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Payton Talks About Ivory's Return to Practice

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Media Availability
Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Opening Statement:
"These four players did not practice today: linebacker Jonathan Casillas (right knee), running back Mark Ingram (heel), linebacker Jon Vilma (knee), and defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis (ankle). These five players were all limited: tight end John Gilmore, tight end David Thomas (concussion), tight end Jimmy Graham (ankle), linebacker Will Herring (hamstring), and tackle Zach Strief (right knee). Defensive end Turk McBride (shoulder) was full. We signed tight end Tory Humphrey to the active roster and waived quarterback Sean Canfield off the active roster. Running back Chris Ivory returned to practice, which begins his 21-day window for us to make a decision in moving him to the active roster. One other practice squad transaction: wide receiver Andy Tanner we signed and we released defensive tackle Swanson Miller. It was a pretty standard Wednesday schedule-wise. We went outside. We'll probably be back inside tomorrow."

How has Zach Strief been doing with the amount of time he has been out?
"He's doing well. I would say he's on schedule with the MCL. It's good to see him back out there. He's able to get some football work in and today was a big step for him. I feel like he's my neighbor since I see him every morning, afternoon, and evening in the training room. But he's close and we'll see how this week goes with him."

How do you feel about Mark Ingram coming back based on what you know?
"I think with him it's day-to-day because really we're just dealing with soreness and a bruise. We're dealing with that issue of just the pain and the swelling and those types of things. It's not an ankle sprain. It's the bottom of his heel. I think it's day-to-day. I think tomorrow morning we see how he's feeling and we just keep tracking his progress."

If you decide Mark Ingram can't play this week, would you decide to use Chris Ivory?
"Yes, I think so. Just think about that though. If Mark couldn't go, we'd go into the game with just two halfbacks. Three weeks ago I think we were discussing him and I would say probably for the last two games he would have been healthy and ready to play and certainly is now. The challenges beginning today are getting acclimated to the football specifics. Not only did he take snaps with our offense, but he took a lot of scout-team snaps. The key is just getting into that football shape where he's used to contact and used to doing some of the things regardless of rehab and conditioning that you can't simulate until you play football. That's the big thing."

Does Chris Ivory fit into the same packages as Mark Ingram?
"I don't think you can realistically go into the game and say he could potentially end up with 22 carries or 18 carries. I think you have to monitor that, but there are some of the same things that he does that Mark would be inclined to do, different than if it was Darren (Sproles) or Pierre (Thomas). We'll balance the reps out accordingly during the week. We'll track where Mark's at. Fortunately we have that depth and flexibility with Chris."

Is it kind of a luxury that you can be a little more cautious with Mark Ingram?
"It's back to what we discussed in the offseason. We feel like we have a good solid group of running backs and depth. It's not necessarily the luxury, but if Mark's healthy enough and we feel like he's ready to go, he's going to play. If we feel like he's not, then Chris will come up and away we go. This would be very typical if a player's not practicing and he's missing practice, you have to have that plan in place where you're practicing someone else with the first team or the second team and that's what we're currently doing with Chris."

How much of a dimension does Chris Ivory bring in short yardage situations?
"That's getting back I think to the first question. We've run Mark in our goal line and short yard packages. The switch if it were to occur would be pretty clean in those areas. It's an area that he was very good at a year ago. He runs with power. He has real good explosion in through the hole. The key though is again this would have been like the first day of training camp literally in regards to football snaps. We just have to be smart and make sure we're getting him up to speed. I know he's in good shape. It's just getting acclimated to the pads, carrying the pads, the helmet and everything else that goes into playing that position."

The past couple of years the games with the Rams have been tight.  What have you noticed about the difference in feel with this Rams team?
"I think there are a few things. Anytime you lose as many corners as they have, they've been bit with the injury bug. Certainly the quarterback being hurt last week, it's hard to put your finger on any one specific thing, but knowing Steve (Spagnuolo) and a number of guys that are working there, those guys I'm sure are working and preparing their tails off and looking for their first win. We put the numbers up, we discuss them, we go through the pertinent stats, and yet our focus still has to remain in-house in the details of our game plan and our preparation. Those are just some of the things that would appear to be their challenge."

