Following the team's final practice at its Metairie facilities before traveling to San Francisco , New Orleans Saints CoachSean Paytonand Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams addressed the media. Below are the coaches' transcripts from their press conferences.
New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
"Injury update; Jonathan Vilma (groin) was full today and he's probable status-wise. Jon Stinchcomb did not practice. It was not an injury; he had a death in the family. He'll be probable. Anthony Waters (hamstring) did not practice; he's out for this game. Zach Strief (knee) did not practice; he's out for this game. Chris Ivory (knee) did not practice; he's out for this game. So it's the same list, with the addition of Stinchcomb."
Will Stinchcomb join the team in San Francisco?
"Yes. He's going to be flying out there tonight and he'll probably get out there ahead of when we get there. But he'll join us tonight."
How have Malcolm Jenkins and Patrick Robinson progressed?
"We'll start with Malcolm. He's a year farther along and starting at free safety, so he has made a ton of progress and the reps that he's getting at a position that's relatively new for him, he has done very well with. He has a real good football I.Q. He's smart, he has real good range on the back end and he's a physical player. He's doing extremely well.
"Patrick is in his rookie season now and he's getting work on special teams. He has a role defensively and the key for him right now are the snaps he gets on special teams and his contributions in that he's ready to come in and play in the nickel if we need him."
Jenkins didn't get attacked much against the Vikings. Are you interested to see what will happen if and when teams go after him more in the passing game?
"It's the natural progression. In other words, the more snaps he continues to see, the more experience he gains and the better off he is at handling it. Certainly there were a ton of reps during training camp where we were going down the field with balls. He's an instinctive player and I think that serves him real well, especially at that position."
For Garrett Hartley to bounce back, is this not the stadium where you'd want him to be doing that?
"Certainly there are swirling winds but he has a strong leg and more than anything else, he'll come back and tomorrow we'll get a chance to kick there and get a feel for the sod and the conditions. He'll be ready to go."
You and Coach Singletary both played for the Bears. What do you expect he and his team to come out and show you?
"We weren't really teammates. He was not playing and then we came in and played. But certainly his team is a reflection of how he played. He's a guy that played with great energy and great effort. He's very physical and very intense and you see that in his team now – in his defense and his whole football team. I think those strengths that he has are very contagious. They were when was a Chicago Bear and they are now as he's the head coach of the 49ers. He's very intense and certainly very committed to turning that program around and you can see that on film."
Have you ever had the communications that it was talked about that the 49ers had last week in getting the calls in to the quarterback through his helmet?
"Last week, ourselves, I was late. What happens sometimes is that you push down on this little button and you can talk to the quarterback but at the 15-second mark it's cut off. We had a big gain – I can't recall the play – and all of a sudden, I'm pushing at 17, 16, 15 and now it's blank so it just forces you very quickly to get in tune to the mechanism. Certainly it has happened to us and you just hope it doesn't happen too frequently and that the quarterback has a play in the event that it does. With Drew (Brees), he usually if it's south of 15 will get us to a play out of that personnel group that's on the field."
Is that a benefit that you have with a veteran like Drew as opposed to someone less seasoned, such as Alex Smith of the 49ers?
"I think all 32 teams deal with that. Early in the season and certainly in the preseason you get back in tune. One of the things is oftentimes paying attention, even though the play is being run, you're on to your next call without really watching. Those are some of the things that I force myself to do or find myself not doing if I'm late. It's just the repetitions and getting used to it. But periodically you can push that button in and for some reason it comes out and back in and you think you might be talking to him and you're not and you have to come off of it and back on again. So you have to work through some of those things. But for Drew and myself, this is the fifth year of directly into him without a relay. I know sometimes there's a call to a coach to a player, which just adds another person to the communication process."
Have you ever had an opportunity to talk to Coach Singletary about the 1987 season?
"No. We see each other at the owners' meetings and the Combine and it's really more just football and his career and my career. He's a gentleman. He's a true competitor and is someone that clearly is passionate about the game. He coaches exactly as I remember him being a player."
What did you tell you alma mater last week that would cause them to go out and get beat 37-7?
