New Orleans Saints Offensive Line/Running Game Coach Aaron Kromer
Post-Practice Media Availability
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Does this feel like a homecoming for you?
"Yes, I've spent some time in Oxford. I was there from 1985 to 1998. I had a little bit of time in this area."
What has the past week been like for you since it was announced that you would assume the duties Joe Vitt has been handling?
"It's a case where as we progress through this training camp or as we progressed through this offseason, it was important that everybody knew that we would have to pull our weight and we all have to work together in this situation. We can't have factions and we never do in our building. It's an amazing building. Guys come in from other teams and they express to us how wonderful it is with the closeness of our team and our staff and how we work together as a group and treat the guys like men because they act like men. It's a special place to be and Sean (Payton) and Mickey (Loomis) have set it up that way. Luckily this is after his sixth year as opposed to the second year. It would be a lot different. It's been good."
What situations will you handle on Thursday with Joe Vitt saying he's phasing out and you're phasing in?
"Yes, you have an opportunity to work the mechanics of the sidelines before the opening Washington week. I'll still be coaching the offensive line with Frank Smith helping me. He'll do a lot of work on the sideline, but we can work the timing out during the game (of) what am I doing? When can I go back to help the line? I think that's the most important part of it (as opposed to) the offense, the defense, are we going for it or not going for it. It's really the mechanics of the position and being the head coach."
You guys have had plenty of experience traveling having been in Canton as well as New England in the preseason. How much does that help, knowing you are a team that has to be wheels up?
"You'd be surprised how much it doesn't faze us. We show up to practice wherever we're going. It was a great opportunity in New England because we got to see different techniques, a different style of defense, and a different style of offense for us to go against. That's always a benefit to our team and our coaching staff to have to adjust. You have to adjust in games. You have to adjust to a different style and it gives us that opportunity to prove to ourselves and to gain confidence, no matter where we are as a team, no matter how much there's change. It won't affect us. We just go about our business as we always do. To come up here quite honestly, we gave the guys a day off. We said (to) go get your family's' (situations) solved. You can't picture it up here in Cincinnati. In New Orleans, it's unusual. There's going to be a hurricane and guys get a plan. Make sure you come back here and your family knows where they're going to be and where your families are going. So you take that day off. You have to adjust a little bit as a coach. You can't be too rigid and say we have to practice today and do that. So, you make adjustments, you move on, you come up here and practice. Drew Brees called the team together before we got into practice today and said 'Listen, this is our opportunity to get better today. Don't just go through this practice. Do a good job with all the effort you have, all the focus you have and let's win the day.' I felt like we did that today."
Do you have a message for the people back in New Orleans?
"Yes, when we got in last night at the team meeting, we said a prayer for the people back in New Orleans because we were able to get out to Cincinnati. Our prayers are still with everyone in New Orleans. We feel strong. Our hearts are heavy. But, we're doing our business just as you guys are protecting yourself and we're hoping to be back soon."
It sounds like even though there have been a lot of curves, everything has been pretty stable at the same time?
"From the top down, they know how to do this. We have a hurricane plan. We put the plan into motion. The thing it came down to is we're in Cincinnati, Ohio. We're playing the Tennessee Titans. We should be in Tennessee. Tennessee couldn't get us a room. We pull into Cincinnati, talk to the Bengals, we get practice going here and guys don't blink. They just get it done."
Joe Vitt said really the only thing the team is behind on is the weightlifting?
"That's exactly right. We got our work done today. That's for sure. We got our work done in the meetings. We finished the game. Normally we would have gone over the game film with them (players) earlier than this, but we played Saturday night and this was the first opportunity we had. We finished that game with them this morning."
How close are you to all the former Miami assistants on the Saints staff?
"Definitely very close. Dan Dalrymple and I have been friends for years. He actually recruited me to Miami of Ohio in 1985 and he was a sophomore there and he was my host. We go way back. He's the one that got me to go to Oxford. In 1994, Sean Payton came in as our quarterbacks coach and us three worked together. Since then, we've pulled Frank Smith out of the Miami University coaching tree there to be assistant line coach. That's who's helping me. He was a guard with Ben Roethlisberger."
How do you feel that there really hasn't been a rivalry between Miami and Cincinnati in quite some time?
"All I can talk about was when we were there. It was pretty even back then."
You have a couple of local guys on the offensive line in terms of Matt Tennant and Zach Strief. How are they doing?