Is it a coaching challenge each year to play a team with a bad record and get your team ready to play them?
"I think a challenge year-in and year-out is you play a 16 game schedule and it's avoiding the two or three letdowns throughout the season, but more importantly than even that is really the focus on the things that we can control. If you aspire to be a really, really good team then you can't be back and forth. You have to have some consistency in your play. There are going to be week where you don't play your best football and yet you still find a way to win. I said a little bit of this after the game against Indianapolis, in our league that line that separates really good teams from good teams or good teams from average teams is a very thin line compared to the collegiate game for instance. There are a lot of real good football players on this team we're getting ready to play, they just haven't been able to get the wins or play the way they felt like they were playing a year ago. That being said, it's a road game and we're just going to have to handle all the elements to it and really focus on how we can improve not just in the game we just played, but how we can improve or how we can continue to improve throughout the course of this season and continue to get better and build off of a big win this past weekend."

Do you think Steven Jackson will become more a part of their receiving game than he already is?
"He's a significant player. He's a guy we had a chance to coach in 2006 (Pro Bowl) and he can hurt you in a lot of ways. Certainly as a runner, he's one of the better runners in our league and is a fantastic player. He's a guy that can handle the underneath throws, he loves competing, he's physical, and you have to tackle well to get him down. One of the things that I recall the first time having had a chance to meet him was just how big and strong and physical his presence is. He's one of the handful of players that you have to account for on each snap and be ready for doing that for four quarters."

How important is it to put a blowout win from Sunday out of your mind and get ready for the next game?
"You'd like to think that our regular season mindset is to digest the tough win or the tough loss and by Wednesday certainly we're ready for the next challenge. You hear me say that after a game whether it was a close game or not, it's important that we put games to rest without just not looking at the tape, I'm talking about making sure we evaluate those wins and losses closely but put them to rest and get on to the next week. That really began Monday night and Tuesday and all of a sudden you're on to the next game with the game plan. Certainly for the players now and all of us Wednesday, that's where we're at. Getting in that routine and being able to do that and emphasize that is important."

Will there be any special accommodations in St. Louis in the press box for you in your first away game with your injury?
"I asked Chief yesterday just logistically how far the locker room is from the elevator, but I'm not familiar with the visiting press box. Some of our coaches are. I think it's maybe similar to ours, maybe not quite as big. I think for the most part we should be fine there. Generally the newer stadiums have space. Some of the older stadiums are more of a challenge in regards to the visiting press box. Hopefully this one will be alright."

Do you expect Brandon Lloyd to build off his last game in his second game with the Rams?
"Absolutely. I think with a player like Brandon who has had a Pro Bowl season and come into a team that has had some injuries, you begin to look at targets and guys that are going to have opportunities and certainly he's one that we have to pay attention to. Josh (McDaniels) had a chance to work with him previously in Denver and I would think you'd expect even more in his second week than in his first week. Certainly I think he's someone that we have a lot of respect for and that we have to pay a lot of attention to."

Is that a bad matchup for them with all the injuries they've had at corner against a team that's as proficient at throwing the football as you guys?
"Anytime you have a handful of injuries at a specific position, that stresses you and that's challenging. I'm sure it can affect maybe some of the things you want to do. When we got banged up at running back last year, then maybe there are some things that we can't do that we would have liked to have done. That happens in the offensive line when you decide you're going to limit seven step drops or you're going to limit some of your deeper throws because you worry about protection, no different than the subject we're talking about. I think the challenge always for us and for teams are when injuries occur to a specific position in numbers. In our league, you prepare and you potentially sign new players and the game continues and away you go. I think that's the biggest challenge whenever it happens, specifically to a position group."

Was it hard when you didn't have Tracy Porter and Jabari Greer there?
"Yes, it just makes you appreciate when you are healthy and it makes you appreciate the importance of staying healthy as it pertains to winning football games. We know every year you're going to have injuries, you just hope they're at a minimum and you hope certainly they don't come in groups to a certain position."

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