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Payton Pleased With Team's Return to Practice


New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Opening Statement: With this schedule, it's different for two reasons. It's a Monday night game and we're coming off a bye. Nothing will be reported until Thursday with the injury report and when we begin that process. Really today, we took and spent most of practice like we would on a normal Wednesday with first and second down and spent some more time with conditioning. These guys will be off tomorrow and then Thursday back at it
Q: Did you make any roster moves today?

A: Nothing right now to report. We will when it's official.

Q: Did you handle this bye week much different than you did in the past?

A: We handled it very similar to what we handled the last two bye weeks. A couple of years ago we made a change as to how we approached it. We weren't' very successful the first three years. What's a little different is it's a bye leading to a Monday game rather than a Sunday game. It's kicked everything a day forward. Normally, today would be a day they'd have off and they'd begin practicing tomorrow. But with the Monday game, we're just trying to get ourselves into our weekly routine. Thursday will feel a lot like a Wednesday schedule wise. The practice won't be as long with the holiday, but we handled the bye much like we have the last two years

Q: In your view is there a recharge period after a bye or do you notice the same energy?

Q: No, I think there are some variables. Where the bye sits on your schedule it can vary. This is the first time we've had the last bye weekend. Let's say in week ten it was a later bye than we had. I think it came at a better time. It's helped us after that stretch to get away from it a little bit. There are times when we've played and had our bye earlier. I think it's challenging when that bye unfolds in week four or five and all of a sudden you're off and you're keeping going. In our case we prefer the bye to be later in the schedule. This year it was the last week.

Q: Did you notice the same energy today?

A: I thought we were fairly sharp. We ran after practice. When you're off a period of time you want to get back. Today was a bonus practice for us and we typically take advantage of that when we have that opportunity. We'll have a chance on Thursday to review and then move on to some other things

Q: How much do you feel that it's a positive that you played Tampa and Atlanta and now you have the Giants and Lions and they're in the playoff mix as well? How can that help in terms of playing teams in playoff positioning?

A: It really felt in the third quarter of the season when we outlined that quarter two or three weeks ago, I think our players and every one of us understood we were getting ready to play four real good teams in this quarter, beginning with Tampa Bay, Atlanta and now New York coming up this week and Detroit after that. You get a chance to measure yourself and see where we're at. Our players recognize that coming up Monday night will be a big challenge. We play what we think is a real good football team who just came off a tough loss at home. Historically Tom (Coughlin) and his staff and that team have been very good coming off of a loss, so we'll have our work cut out for us. We need to have a real good week of practice and a good week of getting back into our routine

Q: Has the performance of the offensive line improved in coincidence with the return of Zach Strief?

A: Certainly the time on task, snaps and experience for a young center (Brian de la Puente), Zach Strief coming off of an injury, all those things help. They've played very good football here of late. We think it's a key to us playing good football games. Certainly from a repetition standpoint, the more those guys get to work together, the more they become comfortable with the center who's going to be making a lot of the calls, ID the defense along with Drew (Brees). I think that's very important.

Q: Does the Giants defensive line present one of the bigger challenges?

A: I would say so. Number one, they lead the league in sacks as a position group. These guys can rush the passer very well without having to rely on pressure and they have played very well this year statistically speaking, when you look at their numbers, it's impressive. Those one on one battles will be as challenging if not more challenging than any game we've played to date. I think when our players look at the film, we talk about the opponent and some of the key elements to winning football games, that are a part of it that's easy to see when you put the tape on. You see these guys do a great job on early downs, defending the run, play action, getting the nickel snaps rushing the passer. I think that's a very important part to this game."

Q: Was Chris Ivory the odd man out for a participation reason in the last game?

A: No, we really thought with his hamstring…In the early part of the week I really thought his hamstring was going to be further along than where Mark (Ingram) was. As we got to the middle of the week, it appeared that Mark was definitely going to be healthy and Chris was going to be questionable. It had more to do with the injury.

