New Orleans Saints Linebacker A.J. Klein* Conference Call with Local Media
Friday, March 10, 2017*
What led you to pick the Saints?
"There were a few teams that I was in conversations with, but I think the thing that separated the Saints from everybody else is I've been down here and I've played against them and I know they are a competitive club every single year. (They) have a great offense and I know that I will have an opportunity here and I'm excited about that. Another thing is the fan base and the Dome (Mercedes-Benz Superdome). I know it's been a fun place to play and compete and it's going to be a great place to continue to play."
Do you have any expectations coming in?
"No, I don't have any expectations right now I'm just going to try and get the playbook as soon as I can, try to start learning and we will see what happens once OTAs and stuff roll(s) around. I know I've been in multiple positions in Carolina playing all three spots and I haven't been told where I'm going to be put yet, but that is for them to decide. I'm just here to obviously do my part, be in shape and obviously be ready to execute the defense when it comes time."
Did a vision at least get talked about before you choose where you were going to be or do you have a preference to play middle linebacker?
"No, I think there probably will be an opportunity, but at the end of the day what's said now can change in a heartbeat and that's just the way the business goes with personnel changes and hopefully not any injuries, but things change and are very fluid in the game of football. I think the expectation that they have for me is to be prepared to play any one of those three spots. Do I have a preference? I've played more Sam and Mike then I have Will so yes that could be a preference for me, but at the end of the day I'm very fluid and I'll go wherever they need me to go and that's what I've been doing the past four years in Carolina."
What was it like playing with Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis?
"First off they are great dudes, good friends of mine and it's obviously been a pleasure to be able play with them and to be in the same room with them for four years. It's pretty crazy seeing them play their best football playing together and (they're) a fun duo to watch and I definitely learned obviously from Thomas (Davis) to never take anything for granted. To play every down as it could be your last because of him going through all those injuries and stuff he had and he's wise, he's a pros pro, a true veteran and he's been around for thirteen years so that says something about who he is. With Luke (Kuechly) you don't really have to say a bunch about Luke, he's a grinder, hard worker and one of my real good friends. It's been awesome to be with him for the last four years and I'm actually looking forward to seeing him twice a year and competing against him twice a year."
What is that going to be like seeing Cam (Newton) without a red jersey?
"That's funny, you know how it goes with every team around the NFL, you have to stay away from the quarterback and I fondly remember back when I was a rookie coming a little bit too close and got pulled aside by coach and he basically gave me the lowdown of how things go, but I've gotten to know Cam (Newton) really well over the past four years and he's a great competitor and I'm obviously looking forward to the opportunity to compete against him and he's a great athlete, big bodied. I don't think there is anyone in the NFL that wouldn't want to be able to sack Cam or tackle him so it's going to be fun to compete against him."
How would you evaluate your time in Carolina?
"I would say it was productive. I got a great opportunity, I was able to start right away on special teams as a rookie and be able to play and not many people can do that as a fifth round draft pick. Just making it to the NFL was an accomplishment in and of itself, but to be able to play like I did early on and then getting the opportunity to make a few starts my rookie year as well and just seeing my playing time and my workload for the team increase defensively from year to year, especially being behind Luke (Kuechly) and TD (Thomas Davis) and playing next to them at the same rate. It was a tough situation to come into knowing that I would have to compete, but also made me a better football player, made me a better person and I definitely learned a lot and I think my first four years have been very well spent."
Have you had a chance to talk to Mike Nolan, the new Saints linebackers coach?
"I did. We actually sat down and spoke for quite some time earlier today. We had lunch together not too long ago and had a chance to talk a little ball, but also talk about things that are not related to football right now, just to try to get to know each other just a little bit. That was great."
What did it mean to you knowing that you were going to be working with Mike Nolan?
"It's awesome. I obviously love to play for coaches that have a passion for this game and have a lot of experience in this game. I am excited to see what he dials up. I know we are both going to be learning this playbook at the same rate with him just getting here not too long ago. It is going to be a fun process and I am really looking forward to it."
Do you mind naming who the other teams were that you were in discussions with?
"I would rather not just to keep those things private. I know there were other teams that we were in contact with but I don't think it is really that important. The important thing for me now is that I am a Saint and I am excited to be here. I would have to talk to my agent first before I say anything about that. I don't think it would be a big deal but I would just rather not talk about that. I would rather just talk about being here."
What is the most interesting grief you have received from switching allegiances in the NFC South division?
"It's hard. I know each team with the Saints, Carolina and even Atlanta and Tampa Bay, every fan's very passionate about its team that it chooses to root for. The hard part's to be able to separate those emotions and for us players at the end of the day, it sounds bad but it's a business for us. This is my professional career and that's the way I approach it. Yes, I have emotional ties with Carolina but when opportunity knocks you have to take advantage of the opportunity. For fans that are a little angry that I left or feel that I am a traitor, I do not want to break any hearts. It is what it is and it is a business at the end of the day. To those fans and to the new fans, I had a great four years in Carolina and I look forward to having a great three years and hopefully more here in New Orleans."
Was the situation in Carolina kind of frustrating with having to wait your turn? Was the opportunity to possibly start the biggest thing for you?