"Good. Zach Strief is a guy that is a New Orleans Saint. The reason I say that is he was not sought after. He was a seventh round pick. People were surprised we took him in the seventh. But the guy is a smart, efficient football player and that's what we end up finding and our scouts have found time and time again, efficient players. Zach has worked his way into being a starting tackle. He was an extra tight end in heavy packages throughout the Super Bowl (year) and then Jon Stinchcomb retired, he (Zach) stepped in and he's done a wonderful job and then Matt Tennant is still working his way into being a productive backup."
Matt's working at guard too?
"Yes, anytime you play inside, you can only dress seven guys or you typically dress seven guys for the game, so you have one guy that can play guard or center, so it's a case where he needs to play both to be the backup."
How are you looking at the first six regular season games? Do you see it as opportunity or being a caretaker?
"We're looking at the next six games as beat Washington. We don't care about who the head coach is. We don't care about who's not here. We're going to focus on beating the Redskins. What's it take the beat the Redskins? We're down a mind or two. We're down Sean Payton's mind and there some time last year when we were down his mind and we were able to carryover with Pete Carmichael and the rest of the offensive staff a very productive offense. We've had success. We've learned it from Sean and we're able to take on what he's taught us and move it forward. We feel good about it."
What was it like seeing Sean at Canton?
"As a matter of fact he was so quick in and out I didn't see him. The team was in a large area, he stepped into one area. I was not in that area and I didn't see him."
New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees
Post-Practice Media Availability
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Some of the guys said that you gathered the team before practice and gave them some motivational words to get through it. Is that something regular you do before every practice?
"No, just when it calls for it. It's been a tough last really two days, just a lot of uncertainty and having to fly by the seat of our pants a little bit, unexpected travel. Initially, we were just supposed to be in New Orleans practicing Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and then fly to Nashville and play a game. All of a sudden, here comes tropical storm and now Hurricane Isaac bearing down on us, and now it's – okay everyone take care of your family. Monday was really devoted to making sure all of our families were taken care of, had a place to go, whether it was out of town or in town. I drove my family up to Birmingham yesterday on their way to Nashville and then I flew in this morning from there. I think for a lot of guys, you've been sitting on the plane or you've been sitting in a car and a lot of this has been swirling around us and now all of a sudden we're all together and, hey let's make sure that we're out here with a purpose. It's to get better. It's not just to run around and run some plays. We have a great group of guys. We have great leadership. Everybody understands that we're going to weather the storm, literally, and we're going to find a way to make the most of it and try to make a positive out of a tough situation."
How's the preparation for this been a little different than for (Hurricane) Gustav?
"Gustav happened literally the first week of the season. I recall us playing our last preseason game, and then all of a sudden Gustav is bearing down on us. Same thing, Sean Payton then said - okay guys, get your families away. There's a mandatory evacuation. Make sure they're safe. We're going to Indianapolis and we're going to hunker down in the hotel for a week. We're going to do all of our preparation at Lucas Oil Stadium. We're going to have all our meetings at the hotel. I felt like we really came together as a team that week. We came back home on I believe a Friday and we played the Bucs at home in a big divisional game on Sunday and won right at the end. That week proved to be really good for our team. Despite the tough circumstances, we tried to make the most of it. Thankfully, New Orleans was in a position where we could handle a category three at that time, although it was very soon after (Hurricane) Katrina and I know that was about all the levees could handle. I know there's been a lot of work done between now and then, but anytime you've got a tropical storm or hurricane coming with those types of winds and sheer force and amount of rainfall, you worry for the city and you worry for its residents and you just want everyone to be safe. Obviously, you want it to pass through with very limited damage."
Considering everything you guys have gone through this offseason, do you look at this as just another step in the road?
"Yes, we do. We're built that way. We've been through a lot of tough scenarios here, especially over the last 12 months. Ever since I've been here, this is going to be my seventh year, we probably have about 10 to twelve guys, players and coaches that have been here since 2006. We've all been through a lot together. The new guys, free agents and rookies this year, all of a sudden we get called in for an emergency team meeting on Sunday and it's like – okay guys, there's a hurricane coming. This is what you need to do. For the guys that have been here, it's like – okay, we know what to do. For the rest of those guys, they might be looking around going what is going on here. But it's our job to keep everyone together and make sure everyone is taken care of."
What was practice like? Was it a normal practice?
