The New Orleans Saints' 2010 Rookie Minicamp is currently in progress at the club's practice facility in Metairie, LA. Over 60 players are particpating in the weekend consisting of meetings, five practices and strength and conditioning, including the team's six draft choices, undrafted free agents signed to the club, five members of the team's 2009 practice squad and undrafted rookies and NFL veterans who are here on a tryout basis.
Below is a transcript of Saints head coach Sean Payton's media availability following the morning practice on Saturday, May 8
"We're three practices in with these guys. We had two yesterday, two today, one more tomorrow. The overall progress has been good. They're in pretty decent shape. I think today was a break from what they were used to. We keep giving them as much as we can from an install standpoint. There are four groups of players here; the draft picks, the free agents we signed, there are a number of guys here on a tryout basis and there are also five guys on our roster that were part of our program a year ago."
Can you talk about the civil suit filed last week?
"I really can't. With respect to the process, that's the position I'm in. I understand the questions surrounding it, yet I'm not at liberty. I think as time goes forward, we'll know more and more."
When would you discuss your side of it?
"I just think there needs to be steps and when you have a civil suit, those become probably more complicated. Nonetheless, that's the thing that's challenging."
How much of your time has been given to that issue as opposed to dealing with the team recently?
"Fortunately most of the time and attention has been for us in this offseason in regards to workouts, the roster, the signings of guys like Jahri Evans and Darren Sharper and this camp, which is always the second weekend after the NFL draft. That's where our focus is."
Have you addressed this with the players?
The perception is that in the NFL is that Vicodin might be available in a candy jar for people like players and coaches. Can you paint a picture for us?
"I appreciate the question. It would be wrong for me to try to paint any picture. That would be inappropriate and it wouldn't be a smart thing or really the right thing to do."
Can you talk about how this camp ranks with some of the prior rookie minicamps?
"I think number one of the draft picks, just the one Charles Brown is coming off a hamstring injury. He's been a little bit limited with regards to what we've been able to do. We kind of knew that coming in. He's been on top of things from a mental reps standpoint. He got some work in the a.m. practice yesterday. It's still something he's recovering from and is going to have to continue to recover from. In regards to the other guys, that transition is happening pretty fast. Patrick (Robinson) is out there, lining up at left corner, getting the calls down with the rest of these draft picks. Jimmy Graham from Miami, the tight end is getting a lot of work. Certainly when you look at the center (Matthew) Tennant, (Al) Woods from LSU and (Sean) Canfield, those are the guys who we're probably a little bit more familiar with because they were drafted. At this stage, at this camp every year for us, we've been able to find a veteran like Billy Miller, who was able to work out for us at this camp in 06 for us on a three day tryout and ended up playing here for quite a while. Our scouts on both the college end and pro end, do a lot of work grading all of these guys to get them to the next step. Our process has been that once they get here we go by what we see. We point out that a few years back it was Pierre Thomas who was able to beat out a draft pick (Antonio Pittman). I think that's vital in the process of just winning football games and creating that right environment in our locker room. That's something we take very seriously."
Does Charles Brown just have a hamstring injury and not a knee injury?
"No, the issue with Charles is just the hamstring. It's something that happened in his offseason getting ready for the draft, so I think we knew before his arrival that was something he was going to be recovering from. I don't think it's something that's going to hold him back too long."
Is quarterback something you are looking at closely at this cam?
"Yes. I like when you are in a setting like this, you really begin to look at new faces and you try to go in and really evaluate what you see. Sean (Canfield) was a guy we've seen some good things from and there are some things we liked that he did and is doing well. These other guys are here in good physical shape and ready for the opportunity. That's been impressive, watching them operate, getting in and out of the huddle. Those are some of the more difficult things, can you get the play out of the huddle, can you get to the line of scrimmage with the proper snap count and all the other things that go into the mental aspect of getting the snap from center and running a play."
Quarterback wise, can you talk about how difficult it actually is finding the next Drew Brees through a coaching and evaluation process?
"You're always looking and there's no exact science to finding that guy who you feel can win for you in this league, so you're looking always to develop. Sean's somebody that when it came to selecting him, we felt that he had some of those characteristics that are important to play in that position. He is someone that has come in here for a little more than a day and a half and handled it pretty well."
Is it a tougher position to evaluate?
"I think people would say it's one of the tougher positions to evaluate because you've seen the position get more attention. It's probably one of the more difficult positions to play with everything that's asked of it. All those other things go into why so many of these guys in the first round haven't made it and why Tom Brady was drafted in the sixth round (and made it). I know other positions are talked about like that, but quarterback would be at the top of that list."
Is it easier to go into the playoffs without the talk of an undefeated season?
"I think the focus is that you start anew in regards to the season. You're in sudden death here. The focus is strictly on one game and playing your best football. The guys will have a break to get away from here and then focus on that specific opponent and away you go. That's the way you have to handle it."
Did your relationship with Doug Marrone help facilitate the decision to invite Greg Paulus to the camp?
"He's a real good story. Doug's someone who's been there (Syracuse) one year. As you go through the process, you get that type of insight, because we worked with him for so long. Early on, he's done a good job of making decisions and locating the ball. He's pretty interesting."
Can you talk about JaMarcus Russell now that he has cleared waivers?