Q: Will you still stick with picking the three healthiest guys?

A: We'll see. Right now this might be the first week where all of them are healthy. Whether we go with three or four is yet to be determined

Q: What do you think of the Giants rushing attack? It seems like their numbers are off.

A: I think the things we pointed out today in our PowerPoint presentation to the team is that this is historically a club that has been very good rushing the football. Although statistically speaking they haven't been as effective. We know that this personality they want from their team is something that with a good portion of the season ahead, they will be working hard to establish. I think the approach we have to take is understanding what we're seeing from a scheme standpoint in the running game and understand that this is a team for good reason who believes strongly in that element to winning football games. Coach Coughlin and with this team we're playing, its' always been a big ingredient to their success. I would expect that to be the case coming up in this game Monday night. I think although their statistics haven't been as strong as in years past, I don't think their commitment has changed at all. I would expect that to be something they'll work very hard at and try to correct.

Q: Can you talk about the job Jed Collins has done on special teams, receiving and in the run game?

A: He's an interesting story. It's a pretty good testament to a guy who's worked hard. He's been on a number of clubs and he found his niche beginning last year with us and in training camp, really earned that starting fullback position. There are a number of snaps where we utilize a true two-back set, so we utilize that position with some snaps and what it provides for us offensively. I think he's a player who exactly knows what his strengths and weaknesses are. He is a guy that can catch the ball comfortably out of the backfield. His toughness and leverage and ability to learn, he's pretty smart, all those things led to an opportunity to make this team during training camp.

Q: What do you think your team needs to improve on or sustain following the bye week

A: I think overall, the consistency is a term we would use. I think the importance of these next six weeks, winning that turnover battle, takeaways defensively. It was a big one we had a week and a half ago with the interception by Scott Shanle. The ball security offensively, I think the number one thing during this next six week stretch is that we're better in that area than we were in those first ten games. I think that will lead to a little more consistent play.

Q: I know you're not giving participation, but do you have a feel for Jonathan Vilma's recovery?

A: He's doing well and his treatment's going well. With him it's day to day. You measure how he's moving. On Thursday we'll give you a better indication of where he's at.

Q: How important is it to use Darren Sproles as a receiving option against a team that can rush the passer?

A: All of the elements that you use to throwing the football are important and critical along with Darren Sproles out of the backfield, the help periodically that we have to give, I think the timing in the passing game is critical. To your point, I think when the backs are out and the receivers are in their spots quickly, you hope you don't have to hold onto the ball, because this is a front that can come up with a big sack, a big turnover and really take over a football game if you're not paying attention to the rush. They're very talented. They have very good depth, rotate players in. That's something that's stood out on film.

Q: Would you say Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory comparable to each other and because of the similarities are one of them the most likely to sit out in a numbers game?

A: I think that's a good question. I would say to begin with that we would kind of clump them to some degree that way, although there are some differences between Mark and Chris Ivory. Whether or not if we go to three from four, comes specifically from that group, would be hard to say. A lot of times we're going to look closely at what's the role for Pierre (Thomas), for Darren (Sproles) and either Mark or Chris. This discussion we're having is a good one. It's something we sought at the start of the year in that competition. I would agree with that first assessment. Whether or not it would always come from those two, to create three if we're going with three, it would be hard for me to say that, based on who we're matching  and who we're playing. This week all four are going to receive the reps and the work and we'll see. What happens oftentimes, maybe someone along the line on defense can't go and all of a sudden you have that luxury. The meetings we have on personnel each week are very interesting. You'll have your 53, but who's your active group of players and your seven inactives. You always start with who can't play because of injury and then oftentimes you'll turn to special teams and what those guys can do to contribute. Korey Hall who is also a second fullback can also be a guy who is a core special teams player. He was a guy who was active early in the year, inactive of late. Those are the type of discussions that take place in determining who's going to be inactive and who's going to be up.

