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Payton: Saints Back to Normal Practice Routine


New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Media Availability
Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Opening Statement:
"Let's first start off with today's injury report. Turk McBride (left ankle) did not practice. Mark Ingram (right toe) did not practice. Jonathan Casillas (right knee) did not practice. Jon Vilma was full. Scott Shanle (left shoulder) was limited. Sedrick Ellis (left hamstring) was limited. From a practice squad transaction, we signed WR Andy Tanner and released QB Sean Canfield. We're kind of back into what is a normal routine for us. Our plan is to be outside tomorrow and see where we're at on Friday. Our initial plans were actually to go outside today, but we had an issue with the wind in regards to our film towers."

Matt Hasselbeck seems to have played pretty well against you guys.
"He's having a good season. I think he's been a big part of their team success this year. There's a level of confidence he brings to the huddle. He's someone who's very accurate. One of the things that's a great trait for a quarterback is he gets rid of the ball on time and it comes out. We saw it last year at home and we saw it on the road. That combined with a really good running attack they have, they present obviously a lot of challenges."

Can you touch on the added significance of clinching the division with a win and a loss by Atlanta this weekend?
"When you start getting into, and we're at that point in the year where you start getting into scenarios, I think most importantly really as the first time we've been outside on the road in quite a while. If you go back, it really would be Tampa Bay which is eight weeks come this weekend. It just so happens with the way the schedule shaped out, we ended up with three of the four home games we just played, the away game in Atlanta, the away game in St. Louis, and the week after next we'll be inside up in Minneapolis. It's just how the schedule unfolded. To you point, it's about this game and this challenge. One of the things we've been able to do is kind of let those scenarios take care of themselves. I know the scenario this week starts with us having to win. I think that's where the focal point is and I think we're looking forward to the opportunity. Our schedule is going to be a little bit different at the end of the week with us travelling Saturday and getting in there and leaving earlier and going to their stadium and practicing and getting the right shoes and footing for that surface. I think that's important."

Did Mark Ingram and Jonathan Casillas both get hurt during the game?
"Yes, Ingram is a toe and Casillas is a knee. Both of those are from the game we just played."

Does Chris Johnson remind you of any running back you face regularly or is he unique in his own way?
"I think he has a unique style. I said yesterday, he's one of those running backs that from wherever he is on the field, he has that speed and that burst to score. He probably has the best long speed in his pads of any running back in our league right now. I think more recently we've seen him playing up to the form he has in years past especially in the last two weeks."

With Mark Ingram's injury and the depth you have at running back, is this the week you would use Chris Ivory and be more cautious with Mark Ingram?
"No, I think our approach would be just as we always have. If we feel the player can play and is ready to play, we'll do that."

In film study, are you more focused on watching the team you're playing do well or are you more focused on when the team didn't do well?
"I think both. You get to this point in the season and you have plenty of tape. Certainly you study the more recent games, but I think you're always wanting to see who defended this team well, who put up good numbers offensively, what was it that they did well and then take from it what you will. Typically, you start going backwards in the game they just played and working on back and then there will be certain offenses or defenses that are like yourself and those tapes will be valuable because from a scheme standpoint there are more things that you see that carry over to what you do."

Do you expect the Titans to try to do some of the things Matt Hasselbeck did with Seattle last year against you?
"There's a familiarity that would exist for Matt in regards to playing against our defense. I think their approach would be just like ours in that they would study very closely more recent games and games in which we didn't play as well and try to apply those principles that they see fit to their team. I think it's more about what and who they are as opposed to jumping back a year or two. Certainly you'd look at games like that, but it all gets back to the fit of your own team. I think that's important."

What do you think is Jimmy Graham's biggest reason for his success?
"I think there's a handful. I think he's real smart. I think we've seen rapid growth in a short period of time. He has a great skill set in that he can run, he has range, he has the ability to catch the ball in traffic and also that ability to line up in receiver spots and be effective. His desire and his work, the things you've heard me say about Jimmy has really contributed to a very quick learning curve."

Have you noticed anything different Chris Johnson has done in these last two games that has made him more effective?
"I think generally there's probably a lot has happened. I think they're playing very well on the offensive line. He's found those creases. I think what's most important for us defensively is getting that pursuit, getting our hats to the ball, and being gap sound in regards to where we need to be. He is a player that if you're a half a step late to your assigned area or if you're not really pursuing the way you need to, he's very dangerous. There'd be maybe a handful of backs in our league that could score from the 20 yard line for 80 yards and he's one of them. He would start the list if you began to look at guys that are truly game breakers. (Adrian) Peterson up in Minnesota who we'll see a week from now is another one of those guys that if you're not fitting the gaps and playing great team defense, they can give you fits and he's one of those players. I think that there are probably a number of things that have contributed to his recent success in how they're blocking and his comfort level. The thing that maybe goes unnoticed to some extent is in the offseason there had been a coaching change there and there are new faces and some things that they're doing differently with Mike (Muchak) under his staff. I think we've really begun to see him play in the form we're used to."

What goes into the reason for giving Mark Ingram more carries than the other running backs?
"There are two things: there's the game plan heading into the game, but the harder challenge I would say is in the midst of the game, how it unfolds no different maybe than how the receiver number maybe unfolds, and sometimes going into a game you have a certain mindset in regards to what you think you want to do, but at that position it could just be the runs by the rotation that fall to Ingram or to Pierre (Thomas). Pierre didn't have as many carries this past week and part of that is no different than the wide receiver position. I think those players have done a really good job. We've seen I think a lot of improvement in the run game and I think that's something we're continuing to strive for. We understand the importance of it and we'll continue to work on it and continue to be our own self-scout in regards to who's on the field and what we're running. I think that's also important."

