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Quotes from Sean Payton, Craig Robertson and Michael Thomas

All three held conference calls with the New Orleans media on Monday, Dec. 18

Go inside the lockerroom as the Saints celebrate their home win against the Jets.

New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton *Conference Call with New Orleans Media *Monday, December 18, 2017

*Does it change the way you watch tape and prepare when you play a team as recently as you've played the Falcons? *"I don't know that this late in the year it does. What we are doing right now because we've turned the page this afternoon is I'm sure every one of us is going to look at the game a week and a half ago. We will still go back and look at the cutups. Then the question would be how far deep do you go in the cutups? If you want to spend more time on a cutup, we will have one made of the whole season. Let's say you were looking at every screen pass or plus four (yard) runs. Pick a section or a category, let's say safety blitzes, defensively sacks. You can search that by a five-game study, their most recent five or if you want to spend longer, you can search it on a year study. I think you're looking at the same offense and defense, but I don't know that the weekly to-do list, like right at this moment today, is any different than it would have been six weeks ago had we been playing them. There's still a certain (schedule where) this is what we are trying to get done on Monday, this is what we are trying to get done on Tuesday, and you're playing a division opponent who has the same defensive scheme as a year ago, a similar offensive scheme as a year ago and here will be certain elements to let's say the game from a week and half ago that maybe you didn't call that you'll have back in for this game. From a scheduling standpoint, it's very similar. The uniqueness would be that we're looking at them tonight and they haven't played their (most recent) game yet, just because they're playing on Monday Night Football."

The Saints as of right now are the only team in the NFL to have three players that each have 1000 yards from scrimmage with Mark Ingram II, Michael Thomas, and Alvin Kamara*. How impressed are you that you have a trio of players that have been able to achieve that mark? *"It's an interesting stat. I don't know that you ever go in with the idea that you're going to have that balance with the runners and certainly with the way Mike is playing. When you first brought that stat up, I was thinking, you're not going to mention Hoo-man (Michael Hoomanawanui) or Josh Hill in that statement, but those have all been playmakers for us, those guys have been consistent and have done a very good job. I would not have a reference if that's happened before, for instance here, in any given season. I imagine there have been years where we have had runners, and maybe Jimmy Graham, and a receiver. With the length of our season, sometimes you get lost in some of those numbers."

*I want to tap into your role as the newest member of the National Football League Competition Committee. What are your thoughts on the touchback rule on a fumble through the end zone and are you surprised that there is still a ton of controversy over what is a catch? *"That is a good question. First off, let me preface this by saying I have not attended my first meeting yet. That being said, I do think they, our league and the committee, have defined clearly catch, no catch. We could argue that we could look at tinkering with that, and yet, I think the bright line is control after you hit the ground and I get that. With regards to the touchback, it's a good question and I've been involved in discussions with it before. You get down there close and you have a fumble, like if that happened on the seven-yard line and it went down. I've got that play and a couple others to show on Wednesday because we're so inclined to clear the ball across the pylon. Drew (Brees) had a play like that this year. We were in Buffalo and I believe he scrambles to the left and he doesn't dive, he's kind of running, but he extends the ball over the pylon as he heads out of bounds and gets the touchdown. I think that with the current rule, as coaches it is important for us to talk about is this goal-to-go or like in last night's game, if you were watching it, you knew that (Derek) Carr had gained the first down. He is trying to score, and yet at what cost? You could make a strong point to say 'hey, the two scenarios are desperate and I need to get in here as opposed to it is not at all cost, then maybe it is not worth the risk of extending the ball. Because every weekend we see great plays, correct me if I am wrong, where players are diving for that landmark and extending the ball and getting a touchdown, but there is that balance of at what cost. I think that, I've heard discussions, not formally but recommendations or thoughts, 'if that were to happen, maybe it's your ball back on the 20-yard line and you don't lose possession of it.' Each year or every other year it comes up maybe it'll get revisited. It is just one of those unique rules that seems to come up maybe once or twice a season in a very critical moment like it did last night for Oakland. I don't know that I have a strong opinion one way or another. What comes to my mind when I see it is man, 'I have to get a tape so our guys understand where I know we want the score but it would cost' (if fumbled into the end zone)."

