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Payton & Brees Preview Cowboys Contest

Coach & QB talk about Thanksgiving Showdown

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean PaytonPost-Practice Press ConferenceTuesday, November 23, 2010Opening Statement:

"To cover the practice report for today, Reggie Bush (fibula) was limited; Patrick Robinson (ankle) was full; Jermon Bushrod (knee) was full; Junior Galette (shoulder) was full; Chris Ivory (shoulder) was full; Sedrick Ellis (quad) was limited; Jonathan Goodwin (back) was limited; Jeremy Shockey (rib) was limited; Malcolm Jenkins (neck) was limited; Anthony Hargrove (knee) was limited; Darren Sharper (hamstring) was limited; Usama Young (calf) was limited; Pierre Thomas (ankle) did not practice; Ladell Betts (neck) did not practice. There were a couple of roster moves: we released long snapper Jake Ingram and signed Justin Drescher. We placed Stanley Arnoux with his Achilles injury on reserve/injured and then brought up quarterback Sean Canfield from the practice squad to the active roster. In Canfield's spot on the practice squad, we re-signed running back Chris Taylor. The roster is at 53 and the practice squad is at eight. With the short week, today was some base review and then a lot of third down."

Reggie was listed as full yesterday but limited today. Was there a setback?

"No, it was just with the amount of reps that we gave him. He's doing well; he's handling it. It's just a matter of the team reps."

How do you feel about his chances for Thursday?

"Pretty good. He's moving around and he continues to get better."
Dallas had a lot of success with their pass rush against you last year. Is their pass rush having a good year this season?

"It's very good. They threaten you on the edges with (DeMarcus) Ware and (Anthony) Spencer, and then inside they have some of the better pass-rushing tackles that we'll see. When they get into some of their five-man rush, they can isolate your linemen and create problems. They do a very good job in the nickel in regards to how they pressure the quarterback. It can be a simple four-man scheme and it can come out of their 3-4 package. But it starts with the edge and like a said, I think the uniqueness is not only the outside rushers but also the inside rushers."
What kind of season is Jermon Bushrod having for you?

"He's playing solid. Each week he has been steady. He has certainly come along here in the better part of a year-and-a-half now and given us stability at a critical position for us."

Having been through this Thanksgiving week leading up to the game in your time in Dallas, how much does that help you with your preparation this week?

"More than anything else, it's really paying attention to the film and the study and being cautious of the installation and understanding that you're not going to get the full amount of practice. Yesterday was really an estimate, for instance, in regards to injuries. Yesterday was walkthrough; today was a little bit more; tomorrow we'll have another short practice. It's really more about getting guys physically and mentally rested and ready to play another game in a short period of time. From that standpoint, that's the key and so far I think we've handled it well. We have another good day of work tomorrow that we have to take advantage of before we fly."

Do find yourself cramming things in?

"No. I think you try to have carry-over in your plan. You really try to get to the things that you normally have done and aren't necessarily new. You tinker with formations. That's the main thing."

We didn't see Pierre Thomas out there today. What's his status?

"He wasn't out at practice. He was listed as did not participate."

Did he take a step back after last week?

"No. We'll just continue to monitor where he's at. He didn't take any team reps."

You said after the game that on the missed field goal, the snap and hold were good. Do you still feel that way after watching the film?

"Yes. We pulled it. Where Garrett (Hartley) has had his struggles has usually been with that pull. I think it's just working through that. The mechanics were clean though."
Are you going back to Thomas Morstead at holder? We saw him working with the kicker and snapper today on the side.

"No. He does that when Chase (Daniel) is take quarterback drill work. We're not making any change at holder."
Has Devery Henderson's role changed as the season has gone on?

"No, it's been pretty much the same. He's in and out. We have four receivers that play and a lot of different personnel groupings. Devery will be in the base alongside of Marques (Colston); he'll be in the nickel; there will be snaps where Robert (Meachem) is in in place of him; there will be snaps where Robert and Devery will both be on the field. So his role has been the same. Depending on the week – last week was a good example where Robert had pretty good production with two touchdowns – but his role has been the same. Those guys have all been real good at handling that; They're unselfish players; they're guys that communicate well; they understand what we're doing offensively."
Marques Colston seems to be the polar opposite of the many attention-craving receivers in this league. Can you talk about how down to earth he is?

