Following a practice in preparation for their Monday Night Football matchup at the San Francisco 49ers, Saints Head Coach Sean Payton and QB Drew Brees both adressed the media at the team's practice facility in Metairie, La. Below is a transcript of the press conferences:
Head Coach Sean Payton
Opening Statement:"We had a couple of transactions; we signed cornerback Leigh Torrence back to the active roster and waived linebacker K.C. Asiodu. We signed Jacob Bender and Jed Collins as practice squad players and released Brandon Carter and Matt Clapp from the practice squad. Two and two there; one guard and one fullback replacing a guard and a fullback. For today's practice, on our injury report we had Jonathan Vilma, who with a groin was full. Anthony Waters with a hamstring did not practice, Zach Strief – knee – did not practice and Chris Ivory – knee – did not practice. Those are the four players on the injury report. As much as possible, today was like a Wednesday for us in regards to our base installation with first and second down. We staggered it because we're playing on Monday night."
Is it good to have Stanley Arnoux back at practice?"He's off the injury report and he was full-go today. That's good to see. Hopefully we can get him a significant amount of reps in special teams."
Is it unusual for your kickoff return guy to be a key kick coverage guy as well, as you have here with Courtney Roby?"Sometimes. It's certainly valuable when you have a guy that can play receiver, but is a returner and can handle those other duties. He made a great play the other night on a kick coverage. He's been one of our better special teams players. He can run and I think you see him playing with more confidence after the season he had a year ago. That has been encouraging. When you can get guys to play at that level from the offensive side of the ball in the kicking game, it's a plus."
Are you encouraged that the coverage problems are getting corrected?"Yes. I thought we did a good job the other night and we're going to have to again this Monday night. I was real pleased with our effort. I think our get-offs were good and we have two talented kickers. When it comes to kickoff coverage or punt coverage, we're talking mostly about Thomas Morstead. Certainly last week against a good returner that was important."
Is covering kicks well more of an effort thing or are guys figuring out better what they're supposed to be doing?"I think there is a combination of a couple of things. Number one, certainly you have to have great effort to cover. You really can't do it without excellent effort. Secondly, learning how to leverage what you're seeing and then talent is important as well. Are you good enough to do it? Are you good enough to get off your first block? That was something that was improved last weekend."
Is the challenge you face with Frank Gore similar to the challenge you faced from Adrian Peterson last week?"They are a little different type of runners and yet there's that similar challenge in that you're talking about an elite back. We had a chance to coach Frank in the Pro Bowl in '06 and he runs with power. He has real good vision and balance and he's someone that seems to improve as the game goes on. You would say that he's one of those types of runners. So it'll be a full game and we'll have our hands full with his ability to run the football."
Is a team with a combination of running back and tight end like the 49ers have a challenge against a linebacking corps?"It certainly can. In any good play-action, most often the tight ends are involved in the progression so you get stress from both ends. We'll have to do a good job of matching up, mixing up and being able to handle our correct fits and being able to do all of the things necessary to play good defense against these guys."
How did Jo-Lonn Dunbar play in the game last week?"He did well. He played well. We got in to and out of a number of packages and he handled it well. He has started before for us but to answer your question, he played well the other night."
How do you handle the week after a loss? Do you put any increased significance on the next game? Do you think playing a team like San Francisco coming off of a loss like they are is even more dangerous?"The thing you try to do is that you try to be consistent in your approach with the film study the next day. After a win, I think you need to look closely at the things you have to improve on. Generally the film is never as good as you thought after a win and it's usually never as bad as you thought after a loss. Certainly when you're playing a team that's coming off a tough loss, you know that they'll be ready, especially when they're opening up at home on Monday night in a primetime game. This is a team that played very well down the stretch last year and is a team that expects to win each week. You saw that as the season finished last year and certainly when you open the year, it's always tough when you don't start with a win. We have a ton of respect for the team that we're getting ready to play and certainly going on the road on a Monday night, we understand the challenges with that."
