had a lot of opportunities to this point."
*How unique is it to play for a guy who says he's going to defer after the toss due to the wind, which is not that common in the NFL and then it seems to work out for you, or making an onside kick in the Super Bowl? Is it our perception that is unique or is it truly unique? *
"I think that a lot of coaches are very aware of those kinds of situations. As far as the conditions and how they could have played a role in that game. We felt like the first quarter of that game was going to be very important, so what gives us the best opportunity to be successful in the first quarter? Well, having the wind Not knowing how the wind would affect us this week, we would have been better off putting our defense out there with the wind at their back and the wind in the other offense's face and sure enough the snap goes over his head, we get the safety and then the punt gets caught in the win, the punt goes to the 50, we go right down and score. All of a sudden it's 9-0 six minutes into that game and you say that's a good start. I'd say Sean (Payton) definitely has that aggressive mentality and maybe he would do some things that other coaches might not do. That's what makes him such a great coach and that's why we have so much confidence playing for him because we know why he's doing certain things. He gives us confidence with his play-calling, his aggressive style, so I think those are all good things."
*What's the mindset of going into the first division game of the season? *
"This is a tough division. Anytime you play a divisional opponent there's a lot of familiarity there and you just know that there are always close games. They're always fighting . You both know each other's personnel pretty well. I think a lot of it is about who can out-execute the other. It's not about fooling them with trick plays or anything else. It's just about lining up and being able to play better. They have a good football team and obviously they'll be ready to play us. It's a big challenge."
Is this kind of the ultimate example of a team that knows they need to get through you to get to where they want to go?
"Yes, I know they have high expectations. Obviously they seemed to get back on track last week with a huge offensive performance, great defensive performance. All around they must be feeling good about as a team about themselves, coming in to play us. It seems like every time we play these guys it's a close game. I think anytime you play a game in the division you just understand how important it is. It's almost worth more than one win or one game."
Is that a fair comparison with this team that they're in their third year and sort of on the cusp like you guys were?
"Yes, because you have the offensive and defensive system that guys have been running for a while, so there's a comfort level and I know there personnel's been very consistent. The young players they've added are talented guys, so I think they're as good as they are from a personnel standpoint, defensively at least, as I've seen them."
Mike Smith said this morning that losing Reggie Bush doesn't necessarily make his defensive game easier because you distribute the ball to so many guys. Do you agree?
"It's pretty accurate. Think about it, it's exactly that. When Reggie's not in the lineup, who's getting those balls. You can't sit here and say it's just another running back or it's just going to be spread amongst the running backs. Instead of him hoping to get five yards, maybe it's throwing to the tight end to get five yards. Maybe it's taking another shot play and knowing we have that guy to check it down to. Those touches could be spread among anybody on offense, tight ends, other backs. Receivers. I think that's a pretty good assessment.'"
What has been the difference in the run game from last year to this year so far?
"It's too hard to tell. Especially against Minnesota where we came out checking it, which was our game plan and then settled into the run game in the second half, which I thought was great. This game, I felt like it was solid. You haven't seen one of these big runs yet, where we break it for 20, 30 or 40 for a touchdown. I think it's been solid, consistent, but certainly I know the o-line, running backs and tight ends are staying we could have gotten a little bit more here or there. We could have tightened things up."
What have you seen from Atlanta defensively?
"As I said before, I think they're as talented on defense as I've ever seen them. They've got very active and athletic front four as well as some linebackers that can fly around, make al of of plays and a lot of tackles, get involved in the pressure packages quite a bit. Everybody in their secondary is pretty athletic with pretty good ball skills and I just think they work well as a group collectively. Once again, it's all about execution for us offensively."
In training camp you said one way this offense could improve in camp was to reduce the number of turnovers. Is your turnover margin where this team can go higher than last year?
"Definitely. It doesn't mean the defense is going to get as many turnovers as they have before, but certainly on offense we see improvement as fewer turnovers, as well as you pay attention to the other statistics like red zone efficiency, third down efficiency, big plays, time of possession. You would definitely walk out of every game saying the turnover differential is the most important. If we can improve on that, then that should win a lot of games for us."