"That's his personality to begin with. He's as competitive as the vocal players. I think guys that play in those positions want touches, want opportunities and he's someone that certainly had a real good game for us last week. He has real strong hands in traffic; he's very intelligent, so he can play outside and he can play inside. He's versatile and he gives you that size that you like at the position."
What are your thoughts on Jason Garrett through his first few weeks as a head coach?

"I coached him when we were in New York and he was an exceptional person to be around, to have in the room as a player. He's very intelligent. I would say that he's a close friend in the profession. He's someone that having had a chance to work with him in New York that we've always stayed in touch and he's someone that's doing a great job with this opportunity and that's not surprising. He's been very well prepared for it. He has a great feel for what winning football is about, having been a part of a lot of successful teams and I think that's serving him well right now in the position that he's in."

Are they the same team on film the last two weeks as they were before?

"There are a few nuances. When you start with their defense, Paul Pasqualoni and I worked together in Dallas and Paul's doing a great job filling in as the coordinator now. There a few wrinkles, but they play their package; they believe in it and they play it well. The last two weeks, they played it very well. They really pose a lot of problems for you, starting with the protection issue we discussed earlier; they have very good cover guys outside with confidence and you can see starting with the New York win on the road and then last week that they have momentum going. Paul's someone that knows this system very well; he's very thorough in his approach. There's less transition on offense with Jason still handling what they're doing. When you look at the skill positions, there are a lot of guys that can beat you. Dez Bryant is having an outstanding season; Miles Austin and Jason Witten, you have the running backs that have a lot of different skill sets. They're putting it together and this is going to be a big challenge for us."

How is Jon Kitna fitting into that offense?

"He's a smart player and he's a veteran with a lot of experience. He understands the system very well and he understands who he's playing with. I think one of the things that you see from him on tape is his understanding of trying to give his skill players opportunities, whether it's in space, underneath or down the field, and he has done a good job. They have been aggressive that way. With a player like that, he can manage the game and yet understand when to take his shots. I think he has handled the injury to Tony (Romo) very well and has provided just what you're looking for with a guy coming off the bench. He's been able to get two wins now in the last two weeks."
Your defensive backs faced some big and strong receivers from Seattle last week. Does that help to prepare for another big, strong receiving corps from the Cowboys?

"There are similar sizes. (Dez) Bryant is a big, physical player that can run; he's explosive. Miles Austin has great transition; he's very smart and has good speed as well. Sam Hurd is a guy that gets involved. When you look at the various packages that they get in, you can't just roll to one player. And (Jason) Witten inside is one of the premier tight ends in our league and has been. Those are the challenges you're faced with; it's not just one player. It's really formationally a multitude of guys that are involved and Kitna has done a good job of finding those players."
When you have defensive backs that have a size disadvantage against receivers, how do you approach them after they give up plays even if they were in good position?

"You're always putting yourselves in position. Our guys – whether it's man or zone coverage – understand the principles and the leverage. There are times when you get out-jumped and there are times where we do the same thing offensively. You just keep coming back. One of the things about our corners is that each week you see the competitive nature with which they play. I think you just keep coaching week to week your fundamentals and what the technique and what the coverage scheme is – whether it's cloud, whether it's bump-and-run man, whether it's off-zone. It all depends on what we're doing defensively."

Chris Ivory ran very hard and very physically on Sunday. Has it been your experience that that type of style is difficult to keep up at running back without facing a lot of injuries over time?

"With the length of our season, it's a challenge at that position and you have to have depth and guys that can share in the workload. That being said, I was real encouraged with his energy level and his pad level. He runs with real good strength and power; you can see that. I thought he gave us five or six real special runs that came out of want-to. You just monitor the carries. He's feeling good today but with the short week and this being Tuesday, for a running back, a Tuesday can feel pretty sore still. That's why we just have to watch what we're doing in practice."

Do you think that he has a chance to be a good player for a while in this league?

"We feel like there is a tremendous amount of potential with this player. We're obviously excited to have found him after the draft. He's come in and really been excited about the opportunity from early on and was very impressive in training camp and has been impressive with his opportunities from the preseason and the same way in the regular season. He's another good young back for us that we feel like fits into what we're doing."

How can a guy like that slip through seven rounds of the draft?

"It happens a lot. When you look at the Texans' running back (Arian Foster), who we were real close to signing a few years ago, when the draft ends you go back and forth almost in a phone recruiting mode with various teams. The same thing with Pierre Thomas four years ago, and it's not just at running back. It can happen at other positions and historically each year you can say that there are a handful of guys taken in the first round that teams would regret and there are a handful of players that never get drafted that you'd look at and say that they were worthy of a draft selection. It's not an exact science and you hope that you're able to find those players. It's a credit certainly to our college scouting staff and Rick Reiprish and those guys having the reports written and having a strong opinion about what they've seen and their vision for the player, to communicate to the people in the room making the decision that possibly haven't seen the player. There's an art to that."