Have you gotten what you expected out of Aubrayo Franklin and Shaun Rogers?
"Yes, both those guys have given us real good snaps. They're situational players in that you see them a lot on first and second down. Our league, depending on who we play, there are sometimes more nickel snaps because of the offense we're playing. This will be a week where we're seeing a heavy dose of base personnel or heavy personnel, but both of those guys have handled the transition well and have been key contributors and are going to be here as we hit this stretch run and hopefully into the postseason."

Jonathan Vilma may have taken a little teasing at being 4-0 and maybe not needing him to come back.
"He took the same tease that he gave me when he said we've been rolling right along offensively with Pete (Carmichael Jr.) calling the plays. I think we all recognize that in our game there's going to be injuries and there will be guys that need to step up and it's a credit to the players that have and the coaches that have when somebody is injured. That's how you develop depth and you develop that confidence. It's good to have him back on the field."

As this stretch run comes, how important is it to have Vilma back in the lineup?
"There's a lot that goes on with the signal-caller at that position. Jo-Lonn (Dunbar) has done a great job of handling it with Jon's injury. The very first thing that happens is when the huddle breaks, you have to declare a strength either right or left, and then any time there's motion and any time there's shifting there's a potential audible by the quarterback and he has to decide whether to check the defense. There's so much that goes on in a spontaneous matter than that might go on when you're calling a play in the offensive huddle if that makes any sense. Defensively, your ability to quickly process the information and then make the right decision, that all happens in seven to twelve seconds. In Jon's case, he's a very quick thinker, he has good football instincts, and the same goes for Jo-Lonn."

Is this the best you've played since the Super Bowl?
"It's hard to say. It's a fair question. There was a stretch last year where we won five, six, or seven games in a row. I think there's a time to evaluate if you're playing your best football. As a coach, it's vital that you don't succumb to that idea that we've arrived. I say this not in the sense of coach's talk or cliché, but there are a number of things that we're going to have to improve on to get where we want to go. I mentioned some of them the other day. I think that the challenge is weekly. We talked about it as a team this morning and we'll try to work on those areas. It's a result-oriented business and winning is what's most important. It's much easier to come in after a win and look at you team and say – hey, these are things that we have to improve on. The penalties are a good example. Two weeks ago, we were uncharacteristically sitting there with 11 penalties and that's something we talked about had to change. Very quickly the nest week, and that doesn't always happen, but we saw that and we saw that really relate to helping us win. When you looked at the penalty yards last Sunday night, it wasn't just the yards penalized but the yards lost because of penalties. It was over one hundred yards in yardage differential. That would be a real good example of what we're talking about."

Tennessee has a rookie linebacker in Colin McCarthy.  Have you had much of a chance to look at him?
"They're a physical defense. They've had a pretty good tradition there defensively. You would say on film study that they have very good instincts, they're smart players, they get to the ball, and statistically there are some things they're doing very well. They're number one in the league in (fewest) big plays given up in the passing game. They do a great job of keeping the ball in front of them. I think you see them from a scoring defense which I would say is one of the most important statistics. They're in the top ten in our league. They're well-coached and very physical and you can see that. It's been a big reason why they're playing well and at seven wins right now. I wouldn't say they're flying under the radar, but they're a team that if you're watching they just had a big win on the road in Buffalo who is a team that a lot of us think is pretty good."

Do you see any similarities in Jerry Gray and Gregg Williams?
"Certainly there are some. There's a tree and a background. They've worked together. Jerry's an outstanding coach who's going to teach all the fundamentals and the technique that's necessary. I think he's also a coach that it appears his players believe in and have confidence in. I know that Gregg and Jerry are close. I'm sure there are some similarities, and yet there are some differences with what we do that probably don't fit with what they're wanting to do."

Some of the teams with the best records are at the bottom of the league in defense.  What do you make of that as a coach?
"What's interesting is that some of the teams, if you took seven or eight of the teams, it wouldn't just be that. It would be some of them are at the top of the league in defense and middle or bottom of the league offensively or the other way around. I think this point came up last week or the week before. It's the teams as we move forward that are able to play their best football not just on one side of the ball or the other. We talked about Indianapolis in '06. There was a lot of pressure on them in regards to how their defense was playing. Right down the stretch entering the postseason, we saw a huge improvement and eventually a team that won a Super Bowl. I think when you talk about a number of teams that are pushing here and playing real good football, some of them like Green bay that are at the very top in one area are still doing something exceptionally well in another area. If you looked at Green Bay, you'd say they're getting turnovers. If you took the 49ers, they're statistically playing very well defensively and doing the things necessary to complement that side of the ball offensively. The Baltimore Ravens are the same way. It's understanding what your team is and playing complementary football. We understand here that our ability to run the football and our ability to convert third downs helps our defensive numbers and helps what we do from a goal standpoint on defense and in the kicking game. I think what's most critical as we get towards the end of the season is that in all three phases you're making those improvements. It happened in '09 when all of a sudden we were working hard on the return game and against Arizona we have a punt return that really becomes a huge momentum shift for us. It's an ongoing challenge."

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