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Payton's Final Presser Prior to Opener


New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Media Availability
Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Opening Statement:
"Let's go through injury report number two for today: Garrett Hartley did not practice (hip), Lance Moore did not practice (groin), Tom Johnson was limited (calf), and Adrian Arrington was limited (knee). Most of today was a Friday schedule for us with the emphasis being goal line, short yardage, and red area. Tomorrow we'll have a light walk-through and then fly to Green Bay."

Is it today that you would normally give us a game status on these guys?
"Normally we would and normally I would have given you a report on Sunday but for whatever reason this week is different so the game status comes tomorrow. In other words, this was report two, there are always three reports. If it was exactly our schedule, it would've been Sunday, Monday, Tuesday but this week it just happens to be Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday."

When you look at game tape from last year, how much does that factor into your preparation with what you've seen from the Packers in the preseason?
"Starting off with the fact that it's the first game, every season with early opponents there are always some adjustments that have to be made during the course of the game. There are going to be things that we see that we haven't had a chance to necessarily card or practice against in the week and vice versa. Then when you factor in personnel in both cases, there are new players for Green Bay involved in what they're doing and there are new players for us. In week five or week six, there's a little more of a bio on each team, a personality as to what they like to do, who's doing what in situations. So early on in the season with each of these games this weekend, there is a little bit of uncertainty and there are going to have to be some adjustments and we're going to have to be ready for some things that look a little different. So whether it's a tight end who didn't appear during the last half of the season in regards to the cut-ups or the film study, it may be a rookie, but that happens especially early in the season."

Mike McCarthy says he's been looking at the Saints all offseason and all preseason, is that something that you've been doing as well?
"I think it's pretty common, especially with the lockout, but forget the lockout, one of the things we try to do each spring when we're finished with our own self-scout, our own study, is begin to move forward. It generally happens after the schedule is released. We would study the early opponents with Green Bay being the opening game. We would also do a divisional study with the three teams in our division and then every year we're always doing research with the teams that we felt like were best at the red area or were the best at third down or the best at one aspect or another of football. There's that research element, there's the scouting report element of your early opponents, and then you individual scouting report. After the schedule comes out and you know you have an opponent like Green Bay, you begin to look at a whole season's worth of tape and you begin to put some ideas together and then you try to follow how the preseason goes and see if there are some things that are similar or if there are some things that are different that you need to work on. Generally, especially with the first game, there's been a lot of time given because you just have that and with the lockout you have that much more time."

You mentioned that it was important to see John Kasay's third kick.  Have you spent more time than usual with preparing for field goals?
"I think there is an adjustment for the holder - opposite knee, your handwork is different, and I wouldn't say it's like becoming a switch hitter in regards to baseball. I don't know that we've kicked him more, but certainly the snap-hold process we've worked on a lot more than we would have with the normal work week. That's kind of an ongoing work in progress. Yesterday I thought it looked really good and he kicked really well yesterday so we just have to continue to work on the timing of it and the technique of it."

You're a guy who appreciates great quarterback play.  What are your thoughts of Aaron Rodgers and what do you think you need to do to prevent him from playing at the level he did at the end of last season?
"I think the challenge anytime you play an elite level quarterback, and I think he's at that spot right now, is trying to minimize some of the things he does really well. Number one he can really break down the defense with his feet and he's an exceptional guy in the pocket. He doesn't just move to run, he does a very good job of moving in the pocket and finding throws, but he can also step up and flush either direction and instead of gaining two or three yards he can gain twelve. That's challenging. He's very accurate, his release is fantastic, he's very experienced in the system, so the logical things you would say is you can't allow a quarterback like that to be comfortable. As this game unfolds, the ability of both team to protect their passer and allow them to find a rhythm obviously becomes important. Now that can happen with great coverage, that can happen with a good pass rush, and certainly that can happen with both. Those would be the things you'd look at when you're playing a guy like Aaron."

Is he unusually good blitz situations?
"He was first in the league (rating under pressure) last year. You have all these statistics and there are some that are kept just by the league, but he was first in the league efficiency-wise against pressure. That would mean a fifth rusher or more. He has a quick release. They have a very good system. He knows where his answers are if he's getting blitzed or he's getting a zero blitz or if he's getting just a five man rush, there are all sorts of different pressures he could face, but he knows what to do with the football and he has a quick release. He doesn't hold it and he doesn't take sacks so you have to be somewhat judicious when you choose to pressure and understand the ball comes out."

