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Payton Continues Preparations For Carolina

Coach discusses Panthers, defensive back rotation

Below is a transcript of New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton's press conference from Wednesday. Payton gave an injury update, discussed Carolina and talked about the club's defensive back rotation:

 

Opening Statement:

* *

"First to hit on the injury notes for the day: Jonathan Goodwin (groin) was full; cornerback Tracy Porter (knee) was full; linebacker Scott Shanle (hamstring) was full; running back Chris Ivory with his concussion was full; cornerback Jabari Greer (shoulder) was limited; wide receiver Marques Colston with his right hand was limited; Reggie Bush (fibula) did not practice; Jon Stinchcomb (knee) did not practice; cornerback Patrick Robinson (ankle) did not practice; safety Pierson Prioleau (ankle) did not practice; kicker Garrett Hartley (right ankle) did not practice; running back Pierre Thomas (ankle) did not practice."

Will you need to bring in a kicker at some point this week?

* *

"No, I don't think in Garrett's case it's going to be anything that keeps him out. We sat him today; he could have kicked today. I think he'll kick tomorrow and the rest of the week."

Will he still kick off?

* *

"That's a good question. We probably would lean more to what we did in the game with Thomas Morstead kicking off. We'll see how tomorrow goes, but I do think – in fact I'm certain – that he'll be able to play. We just held him back with today's practice."

Was today another good sign for Tracy Porter returning?

* *

"Yes, he did well. He and Jabari (Greer) both did well. That was encouraging."

In Stinchcomb's case, is that the same knee that had bothered him previously?

* *

"Yes. He has some swelling. We backed off of him in today's practice; we'll see how he is tomorrow. Zach Strief took the bulk of the work there."

Is there a particular injury to the knee?

* *

"No, it was just after the game with it being sore and trying to calm it down as best we can."

Last year when you had injuries at cornerback you were forced to bring players in from outside. Why have you this season been able to find replacements already on the roster?

* *

"We've been fortunate to have guys – starting with Patrick (Robinson) – who have played quite a bit with the initial injuries and then Leigh Torrence playing. The flexibility that Malcolm Jenkins gives you in that it's a position that he's familiar with – all those factors have allowed us to stay internal as opposed to a year ago and get through this stretch. That's been a positive sign."

How  beneficial is it to have a guy like Malcolm on the team that can rotate between safety and cornerback?

* *

"First off, it's a tribute to the player. He's a very intelligent player; he's given us a lot of good snaps, whether it's at safety, nickel or corner, and he's playing real good football right now. That depth and that versatility that the player has is important and has helped us."

You still haven't connected on many deep passing plays. Is that something that you've adjusted around?

* *

"We go through the numbers each Wednesday and the comparisons and clearly that's something that we're constantly paying attention to – explosive plays, whether it's in the passing game or in the running game. That's one area that you keep being mindful of. Drew (Brees) is smart enough where we can call our shot plays and if they don't present themselves he'll come underneath to the check-downs and we'll continue to do that."

Is Drew playing as well right now as he's played all year?

* *

"The second half (on Sunday) he played very well in a big spot. I see his focus, his workweek, his preparation completely the same as it has been. I think with the consistency over a long period of time you'll see it. Generally at quarterback, it's a byproduct of a lot of other things too; of us doing other things well, minimizing the penalties, keeping ourselves on schedule and being able to run the football. A lot of those things contribute to him playing well. Protection and all of those things factor in."

Are there any major differences between Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen and does having Moore back in there change the way you prepare?

* *

"That's a good question. Matt probably has a little bit more experience, having played those snaps last year. The offense that they run does not completely change when there's a switch at quarterback. There are still the key elements of a line that we think is doing well and plays well. They're explosive when it comes to the running game with both of those runners, and Steve Smith the same way. So I don't know that the quarterback change affects the defensive game plan specifically like it might in other cases. I would just say the one thing is that you have more experience in Matt with the snaps that he's had in comparison to Jimmy."