"Yes, it really was. Granted, like I said a lot of guys were in the car yesterday for six to eight hours or on the plane for a while and then getting into an unfamiliar place and you're trying to get everything together. You come out and practice and have meetings all this morning. I think for us, it was kind of like a little bit of a training camp mentality. At times in training camp, we're used to going away and then just kind of bearing down and focusing on football. I think to know that we did what we were supposed to do as far as getting our families in a safe place, still today is kind of the day that the storm is making landfall, so you just keep your fingers crossed that everything is okay back home. For us, it was just work. We have to come here and we have to work."
When you're not in meetings or not at practice, do you find yourself watching the news on television?
"Yes, glued to the TV, trying to see where that storm is tracking and how strong it is and what the projections are. The crazy thing too is that we're going to play the game in Nashville and by Thursday evening with that storm, we're supposed to be right in the middle of the cone there. It's like you can't really escape it. This thing is going to go all the way up through Indiana by Saturday or Sunday. It is what it is. There are certain weather conditions that you have to battle at times, and we've been here before."
Do you have any words for the folks back home?
"Hey, we've been through this before. Stick together. Obviously, do everything you can do to keep yourself and your families and those around you safe. I know we're ready. We're prepared for this. We have been for a long time. I've been watching the news, listening to Governor Bobby Jindal and Mayor Mitch Landrieu and heeding their words of advice just like everybody. We'll stick together and we'll get through it."
New Orleans Saints T Zach Strief
Post-Practice Media Availability
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Were you able to get out to eat anywhere locally?
"We went to Skyline (chili) last night. There was a small group of us. We got in (to Cincinnati) a little later. I forgot about the time change. I was going to take them all out, but I ordered Montgomery Inn for them tonight, so I'm going to get them fed tonight. It's my responsibility."
What did they think of Skyline?
"Matt Tennant and I went. We brought (Brian) de la Puente and Jed Collins. They both enjoyed it. It's always hit or miss. People that aren't from here, it's a love it or hate it thing. They both liked it."
What have the last three or four days been like?
"A little unusual. Obviously, there was a lot of uncertainty. A lot of – hey, we're meeting at one unless we tell you otherwise, and then they told us otherwise. Then – hey, we're leaving Tuesday unless we tell you otherwise, and then they told us otherwise. So it was a little bit odd, but we've done it before for (Hurricane) Gustav in '08. It wasn't our first time. There's been some things happen down there and I think we have operations-wise the best group in the NFL and they certainly did a great job again."
What did you have to do to get your home ready before you left?
"Not too much. Fortunately, I'm in a high place in New Orleans. You do all the basics. You lock all the doors up, take the valuables out, and try to get anything important off the floor. Not too much, because we don't flood. My wife's store, we had to sandbag the doors. It floods there. It's basic stuff, nothing too bad. I didn't have to board anything up. You hope for the best. Some people are better at it than me."
What kind of store does she have?
"She sells bridal gowns. It's a wedding store for bridal gowns."
Did you buy your place on high ground intentionally for this purpose?
"My wife's family is from the area. When I say high ground, take that with a grain of salt, I think we're 16 feet above sea level. We're in naturally high ground, which is the key in New Orleans. You want to be in places that were high before they pumped. That's an old area that was high before."
What's it like playing for the Saints?
"It's great. It's the only place I've ever been and I feel like I've been a part of rebuilding there, of rebirth, both from the city's and from the organization's standpoint. I certainly take a lot of pride in the success that we've had and being a part of it. It's certainly the way I'd like to finish up."
You were a backup your first five years and then you were a starter last year. Did you approach last year differently than your first five years?
"I tried very hard. I was fortunate to be behind a guy (Jon Stinchcomb) that kind of showed me the way. I did my best those first five years to prepare like I was starting. Obviously, it's a little bit different. I think more than anything you start to kind of understand yourself better. There are certain things I can and can't do. Sometimes it's hard to tell that in practice. I think that as the season went on last year, we have a coaching staff that allows us to be ourselves and understand what can I do and what can't I do, maximize what I'm good at and kind of figure out who you are as a player. It's hard to do that out on a practice field. It's hard to do that against your own guys. It really has to come in the game, and I'm fortunate to be in a group that allowed that to happen. It's obviously very different on your body, and I think mentally it's different knowing you'll be going 80 plays instead of 10, but it's certainly something I've enjoyed."
Can you talk about Drew Brees' leadership?