Maybe with the exception of the yardage gained when he's flushed, he sounds a lot like Drew Brees.
"They're different and yet there are some similarities. They're both accomplished passers. As we always try to evaluate young quarterbacks, quarterbacks in the draft, the on trait that you're looking for aside from being a competitor and aside from being smart, they have to be accurate so the quarterbacks who can put the ball in a location in tight coverage where it needs to go are the ones that have a chance to go and play at a really high level. In that case, both of those traits you'll see this Thursday night. He's worked very hard to where he's put himself in this position. There's all sorts of discussion as to how much time a young players needs and it can vary, but his development with Mike (McCarthy) and the staff there and their offense has been outstanding."

Everyone has been talking about offense and defense in this game, but with the game being early in the season and all the young players, could special teams make more of an impact?
"Absolutely. Just statistically, a punt return or a kick return for a touchdown really swings the balance of a game in the favor of that team. Ball security in the kicking game where a team's able to create a turnover can swing the game right away to a 65-68 percent winner, so there's just some clear data in ten years that suggests that that third of the game is just as equally as important and I'm sure it will be this week."

Do you still like the kickoff rule?
"I don't know if I've had a chance to explain it. I understand it, let's just say that because I think the challenge from a league standpoint is ten years of data and knowing that the injuries take place on that play at a three-to-one more likely to occur ratio. There's three-to-one more chances of an injury and so when you have that information and you leave things the way they are, that kind of puts you in a bind. Ten years from now with a serious injury that you knew that this was the most dangerous play in football and we just continued to let it happen with the 30 yard line. The challenge has been sitting in on the coaches committee, they've also studied the wedge with how that relates to injury, the returner, the trap blocks. So hypothetically, let's say were 112 injuries on the kickoff play, can we find one specific area that we feel like led to (the injury), and I don't know we can. This rule, going back to your question, didn't eliminate kickoffs, there'll be kickoffs returned. If there's a light breeze Thursday night, and the team is kicking into the breeze, there's a good chance that ball is going to come to the goal line or the plus-two (yard line). With the breeze there's a good chance the ball will go into the end zone. At the end of the season, there's going to be less kick returns than in 2010, 09, 08, 07, and then the chances of the injuries go down. I watched the process unfold and I understand a little bit how we arrived at this rule."

Do you think it will be a minimal effect or a significant effect on scoring in terms of field position?
"League-wide, it will have some effect because you will see more drives starting at the 20. How it will affect the New Orleans Saints, this is a rule that we felt pretty good about and it was probably a rule that maybe some of the younger teams that were trying to create an advantage in the kicking game while they get up to speed offensively or defensively it will not be as beneficial to. One of the first things as a coach when you get a young team and maybe you're trying to build a program, one of the first ways to get close in games or have a chance to win games aside from ball security is to win in special teams. As the defense and as the offense comes, you hope you're competitive in all three phases. I think that's a challenge for that team and I'm not bringing up any team, I just know that the mindset of coaching when you maybe have an offense that's not far along, you look for an edge somehow, and does that come in your punt return or does it come in your kick return, and so it takes away the opportunity or the chance of kick returns."

Does that mean that you've changed strategies?
"No, it wouldn't change our strategy. We'd be very conservative. The good question and the question you talk with the team about is – so here comes the ball and you're three yards deep in the end zone, I think the returner has to pay attention to flight time. If it's Darren Sproles or Courtney Roby and the ball's being kicked and there's a lot of hang time and I catch this ball five yards deep, then we take a knee. Now there's going to be points in games where you're going to be more aggressive in regards to – hey, we're going to bring it out, we're trying to bring it out. Philosophically, if we're questioning it at all, we'll take a knee and take the ball on the 20 yard line. But if the flight time isn't as long and the hang time isn't as high and the ball is coming at a lower trajectory and I catch it two yards deep, so the decision time in the end zone, then I think we have to talk about during the course of the game about what our thoughts are."

Hypothetically, is it possible for a player not to practice the whole week and still play?
"Yes, it has and you're right I don't like answering hypothetical questions, but that's happened with us before. If we're talking about Lance Moore, hypothetically, he practice on Sunday and then didn't go yesterday or today, so we'll see where he's at and the final report comes tomorrow. Like I said, normally it would come on this type of day but from a mental standpoint, he would be the type of guy who could do that because he knows what we do cold."

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