New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
OTA #3 Media Availability - Thursday, May 24, 2018
"So real quick for us. We just finished our first week of phase three or our third O.T.A. Guys will be off (for the holiday weekend) and we'll be back at it next week Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. (It will be a) Much similar schedule as we were on this week. We're doing a lot with our installation like we are every time (at) this (time of the) year, trying to make sure (we're on top of everything). I just finished telling the players the most important thing this time of the year is quickly getting the players up to speed with the terminology and what to do. It's hard to evaluate a player if he does not know what to do. So our jobs as coaches is to bridge that gap quickly with the players that are new and then carry over into training camp and begin that install process again."
How are the three new veterans Patrick Robinson, Demario Davis and Kurt Coleman doing with the acclimation process?
"They're doing well. (This is) the first time that we can give them books and begin teaching in phase two. They are veteran players, so after you've been in this league a while you begin to understand scheme and really there are three or four strains if you will of terminology and so it is a little bit quicker for a veteran player than it would be for a rookie. But so far they're doing well."
What do you look for in the rookies in this first week of practice?
"They've had a week of lifting/conditioning (followed by the OTAs). They're behind and we talk to them about it. They're behind physically a lot of them are just from the schedule they were on prior to the combine and then mentally, so it doesn't happen overnight, but you're looking for them to learn the splits, to understand the coverages, to understand the calls and to get in their playbooks and really dive into what we're doing. So far this class has a lot that's going on there. They're doing football, but they're also with Fred McAfee. Each day there's an element to our rookie program that might involve something outside the world of football, (for example it) might involve finance. There's a number of things, so we keep their schedule full and quickly get them up to speed."
They don't do a rookie symposium anymore?
"Yeah, it's kind of in-house and so there's a notebook of 20-25 tabs and it might be deal with everything from PEDs to recreational drugs, to alcohol, to domestic abuse to the Saints Hall of Fame, to the media. Those will all be a topic each day."
How long do you think it will take for the team to adjust to the new kickoff rules?
"That's a good question. Great question. We've spent time (on it). There's no template really to look at. I think in the first quarter of the season, I think you're going to see a safer play and I think you're going to also see a more exciting play. I think you're going to see teams that approach it with the return in mind that's different. It's going to change a little bit of the body types who might be on that unit with eight guys deployed in the first 15 yards, so we're discussing it and spending time on it now and yet there's no point of reference. I think you'll see it especially early in the season, you're going to see some exciting plays."
You've been a part of probably one of the most exciting onside kicks in history are those days gone?
"No, that kick was five by five and it can technically be the exact same play that happens. They wanted to protect the integrity of a team, but late in the game you score and there's an obvious onside kick. Now your deployment has to be balanced. But you still have that chance to score, recover an onside kick and score again. Some of our most exciting games have ended that way. But I just think from a spacing standpoint where the return team is aligning is you really have three players left and I think you're going to see mortar kicks, to cavities (holes) and so it will be it'll be interesting to see especially early in year."
Is Mike Westhoff involved in those? What is his role?
"Right now no and yet I wouldn't rule out that he's back involved."
Is there a time when you would like him to be here?
"Yeah we discussed it. He had an offseason surgery done. It would be training camp."
How much did you guys see Taysom Hill on the field last year and is this kind of the first time you get to really evaluate him?
"He's receiving a lot more valuable snaps at QB (now) because when we claim him we were kind of at the start of the season and you saw him run some scout team and do some of those things. In other words, post-practice he worked with Joe (Lombardi) or Pete (Carmichael). Now he's receiving true snaps with the twos and receiving a lot of work and he's he's done real well. He'll also received some special teams work. He has some versatility."
How much more excited are you having Alvin Kamara in year number two?
"We think he does a lot of things. He's smart, number one. He's exceptionally smart and has real smooth hands. He understands coverages and zones in man to man principles. I think that each week we're constantly looking at different ways where we can get them in a match up or get them him in space and then also as a runner. That versatility for him is certainly a big asset."
Is this the deepest you've been on the defensive line in a while?
"A while's a while so I can't remember that far back. But look we're deeper at end then we have been and obviously we have an early draft pick at that position. But it's a tough position to find (players at) when the season is over with in free agency. But you can find some good football players we have over the year, guys that have come in and played a significant role. They might not have been high draft picks, but there have been a lot of guys Hollis Thomas, Bobby McCRay, Jeff Charleston. I'm missing 100 names, Anthony Hargrove. These are all guys that were good value signings for us, that were very important players, Remi Ayodele, I'm going to leave out someone now,Tom Johnson, Tyrunn Walker just to name a few."
When you evaluate those guys at OTAs what can you get from them without them being in pads?
"It's hard. That was the other point I was making is that this is to get aligned and the challenge during the OTAs doesn't happen as much with the outer layer of players. The challenge is more for the offense and defensive line because they're right next to each other and so as coaches our evaluation kicks in once training camp starts as to how they're playing the technique. Here it's a lineman assignment and making sure that when it comes to training camp they know what to do."
What is your impression of Boston Scott?