Would you say that Malcolm is to the point now to where even when all of the DBs are back healthy, you could foresee moving him around situationally?

* *

"The one thing you want is that you want him on the field. You never look at a player like that and say that he's a luxury. His flexibility to some degree is a luxury, but he's playing at a level where we need to make sure – whether it's in the nickel or it's in the base – that he's out there. The one thing that Gregg (Williams) and his staff have done a real good job with is the dual training aspect of defensive positions, especially when you look at what you're able to come to the game with. When all of a sudden you're already light at a position and Patrick after the first play has an ankle injury, other guys are going to have to step up and play. Fortunately, they were able to do that last weekend and they've done it in the past. We've had to do that to some degree on offense with the running back position. You have to be somewhat flexible with your roster and the players that are going to the game."

Is it exceptional to have that much confidence in a second-year player?

* *

"You hope to have that with a guy that you select early. We're pleased with his progress. From the day he arrived, he was someone that learned quickly. It's very important to him; he's very competitive; he has a lot of those traits that you look for that sometimes are hard to member in a draft-eligible player."

Is Remi Ayodele one of those guys whose value might not be easily seen by an untrained eye?

* *

"Yes. I think it's hard for nose tackles to begin with, yet we're defending the run very well. He's playing very consistently, which is a complement when you're playing nose. Week in and week out we know what we have and he's been performing at that level. He understands exactly what we're looking for in the defense and within the framework of his position and he has done well the first half here."

Is it sometimes difficult to get players to accept that role?

* *

"In his case, the player understands what playing nose is. Oftentimes that's eating up two blocks. I think the nature of playing inside on the defensive line – no different than playing offensive line – involves dirty work, which is important to the battle of winning the line of scrimmage and how that equates generally to winning or losing football games. I think he understands that."

Are your defensive ends playing significantly better against the run?

* *

"They've been consistent. Last week that position group played well. You saw Will Smith who was very active and whether it's Alex (Brown), Jeff Charleston – who came up big on the goal line – playing for us, regardless of who's been out there, they've been functioning well."

Would you consider bringing Randy Moss in?

* *

"I think every team spent some time in the last 48 hours of at least looking closely at the player and trying to look at the 49 targets that he's had to date in New England or in Minnesota. And I know we've done that just to know where the player is right now. I would be fairly confident that every club spent time looking at the targeted plays that he was involved in to be on top of it and have a grade right now. We have a handful of players here that were teammates of his in New England. When you talk to David Thomas or Heath (Evans), they go on and on – and I've heard this from more than just a few people – about how intelligent the player is in regards to the game of football and what kind of teammate he has been. Those are all things that you look at and then you make a decision as to if there's a fit. I think every team has probably done their homework."

What decision did you come to?

* *

"We've come to a decision but it wouldn't be right for me to announce it prior to the claiming deadline. But I think every team has looked closely at it. Really, when 4:00 Eastern comes, his name is more visible but when the waiver wire hit yesterday, that would be the case and you would have an idea with every player that hits the waiver wire – What's the grade? Is there a fit? You look at that always. Certainly there's more attention to this player, but that being said, you do your homework."

Some people take players off of their draft boards regardless of how good they are. Is he someone you would do that with?

* *

"Based on the information that we have, he's someone that I think is competitive. He's someone that I think is very smart football-wise. We had a chance to practice up there for a good period of time and the reports on what kind of teammate he is have all been outstanding."

Could you talk about the steady play of the defensive unit all season long?

* *

"That consistency you see not just statistically but you see in regards to the way that we've been able to handle the run. I think it's very important when you can force a team to become one-dimensional. That's one of the things that Pittsburgh has done such a good job of. The passing statistics that people brought up a week ago are oftentimes a result of the way that they play good run defense. We'll get challenged again this week by a team that can run the ball very well, but I think we've been able to play the run well, eliminate the big plays, and we got some takeaways last week which were key to us winning that game, especially the late one with Marvin Mitchell's caused fumble. When you're playing good defense, you have a chance each week to win and that has been encouraging."