*Mike Pereira former head of NFL officiating was on a radio show and he was saying that he would advocate removing replay from deciding what a catch is. How much would you agree with that? *"I think it's hard to go down that path once you've crossed it. I don't know if I would be for that. When you think of the countless maybe completions that were initially ruled incompletions or vice versa I think that it is hard to go backwards that way, if that makes sense. In these (league rules) meetings, there's a lot of time spent on trying to determine what is and what isn't. I think one of the things that we're all aware of is how do we make the officials job easier. I think the cleaner we can do things and reducing as best we can some of the complex issues regarding rules, the better it'll be. I do not know that I would advocate eliminating that. I think you'd have, there's a lot of games you're counting on getting it right and there's a lot at stake. I'd hate to see Mike Thomas catch a big third and 10, ruled incomplete and the replay shows it was a catch but we don't get to replay it. I don't know. I wouldn't advocate that."

*You mentioned yesterday you were seeing some errors repeated by some of the same guys. This late in the season do you risk tinkering with personnel or do you just stick with what you have? *"No, I think it's just cleaning up some of our technique. I think we had a couple of holding calls inside offensively. We had a couple of holding calls on the back end. I think it's just constantly working with the technique that we're teaching at practice, so that in a later game it doesn't really come out to hurt you. Ken's (Crawley) foul for instance, Crawley's (hit), it was kind of after the play and Ken's someone that it's a little out of character and yet you just want to be mindful of how the officials have to call certain things that they feel like there's extra. There might be something small and yet it could become something big in a closer game."

*Getting back to the Pittsburgh game, what would your coaching point be, would it be similar to the out-of-bounds touchback rule if you catch the ball? Would you use that play as a coaching point? If he catches the ball going to the ball near the ground toward the end zone don't reach it out? *"You're talking about as you approach the end zone. I think that if you know that you're going to be first and goal at the one, there's a risk-reward here. You're in the final two minutes of the game, let's say it's third and goal from the nine and this is a run that's either going to score and you have to kick a field goal, I just think you have to understand that if that ball comes out as you're extending it then it's like a fumble, right? Essentially it is. So I think that I'd much rather live for first and goal at the one. So I just think that you have to have an understanding of where you're at in the game and making sure that you don't want to lose a possession."

New Orleans Saints LB Craig Robertson​
Conference Call with New Orleans Media​ *
Monday, December 18, 2017*

*Have you guys had the chance to watch the film from yesterday yet? *"Yes, we came in this morning at nine and watched the film."

*What do you think went wrong with the run defense on some of those early drives for the Jets? *"We just (had) a couple of miscommunications, misfits. It's something that will definitely get cleaned up."

*Can you take us through that tipped pass that led to your interception? *"100 percent that was all Ken Crawley. I was just the guy that was right there closest to the ball. We were just in a cover three and Crawley made a great play, a great PBU and the ball just jumped up. Anybody could have caught that and it just happened to be me at the time. It's a great play that the defense made for our team."

*How unique is this situation and I guess exciting that you get to play this same team, this same Falcons team two weeks later? You really want to get back on the field and sort of play again and get revenge against (them because) it means a lot to the division race and everything to play them twice in three weeks? *"Yes. This game means a lot. More so because it's a division game and we haven't beat them in our last three opportunities to play this team so it's another opportunity for myself to get the first win against these guys since I've been a Saint. It is just a good opportunity for this team to see where we're at to play them again for a second time and find a way to win."

*You mentioned at the top of the call that you did watch the tape and you saw some things that went wrong against the run, how is there such an urgency to fix that knowing you are facing a Falcons team that likes to run the football? *"We have stuff that you have to fix every game so there is always a sense of urgency when it comes to trying to fix something. No game is ever going to be perfect no matter how good or bad you may play, you always come into the film room knowing that you have to fix something. That is just how you grow as a team and as a defense. We definitely need to get off things fast and we will. That's why we came in today and we're focused on that. We watched it as a front seven and at the end of the day (run defense) rolls on us so we have to get that fixed and that's our goal right now."

