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Payton on Start of Training Camp

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    **New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton**  
    **Pre-Training Camp Press Conference**  
    **Thursday, July 30, 2009**  
    **Opening Statement:**  

"As we get started, I think it would easier for me to talk about the two or three guys that we have to pay attention to at the start of this camp that are injury concerns. Really there are three, and I'm not including Stanley Arnoux, we understand the significance of his injury. Right now, we're going to monitor Adrian Arrington. His hamstring has gotten better, but it's not yet 100%, so we'll take him day by day and won't put him out there in full team drills until we feel like we're confident that it's ready to go without the threat of another injury. Lance Moore has done a great job and he's way ahead of schedule. He'll get some individual work, but again, we'll be judicious in bringing him into any team type of drills, any type of contact work. He's a guy that we'll have to be mindful of with his shoulder. The last player is Jonathan Vilma. He had a scope procedure done in his abdomen area. It wasn't a full sports hernia, but nonetheless, he'll get a fair amount of reps to begin with and we'll just monitor that in the first week or so before we turn him loose. He'll get a lot of the team work, where the other two players will be guys that we'll have to hold back off on because right now we have them on the PUP list. We'll take it day by day with those players. Those are the three guys that you'll see tomorrow in practice; Vilma you won't notice as much because he'll be getting some reps, but you'll see Lance mainly working with the individual stuff and the same thing with Adrian."

Was Vilma's surgery done in the offseason?

"This was a procedure that we decided to have done shortly after our last minicamp. It was one in which we had time. It was a small repair and the procedure went well. Dr. Myers from Philadelphia performed it and we went ahead and had it done so it wasn't something that became an issue or aggravated him throughout the course of the season. I know Jonathan and our doctors and myself and Mickey spent a lot of time discussing the options and we felt like with the time we had and the gap we had between when we finished minicamp and when we started tomorrow that we were able to do that. Fortunately for Jon, he has rehabbed it well and feels close to 100%, but not quite there yet."

Did you say that Arrington and Moore are on the PUP list?

"Both of them are guys that we wouldn't pass on the physical, which isn't uncommon. We'll wait and we'll monitor their progress and then as soon as we feel like they're ready to put them into team drills, then we'll do that."

What did the team do today? Did everyone else pass their physicals?

"Everyone did except the two players that I mentioned. Basically the morning meeting was an operations meeting that we do every year where we try to hit on all the topics as it pertains to the training room, as it pertains to the equipment room, media – all the operations aspects of training camp. When you do switch training camp sites, there's a little bit of unsettledness in regards to really for all of us this is our first go-round of having training camp here. We talked a little bit this morning about some of the nuances that we'll have to adjust to in our travel schedule back and forth from the hotel. But that morning meeting was about 45-50 minutes long; they had meetings then in the afternoon and then this evening we had a brief walkthrough inside in shorts and helmets. We had a conditioning test prior to lunch and all the players participated in that. The results were real good. Now they're heading back to the hotel where tonight we'll have our team meeting, which is a little bit more football related and then special teams and offense and defensive meetings before they have bed check."

Is everyone here except for Malcolm Jenkins?

"Everyone is here but Jenkins, correct."

Did everyone make their weight?

"Everyone made their weight; all but one and I don't want to get into specifics. I was real pleased with the weigh-ins. Normally you have a handful of players that struggle to make it, but we did a pretty good job and that was reflected in the conditioning test as well."

How concerned are you about Jenkins missing time?

"Being that we haven't practiced yet and really it starts tomorrow, this is a little bit unique this year in that there are a fair amount of first-round picks that haven't signed and typically they kind of go in clumps. Hopefully that process speeds up, not only for our first-round pick but for everyone else because it typically brings the remaining players with them."

Is there a battle for the long snapper position?

