<span> <span style="">Opening Statement on Recognition From USA Football:</span> This is the first year they've done something like this. USA Football being the official youth development organization for youth football programs throughout the country in regards to the NFL and NFLPA as sponsors. It's the first year they've done it, there's 26 guys (honored) and I'm honored to be one of them. I'm a firm believer in the program. I think it's great obviously to teach kids the fundaments of football at a young age, not only the physical fundamentals, but sportsmanship, work ethic, leadership and all those things too.
Q: What has Sean Payton meant to your career based on the last four years of your association with him?
A: It's meant a lot. I wouldn't be here without Mickey Loomis, Tom Benson and Sean Payton, those three guys, but Sean being the coach, being very much the evaluator, having played the quarterback position before. It was his first head coaching job going out, calling up a guy like me who is two years post op on a potential career-ending throwing shoulder injury and yet from day one, I just got the feeling that he had as much confidence in me as I did in myself at a time when I really needed that. I think our relationship starting that way, it's been a special one. He made me feel like this is my offense too. We spent a lot of time in that '06 offseason evaluating film and talking about things that we both liked, the things that I was good at and how we wanted to build this offense, just the fact that he allowed me the opportunity to give a lot of input. How many coaches do that? Especially first-time head coaches especially when you come into a place and a lot of times it's my way or the highway or "this is the way we're doing it." You don't really get a say, but from day one, he's been a great mentor, great teacher, a great communicator, a phenomenal head coach. I wouldn't want to play for anybody.
Q: When you came in in 2006, did you imagine the comfort level and relationship you have with him?
A: I was just trying to get back to where I could throw a football again, so to think that we would be here now, that was looking way too far down the road.
Q: What about towards your development?
A: Without a doubt. He's meant so much to my career in that regard. I feel like I'm such a better quarterback now than I was then. It seems like each and every time now, I become better because of his teaching, his coaching and his confidence in me. A lot of times, I think the play caller-quarterback relationship is a unique one because there are certain things I can feel from him during the course of a game, whether it be a situation or here comes this play call, I just know he is telling me with that voice this is a big one or this is critical, or be careful with this one. I'm taking a chance here and I'm relying on you to make the right decision. Normally you gain that by experience, being around each other for a period of time where you can earn that trust and that respect, that confidence and all those things. I feel like we're at that level and it's just continuing to grow.
Q: What do you think of having the longevity to potentially set a mark soon like the club record for touchdown passes?
A: When I look at the names on that list, obviously Archie Manning and Bobby Hebert and I guess Aaron Brooks is the leader right now just a couple away, those are guys that won a lot of football games here and played at a high level, so to be even near those guys I guess in a four-year span for throwing the ball a little bit more than those guys did, so I might have a light advantage in that regard. Just the fact that you're talking 42 years of history, that's a long time.
Q: Does the way that Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem are playing right now take some pressure off of Marques Colston?
A: Yes. I don't think Marques puts that pressure on himself, but then again, what I love about Marques is his confidence level and just knowing that (he says) "I'll make the play for you" and "whenever you need me I'm there. You can count on me and rely on me." But certainly when you have other guys making the plays that Meachem is making and Devery is making, Shockey's making and that kind of thing, that helps Colston, because now Colston might get some more one on one matchups or it just takes the attention off of him a little bit, which opens up a lot of opportunities for him.
Q: Do you buy into the notion that there would be less pressure if you lost one game?
A: No. We're here aren't we? Who knows if we'll ever get this close again. But it's one at a time. You can't look any further past this game, no matter who you're playing. The fact is we're going on the road, playing a team that has lost only two games at home in the last two years, they're 12-2 at home. They're a divisional opponent and they would love nothing more to knock us off. I know what you're saying, because obviously the more that you win and stay undefeated, the more distractions that come with that, the more people are calling you, the more media people want to talk to you, the more people want to talk about an undefeated season. No, this team can handle it. I think we've handled it well. Really six weeks ago is really when the rumblings started that they could do it and now all of a sudden we're 12-0. Let's finish this thing the way that we started.