*Do you feel like some of the defensive penalties are easily fixable, especially the big ones? The pass interference penalties, the unnecessary roughness infractions, those kinds of things? *

New Orleans Saints Wide Receiver Michael Thomas  *Conference Call with New Orleans Media    *Monday, December 18, 2017

*Would you try to avoid reaching over the goal line carelessly like a situation in a game played yesterday? *"I would say Coach always reminds us how important ball security is. It's probably one of our top three keys to victories every week. He always tells us he has tons of plays to call, just protect the ball. That kind of happened to me on Sunday on the fourth and one or fourth and two play where I got stopped like an inch before the goal line. I could have reached out, but the guy was coming from my left and the ball was also in my left side so I didn't know how he was going to play the ball."

*As a wide receiver in the NFL, are you still surprised that there is so much controversy over what is a catch? *"No. The rules are the rules and you just have to find ways to get better and critique your technique."

*You're pretty comfortable with the rule on what a catch is in the NFL? *"Yes. They've been playing this game for a long time. Those are the rules they created. I'm just trying to do my job and trying to make all my catches, but ultimately, I'm not trying to argue, just get better."

*If you were to make a catch and you fall down near the goal-line, would you be inclined not to reach the ball out? *"If there are a ton of defenders around, depending on the situation and where I am on the field. You just don't want to turn over the ball in that situation. That's the main goal, just to not give the ball away."

*In that case, it would've been incomplete? If you reach the ball out while you are going down and you have not secured it and it moves when it hits the ground? *"I didn't see the exact play, I was just going off the description that he had gave earlier so I don't even want to argue with it."

*The Saints right now are the only team in the NFL to have three players each with 1,000 total yards from scrimmage. Obviously, with yourself, Alvin Kamara, and Mark Ingram. How presently surprised are you that you've been a part of this and what does it say about this Saints offense that you can have three players with 1,000 total yards? *"It just shows how high profile the offense is. Credit our coaches here, the development, and the preparation during the week. We are getting a lot of those reps that we are getting on Sunday in practice. To be out there and go from practice and perform on Sunday is always a great thing. It's a blessing."

*Do you think it is important for this offense the way each guy has gotten to 1,000 yards to have that diversity? Mark is mostly on the ground, you're all in the air, and Kamara is almost 50-50? *"When the play is called in, we are just trying to do our jobs and execute it to the best of our ability. However it turns out on the stat sheet it turns out, but ultimately, we're just trying to go one for one on every play. However we need to get the victory is how we are going to get the victory and when our number is called, we're just trying to make the most of it."

*In terms of keeping defenses off balance, you're not sure if it's a factor having three guys with over 1,000 scrimmage yards? *"That's what makes Coach Payton, Pete Carmicheal, Curtis Johnson, the whole offensive staff, that's what makes them great and makes this offense very successful. It's how they use the guys on that side of the ball. Like I said, when our number is called, we're just trying to make our play."

*For the Atlanta game, are you glad you can focus on that game now, especially with all the emotions carrying over from the last one? Do you carry any of the residual emotions from the Thursday night game into this game? *"We're just going to play Saints football. We will have our team meeting on Wednesday and coach is going to give us the keys to victory. From those keys to victory, we're going to do whatever it takes from that Wednesday immediately to Sunday when we get to perform. We will try to do as much as we can to get those keys to victory almost 100 percent, if not 100 percent, by gameday."

*It seems like you're a level headed and even-keel guy with your approach to every game, maybe some guys are more emotional. Do you not really buy into the fact that you need to draw upon some kind of emotional motivation in certain games to reach the level of play that you need for that situation? *"Ultimately, we are trying to win them all. I just put it all into preparation. I asked coach immediately after we won our game against the Jets, and now it is onto Atlanta, what do I have to do to get ready for our next opponent and that is just how I approach every week. There is not really emotion. There are going to be games that are probably more important than others, but at the end of the day they're pretty much all important. As long as you enhance your routine, coach always tells us to find ways enhance our routine, try to get an extra rep, try to watch an extra rep of film, try to get your rest, enhance your recover. All of those are ways to get you ready for Sunday."

Did you get asked how you liked playing with a visor? It didn't seem to affect you negatively, that we could see. What do you make of that?

"It wasn't a big deal. It's just a visor."

Do you think in the long run a better sense of security and concentration in any way just knowing that your eyes are protected more?

"No. It's just a visor, a face shield. It's not that big of a deal."

Did the player who hit in the eye ever say anything to you anything about it or reach out to you in any way?


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