*What are your thoughts on Reggie Bush giving the Heisman Trophy back? *"More than anything else, it's how he's doing. He has matured a ton since we drafted him here. It would be smart of me not to get into my thoughts on the fact that he's returned it and I understand why. That's something that he'll live with and I think that his statement the other day was right on. He has really turned the page as he's come here and he's moved on from that. As much as anything, as his coach I'm disappointed for him and I feel for him."
How is he doing?"He's doing well. He's doing real well."
What kind of a challenge is it as a coach going from the last couple of weeks of preseason to having the big season-opener and then having 10 or 11 days before your next game and making sure that your team is ready to go on Monday night?"It's interesting. In 2006 when we first got here, the schedule came out and you looked down and every game was 1:00 or 12 noon. We had the one Monday night game to open up the Superdome but outside of that, everything was at 12 noon or 1:00 until later when they flexed some games. If that's the case, you probably weren't winning a lot of games the year prior. When you start to have success, part of what comes with it are the Thursday nights, the Thanksgiving Days, the Monday nights, the Monday nights on the road. It's really where you want to be and yet you understand that there's a challenge with that. Oftentimes, whether it's the travel, whether it's the short week, the long week, opening the season on a Thursday and you don't have your full practice squad in to start practicing, logistically what we try to do as best we can is to get on our routine that we know as quickly as possible and then still be flexible enough to adjust. The advantage of the Thursday game was that after we won, we had additional time for this game so some players were able to get a little healthier and we had that much more time in regards to putting a plan together. But then after we play Monday, we travel back from the West Coast and get in really Tuesday morning and get ready to play Atlanta. I think it's just dealing with the logistics and trying to really make each week as best you can what you're used to as a routine."
Is that easier to do with a more veteran team?"If you're playing that schedule, you're probably on a team that has had success so I would say that certainly our players understand the challenges that come with some of those dates and some of those times."
Did those things affect you at all in 2007?"I would never point to the schedule, but I think that it's something that we'll be ready for. This will be the fifth game in a row now that we've been on in primetime, going back to Arizona, Minnesota, Indianapolis, Minnesota again and now Monday night, our guys have gotten used to that. I think more important is the weather, the wind, some of the logistics of playing on the road, more than just the fact that you're playing in front of a national TV audience."
What kind of challenges does playing in San Francisco present as far as the elements?"It's a windy stadium and has been historically. The last time we played there the grass seemed to be in good shape. It's a venue that can be loud. It's an older venue where the crowd is on you and certainly as a home opening game for San Francisco, we expect a noisy stadium and a noisy environment. We'll deal with that and we'll travel Saturday evening to get out there a day ahead of time from where we normally would. We played there once before a few a years ago and we've gone west before. Those are the things that initially you look at."
What's the purpose of going out a day ahead?"It's just another day to get adjusted to the time. We'll practice here Saturday and then after practice watch the video and travel Saturday night."
Were you pleased with the play of Heath Evans the other night coming back off of his knee injury?"Yes. I thought he played pretty well the other night. He did a good job, especially later in the game where he was more involved. I thought he handled his snaps well."
How much do you coach body language in your players? Why do you think it's important?"I think it is important. It's as much coaching hustle, effort and intensity. If a player doesn't have good body language, I think the first connotation that comes to mind would be if he's giving effort or if he's discouraged. When you win games, you begin to gain confidence and chances are you see better body language. But part of that is the player and part of that is leadership and all the things that we have strived to achieve here. Regardless of your position, but certainly at critical positions, that's important. Regardless of how you're feeling, you don't ever want to look tired, you don't ever want to look confused, and certainly you don't ever want to look frustrated. Those are things that would give your opponent the idea that they're at an advantage."
Is there a coach in your background that was big on body language? Bill Parcells?"It was just you run off, you run on, and Bill was a big stickler for that. I think a lot of coaches are; I don't think that's unusual. What do you tolerate and what don't you tolerate? I think we have players that really don't tolerate it and that's the key. In other words, we have the right type of guys that understand that four quarters is a long time. There are a lot of snaps in a game and getting on to the next play is as important as anything."