"I know I wanted the opportunity to start. It was not necessarily frustrating because you cannot be frustrated when you are playing behind two all-pros. That is just the way that things are. If anything, I feel really blessed and thankful that I was put into that situation. There are a lot of guys that get thrust into the starting lineup that need some time to develop. Do I think that I could've played? Yes. Did that time help me develop as a player? Most definitely. I know we have great depth there and I know Luke (Kuechly) is going to be there a long time and I know Thomas (Davis) has a few more years in him. Yes, I was looking for an opportunity where I could impact and I believe I can be an asset here in New Orleans."
Did you have to get sold on the idea of coming to a defense that has struggled over the past couple years?
"No, I didn't have to be sold on anything really. I think the main thing that separated New Orleans for me was playing against them for the past four years. Being able to compete like I said earlier in the dome, knowing the fan base and support behind this team, and I just have confidence in my abilities. I have confidence in who I am as a player and as a person. Like I said, I feel like it would be a good fit for me here."
New Orleans Saints Guard Larry Warford* Conference Call with Local Media
Friday, March 10, 2017*
What made you want to come to the Saints?
"There are a lot of factors. There is a lot of history here. I am familiar with the offense. I know Joe Lombardi from Detroit. I know it is a great city and I am just excited to be here."
How many other teams were you talking to and was anything else close?
"There were a few other offers. I'd say five or six other teams. This is definitely where I wanted to be. Just being here for the last day, I am excited I did. I'm really happy."
You have a couple players on the team with similar Polynesian backgrounds like Senio Kelemete and Michael Hoomanawanui*, have any of them reached out?*
"Yes, a few of them did and sent some tweets. We follow each other on twitter. It's great to have this big of a Polynesian culture just in the league. It's crazy with how small a population of Polys there are, for them to make it into the league, it's cool. To have a few of them on our team makes it feel like home a little bit more."
Why do you think there are that many Polynesian guys in the league?
"I honestly could not tell you. It is just in the blood. I was actually watching this 60 minutes show about how a kid born to Samoan parents is like 56 times more likely to make it into the league, or something like that. They had this whole documentary on it. It was pretty cool but I couldn't really put a finger on it. Polys just love to hit people. I guess that is what it comes down to."
You mentioned loving the city; do you have much background with the city?
"That was pretty much the draw for me, as far as just the city goes. I know there's a lot of culture down here. I haven't really been here much but just from what I have seen and what I have heard about it, nothing but positives. I am a big fan of music, guitar and music in general to be honest. I heard there is good eating down here too so I am excited about that. I just have to watch myself. The culture just has something about it that you can't really put your finger on. I am excited to be down here."
What do you think about the explosion of the guard position in free agency here?
"It's random. I think highly of all of the guys, those top four guys. I think T.J. (Lang) is a great player and I have been watching him for a long time. Kevin (Zeitler), (Ronald) Leary and all of those guys. It is kind of an anomaly. I have never really seen guards getting paid, especially like Kevin (Zeitler) did. He has earned it. He is a guy I've watched since I've been in the league. I was a fan of his since my rookie year. All these guys earn what they get. I am a big fan of all of these guys."
How neat would it be to say you might be replacing Jahri Evans and the role he's had for 11 years?
"He has been one of the mainstays just as a guard. When you think of great guards he's one of them and to be in the category with him would be awesome and I think he's a great player and I have nothing but respect for the dude. I'm looking to come here to try and do everything they ask me to do and I have nothing but respect for Jahri (Evans) and I think he's an amazing player."
Do you feel like you have steadily been rising throughout your career?
"I think I have been (having) a steady rise. I think it is really, really coming together for me right now. Kind of with all the coaching changes that I've had in the past kind of threw me off a little bit my second year and third year and coming back up from now. I just feel like I'm on that incline and I'm only looking to get better. Whatever they need me to do here I'm going to perform to the best of my ability."
Why don't you think things worked out with the Detroit Lions?
"I stopped asking questions as far as the business side of the NFL goes. I couldn't tell you and it's not something I'm really thinking about. I found a new home here and I am excited to be here and they valued me enough to sign me. I am just happy to be with another team, but obviously I have to thank Detroit for giving me my first opportunity and the fans all supported me and I am grateful that they drafted me, but I am here now and excited and fired up to get the season started."
Can you tell us a little more about your music sessions and if you'll be looking to play in New Orleans?
"Yeah, I don't know so much right now. I did that after I was kind of set in Detroit. I had my football stuff and I got that set. Here it might take a little bit longer because I want to be focused on football first. Who knows man, I might find a jam spot once in a while, but it's something I love to do. I like to listen more than play just because I'm not great at guitar, but it's just cool to hear how other people interpret music and I'm excited to find all the spots down here and see what it's about."
What instruments do you play now?
"I started off playing bass in college and then when I was with the Lions my rookie year I picked up the electric (guitar) and played that for a few years and I literally just started playing drums last May I believe and so that's been my thing now. You get home and you just want to beat the drums up. It's a good stress reliever and it's addicting."
Is it safe to say on any given night during the weekend we could see you on stage at a Bourbon street night club?
"I don't know they might see me right next to the stage (laughter). I don't know if they will see me up on it. At some point if I get good enough. I'm actually taking guitar lessons still right now. Trying to figure out this music theory stuff and get my chops now. That would be awesome though. I'm hoping that would be me eventually a couple years down the line."