"Coach Spoo (Eastern Illinois Head Coach Bob Spoo) asked me to speak to them before the game, and in a short five minutes, I just tried to harp on team and the things that allow you to win games. I really made a point of the turnovers and what those do and I did such a good job, they turned the ball over four times in the first quarter. They fumbled two punts and it was tough. They had a tough loss. I'm 0-for-1 with Eastern, as far as talking to them."
Are they going to have you back?
"I don't know."
New Orleans Saints Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams
Do you ever experience some of the same problems that offenses can in communicating plays? "You talk about the defense communicating at home. We have a great homefield advantage here and the defense is playing well. When I first got here I teased them about how you don't have a homefield advantage if you don't have a good defense, because that's when they're loud. I spend a lot of time preparing for communication when we play at home. The other thing on defense is that there are only two speakers on the helmet compared to the offense where there's four speakers. When the offense is on the road, they definitely want the quarterback to get the call. Defensively when you're at home, you have two speakers, there's more contact with the defensive guy so the speakers can get knocked out. You need an answer of what we do. We rep constantly. Each week we rep as if the play's coming in late, if the device is broken. Our fans are so loud you can't even hear. 50 percent of the calls in that opening Viking game, Jonathan (Vilma) did not hear (the calls) on the microphone, so we have to have a way of delivering the call in. Sometimes we hand signal, sometimes we don't. A lot of times Jon has a built in set of calls that he can do and you still have to play ball. If you've ever played in Seattle, they're very, very loud. It's a very intimidating place, especially if you're not prepared from a communications standpoint. There is a 12th man up there. They're proud of that. I can see why it can cause some problems if you haven't taken it into account. We take it into account. You guys have been around. You see how much we practice with the noise. Even when our offense doesn't practice with the noise, you'll see Drew (Brees) going with a silent count, whispering the play, even if we're not going through the loudspeakers there because we're having to know how to communicate when we're on the road. Defensively we have to know how to communicate at home. It's a bummer. From an adjustment standpoint, we will have maybe less, intricate adjustable defenses because of that strain at home of getting it communicated at home. It's just something that's a fun part of the game. I love that part of the game, trying to figure out how to organize all of that stuff. We have all of those safeguards built into place. Everything's built into place. There is no excuse. You can't have that as an excuse. We actually repped quite a bit today on those things, even though we're on the road. We still try to keep it live and hot."
Even though you're looking at offenses week to week, do you have a viewpoint on Patrick Willis?
"I loved him coming out. I had him scouted coming out. To be quite honest, when I looked at him, I thought he was the perfect example of how you want that position to play. He has to be fun to play for and fun for the head coach to coach him out there, because Mike Singletary played the position the same way that Patrick plays it. One of the things truthfully I was wondering of how long a career he could have because he was so physical in college. He battled injuries in college because he played so hard that his body parts would break down. It's been fun in the crossover film where we're scouting someone else's offense and all of a sudden San Francisco is playing that opponent…I find myself studying him at times, because I would have liked him coming out and having the opportunity to draft him."
Is he a lot like Jonathan Vilma on and off the field?
"Yes, he's like Jon, London Fletcher, Takeo Spikes who I had in Buffalo and is now in San Francisco, Nate Clements. Nate Clements was the first draft choice I ever had as a head coach. You ought to ask him if he got some of the same treatment Patrick Robinson got. That's just part of our defense and what we have to do to toughen him up mentally for what life in the NFL is like. I've had Randall Godfrey, an old middle linebacker. Patrick filled those molds that you like in your middle linebacker and your leader. I've said this before about leadership. What is leadership? Sometimes people mistake that for talking a lot. If you're not seeing good examples with how you play, your discipline and your accountability, people don't listen to you. Not only can Patrick play the game, but people listen to him talk because they respect how hard he plays the game. There have been several guys like that. Jonathan is the most vocal part of what we do right now and people listen to him because he gives good example."
How much farther along is Roman Harper in pass coverage this year?