Q: Do you think that with Darren this could be the best offense you've had here?

A: He's played a huge role in what we've done. He's added an element of speed and quickness in space. He's a threat as a receiver and I think he's a very accomplished runner. Whether or not this is the best offense we've had is to be determined really. You always go back to where you won. In '09 we won and had success. You measure your team. If you're looking at statistics versus a season like '09. We're still a work in progress. There are several things we feel we need to do better. It would be too hard. Do we have the potential? I'd like to think so and what's most important, a lot of the time if we're just looking statistically, it might not be necessary to what we need to win that game. A 17-10 hard-fought win may not statistically help one side of the ball or the other, but nonetheless it's what's most important during the week and with your goals are, but I think with Darren, he gives us a good mix, a good blend an gives us a lot of different options that we try to take advantage of."

Q: Do you have a target number of touches with a guy like Daren?

A: I would say a little bit more than touches, snaps or plays played, what we try to pay attention to more is tendencies when players are in games by personnel. In other words, there's eight, nine, ten different personnel groupings we might use offensively. Ninety ten, eighty twenty there are certainly ones where Jimmy Graham's on the field as opposed to John Gilmore. John Gilmore would be a guy we would think can block the running game really well. Certainly in Jimmy's case, you would say who's a very good threat as a receiver and yet we need to have that flexibility and balance to be able to run when Jimmy's on the field and to be able to throw when John's on the field. I think in the bye, more time is paid to those types of tendencies, no different than defensively when we're in an Okie package or a nickel package or when we're in our base defense. Are we giving something up very easily and not even recognizing it. That's when you do the self-scout and I think more attention's paid to that then to how many snaps are given. It's a challenge for us at receiver where four guys that are very involved in the game plan, we're constantly looking at the things they do well. There are just weeks where one guy has more (chances) at the receiver position, like Marques (Colston) this last week versus Atlanta, who had probably his best game as a New Orleans Saint and two weeks from now, (he) may not have those same opportunities based on coverage, the looks that we had and what we see in the game. So, at some positions that's easier to scout if you're just looking at playing time and snaps and then certainly the skill positions it's a little more challenging."

Q: How's your rehab going?

A: It's going well. I have two more weeks without the weight on it and then have the minimal weight bearing. I think the goal is for Christmas to be able to walk without crutches. I think the long term goal would be March 1, where it's 100 percent. So far it's gone well.

Q: Will you be down on the field on Monday?

A: Yes, I'll be down from here on out.

Q: Do you need to get new plays for Darren Sproles after the Atlanta game?

A: In defending Darren, other options became more attractive. I think we're always mindful of the best things a player can do and giving him those chances in a game. Sometimes, your point is exactly what we're talking about. Based on the nature of the game there were some things that weren't that attractive and all of a sudden Marques has one of his better games. Jimmy Graham has a big game. Drew (Brees) is a guy who is going to find what the defense is doing, what the weaknesses are and try to figure out what they're playing. We do pay attention to what's done in our league. I think the reason it's referred to as a copycat league is because all that video and information is available at the end of the weekend. On Monday or Tuesday you have access to all the video in games that are played. We try during the course of the year to look at a team that's excelling in a certain area and see if there's something they're doing that might fit us or is it just uniquely different to their team. That would be something we'd pay attention to. We're always looking for new thoughts that might fit our personnel, but nonetheless not getting away from what we do.

Q: Was the game not conducive to screens or Sproles' style?

A: We thought Atlanta played the run very well. Statically speaking I think they're in the top seven or eight in rushing defense. That isn't to say we didn't go in with a plan of wanting to run the football, but we felt the big component was going to be protecting Drew. We felt if we could do that we would have some chances in the passing game and I thought that was a key element for us having success in that game, giving him time and allowing him to get to second and third receivers. That would be a week by week…What's the point of emphasis? To be fair to Darren I don't know that the emphasis was to get him a dozen carries. I don't know that was the case going into the Atlanta game.

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