"I'm glad you asked that. A week ago we had to waive Darian Barnes and that created a spot for us. This morning, we had to waive Rob Ninkovich. Those two spots freed up the two signings of our punter (Thomas Morstead) and our safety (Malcolm Jenkins/Chip Vaughn.aspx">Chip Vaughn). Right now we're at our correct number. When Malcolm Jenkins signs, we'll have to create another spot and we'll deal with that when that happens. That's the hardest thing about the calendar in regards to have to make a decision like that with a guy like Ninkovich or Barnes who have been with you throughout the whole offseason and now here it is a day before training camp starts and you have to make a decision like that; that's never easy. Both of those players have been released which cleared the room for the two players that I talked about."

How will the looming suspensions for Will Smith and Charles Grant affect how you use them in training camp and the preseason?

"That's a good question. I think that there's a portion of the camp where you have to make sure that they're working with them, but the reps behind them become equally important to Bobby McCray, Garrett Hartley/Paul Spicer.aspx">Paul Spicer, Anthony Hargrove, Jeff Charleston, all those other players that potentially are going to be playing and filling in. We have to be paying close attention to the reps and how much we give and how little we give. That is a little different, knowing that we're going to start the season with those suspensions. The preseason games give you the opportunity to give a little more work to the players behind Charles and Will."

Will Charles and Will be with the first-string unit to start?

"Yes. They'll start off and the position, by nature, is one that has a lot of rotation to begin with. That makes a little easier, unlike a position like quarterback or cornerback. We try to rotate those guys quite a bit. But to answer your question, those guys will start off the first practice tomorrow with the first group. But you'll see a lot of rotation and really a lot of us playing around with the guys behind them to see where we're at as we get ready to start four or five weeks from now."

Can you explain why you made the switch at long snapper from Kevin Houser to Jason Kyle?

"The first thing we try to do – we being Mickey, myself and the organization – is that we look at each decision and make sure that it's football related. I feel comfortable and confident in the acquisition of Jason Kyle coming in as a guy with experience. We worked him out in the spring prior to us breaking the minicamp, particularly with his field goal and extra point snaps, the shorter of the two. We felt that he was consistent, he had a lot of the same attributes that Kevin had and we felt that he had better velocity and we made the decision.

"In regards to the other situation off the field, that was not something that played into this decision. Obviously, that's something that was unfortunate. I've read a lot about it and the one thing that I kept reading that didn't seem too accurate is that I don't think speaking on behalf of the 24, 25, 26, 27 people, I don't think anyone was looking at that as an investment opportunity as much as they were looking at it as purchasing tax credits. It's one thing to make investments and a lot of us have people that are in charge of that, but it's another thing to just purchase Louisiana tax credits. I think the goal for everyone involved and the reason that there were so many involved was that after you're here and you've lived here for a little while you understand the economy of Louisiana and how they're able to attract the film industry to this region. The idea was fairly simple and that was to purchase tax credits. I'm fairly certain that nobody in that group was interested in investing at all in the studio per se; certainly I wasn't."

Did people heap blame on Houser for that?

"I think that would be an easier answer for our players to give you. It's harder for me. Kevin have communicated from shortly after the team when that purchase went a little south and he and I stayed in touch in regards to that matter, but I don't think that those involved felt like it was any type of investment other than the opportunity to purchase tax credits, which I think is fairly common."
From a football standpoint, where was Houser falling short?

"In Jason's case, we felt like we were getting someone a little quicker with his times on the field goals and the PATs and a little quicker in regards to the punts. Certainly we had consistency with Kevin, but the player we signed we had felt like he wasn't going to be available. We felt like Carolina was going to have to create room and when he was still available after the workout, we went ahead with that opportunity. We're excited about it. Today was the first chance we had to see him some and he did a good job. Again, we're always looking at how things affect our team and if we're doing the right thing for the team in regards to a player that we feel like upgrades us. We try to be right as much as we can and in his case, we feel like we've been able to do that."

Was the conditioning test a pass/fail test?

