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Payton Gives First Injury Report

Coach gives the first injury report, talks about the Saints success on third down and facing the Buccaneers.

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Press Conference
Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Opening Statement:
"Let me go through today's injury report and practice participation.  We had three players that did not practice: WR Devery Henderson (left calf), T Zach Strief (right knee), and TE Dave Thomas (concussion).  Jon Vilma (left knee) was limited and then these three players were all full: C Olin Kreutz (left knee), LB Martez Wilson (left neck and shoulder), and TE John Gilmore (left neck and shoulder).  Just on the practice squad: Andy Tanner was signed and we made room for him by releasing Swanson Miller.  It was a pretty normal Wednesday schedule just in regards to our practice."

What stood out most on film about how that last game got away from the Bucs?
"It's kind of like I said, without having seen the game when something like that happens, generally there are turnovers and there's a score not involving an offense.  It happens in our league.  If you're in it long enough playing or coaching, you just hope you're on the better end of some of those, but we all end up on either end at some point in our careers.  It was just one of those games.  But certainly the turnovers, the field position, a lot of those things that keep you from winning a game are the things that stood out."

There's a report that the Ravens center is being fined for taking the microphone off.  How do you think the league is handling this?
"I think they're kind of working their way through just the logistics of that ambient sound.  It's really on our guards.  I think they're trying to just find that happy medium where you get the sound the networks want and yet you're not getting too much information that could benefit other teams beyond cadence, audibles, etc.  I think it's a little bit of a work in progress."

Do you think teams are getting too much information?  Is that a legitimate concern?
"Absolutely.  I'm not saying teams are.  I'm saying it's a good concern.  I think the league, the networks, the players, and coaches are aware of it and I think the league and networks are doing a good job to pay attention to finding that right middle ground."

Does Tanard Jackson's reinstatement change anything for your game plan?
"I don't think so.  Certainly we have a lot of respect for him and we've played against him a lot but it's been a long time since he's played last.  We have to focus on what their defensive package is, what they want to do defensively and just understand if he were all of a sudden ready to play in this game that he's a little bit different type of player.  He's physical and he's smart.  But from a film study standpoint, I don't know that it changes anything.  We're still looking at a defense that I don't think is going to change overnight with the addition of a player.  However, anytime you add a veteran player like him who was a starter, it can certainly benefit your team."

Is he a player you think could step in after being gone for 56 weeks?
"I don't know the answer to that.  I think that's just a long time.  I'm not sure."

With the way Brian de la Puente is playing, do you think you may stick with him at center even though Olin Kreutz is back to practicing?
"I think we just pay attention to Olin's practice snaps and the way he's feeling.  We have someone who's a solid backup behind him.  Brian got some solid snaps today also and we just have to work through the practice reps and make sure he's 100 percent ready.  It's a little different than the receiver or the corner or the running back position where it would be unusual to just give him 20 snaps.  With the offensive line, it's kind of an all or nothing and I think we just have to be mindful of his condition.  He's in good shape.  We just have to make sure he's strong and ready, but he looked good today."

Can you talk about third down and the importance of that?  Tampa has been good defending it and you guys have been good converting it.
"The obvious is that it keeps drives going.  If you're good defensively it gets you off the field.  You're always hoping offensively and understanding the importance of converting third downs and what that does.  We've had two weeks now where we converted a high number.  I would say largely because of that our play totals offensively have been much higher than they have been defensively.  In other words, we've been able to stay on the field, so while that benefits the offense it also benefits the defense and the time of possession and opportunities to score.  It's one of the key statistics we talk about each week.  Tomorrow's a big emphasis for us on third down both offensively and defensively."

What have you seen in Josh Freeman that has helped him grow as a player from his rookie season to now?
"I think the things we've seen in the division because we play them twice a year, we're able to notice a little bit more.  You see his patience, you see his leadership skills, you see his demeanor, he's someone that has that calm, collected way about him.  I think the players believe in him and I think he's demonstrated even when they're behind that they're never out of games.  That's just based on fact.  He's had as many comebacks wins in his brief tenure as a starter into this league as anyone during that time frame.  There's a confidence that he's earned and patience in what he does.  He has real good arm strength, real good command of what they're doing offensively and I think that's led to what we're seeing in a successful quarterback."

Can you talk about the production of John Kasay?
"He's been very steady and he's been a big sign for us with the injury to Garrett (Hartley).  I think two weeks ago we talked about depth on short lists and some positions might not have that quality depth.  Others might have more of it and fortunately for us the kicker depth chart in our case had that depth.  He has a real good demeanor about him.  He's experienced the highs and lows in this league.  He's accurate and he has very good leg strength still.  Each game it's very common, and not just with John but with any kicker, it's very common to touch base in regards to especially the outdoor games the 30 yard line here and the 35 on the other side based on the way the wind's blowing.  When he tells me that I think that's exactly what we go by.  That's through his pregame routine and him gauging what the conditions are like.  He's been very steady."

Your team has been good on third downs and late in the game.  Is that something that this team is built to do?
"I think we've tried to as a team emphasized finishing.  That's kind of a broad statement, but we've tried to emphasize the importance of having that staying power to play as well in the later part of a game as you might in an early part.  That's stamina and the mental focus and all the things that go into trying to do that when your body's tired or it's hot or you're down four points or you're ahead and having to finish out the game or defend a short field defensively.  I think it's something that you can begin to gain some confidence in as a team and is probably something that if it doesn't go well with your team it's something that you work to improve on.  But that aspect of finishing is something that's an important element that we talk about each week."

