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Q & A with Zach Strief

Topics include the offseason, the Saints' future and golf.

How's the offseason treating you?
It's going great. Feeling good and healthy, that always helps, and I'm enjoying this nice weather.

At your age, how long does it take the bumps and bruises to fade a little bit?
That's a year-to-year question. Last year, it took me a good while after the season to feel good. It was probably my toughest offseason in terms of getting back. This year, honestly, I took two weeks off and felt good to go, so I started working out. It's been great. I started playing golf a week after the season, so I have no complaints.

How is your golf game? When did you pick that up?
I've had a couple of offseasons, since I came here, where I played a lot. And a couple of offseasons when I didn't golf a lot; one offseason when I had an elbow surgery. It's tough to play golf without an elbow, so I missed a lot last year, but I've played a lot this year. I think it's a great way to stay active, get out and spend time with friends. For me, who spends his life trying to get better at stuff, it makes the offseason a little bit easier.

Is it therapeutic to play a sport to play a non-contact sport?
I think you certainly appreciate the independence and the quietness of it. Yesterday, I went out and hit about 200 chips, played a lot of music. I was all by myself, it was about 68 degrees, and there was about five times where I smiled and realized why I enjoyed playing golf so much. Just being able to do it on my own, away from everybody, outside and all that stuff makes me enjoy it. It's a great game to spend time with friends, get out and cut it up a little bit. For me, it's something that I look forward to every day and these offseasons where I'm healthy, it's great because I can play so early.

It sure seemed like you had one of the best years of your career…would you agree?
I would agree, I think it was my best season ever. I think a lot of that had to do as much with the competition I worked against. I played against a lot of elite guys this year. That was something I knew coming into the season would be a challenge. It's not so much that I did anything different during the offseason. I didn't work harder, I didn't lose a certain amount of weight, I didn't get any stronger necessarily. I think it was part of my evolution as a player. Learning the things that I'm capable of doing and the things I'm not. There's a trial and error with that. I think I got into a good groove and a good stretch where I got comfortable with what I was doing. A lot of that was because of the quality of opponents I kept facing. It really forced me to be focused and to try and develop myself. Just knowing a lot of these guys had the ability to destroy a game plan for us by themselves.

How much of your game can you attribute to knowing more about yourself?
Probably most of it. I wouldn't say that I've physically deteriorated tremendously. The reality for me is that I was a backup for five years. You look at a guy like Jahri (Evans) who has taken over 12,000 game reps during his career here. I've taken six and a half (thousand). That's a tremendous load off of me. I don't know that I've deteriorated too much, but I certainly have a much better grasp of what my strengths and weaknesses are. On top of that, how to cover up some of those weaknesses with techniques and how to keep out of situations I'm not very good at. Force guys to play my game rather than theirs. It's kind of a combination of the two. That just comes with development, reps and experience. Fortunately for me, I'm someone who has been in the same system for 11 years now, so I don't have to worry about what I'm doing, but how I'm doing it. That has allowed me to understand myself and the ways that I can be successful.

What's going to be different moving forward? What excites you?
I think our receiving corps is probably the best we've had since I've been here. The reality of that wide receivers room is something that we have not necessarily had in the past. We've had great receivers in the past, don't get me wrong. Marques Colston, one of the best receivers in Saints history and in NFL history. We've had a crew of guys, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, and Lance Moore: guys who made this offense go for a long time. But I think this group we have right now with Brandin, Michael Thomas, Snead, Brandon Coleman; it's a good group that's going to continue to get better. They're so young. I think they're all under 23 years old. That's something we've never had here: a dynamic group of receivers. We've had guys who did certain things pretty well, but we've got a bunch of guys who are doing things really well.

Thoughts on the Super Bowl?
I think it's going to be a really good game, I'm looking forward to it. In Atlanta, you have to acknowledge that its offense is playing as well as anyone has ever played. They really are a force right now. To see them go up against a Bill Belichick defense is going to be something to watch. That's an offense that's hard to stop because it's hard to shut down one particular thing. It's an offense that has developed a good running game, they have a good group of receivers, a lot of playmakers. They have guys running it that makes good decisions and they have a line that has come together really, really well. It's a tough team to attack defensively, but if there's anybody in the world who can figure that out, it's Bill Belichick.

Once you've played in one, every one that you're not in is disappointing. You find yourself avoiding that game a little bit. You kind of glance at it. You don't sit down and watch it because it kind of stings to watch. I'm looking forward to it and I'm curious to see how it plays out.

On "Hogs for a Cause" and barbecuing…
If anyone hasn't been to it, what an awesome event they're doing. It's a great organization. They're raising money for a cause that I don't think anybody could not get behind: pediatric brain cancer research. We have a great time with it. We're "6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon." It's something that this city has latched onto. It's something I love being a part of.

On communication with former teammate/current Patriot and friend Rob Ninkovich…
All I did was send a text. I know what that's like: you get inundated during that two-week period. It's amazing, it really is. You see the amount of people who try to get in touch with you to congratulate you to remind you that they've been watching. We are actually building houses next to each other on the Northshore. He's the type of player who you love to see get success. A guy who has really worked for everything, has fought through injuries and has gone on to have a great career. I would love to see Rob get another ring.

On combating reports about in-house issues and dealing with negative talk surrounding the team…
I think there's a business side of football that we all like avoiding. It's the part that we don't enjoy and don't fully grasp. You get into things like discussions of players getting traded or these locker room issues. You read reports of the "locker room revolting." You read that about a player and you think that's just not even close to what's happening in here It's inappropriate to push that out…. It's not something that's a distraction during the offseason, it's just something you wish you could set straight, but it's hard to do in this day and age with all the information that's out there.

What I love about this organization is that we're always focused on getting better. There's change and transition with that, but the last thing that we have here is this crisis mode where people are wanting out and the relationships are bad, but it's not the case here. That's evident by the number of people who come back and appreciate what a special place this is.

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