Q: Even though you're taking it one game at a time is your attitude to go for it?
A: All I'll say is this. You have an opportunity to make history.
Q: Can you talk about your familiarity with Peyton Manning and if he is a guy you really pay attention to?
A: I went to a couple Colts games when I was in college in Peyton's first few years in the league. I remember watching him play. I can even remember a phone call that he gave me my senior year after we beat Ohio State, we came back in the end to beat them and all of a sudden on my voice mail after the game I have a call from Peyton Manning that said hey man, I watched the game, congratulations. I became a Peyton Manning fan ever since based on that he called a young college guy like me to tell me congratulations. We have crossed paths one or two other times at different events. I had a chance to meet him. I became a Peyton fan then. I always have had a tremendous amount of respect for him and the interesting thing is we're sitting here 12-0 and this is uncharted territory for a lot of us. How many times have the Colts started off 8-0, 9-0, 10-0, 13-0, 12-0 now. You say as a fan, people forget how hard this is to do and yet the Colts seem to find a way to be in that mix every year. They've won 12 or more games the last seven years in a row. That's unbelievable. Me as a fan and the fact that I play the same position as him and I'm watching the same film as him and I'm watching him a lot of times because of the similar opponents we play. I'm constantly watching him to learn more about the defense I'm playing, but I'm also watching him a little bit as a fan, because I have a tremendous amount of respect for the guy and he's one of the best to have ever played the game.
Q: Do you find it ironic that both you and Peyton are 12-0, his dad played here and he grew up as a Saints fan?
A: Sure. Keep in mind '06. We're playing in the NFC Championship. They're playing in the AFC Championship and we have a chance to play each other. They made it and we didn't. That's how close we came one other time. Trust me, I would love for that to happen. I would be great.
Q: How important is acquiring a playoff bye on Sunday with a win?
A: It's very important. I think that what I like is that it was exciting before, but now it's really exciting, because each week now holds another prize at the end of it. You win this week, you secure a first round bye. Maybe the next week or the week after you secure potentially the one seed and then potentially the week after that you have an opportunity to make history and you're in the playoffs, so it gets more and more exciting each and every week, just like last we win, we're division champs, no matter what else happens. We win we're division champs. Every week it gets more exciting.
Q: Can you talk about the emergence of Robert Meachem and also talk about what he has done compared to his rookie year?
A: He was hurt most of that rookie year, so that's really why he didn't see the field and plus, there's a learning curve. I think he was battling the physical ailments and stuff that he just didn't have an opportunity to get in there and get a lot of live reps and really that's the only way that you can get better if you're in there with the live reps. You learn from experience, but if I could say one thing, that guy has taken advantage of every opportunity he's been given. If two years ago or last year, he was only getting one play, doggone it he was making the most of that one play he was in. All of a sudden it gets to a point where you're building a little package for him. Now it's to the point where you can pretty much dial anything up for him and you feel confident that he's going to make a play. It's been an unbelievable progression from then into now.
Q: Can you talk about if you are getting items or records from fans that are Saints themed, based on the high level of interest surrounding the team right now?
A: Obviously you're getting all the autograph stuff. I signed all my fan mail yesterday. It took me a couple hours, but I got home the other night I had a little girl down the street named Zoe, who had drawn on a big posterboard "Go Saints", "Congratulations", "Great Win", all that stuff and hung it on the gate outside our house. I get knitted items sent in the mail. I've had a couple grandmas send me a couple knitted, hats, gloves and stuff, mainly for family and my 11 month old son. your name it, obviously the CD's getting thrown in the car after victories and when we're coming back from road games, driving down the road waving at people, all of a sudden you have a bunch of CD's flying through your window.
Q: What's on the CD's?
A: It's different songs, whether it's an old song that somebody's just done their own rendition.