Was that happenstance or was that part of the design of the three running backs that you seem to share third downs among them?
"That was probably a little bit more happenstance based on the play that we had up.  It's interesting when the game's over to look at snaps and caries and receptions and all those things.  We try our best to pay attention to where they're at, but there are certain plays where Darren (Sproles) is in or Pierre (Thomas) is in and plays where Mark (Ingram) is in, and we have enough variety where hopefully those guys are fresh.  I also have to pay attention to making sure that they're not coming off the field every other play.  Sometimes that can happen and I can be guilty of that.  I thought we had a good flow and I thought all those guys contributed in a positive way."

One thing Pierre said is that you're not going to get into a rhythm, you just have to be ready when you're number is called.  Is that the case?
"They understand that there are just so many packages.  Periodically, we'll be in a position where I might say, 'Let's stick with this personnel group or stick with this certain runner,' but all of them are playing well."

How far has Patrick Robinson come along this year?
"He's progressed a lot.  He's probably a lot like a lot of rookies in that second year when what you begin to see offensively from a corner standpoint begins to slow down some.  I would also say that he's picked up on what we're doing.  You just get that much more of a grasp of your own scheme defensively.  When the player has a very high comfort level in what his assignment is, then you see him be able to play a little bit more aggressively, play a little faster, and typically the players who are hesitating or maybe uncertain have a harder time playing with that same game speed.  I think with him you're seeing him progress and he has progressed and developed very quickly."

Considering Tracy Porter has been that outside guy for so long, how tough is that to juggle both their playing times?
"It's the same discussion as with our receivers and runners.  We have all these guys that we feel confident in.  I said this a week ago, the game ten years ago we'd be waiting to write a story on whether he's officially replaced Tracy as the starting cornerback, but now that would be silly because we have so many different packages.  Now, it's who do you want to announce as the starter and I'll tell you the defense or who do you want to announce as the offensive starter.  It's different than it was before.  I think that what's most important for all the players that we're talking about is clearly they understand what we need each week to win.  We might need you matched up against a certain player on their offense.  We might need more of a certain runner or a certain receiver.  I think one of the keys that success breeds and that players begin to understand is it's amazing how much you can get accomplished when you're not as concerned or focused with who gets the credit."

How much has that changed since you've been the head coach?
"Certainly when you're winning, a lot of these little things aren't as big of a topic.  If you just go around the league today and read the headlines of a few teams, you have eight story fires.  It just depends on the success you're having.  When you're having success and when you've had success and won a Championship, it helps validate your message and your programs message.  The challenge is always when you haven't had success and you're trying to install or you're trying to build a program, that's the trick."

How often will you run a no-huddle offense when it's not a no-huddle situation?
"We've had one instance so far.  We've had some spontaneous plays where run quickly up to the ball and run another play, but I wouldn't say we're technically in a no-huddle mode.  I think we saw more of that versus the Texans.  Week to week, we look and evaluate the opponent and it would vary.  I don't know that we'd be at the top of some of the teams that we've seen to date."

*Is the huddle itself becoming less relevant? *
"Not for us.  I think some other teams have certainly.  I think offenses are battling ways to just unsettle defenses.  If you just break the huddle and line up in I-right and I-left and I-right slot and I-left slot, you make it more comfortable for the defense.  Whether it's personnel variation, formation variation, up-tempo, spontaneous calls, change of cadence, there's this ongoing battle between the offense and defense as to who's creating not only confusion, but who's handling that well and I think the goal often times of offenses is to create a little settle or an easier look to see what they're doing defensively.  I think you see it going back and forth and certainly we've seen more of it from a no-huddle point this year."

How is Tampa Bay different without LaGarrette Blount?
"Anytime you lose a good player like LaGarrette, and I don't know that they're without him, so we're into one of these hypotheticals, but if you took one of our starters that we felt like was a key component of what we do, it affects you and we would say the same thing that Raheem (Morris) said a few days ago, the next guy has to come up and do his job and execute and that's kind of how our league is."

This year's turnover margin is in the opponent's favor and yet you're still winning games.  What's your take on that?
"I think we point out where we're at from a numbers standpoint, where we're at with takeaways and giveaways, we point out the team we're playing, and I think we pay close attention to where we're at as a team and understand we have to work this out from the red to the black.  We're not that far in a hole but we feel like we can protect the ball better and we can take it away more.  That's why we go out there today and practice and look to correct."

Is it something where if those numbers don't get better it could eventually catch up with you?
"I don't know.  I think the overall percentages, you're wanting to put yourself in the percentages that lead you to success rather than the exception.  In '06 I don't know what the number was but I think we were more of the exception in finishing and getting to that Championship game.  But certainly we remember the margin in '09 and we understand it can be the difference and it can win games for you.  It's something we're working on and working to improve."

What are your thoughts on the effect kicking off from the 35 yard line is going to have on teams who are getting the ball last and need to score?
"It was a big topic early in the year and I think it has dies down to some degree.  I think we're still seeing returns.  We're seeing less of them.  I think the goal of the change was to do just that, to reduce what is a pretty dangerous play.  There are 3 to 1 more chances of an injury on the kickoff, be it the return or the kick coverage unit, and that's over a long period of time.  When you have that information, and I understand exactly the mindset, the league has to look at that.  You just continue to kick off from the 30 and players continue to get hurt, that's something that you have to pay attention to.  That being said, then you try to find yourself not from behind getting the kick late with 50 seconds left.  In other words, that's just what the rule change has done and we all understand that."

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