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Payton Talks About the Saints Running Game, O-Line

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Media Availability
Thursday, October 27, 2011

Opening Statement:
"RB Mark Ingram (heel) did not practice and LB Jon Vilma (knee) did not practice.  These next four players were limited: LB Jon Casillas (knee), DT Sedrick Ellis (ankle), Dave Thomas (concussion), and Zach Strief (knee).  Jimmy Graham was full, Will Herring was full, John Gilmore was full, and Turk McBride was full."

Is Dave Thomas getting closer to playing?
"I think so.  It's just one of those things that we want to be certain that he's completely ready to go, but I think he's turning the corner."

How do you keep Jonathan Vilma at bay when he's chomping at the bit to practice?
"I think he's smart enough and understands that a potential setback during the week keeps him from playing in the game.  What you hope for is that he gradually continues to get better.  I think last week just having him being able to play twenty-something snaps instead of forty-something was a help.  I think he understand the downside of trying to work his way through it."

Can you talk about Charles Brown's play the last few games?
"I think he's done well.  I think all of the reps are important because they're all first time reps for someone who's in his second year.  This past game he was extremely productive.  He graded out well.  He's one of the young players we've been real pleased with.  That's been a good thing."

Do you think he's been on schedule as far as playing time from being a second round pick a year ago?
"I think that would be accurate. Often times with linemen it's a position that sometimes can take a little quicker to break into the starting lineup.  We don't set a timetable and yet with him, he was one of the handful of players that without the offseason with the lockout, that can affect a second year guy.  He was ready to make a jump into a competitive spot for playing time.  He's progressed and progressed well and that's been very encouraging."

What are your thoughts on Chris Ivory after two days of practice?
"Good.  Mentally he understands and knows what we're doing.  He did well today.  He had some good runs today.  I think it's just the football aspect of getting comfortable with all the little things that come with it.  You can be in shape and yet there's still that aspect of trying to be in football shape.  He had a good practice today."

Do you feel comfortable if you have to play him on Sunday?
"Yes.  I think I said this a few weeks back, whenever he came to where we begin to practice and begin the 21 day window would be a situation where we felt like he was ready to play.  I think that could have happened two weeks ago.  It's really a matter of getting his body acclimated to the football part of it.  He's been in good shape and he's been healthy enough for that period of time leading up to now."

Does he allow you to be more prosperous with Mark Ingram?
"I think so and yet you would still look at it and say either Mark's ready to or not ready to play and that's kind of what we're looking at this week."

When you wanted to install and offense, did you go into saying that you wanted so many talented receivers all playing together?
"I think that's something that's somewhat evolved in regards to specifically the receiver position.  I've said this before, there's this prototype of a team's number one and a number two and then their slot receiver or their nickel.  We're definitely not that.  It has evolved to some degree with our ability to keep some players.  A guy like Devery (Henderson) who a couple years ago had a chance to leave, and being able to re-sign Marques (Colston) after his first or second year and Lance Moore after this season.  That continuity and depth is somewhat evolved to where we're at now.  I said this after the game or the early part of this week, you take Devery Henderson as a good example who's had some really big games for us in the early part of the season and is playing very well, and it just so happened last week he had one catch for nine yards.  I think to further elaborate I would say we were looking for from the very beginning unselfish players, but I don't know that we set out to say, 'Hey, we're going to find four receivers.'  You're looking for depth, traits and characteristics, but I think that's kind of evolved."

Would it almost hurt to incorporate a Pro Bowler into this receiver set instead of keeping this group together?
"I think that number one there's some similarities in the running back position.  The group we're talking about has all dealt with an injury at one time or another.  I just think it's important that they understand their role going into a game, they see that there's been a lot of productivity from them in terms of play design, and yet they understand that the quarterback is going to distribute the ball a lot of the time based on clean looks.  Tonight we'll be working on red zone and working on plays designed for whether it's Marques or (Darren) Sproles or (Jimmy) Graham.  From a progression standpoint, you can look at last week's game and you could go through a number of incompletions and you could say that's the primary, and then we could find a handful of completions that weren't necessarily drawn to attack or get the ball to the receiver that ended up with the football.  I think the bigger challenge always with that is just the mainstream in regards to the league and in regards to players are paid.  Those are things we're mindful of and that we understand and I think you just have an appreciation for how that room under Curtis Johnson has developed and how consistently physical they play."

At this point in the season, what's the percentage a player has to be at to bring him back?
"I think it starts with the type of injury and you also have to factor in what's being asked of the player, whether he's a linemen or skill player and match that with the injury.  We know oftentimes a player like Jon Vilma for instance who may not be 100 percent, has a good chance of playing in this game.  I think if you were looking for a common threshold, it would be at the point at which you're not getting the production.  Forget the obvious that we don't want to put a player back there that may further get hurt.  He has to be cleared.  I think you also want to make sure you're not just putting a player in there so he's back in there and yet the return is less than what you can afford to have or what you can expect to have with that individual player.  It starts with the health.  It starts with making sure the doctors and trainers have said he's ready to go back in.  That doesn't get compromised.  The injury and the position factor into the production and is he able to do what we're asking him to do, and if not then you have to think about these specific guys throughout the course of the season when it comes up playing someone else."

Can you talk about Tom Johnson and the road he took to get here?
"He's a guy that Ryan Pace had some strong opinions about.  In the offseason when we signed him, it probably wasn't big news.  He comes to work each day.  He battled through the injury during training camp and I'm sure that was frustrating for him.  He's a smart player and you know exactly what you're getting with him.  That's a real good trait."

Is that what kept him around after missing six weeks?
"I think a lot of you were kind of wondering whether we were going to stick with him.  I think we saw enough early on and felt strongly enough early on to be patient."

When you look at defensive tackle, have the players you've acquired panned out the way you wanted them to?
"Yes.  Last week was an example where you get Shaun Rogers and Aubrayo Franklin not playing as many snaps because Indianapolis was a lot of one-back nickel.  It's given us depth and it's allowed us a rotation that we believe in.  There are some games where they'll be more involved and active based on the offense we play as opposed to some games where they'll play less."

Do you think Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory play similar roles?
"I think to some degree.  Let's start with Darren Sproles and separate him with what his skill set is.  It's uniquely different and I know there have been a lot of comparisons made to Reggie (Bush), so from that standpoint as we put a game plan in it's easy to separate and put in the things that we want to get done with Darren.  Pierre Thomas is someone that's been very consistent.  He's outstanding in the nickel in regards to protections.  He's a very good receiver out of the backfield and a very good all-around runner.  You've got a guy in Pierre that can do a lot of things well and we don't ever take that for granted.  With Mark and with Chris, you've got a little bit different stature.  You've got maybe a little bit more power with the way they run.  That would be just an overview or a way to describe just how we see it when we start putting plans together."

Is Jermon Bushrod quietly having a standout season?
"I would even go a little bit further.  I think he's quiety established himself as a good left tackle dating back to the Super Bowl season when he really played his first full year after the injury in the preseason in Houston to our other starter.  He's come in and each year he's gotten better.  You see some things he's worked on and each year he's gained that confidence.  He's a very smart player.  I think to some degree by his nature he's quiet.  But generally with a left tackle, no news is good news.  When you're playing that position and the cameras are on you, often times it's because the defender's getting pressure or hurry or a sack.  I thought he did an outstanding job last week against one of our league's best rushers.  That's been good for us with protection and also with our running game."

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