"It's a pass/fail. There are three sets of gassers that they run for time. I think 95% of the team made all of their times and then typically it comes down to the third group – the linemen – that struggle. We probably had four players – they all finished – but four players that didn't make all their times in the conditioning test, and all of them linemen."

What kind of condition is Sedrick Ellis in?

"Real good. He made all of his times and his weight is good."

Was there a concern on your part that Houser would have become a distraction in the locker room?

"There are always lessons to be learned and this isn't something that's new to any locker room. Again, I think the feeling of the group was that it was a fairly simple matter in regard to the decision to make a purchase of tax credits. In regards to a distraction or all those other issues, I don't know that that was the case. I guess you could poll each player or coach that was involved and you might get a different answer. Certainly there was a fair amount of concern as guys were preparing to do their taxes for the '08 season, but the decision we made was not predicated on that issue. That's the thing we tried to emphasize and I talked with Kevin about that when I contacted him on the night we released him."

What have you learned as a head coach?

"I've learned a lot. I've learned the importance of personnel, the importance of the offseason each year, certainly I have appreciated the importance of having good quarterback play. I think when you look at the three prior years and you get past '06, certainly it's not easy to stay on top or to win each year. It's hard to do and it's something that we're committed to doing. For a question like that, I could go on here for 20 minutes or half an hour, but there are a lot of organizational things. I've learned to be patient and all-in-all, still the importance of having the right staff in place and the right players in place in the locker room and the importance of player evaluation and getting the right guys. The thing that all of us think about at this time of the year is that you're preparing to get ready to play your first game, but equally if not more important is that you're preparing to find the right 53 guys that will make up this team. That weighs on your mind a lot because those decisions that are forthcoming are very important."

Was patience something you really had to learn?

"I think as a young coach there are certain things that you can't come in ready to know. You're going to learn some things on the job and I think you keep track of things that take place throughout the course of games, throughout the course of the offseason in dealing with players, and no differently than a player would, you try to eliminate repeating a mistake. I think it's important and all of us as coaches evaluate constantly how we gameplan, how we practice. Our itinerary is a little different in this training camp than it has been in prior camps. It's easy to just turn the page to what you did a year ago and put the stamp on it, but that's not necessarily the right thing. As we move training camp here, there are going to be some nuances that come up that maybe wouldn't have come up in Jackson and you have to be able to handle those things smoothly."

What do you see as some of the things you'll have to deal with in having training camp here at home?

"I think the first issue is going to be the transportation to and from the hotel. Are we going to have transportation issues? Are players going to be able to have ample time to get from the facility to where they're eating? One of the things we did when we set up camp here is that we moved all the meetings, all the video, all the computers, everything out to the Hilton. The reason we did that was that if you keep it all here, then you have the issue of practice being over, lunch being served and then the players meeting here and you're cutting away from their time off their feet somewhere in a bed. When you're on a college campus, they're in the dorm and that's not a faraway place to go, but here I know that one option is to try to use cots or something here at the facility. Rather than doing that, with the meetings and all the meeting rooms and film and the meals all at the hotel, basically the hotel operates as our training camp with our practice facility being right where it's at. When the players get up in the morning, any breakfast is had at the hotel, they make the drive over here to the facility and it's about 12 minutes. They get taped, they get their treatment, they get their pads on, they practice and when practice is over with, they have their commitments with the media and the weight room and they shower here and then they're back on the road to the hotel where they're going to eat lunch, and after lunch is over with they're going to meet and then get on the elevator, go up to their room and sleep and it maximizes the time between practices where they're off their feet in a bed and then back down and back to the facility for the second practice. All our meetings and all our meals will be over at the hotel rather than at the facility and the main reason for that is back to that rest issue between practices. To answer your question, the concern would be if we're allocating enough time in between the hotel and the facility. We're here locally so we have to make sure that we're monitoring the hotel. It's important that we create an environment that's still like training camp, that's it's not just another day at practice on Airline Drive. By doing that with the curfew – everyone is mandated to stay in the hotel – players, coaches, the whole group – hopefully we can create that to some degree, although it's different than being on a college campus. The benefits are definitely the facilities. Today it rained when we were going to do the conditioning test. It wouldn't have rained at Millsaps, but it rained here and we went inside. We have that flexibility, even without the rain, to bring them inside out of the sun. I think our guys do as good a job as anyone in the league with the fields. Our two grass fields are outstanding. From a facilities standpoint, we've really helped ourselves with regards to the fields, the indoor facility and that's the main reason."