"He's impressive. It's nice having consistency at that position, knowing with certain pass routes where he's going to be in his drop, knowing when he's going to step up. It's kind of like what I said about being comfortable in those situations. It's good to know that on this pass route, I know Drew is going to drop to seven and get back to five. That helps me a ton because I have my back to him. So to know that really helps me adjust the way that I'm pass-setting. Him coming in the huddle in a crucial moment and being calm and confident and ready, nothing changes with him. It sounds the same in practice as it does in the game. Having that consistency at that position is really important for us. Of course, having a quarterback that is that good is awfully nice. It's fun to be a part of it."
Did you call your mom and dad on Monday?
"Yes, I think I actually called (them) on Sunday. It was like, hey I might come back home or I might not. I don't know. I don't know when I'm going to know. And if we do, I don't know when we're coming in and I don't know where we're staying. They came out and saw me last night when we got in, and even then it was like – I have to go. I don't know (our schedule). (We) have meetings. We knew nothing. But it's always good to come home."
Is it tough to get what's going on in New Orleans off your mind and think about football and preparing for a game?
"I think it's important to kind of have a balance of when we're on the field or in meetings to think about what you're doing, take the task at hand and put everything into it. It's not going to help me to worry about it on the field, but obviously when you're not on the field you think about it and you think about your family and your friends and people that are there. Obviously, I think for the most part people think it's going to be okay. I think there'll be some flooding, but I don't think anyone is expecting it to be a Katrina-type storm, but there's always that possibility. I think you worry about your home and your city and the family and friends you have around there, but I think it's just important to have balance there and worry about it when you have to and when it's time to work, you focus on that."
From the outside, you hear stories about how the team has really embodied the spirit of the city with difficult challenges like this. Is that true?
"I think you can really take a lot of similarities between the team and the city – how we've handled adversity in the past. It's something that Coach Payton has kind of been proactively speaking about, handling adversity. We've always talked about at some point every season there is a stretch where all of a sudden people panic. You might lose a few games, you might have someone get hurt and not know if they're going to come back. Last year, we lost our coach to an injury. Weird stuff just happens. The Super Bowl year, we lost the last three games going into the playoffs. There's always adversity. There's always something that happens. This year, it happened in the offseason. There's always going to be something. I think because the staff has always been so proactive on speaking about you'll be judged based upon how you handle that. Some teams handle the adversity by tanking. Some teams handle adversity by rising to the occasion. I think we've been pretty successful with that here in the past. Obviously, this is just another one of those things, out of your schedule and out of your home. We might go back and guys might be out of their houses. It's probably not over yet, but the organization has always been very good at helping us handle that stuff as best we can."
Do you have a message for the people back home?
"Cincinnati will always be home. It's where I grew up. My whole childhood was here. I grew up a Bengals fan and a Reds fan. My family and friends have always been very good to me and I always feel a ton of support when I come back, which is important because you don't always get back as much as you want to or you wish you could, but it seems like whenever I do people always kind of go out of their way to come back and say hi and they watch me and support me. That means a lot to know that you always have that support system back at home."
New Orleans Saints S Roman Harper
Post-Practice Media Availability
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
What did you have to do before you guys left?
"Get my family out. My family flew out to San Diego. My brother went to Mobile, which isn't really any better. It was all good though. My brother, they have a hurricane shelter over there in Mobile that my older brother runs. There wasn't really any rain earlier when I talked to them, just a little wind. I think when it hits, it will stay a little bit longer because the storm slowed down. As long as the storm is in the gulf, it's going to continue to power up. I'm from Alabama, so we've dealt with hurricanes my whole life. It's part of living in the Gulf Coast."
So this isn't your first drill with the evacuation?
"We did it a couple of years ago with (Hurricane) Gustav playing for the Saints. With me being from the central part of Alabama, we mostly get tornadoes, a little bit of hurricane, but it's never like it is when it first hits the coast. It's part of it. It's part of being down there. In Oklahoma, you have tornadoes. In California, you have earthquakes. It's just part of being in the location that we're in. The people down there, they're used to it. They board up their houses and they know to evacuate when these things come, and it's just part of being in it. It's part of the lifestyle and the culture and we accept it."
What do you have to say to the folks back home?
"Be safe. Look after your loved ones. Hold them dearly to your heart and pray for each other. Try to extend your hand to anybody who needs it. People with generators, try to look out for others until we get all the power back whenever it does go. Just be together. Be the same city we always are. Continue to stick with one another through tough times, which we always do a great job of. It's a friendly city. Don't change each other and don't let this pandemonium break us. We'll be back home this week and we'll have another home game in two weeks. We can all celebrate then.