"It's always a work in progress in the league. That's the toughest thing to do in the National Football League now because the best athletes in the National Football League are playing wide receiver. I think he's come a long way and again, I've said this before, that was the number one task I had when I came in here, to improve the secondary. You improve the secondary three ways, change the people, improve the people and then back up. One of those three things. (We were) improving the people. We've always had some success in improving the people, the secondary. We have some things we do to improve our eye-hand skills, to improve their ability to play the ball in the air, but more importantly we simplify what they have to think about playing coverage. Roman right now is playing lights out for us. He really is. We kind of ask him also to step up from a leadership standpoint, because Darren's (Sharper) not on the field. I've been real pleased with what I've seen him do and what he has helped Malcolm (Jenkins) do. Because Malcolm has a natural leadership about him. But, it's been comforting for him to see Roman take that point too. He's been playing very well."
Would he have been able to make some of the plays last year that he made against (Visanthe) Shiancoe?
"I don't know. I know he's worked very hard at it. I couldn't say yes or no. I'm very comfortable with him doing those types of things. I'm not uncomfortable in any matchup he has. I've said this before; I like these guys who can do a lot of things. Here's a guy who likes to play like a linebacker, cover like a safety. You know now if you'll have a guy who can play like a linebacker and cover like a safety. Then you have versatility. You have a former corner playing free safety and you have a strong safety who has improved his coverage skills and it helps you in the matchup and helps you in the shots down the field. It helps you if they're put in positions that I can't coach. Sometimes It's mom and dad's fault because mom and didn't pass the genes down well enough, but how do I help them understand how to make that play. Roman's done an excellent job. He's proven in those areas. Here's another thing. Sometimes we work too hard on our weaknesses. We identify their weaknesses and we have them working on that, but don't get tied up with things you can't do. (Maybe) you haven't been able to do them your whole life. I'm not going to be able to sprinkle angel dust on you and suddenly you can do it. Get a little better at it, but don't let your strengths diminish. He's done a good job with it."
Much has been made by others about the good tackling with the Vikings. How do you feel about it?
"It was the best tackling since I've been here. It's not the best since I've been coaching, but it was awful good. Statistically we had to search and kind of be a jerk about it and find one paly that had seven yards YAC, which is seven yards after contact and we had one."
Was it on a missed tackle?
"We don't have missed tackles. We don't call them missed from a psychology standpoint. It was pretty special. The record before that was two plays for six yards."
Where did this happen?
"Redskins. I had a Redskins team that did that one time."
This was the second best tackling performance as a coach?
They tackled very, very well. I get way too much credit dealing with x's and o's. Dealing with difficult people, that aspect wherever I've been, we've played hard. Those kinds of things are coaching and the gene pool. What I can affect in the gene pool is very, very slight. Playing hard, I'm very proud of them. They've done a very good job.. We have our work cut out this week for us on some of the matchups we have to do. It's going to be a very physical game. I've admired Frank Gore for a long time. He's an excellent back. Brian Westbrook, we've had all those battles in the NFC East when he was in Philadelphia. I think he's special and their tight ends, they have some pretty good tight ends. Their receivers have been explosive. They've brought this quarterback along very well. I've seen a tremendous improvement. I got to play against him when he was a rookie and I was with the Redskins. We kind of jumped up on him early. We had a lot of takeaways in that game and short fields. He's come a long way, so I think they've done a very good job coaching him. I've known Jimmy Raye for a long time. I think he's an excellent football coach, along with Greg Manusky their defensive coordinator. I think their staff is strong. Mike Singletary and I come from the same family tree. He played for and coached for Buddy (Ryan). I spent time with Mike early on in his career, because I speak in a lot of places across the country on how to interview. I've probably spoken a couple hundred thousand times across the country on the topic. Mike knew that and I spent time with him when he was a young assistant coach at Baltimore at the time looking to take the next step to be a head coach. We spent four hours in a hotel room, one time at the combine, just on him being prepared, on what ownership wants, what management wants, what it's going to take to take the next step and the whole thing and I'm proud of him. I saw his response this week and you can see there's a defensive head coach there. I thought he attacks problems head on. He doesn't back off. He doesn't make excuses. I think he's done a good job in a short amount of time there. I really do."