Do you think the depth on this Saints team is exceptional?

"I think we have good depth. For us, it has been important with the injuries we've had. You go into a season and you hope to be as healthy as possible. One of the things that happens when you begin to have injuries is that you begin to develop your depth. That has happened to us at safety; it's happened to us at some degree at corner; it's happened at running back; it's happened a little bit at tight end. Because of injury we've been forced to develop those guys maybe earlier than we normally would have planned, and maybe not. But when you can do that and still win, that's encouraging because guys gain experience, they gain playing time, they gain confidence and you have a better picture of the player now when you consider rotating him in."

What are the implications when guys come back healthy at those positions?

"Each week we go through the depth chart and we talk about where we think they are at the beginning of the week and are flexible enough to pay attention as the week goes on and really look closely at that game that we're playing and who gives us the best chance."

You've coached in all the primetime games, the Monday night, the Thursday night, the Sunday night games. Does the Thanksgiving Day game bring a little something extra?

"I would say that it would be similar to those other games that you mentioned. When you talk about the Sunday night, which is a relatively new tradition, Monday night, which is an older tradition, Thanksgiving is an older tradition. I think all of us following this game prior to being involved in it had opportunities to watch Thanksgiving football and had opportunities to watch Monday Night Football – maybe not so much Sunday Night Football because that doesn't have the same history. It just gets back to it being a national game and it is unique because it's on Thanksgiving Day. All of us can remember, regardless of whether we were watching the game or not, that the TV was tuned in to whatever game was on while we were with our families."
Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving football memory?

"I can't think of anything specific. It was that time of the year where you were probably playing a pick-up game when you were little as well. You were probably going out after the games were over with. You're in the fall and that's what I remember. The games were on and like it has been, it was always Detroit and Dallas and that was something that you watched and you watched more if one of the teams you were rooting for was playing."

Is the pregame meal on Thanksgiving turkey or would that make the team tired?

"Is that a myth? I think that's a myth. We're creatures of habit so I'm fairly certain that our pre-game meal will be similar to what it always is. That wouldn't change."

Is there anything special about preparing to play in this stadium?

"That's a good question. We talked about maybe going there to practice first and then to the hotel but because of the short week, we're not going to do that. I think more than anything, we know what kind of surface it is. We know it's a magnificent building. I've never seen it; I'm sure it will be the first time for most of our players to play in it so we'll do a little stadium profile tomorrow morning and talk about the history of it and the size of it. Yet still when you get there you kind of go through the nuances of a new venue. If it was a longer week, we might go in and work out there and then go to the hotel, but with this schedule we're not going to do that."

As a head coach, you've coached against people who have mentored you. Does it seem strange to be coaching against Jason Garrett, who you are the mentor of?

"It only ages you. After having had that opportunity to work with Jason, and I can recall that very first night that he arrived on the free agent visit, I took him to dinner and we had the chance to spend some time talking football and signed him shortly after. He had had a long career with the Cowboys and was briefly here in New Orleans. It wasn't long after that as we got into the coach-player relationship that you understood that he had some great attributes that if he chose, would lend themselves to coaching. He's always been someone who in the offseason and even during the season, we've always exchanged text messages and voicemails. He's had a lot of great experiences when you look at who he's played under and then who he's coached for and worked with. I think those things all combine really to help round him out to what I think is a real special coach. As a player, he would be the one guy when the meeting would be over with that I might as what he thought and he'd have great feedback, great insight and I always valued his opinion because it was well thought out and it was usually right."

New Orleans Saints QB Drew BreesTuesday, November 23, 2010Is this a game where there is adjustment based on everything from an unconventional work week to playing in a new stadium?

"I definitely think being prepared as best as you can (is important). I don't think any of us have been to this stadium before, maybe a guy that we signed as a free agent this year that played there last year, but all I hear is that there's so much going on at this stadium, that the jumbotron is as long as the field almost. There are all these potential distractions. I think once the game starts it's football. It's all about the game. The fact that it's a short week and it's going to be here before we know it is another thing. Also the fact that it's a Thanksgiving day game. I've never played in a Thanksgiving day game. I remember watching just about every one of them when I'm with my family at home eating turnkey. I know that as Sean (Payton) said, the television's on and you're watching it throughout the day."