Will there be any significant changes football-wise in this camp?

"The only that's a little different is that we have three types of schedules. We have an 'A' schedule, which we'll be on tomorrow which is two practices. Saturday we'll be on an 'A' schedule of two practices and then periodically you'll see on the calendar a 'B' schedule. At one point in time, the 'B' schedule meant a light practice in the morning and then a full practice in the afternoon. The 'B' schedule this year will be nothing more than a walkthrough in the morning, so it's not even listed as a practice and it doesn't even show up on any of the media times because there isn't a practice taking place. We've kind of backed off that 'B' schedule in the AM and increased the time of the practice in the PM. That's different and that would be the same case for the 'C' schedule. Logistically, we're familiar with flying in and out of here so the airport would be very similar to the closeness to the airport in Jackson. We're 10 minutes away from the airport so we should be fine for the preseason games when we're leaving here. There are just a few things, but by and large, I think James Nagaoka and Jay Romig have done a great job of overseeing and getting this camp set up. There's always a lot more to it than meets the eye. If you toured the Hilton, you'd see that basically the whole lower level has been taken over. I would describe it much like the hotel in Indianapolis when we relocated there last year. You have all your meeting rooms; you have your position rooms, the coaches have their offices in each meeting room, there's a staff meeting room, there are offense and defense breakout rooms, there are team meeting areas and then the dining area. They can even get treatment there in the evenings. Curfew will be at 11:00 at night. We have set that up as our headquarters."

Looking at the age of the roster, will there be players that get rested during two-a-days?

"There will be a handful of players that will be in that mode that we'll look at and really just back off of in one of the practices or slow back on some of the reps. Not talking about the injured players, but talking about some of the guys that are a little older. A guy like Dan Campbell or Lynell Hamilton/Rod Coleman.aspx">Rod Coleman. We have six or seven guys that will be on that list, depending on what we're doing."

Will the players be able to have family time at the hotel or get home at all during camp?

"I'm not opposed to them going to get something that they need to get. There are times, but any type of visit would be down in the lobby of the hotel. Again, we're trying to create the environment where it's training camp. Sometimes those closest to you can become your biggest distraction and I think the players understand that. We're cutting back a little bit in regards to the reps. By being here we have the ability to come inside a little more because of heat and we have to make sure that we still have the focus. I think in the end the training camp will be what we make it to be and that's on us as coaches to start with and the veteran players on this team to do a good job with it. I think if you ask the players, a lot of them are excited to be back here. They appreciate the facility and there's a lot less stress in regards to the movement of the locker room and the weight room and all of those things. From a facilities standpoint, there are less hiccups."

From what you've seen, is this the best group you've had since you've been here?

"I think so. But you get to training camp here and you start working and regardless of what you think prior to the year, it really comes down to what you do once the season gets going. We're anxious for the challenge. We think we have gotten better. We've had a real good offseason. This time of the year, there are a lot of teams that are excited about where they're at and there are a lot of teams that are looking forward to the start of the regular season and we're certainly one of those teams. I think overall, the offseason was clearly the best that we've had. It was competitive and I expect training camp to be competitive. We've made some changes and guys have adjusted pretty well and pretty quickly to that and our players are ready to get going. We have a long way to go and a long way before we even get close to playing our first regular season game, but the process continues now as we get everyone back."