Using Reggie's situation as an example, what do you do as a coach when there are things away from the field that could become distractions to your team?"I think no different than a teacher or a parent, you're always mindful that there are all sorts of things pulling all the time at players and coaches away from football. Just the fact that you have an interest and you care is most important and that you are in touch with and know their families and you know that they're part of a family here. More than anything else, and certainly in Reggie's case, I know that he feels like this is a close-knit family. For him, just like the rest of us, it's about winning championships. He's done that once already and we're aspiring to win more."
Are you anxious to see how quickly your offense can find it's rhythm after kind of being up-and-down in last week's game?"I think most importantly it's understanding what's going to win this game and what type of game we see unfolding and how we want to play this game. This is a good defense that we're playing; it's a very good defense. It's one that when you look statistically at the numbers from last year – takeaways, third down efficiency, total defense – they're probably in the top 15 in most every category and in the top 10 in a lot of categories. They were in the top two or three in caused fumbles so they're very opportunistic, they're well-coached, they're very physical and they have been a big part of their resurgence and the success they had as they finished last season."
Were third down conversions the most concerning figure on offense last week?"That's the one. Obviously you want to score more points, but that would the one that you would look to. We had the one drive where we took three penalties and wound up having to punt, but that would be one aspect that we'll work on – tomorrow specifically – to improve upon from last week."
The 49ers only gave up 242 yards on defense the other day so was the 31-6 losing score a little deceiving?"It was Seattle taking advantage of the opportunities and the changes of possession. This is a real good defense. When you look and study all the tape and go through all the games from the past season as we have – you can look at Indianapolis last year and they were under 21 points. This is a team that has found its niche there and certainly is a reflection of the head coach, who played on many great defenses."
Do you think that Reggie's decision could be something that's good for the team as it will no longer be a distraction?"Honestly I don't think that it has been a distraction for our players, just because it has kind of sat out there for four years. That being said, I think the closure for him and he has the full support of the players in the locker room. You couldn't ask for a better teammate. You couldn't ask for a guy that has given more effort than he has. I think that's why it's very easy for his teammates to support him, because of the type of player that he is. It's not just his ability on the field, just where he's at and I think that's what they have done."
As his coach, how much have you sensed that the situation has weighed on him over the last few years?"I don't think it's something that has weighed on him. I think he has handled it well. Certainly I haven't seen it in his play. He's been someone that has been as focused and has been as mature as he ever has been. Last year's season was a good example of it and the way he has played in this training camp and heading into this year has been another good example of it. I think he's handled it well."
Did Reggie seek your input or advice?"No, we just talked. But that's just between him and I."
Do you have a relationship with Coach Singletary? What are your memories of watching him as a Chicago Bear as you grew up in the area?"You wore his jersey or Walter Payton's jersey growing up there. I was a sophomore or junior in college the year they won the Super Bowl and he was fantastic. It wasn't just great ability, it was great everything. You see that same attitude now with the way he coaches and the way his defense plays. It's contagious and you can see it with the way that team plays. The only thing the memories do is that it makes you feel older. That's who we watched and he was a tremendous player."
QB Drew Brees
*How much significance do you put in games coming off a loss and how do you think the 49ers will handle that? *"You put a lot of significance on every game, but definitely games after a loss because you want to correct mistakes from the week before. Plus you always talk about how great teams don't lose two games in a row, you always try to find a way to bounce back and correct the things that you did from the week before. They're a team that has high expectations, a high as they've been in a while. They have good leadership with coach Singletary and the group of veteran players they have. I know we're going to get their best game on Monday Night Football playing at home. All the reasons why we know we're going to need our best game to beat them."
Conversely how do you guys as a team find a way? "You make each game the most important game of the season just because it's the next game. You can never look too far ahead. You can never overlook anything despite what their record might say or anything else. I think when you really look at the numbers on this team, they really did a lot of great things last year and they have a lot of the same personnel , so there's no reason to believe why they wouldn't' come back even better this year. More specifically I'm talking about their ability to take the ball away defensively. I think they were third in the NFL in sacks created. Obviously they're able to get great pressure not only with that 3-4 defense, but they can bring pressure not only from other areas. They get everybody involved in those pressure packages. You definitely have to have a plan for that and take care of the football like we also do, but these guys have done a good job of taking it away."