Have you ever played on a midseason Thursday game at all?

"We played Chicago two years ago on a Thursday."

Were you on a four-day turnaround?

"Yes, we were. It was on a Thursday night."

Is that tough?

"Yes, it is, because you don't get all the practice reps that you would normally get. So much of the preparation is mental. It's five or six days of preparation kind of condensed into about three days. It's a lot more time consuming with a lot packed into it."

Is your play list a little shorter?

"I think by the time gametime comes around it will be. Since we had the bye week a few weeks ago, I think the coaching staff was able to put down a lot of thoughts on Dallas when we had that free time. Last week it was all about Seattle and then you had that stuff waiting for you when you came to work yesterday. I think that the list at this point is just like it would normally be. As you get closer to gametime you chip away at it and trim it down to what you really feel good about it."

Can you talk about the power of Chris Ivory. It seems Marcus Trufant of Seattle got a concussion in the game trying to tackle him?

"I wouldn't want to tackle Chris Ivory. The guy's a big physical guy. He runs hard. You rarely see him go down with the first hit. He's a young back who's strong and runs hard. He has a lot of natural instincts when it comes to running the football."

Do you think defenders fear that collision?

"I think they have to know who they're hitting. A lot of these 3-4 teams are built with these big outside backers and big inside backers. I think that's something that they pride themselves in, tough physical matchups. I think that will be a good test for Chris Ivory."

Is it our imagination or is he running lower? At one time he seemed like more of an upright runner like Mike Bell. This week, it looked like he was running with a lower pad level and breaking more tackles?

"Yes, he can stay at that low level and still generate a lot of speed and force, especially on impact and you always talk to running backs about that pad level and being able to square your shoulders to the line of scrimmage and that way when you're taking on defenders, if you're square to the line of scrimmage, you're giving them more of a pop than they're probably giving you. They're coming at an angle to hit you and you're coming at them shoulders square to the line of scrimmage. That makes you very tough to tackle and might have some guys thinking twice about how they're going to hit you."
Is it tough to think that maybe only 19 players have thrown for more yardage than you and that you have the all-time Saints completion record?

"I try not to think about it, because I hope there's quite a few more years left for me and we can count it up in the end. Certainly as those things come about, it's a pretty neat deal."
Is Dallas' pass rush as good as it was in years past and can you talk about the season Jermon Bushrod's having?

"I think the Dallas pass rush is exceptional when you look at those two outside linebackers in DeMarcus Ware and (Anthony) Spencer and inside with (Jay) Ratliff and some of the other guys they rotate through. You see them getting pressure with a four-man rush. More than anything you see that every game the team they're going up against has a plan for how they're going to defend that rush. I think it's something where you play these guys, priority number one has to be protection."

"Bush is having a great year. Playing that left tackle position, you typically face the best pass rushers in the league. Go back to Bush's short career here, starting every game last year and then this year, you see him getting better and more confident each week. It's fun to see a young guy like that who's working at it just continue to improve."

How much do you draw upon watching last year's game with Dallas to watching more recent tape or do you draw upon both?

"Yes. You definitely watch last year's game, how they defended us, what worked, that kind of thing. There are plenty of things we wished we would have done differently coming out of that game. I felt like they played very well. We didn't execute very well at all, especially on third down. This year, it's interesting, because it's the tale of two teams when you look at pre-Jason Garrett and then the last two weeks. You're able to study their personnel from this year, but obviously, (you look at both) how did they defend us last year and how have they defended lately. You try to take a peek at all of it."

The Cowboys are 3-7 and have made a coaching change. How dangerous are they?

"These last two weeks I think they've played as well as any team in the league and I think we knew it was only a matter of time before they turned it around and got things figured out and started playing with more confidence. It seems like Jason Garrett's done a really good job. (Paul) Pasqualoni on the defensive side (has done a good job). You see a renewed enthusiasm. They have a lot of veteran players on their team, leadership, guys that have played a lot of football. You knew it was only a matter of time."

Have you seen a difference on tape from Wade Phillips to Jason?

"Yes, you can in the scheme a little bit, but I think more so than anything, when a change is made for the most part, you as a team take a deep breath and say we can wipe the slate clean. It's starting new and fresh. I'm sure in their mind, they're preaching that they're 2-0 right now. They're not talking about the 1-7. We're undefeated. That gives you a lot of confidence as you move forward."

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