After missing the playoffs the last two seasons, do you consider this to be a critical year?

"Every year is critical. Certainly there is a sense of urgency that we all have as coaches and players. We don't take any season for granted ever. We're looking forward to getting out there and practicing. We're looking forward to getting better and giving ourselves an opportunity as we start the season this year with some new people and we're looking forward to that. I would say that there is a sense of excitement in the organization and not just on the football end of the building. There's a pretty good feeling about this team. Now this team hasn't been made up yet and that's why there's that sense of pressure to get the right 53 to find out about this team. The team itself is 80-some players and the key is finding the right 53 that are going to represent the 2009 team. That's one of the big reasons for training camp – to evaluate your personnel and find the right group for the season."
Is there a position group that could prove to be the toughest cuts?

"We're deep in a few areas. I think we're deep at cornerback right now. We're going to have good competition in that area. I think we have pretty good depth at the defensive end position for a number of reasons. You could go through some of the different position groups – at receiver there are some guys that will be competing for not necessarily the first spot or the second spot but for reps past that. I want to get a good look at this running back position group after we get past Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas. We'll find out where Mike Bell is at, find out where some of these other young players are at – Lynell Hamilton and then the two college free agents. There is a lot to be evaluated; you can go into each position group. You can look at tight end and there's a mixed bag of players there young and old that we have to gauge where they're at. The good news is that we have a good period of time in front of us to do that."

How are Reggie Bush and Marques Colston going into camp?

"Reggie is 100%. Marques is 100% with no limitations."

Given that you feel that you're deep at the corner position, if you had to say something to Malcolm Jenkins about missing time, what would you say to him?

"This is the first day that we've been here and two-thirds of the first-round picks haven't signed a contract yet. The good news is that we're talking about a player that is very intelligent and one of his strengths is his ability to grasp the system. He pays close attention to detail and I think that he's a player that when the time comes and he has to transition back into training camp, he'll handle that transition aspect of it fairly quickly. Outside of that, I think everything else is understood."

Have you talked to him?

"I haven't. Mickey is working with his agent and we'll go from there."

You've commented on a window of opportunity with Drew Brees as the quarterback. Could you elaborate on that?

"If you just look at it – and I don't want to throw out years because he has done a number of things that have surprised us already. We certainly have a quarterback that's good enough to win with and you never take that for granted. We feel like he's playing at a high level and we feel like he's leading at a high level, which is another positive trait. How can we evaluate the offseason areas that were of concern and how can we improve in those areas and get the production around him to get the play of the people around him up to speed is the question. I've read where people have looked at it as a window and I think that's fair, but what I don't want to do is give you the time of the window because we just finished spending a whole offseason talking about a 39-year-old quarterback. He takes very good care of his body; he's someone that is very diligent with his training habits and when you have someone like that and you have the right guy leading you, I think you look at each season with a sense of urgency and our approach is that. That's a good thing to talk about. There's nothing wrong with talking about high expectations and talking about championship seasons but it first starts though with tomorrow's two practices and it's a process and it takes a while. I think our players are ready for the process and we're looking forward to it."

Is there anything new as far as Michael Vick being available his status from your point of view?

"A lot of people have talked about it and I think everyone is excited to see what comes of where he signs. Having had a chance to coach against him when he was in Atlanta, all of us certainly have respect for his skill set. I don't see the Saints as being in a position where we're going to go in that direction, but I would imagine within the next couple of days we'll find out who he's going to sign with. I think there will be an interest from a handful of teams."

When will the veterans "escape" from camp?

"If you're asking the question of when does camp end or when do we leave the hotel, the Tuesday we travel to Houston, which is two-and-a-half weeks from now, we check out of the Hilton and we come back from Houston that Saturday night late and we're now at Airline Drive in regards to meetings. We're still on a two-a-day schedule, but now players are sleeping at their homes."

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