*How anxious are you to get back on the field after some of your offensive struggles last week? *"Everytime we step on the field we want to get a little better. I think last week, coming off the field it didn't feel like it was a 14 point performance. There should have been at least 24 or 28 points on the board. It is what it is. We missed some third downs we probably wished we should have had back or executed a little bit better. Obviously there were penalties that killed some drives and some execution obviously. Obviously (we're) putting a big emphasis on that this week and just knowing that you have to be more polished."
*I know you don't want to make excuses, but was it a challenge like in 2007 when you faced an early schedule of games on Thursdays and Mondays, five preseason games? *"We learned a lot from that year. That year was different. Coming off the NFC Championship game, there were high expectations from 2006 and then we ended up losing our first four. Within the course of those first four or five weeks we had a Thursday game and a Monday night game too two weeks later and then a Sunday night game in Seattle two weeks after that. I think when you look at our schedule last year we had quite a few primetime games or games where you had to adjust the schedule. You're playing at noon sometimes. You're playing at night at others, a couple Monday night games. A Saturday game. This year it's no different when you're looking at it. Thursday, night, Sunday night against the Steelers, Thanksgiving, Monday night now, coming back on a short week. I think it's something we've learned how to handle over the years. I think us as a team learned about expectations going into that 2007 season and obviously the expectations we all have this season coming off a Super Bowl win, which are very high. We know how good we can be, but we know it's just one week at a time and we'll tweak the schedule as necessary."
*Has this been odd having such a long stretch between games and what did you do over the three day weekend? *"I was here (in New Orleans) and just relaxed. That Minnesota week almost felt like Super Bowl week because of the media hype and blitz and everything, but just also because your routine totally gets thrown off. You almost have to create a whole new routine for that week, because typically you come off the last preseason game and get three days to relax and kind of refresh coming off training camp and the end of preseason and you get started on that next week's opponent on Monday, have you. Obviously that week kind of got put a week later for us, to play on Thursday night, but the fact that we practiced at the Dome. We just had a lot of adjustments that had to be made."
*Does this feel like a week one routine? *"Yes. It almost felt like a bye week because there was so much time, which I felt was good, because typically those three days are needed after camp to refresh guys, both physically and mentally and so now, we just kind of missed that to get guys into the season. Those three days helped get some guys healthy that needed it or were aching a little big. It was much needed.."
*Do you feel concerned you might not be as fresh as you'd like with an 11 day break between games? *"You like the routine of Sunday to Sunday to Sunday to Sunday because it's so ingrained into you. You know exactly what you're doing Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, so anytime you have that big of a gap, especially coming off a game we won but where we could have done a lot of things better, just to get back on the field and correct those things, definitely."
The story out of San Francisco is that Alex Smith couldn't understand the play calls because of miscommunication with the offensive coordinator. With the different ways people from different parts of the country speak in addition to having to go through a microphone in your helmet, does that kind of thing happen more than we know out there?"It can be challenging at times, because also the microphone cuts off at 15 seconds on the play clock, so there's times when there's for whatever reason the play's coming in a little bit late. You're sitting here at the play clock and you get the formation and that's it and it cuts out on you and you have to piece it together, especially if it's a new offense or your trying to pick it up, sometimes it's fuzzy. Sometimes it's just not very loud. You have to be a good lip reader from the sideline, signals, whatever. That happens to us a lot, as far as you don't get all of the play, but you make it work.