"Not having really had a chance to see a lot of film. We played him a couple of years ago…I'm sure he's going to look for that opportunity. Our league provided that. Outside of that, I really haven't' had a chance to study him a lot. Certainly after being the first pick in the draft and his release after three years, it's been newsworthy and that next opportunity for him is going to be important."
Is bringing him in something you've discussed at all?
"I don't think so right now. I don't think that's something we would."
Are you still considering some of the veterans that you brought in?
"Yes. No question we are. Depending on who that player might be with the free agency rule in place, it limits you. But I think that's something that we'll still look at and consider."
What is Darren Sharper's status now? Did he have microfracture surgery?
"He had a procedure done and if you took microfractures and put them in the right column and just a simple scope in the left, from all the feedback we have gotten and in staying in touch with the doctors, it's probably closer to somewhere in the middle. It wasn't as significant as that, but there still was a little bit of that procedure and it will require a little bit of a longer rehab, which is what he's doing now. He was in town this past week after he signed rehabbing and he'll continue to do that and get himself ready. I think a realistic framework of when we'd expect him to be out practicing would be for training camp as opposed to the minicamps."
Is it similar to what Reggie Bush had done last year?
"I wouldn't be able to make the comparison and yet in regards to the time expectancy I think there are some similarities."
What have you seen from Jimmy Graham in these first few practices?
"He can run and he has real good hands. He's a big target. He's willing to learn and he has been pretty impressive just in these three practices. If you were watching, he'd be a guy that has stood out. He's done some things where you realize that he's an extremely gifted athlete. He has a lot of work to do and he knows that, yet he's willing to learn and he's smart and he has that span and that size that you're looking for. He has handled these three practices pretty well."
What have you liked so far from Patrick Robinson?
"Patrick is sudden. He's put his foot in the ground a few times and you can see his speed. He has long arms and good ball skills. He's someone that yesterday made a few plays on the ball and you guys soon enough will have a chance to see him. It's very early for those guys so I'm as guarded as anyone in regards to an early evaluation. But he's handling the install well. There's a lot that Gregg (Williams) and the coaches are putting in, as we are on offense, and he's pretty bright. He's done some good things."
Have any of the free agent players in here made an impression on you?
"What we'll do is meet after this second practice today and talk about the whole group that's here, not just the free agents, but also the tryout guys. As you watch the tape, there's a few of them – Junior Galette has done a good job of getting off on the ball. The biggest challenge is trying to evaluate them just in helmets. They're not in full pads, or any type of pads for that matter. You're looking for guys that know what to do and that are beginning to do what you're coaching them to do. I think the thing that can be the biggest challenge for some of these guys is the mental aspect of getting lined up and being able to give themselves a chance to compete. Generally when they struggle learning it early, it's tough to have a chance."
What do you see as Malcolm Jenkins' role this season?
"I think with Malcolm we have flexibility. I said at the end of last year, going through the season he's someone that has great toughness, good range, exceptional ball skills and he loves the game. So we have flexibility with him and he's going to get work at safety. But he can come down and play over the slot, he can come down and play outside. We were pleased with his first year and his progression into what we're doing here. He's a quick study and that along with his physical traits are good things to have and have helped him."
What have you seen from Al Woods so far?
"Al has jumped in here. He has good size and a good presence about him. The defensive tackles and the guards on offense are probably the hardest to evaluate because of the type of drills we're running. You're going to see those guys, along with the linebackers and fullbacks, be able to define themselves a little bit more as we progress into full uniform. But we like the body size on the player and he's someone that is continuing to get better and I think that's important for him."
There's an idea that Patrick Robinson's interception totals were lower later in his college career because opposing offenses were staying away from him. Is that accurate?
"That can happen to some degree. If you look at some of the better corners in our league they don't have the same hit ratio or attempts their way because of what they've been able to show prior. I can recall a few years ago playing Oakland, I don't know if threw at (Nnamdi) Asomugha one time because of the respect of what he can do as a corner. That becomes a little bit of a challenge when you begin to gameplan. You see that happening with a few players in our league – Darrelle Revis with the Jets is another guy that can really make it tough to go his way. So at the collegiate level, I'm sure when you begin to evaluate your options offensively attacking Florida State's defense, you might have liked your matchup away from a player like Patrick. But I think his production will come and young players like him are going to get thrown at early and often here and I think he'll be ready for the challenge."
Could Malcolm Jenkins play strong safety?
"I think what's happened in the past few years is that nature of what we knew as strong and free safety has bled together a little more than it was 10 years ago or so. What Gregg and our defensive staff is going to ask either safety to do is at times play down in the run front and at times play back. But I think initially you would look at him as a free and begin there, but he's going to have to do a lot of the same things we ask our strong to do."
You were able to put a statement out last week. Is there anything you want to say on Joe Vitt's behalf?
"It would be inappropriate for me to speak on anyone's behalf. He's someone I think a lot of and having hired him in our first year here, he has as much to do with this Super Bowl run that we had as anyone in this building. But I don't think that would be fair, nor would it be right or appropriate."
You talked about letting the process play itself out. Have you been given any indication as to how long that may take? Could it linger into the season?
"Again, even if I had been it wouldn't be appropriate to comment on it."