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Q&A: Sean Payton's Monday Conference Call

Audio and quotes from Sean Payton's Monday conference call with local media

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Conference Call with New Orleans Media
Monday, November 28, 2016

What did you think of the way special teams played yesterday?
"I think this, there are some noticeable plays, obviously Tommylee's (Lewis) muff on the punt (return was a mistake) and we have to get that corrected and get him up to speed and ready to field a ball cleanly. Fortunately, we were able to recover it and then (overcome) the big return we gave up. I think there were some individuals that jumped out. (Nate) Stupar played well, Josh Hill played well. I thought (Thomas) Morstead was solid. We had a couple opportunities to pin them back and ended up with touchbacks. We didn't punt but just four times. I think from a kickoff standpoint we had one rocket kick which was designed to be. If you looked at their alignment the one kick that was noticeably short to the right of the location needed to be further to the right. We felt we had a chance to actually recover a different form of an onside kick, but with the front the way it was set and their deep wall with an offensive lineman and that deep wall (but it wasn't successful). The strategy is to place that ball on the numbers, call it 20-25 yards downfield and then look at guys like Vonn Bell and (Travaris) Cadet having a chance to be a part of the recovery. We just pulled that a little bit and it came inside. There is pretty good risk reward with that and it ended up being I think a drive starter at the 20 something yard line. That's something with Wil (Lutz) that we have to work on. He missed a couple kickoffs. Look, it's obviously still a work in progress and we'll have to continue to improve there."

What are the traits that you think has made Michael Thomas so productive during his rookie season?
"The traits we felt he had in college when you watch him play and practice. He is very, very competitive, (that is) very important to him and you see the run after the catch (ability) on college tape and we are seeing it now. I think he played one of his better games. He has to be a little bit more situational aware when we are in a two-minute drill, that some of the yards after catch are unimportant compared to time and there is a play out on the sideline where he continues to run instead of getting out of bounds, but he high points the ball well. He's a physical player, receiver. I have said this when you go out there and you jam him, I like to do that on Thursdays you feel his strength and power and I think that it was good to see him have the game."

What does Dannell Ellerbe's versatility allow you to do defensively?
"He's athletic so when you make a call he's generally someone that can make the adjustments. I think Craig (Robertson) is doing a great job in there directing the defense. He's got the communication mic in the helmet, Craig Robertson does and Dannell is someone that can play to that open side of that weakside. I think he's a very good pressure player. Actually some of his better snaps come when he's rushing the passer or in a dog form, but he can cover the back and cover the tight end and he can run and that's a good thing."

How do you bottle that motivated effort and do it more consistently?
"There were a lot of things that we did well. There are some things on the tape of course when you watch it that we have to be able to clean up and improve. It is an emotional game to begin with and our jobs as coaches is to get the team to ready to play a specific game and the points yesterday really come, our third down numbers were good, our red zone numbers were good. We were in the red zone we were scoring touchdowns. I thought the balance we had was important. Mark (Ingram) ran it real well. I thought our tight ends played well, you look at the numbers for Josh Hill and (Coby) Fleener that was encouraging. To answer your question, if you had an exact recipe each week than it would be a lot easier, but the challenge now is a good football team coming in here in Detroit. They have won some of these games we have discussed about our own team (has lost) be it Oakland or Denver, Kansas City, New York (Giants) some of these tough hard fought close losses. The team we are getting ready to play has found a way to win some of those games and as a result of that their having a real good football season. We'll have to get on the tape the next few days and get ready to put a good plan together."

Can you shed any meaning on the Circle of Life song as it pertains to yesterday's game?
"No, it was just a song we played a couple days during the week a couple times. You guys hear the music going and it was I think the 20th anniversary of that play or that movie (Lion King), but no that was just kind of one of the things in getting ready for this game. That chant if you will at the beginning."

It has been a few weeks since the report came out about Kenny Vaccaro's suspension is it frustrating not to have that resolved?
"I don't think it's been frustrating really. You really don't have any control over it and when we discuss the game coming up we discuss injuries, availability and then one of the challenges is trying to gauge who your 46 is going to be and that discussion begins really as early as today. After our first staff meeting we go through the injuries, we discuss who may or may not be out or questionable and then because you don't want to be practicing on Wednesday not really knowing who those final two or three players might be. Whether you're carrying the extra offensive lineman, it really affects special teams. With regards to Kenny (Vaccaro) much like you would an injury you deal with the short term and not so much the long term."

How do you as a coach have a player remain aggressive, but at the same time try to not to do too much and muff a punt, in regards to Marcus Murphy's muff last week and Tommylee Lewis*' this week?*
"I think they are two entirely different plays. Tommylee's is to catch the ball, it's not like there is an option there. It's not like well should I let this bounce or catch the ball whether you fair catch it or not it's a separate topic. I think in Marcus Murphy's case it becomes field awareness, situational awareness. The direction this kickoff is going. It appears like it might be heading out of bounds. They are a little bit different scenarios and yet you do it through the reps at practice and I think in Tommy's case he's been pretty sure handed and there is no one more frustrated than he was on that play, just as Marcus was a week before. Very soon after Tommy's muff we handed him the ball on an around play to get the ball back in his hands. I do think he is someone that can make plays in space. It's really through practice."

Do you expect any resolution on Kenny (Vaccaro's suspension) this week?
"Nothing that we've heard of, again I think you guys will hear before we will."

What do you like about Jairus Byrd going back from a punt return?
"He is someone that has very very good hands and typically we've always had a backed up guy, someone that when it comes to the heat of the game, even in a situation late in the game if there are certain calls sometimes where we're not even going to return a punt. We are just going to catch it. He is someone that plays that position well. He has naturally very good hands."

Brandin Cooks didn't have a target yesterday, was it the Rams gameplan?
"I think part of it is the result of some of the coverages. There were certainly calls with his name and number on it and periodically once in a while that can happen."

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