Are you comfortable with that fine line between just jumping on a loose ball on defense and trying to pick it up and score? Has that cost you a few times this year?

* *

"Yes, but it's only brought up when you don't recover it. It's not brought up when you scoop and score. You just keep working those drills with the ball on the ground. You don't want to become conservative. That's happened twice that I can think of and yet there are those other instances where there has been a significant amount of yards gained. I think you're aggressive with it. There's no certainty that when you fall on the ball that you're going to recover it either. You see that often; there's still that challenge of securing it. Is it harder to secure it when you're trying to pick it up and run? Yes, probably, but we want to be aggressive when the ball is out."

Going back to the deep passing game, have you seen a significantly higher percentage of two-deep zones to prevent you from making the big throws?

* *

"Teams are going to pay close attention to where your speed is, where the threat is on the field. I think teams do a great job, either with the corner or the safety covering the deep post or the deep go. We've ended up in the last couple of weeks hitting some big plays into those cover-two holes, if you go back to Tampa Bay and you go back to last week where Drew did a good job of moving (Troy) Polamalu and finding Robert Meachem in a window. We just have to be able to recognize coverages and understand where the windows are down the field, and I think that Drew is as good as anyone doing that."

Are you seeing a lot more teams trying to take that away though?

* *

"I don't know. At the bye we'll be able to chart it. Teams are all going to have a two-deep type of principle in their package and there are variations of how they play it. Some run the mike linebacker through the middle of the coverage and give you more of a Tampa-two look. Others play more of a match underneath scheme. We've seen more two-man this year than in years past but I think that's something that is a little bit more of a trend, regardless of who the opponent is. In other words, we're seeing more and more teams playing two-deep man under. Again, it's just recognizing it and what we want to do in regards to attacking it."

What do you need to impress upon your team this week given the magnitude of the win over Pittsburgh and next week looking at the bye?

* *

"I think just the consistency in our workweek and in our preparation; us being thorough and understanding the specifics in regards to Carolina of where their strengths are. What are the things that we have to be alert to do well in this game to win? And having that same focus, that same edge that we've had when we've played well. Those are the main things."

Will Reggie Bush need to be cleared medically or pass a certain test in order to return to practice and play?

* *

"No, none of that. He's close; he's moving around. Is he close enough to where he could play football today? Not today, so we didn't practice him. He's at a point where it's just his movement and his agility. I'm optimistic and yet again, we just have to wait and see each day here. If he's ready to play this week, we won't wait for the bye. If he's ready to play this week, we'll play him this week. We try to just see what he's doing in the rehab and see how he's functioning and how he's moving and then make a decision based on that."

So it's really more of an eyeball test and what he's telling you?

* *

"And the communication that he has and how he feels like he's moving. If he's not 100% in regards to his movement… From a healing standpoint in regards to the bone, we're confident and everyone is confident that that has taken place. Now it's the movement that goes with it; it's the burst. All the things that are necessary at his position."

Can you relate how your relationship with John Fox has evolved over the years?

* *

"We spent a number of years on the same staff in New York – '99, 2000, '01. I think in '02 he came to Carolina, so three of the four years that I was there were with John. He's a tremendous coach; a good teacher; he's a good friend and someone that has been very successful, not only as an assistant but as a head coach. He would be one of the handful of guys that I would communicate with on a regular basis, whether it's at league meetings, Combines, workouts; he's someone that I stay in touch with a lot."

Is it difficult to see him struggling now especially with the success that you've had?

* *

"I think the one thing that is clear in league circles is his ability to be successful as a head coach. With the success that he's had in Carolina, with where they were at when he arrived to where they went, his track record and all of those things speak for themselves. He's very well thought of and highly regarded in our industry; not just by coaches or friends like myself, but by general managers and owners. He's very talented. He's an extremely good coach."

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