New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton - Conference Call With New Orleans Media - Monday, September 3, 2018
What led you guys to sign Mike Gillislee?
"He's a running back we thought could help our team this year. We have gone through the tape with all these players we're familiar with and he was a guy that you mind of paid attention to in the preseason (when he was with New England), but when he became available, we brought him in."
Looking at the numbers of the course of his career, he doesn't have many receiving stats. What do you think of his versatility? Is that something unproven?
"No, I think the vision is a first and second down runner who has given them (teams he is played for) hard yards. He is a guy that can be physical and he can handle the workload. So the vision for the player's not to bring him in and throw him the ball 15 times a game."
Looking back on the cuts, what were some of the harder decisions?
"It's always a difficult weekend because it obviously marks the end of training camp and the transition to the regular season. A lot of these guys have been here throughout the offseason, a better part of a year, training for the opportunity. Generally, this first week, two weeks there's a little bit more movement, it's a little bit more fluid than other weeks but yes, it's never easy bringing guys in and releasing them."
When you bring in players like a Mike Gillislee, do you have a pretty good feel of their capacity to learn the offense quickly or you have to go slower?
"It's probably a combination of both. I have an idea of how he learns. I spent quite a bit of time with him on the weekend just going through our system, their system, how they called things. He is pretty sharp. I think in a short period of time he will get up to speed."
You guys have already had a lot of firsts without Mr. Benson this year since he passed away, but this will be your first regular season game going into a season without him. How much of an absence have you felt, or have you had an opportunity to kind of reflect on it?
"Mrs. B has been fantastic. When you see her, you're reminded of the solid ownership that we have as an organization. I think the players, coaches, all of us involved have seen a bright light with her and certainly the memory and honor of Mr. Benson. So, we all hope to make it a successful season."
Were there any consistent or specific topics you and he would discuss on the eve of the season or would he just pat you guys on the back and say go out and do your thing?
"There wouldn't be one specific topic. It would be the excitement of the start of the regular season and the building of the roster. He was very supportive of us and always excited this time of year."
Is there any added difficulty in game planning for somebody in Week One, is that made easier when they're division opponents?
"Within the division you have two games from a year ago as opposed to one (for a non-division opponent) and you have every snap of film, defense, offense and the kicking game on both teams as far back as you want to go and their whole season last year and their preseason. Certainly, if there's any new trends or patterns through week one, the early part of weeks one, two and three, that can become more apparent as to where someone's going as you gather more film from that year. I think it's also that time of the year where you're working extremely hard during the week, not just following the gameplan, but your team improving because we're still in that phase of getting better and improving. That continues even well after the start of the first game, so hopefully we rely on our technique and fundamentals and then the curveballs, the things that you haven't seen maybe on film that you have to defend, or you have to see defensively or offensively (and) in the kicking game, you're ready for and you could adjust to."
We spend a lot of time talking about what Alvin Kamara can do physically, is his football IQ also something that is pretty special?
"Yes, I've talked about it a million times. He's exceptionally smart. It's one of the things that I think makes him a special player, he's obviously very talented but he can learn a lot of different things."
J.T. Gray is a guy we only got to see in two preseason games. What impression did he make on the team in order to make the 53-man roster?
"He can run and hit in the kicking game exceptionally well and is one of those guys that when I talk about the kicking game making it (on) special teams, he's an example."
How does Tampa's offensive attack change without Jameis Winston at the quarterback position?
"That's a good question. I think they're going to run their offense and we expect them to be balanced and then try to establish a good ground game. When you play on the road in a noisy environment that can help (if they can run), but I think that there will be some tweaks maybe as to what they want to do. Both those players, quarterbacks I'm discussing, are guys that are comfortable making throws in the pocket and getting out on the perimeter and leading their team."
I know it is a new team and new season but you haven't won a season opener since 2013. What do you have to do to get out from under that?
"It has been a while, we just went through the numbers. We have to start faster, obviously take advantage of playing at home and understand the little things that win. Certainly, that is a focal point heading into this weekend."