*Since you've been in New Orleans have you seen more parity in the league? *"Yes, definitely. Anybody can beat anybody else on any given Sunday. A lot of so much of when you look at the season…It's not who you play. It's when you play them. That's us back in '07. We lose the first four games and we're terrible and then I don't think there's anybody that wanted to play us after those next four games. That was as good as we played all season. You kind of get those times where you're on a roll. There are other times where you're trying to piece it together. There's other times where you're battling injury. At the end of last season, we were battling a lot of injuries and that's why we made the decision to rest guys that last game and going into the bye week to get healthy as opposed to feeling like we needed to go out at Carolina and do something to feel good about ourselves. We trusted the process and obviously it benefits us. There are a lot of good teams, players and coaches in this league. It's not who you play, it's when you play them. You go play somebody on primetime and at their place, coming off a short week, coming off a bye week. There are so many scenarios that go into it. The fact of the matter is that you need to go out and play with the same passion and emotion every week. It can't be a down week for you. You're only as good as your last performance. You need to have that mentality."
*What are your thoughts on Reggie Bush's decision with the Heisman? *"Obviously I know this has been a tough ordeal for him. Our whole team has supported him through it and I think he's done and said everything he's needed to say at this point. We're just trying to be as supportive as possible."
What do you do to be supportive?"A lot of times, none of us can imagine what he's going through or even exactly what the facts are, because we weren't there. A lot of times things get thrown around and it's none of our business other than we're his friends and teammates. We don't like to see the guy going through something like that. (We're) just as supportive as we can be. We have a lot of high-character guys on this team that can pull him aside and help him through those things, because you forget, but he's pretty young, mid-20's going through this thing."
How did you help him?"Just to let him know I'm there for him and supporting him and whatever I can do to help him."
What's the checklist for a quarterback in facing a 3-4 after a 4-3?"You try to kind of visualize that 3-4 as a 4-3. Who becomes the fourth pass rusher in a 3-4 and just kind of understanding how 3-4 defenses bring pressure and typically variable to almost seeming like they 're bringing more than they are.'"
Do you want them to think that way or do they want you to think that way?"They want you to think that way. Just as you look at a 4-3 defense there's four guys on the line of scrimmage and three linebackers. In a 3-4 defense there's five guys at the line of scrimmage and two at linebacker level. All of a sudden you start rotating safeties. You bring two from a side, but then you're dropping one out on the backside and so in your mind being a zone pressure in that case you're thinking it feels like you're bringing six, but they're only bringing five because they dropped somebody out. The 3-4 allows you to do a lot of things from both directions and it's very easy for them, but it's just different for you if you don't see it all that often. We're playing quite a few 3-4 teams this year and we played a few in the preseason. We've gotten our fair share of work at it."
When you're playing that type of defense will Gregg Williams put that on the scout team to give you a preview of that kind of look?"No, we obviously have the scout teams run the defense or offense against us that we're going to see. A lot of it's on cards that thy'll them where to go. You might coach them up if their pressure is a little different of anything they do, you explain this is how they do it. They try to give us that look in practice as realistic as possible.
What types of challenges does Patrick Willis give?"You can tell he's a tough, physical player. He's an extremely fast, talented athletic player who doesn't miss many tackles. He's got good ball skills. As far as him in coverage. His awareness and instincts. He just has a lot of natural ability. You can tell they use him in a lot of different ways. Normally knowing where he is on the field is important."
Sean Payton talked earlier about the importance of body language in the players. How often do you think about yours on the field and how difficult is it to maintain it?"I'll hear that in my helmet every now and then about body language. I think obviously football's an emotional sport. It's easy where if something happens and you get frustrated or obviously excited, both sides of the spectrum. As a quarterback, a lot of it is trying to stay as poised as possible, despite the situation either good or bad an always thinking about the next play or opportunity and that kind of thing, not letting anything from the past bother you. You have to have a short term memory. But, also just the way that your teammates look to you as a quarterback for confidence or any of those things, so that when you step in the huddle, making guys feel confident and making them aware of every situation, so that becomes the most important play of the game, this play, because at third and five you need this or let's get a big one here we might need some extra time. Whatever it may be. Just like coaching points and stuff about the way you carry yourself, those guys read your body language and it becomes pretty important."
Is Sean big on that?"Absolutely."
*Is he bigger on that than most coaches? *"Yes. Sean's great about always reminders here and there about different things. That's one of those things when you get mad or upset about something out there. When he say's body language he's saying let it go on to the next play. Make those guys believe"