"He picks things up pretty quickly. We worked him out the week before the draft. He is from Baton Rouge. He'll work with the punt return, kick return units. He's shorter but he's built pretty well. He is someone that has I think good instincts. So it's early but he's done some really good things. I think there's a running ability he has as well. I wouldn't look at him as a joker back if you will. He has some of those traits. But he he does a pretty good job with some of the in-line runs."
Will he also play a great opportunity as a punt returner?
"Yes. Punt and kick returner and when you put Boston comma Scott you get confused because you might go on Scott Boston right. He's got one of those names."
Have you or will you address the new anthem rules?
"At some point we will. We did a year ago as a team. For us a year ago if you look back we were getting on a flight to London. and so while all of that was being addressed back in the States we were in some countryside hotel by ourselves and fortunately we've had great leadership and we still do. So I'm sure our players will have a chance to digest it all and we'll come up with what we as a team feels right and I think that like anything else when you're not a part of that process, then the new kickoff (rule) or the new helmet rule something obviously as significant as this anthem discussion, we'll handle as a team."
Do you think it will be handled by coaches and players or does ownership get involved as well?
"That's a good question. I imagine that might vary per team and not even having sat down with Mrs. Benson (we haven't gone through it yet), but I know that she trusts in our leadership and she trusts in the leadership of our players because it really starts with them."
What were you expecting out of Cameron Meredith out here?
"He is ahead of schedule. That is encouraging. I made the comment to Beau (Lowery) two days ago during the walkthrough watching him move around and you guys saw him. He was way ahead of schedule and certainly where our doctors had hoped (he would be) and even better. So he's going to factor in this year. He's a player that we've got a real clear vision for."
Benjamin Watson wasn't here today?
"He was not."
How do you to do snaps with (Demario) Davis and A.J. Klein as you install. I don't know if A.J. Klein is participating in O.T.A's, but is that a sort of every other series or practice?
"Yes it is, but they're playing at different spots too. Davis is playing some Will. We have some flexibility really with Alex (Anzalone) with Davis. Manti (Te'o) is receiving work at the Mike. Davis (is receiving) good work at the Will. Klein will work at the Sam. He's not right now. So the good news is a handful of those players we're talking about are two part players they can play Mike, Will or Sam. So that will sort itself out as we get a little bit healthier and closer to training camp."
Do you have a vision for your defensive Mike or that's a competition between those two?
"First off, Klein played Sam in the base last year and then the sub was the inside backer. Yes, we've got a vision for each of those players and I think that as we get into camp that it will be a little bit clearer for you all."
What has been your impression of the right defensive end, Marcus Davenport?
"Man, he is big and he's long. He's a tremendous worker. He spent a lot of time with Ryan (Nielson) just on his technique. He's playing more from a three-point stance than he did in college where he was mainly in a two-point stance but he is coming along really well. There is a strength element you feel and obviously we are not in pads but you saw it when he played (in college). And now it is really working on his pass rush working on his pass rush plan and developing the three different pitches he needs to be effective when it is not just playing the run but obviously he like the rest of that rookie class has (a lot of work in learning what's being) installed but he's handling it well. It has been really encouraging."
Obviously, you want (Cameron) Jordan and (Alex) Okafor out there, but with them sitting out team drills, how beneficial is it for Davenport maybe to receive more work?
"Yeah. These (younger) guys are receiving a ton of reps. But yes, I think that you know this is the time of the year where we're trying to bring all these guys up to speed obviously with Okafor, you know he has a little bit with his rehab. We feel real good with where he's going and his schedule. The same with him (Jordan)."
With (Patrick) Robinson, any new impressions on him?
"Well, let's say he's that much further along as a player (than his initial Saints stint) and you know (that by) the way he played last year. The interception he made on just a late down the field throw (in today's OTA) was impressive. So like anything else there's a confidence level that you see. I say all the time the confidence you can wish for or hope for, but it really is a result of demonstrated ability and so he is a player that has played on the biggest stages and then had success. He looks the same. He still looks young and it's good seeing him back in our building."
What is it like to have (Jermon) Bushrod back here?
"Outstanding. He's a guy that understands the process. He's a team first guy. He was of course extremely important to us back in '09. And you know he's healthy now and I think he's tremendous in the room. So it's been a good addition."
You think he still has a lot of football left?
"Yes, I think he does. I think he's a guy that takes care of himself too. I think once we get started, we'll see him in training camp moving around. But he's a smart player and a really good teammate."
When the injuries eventually come, it's hard to have everybody intact for 16 games, but a guy like that, how much confidence do you have knowing you have someone like that?
"I think it's important. Last year I made this comment. Just looked at the guys that played on the offensive line. Obviously Ryan (Ramczyk) played left. He played right (every week after Week Four). Senio (Kelemete) played over 50 percent of the snaps, when Terron (Armstead) was down. So you go through the attritional of a long season. It's important that you're deep there and you hope that you're healthy for the length of the season with the same lineup. But you also recognize that a lot of times you aren't."
What about the progression of Taysom Hill?
"He looks good. We like where where he is at. He is grinding and working hard. You guys saw (him make) a play today. When he does get outside the pocket, he can run, real fast. That presents a new challenge for the defense. Tom Savage is doing well and J.T. Barrett was a real good addition for us, so we like that group right now. And they're working hard. But I think it helps Taysom now. (This is) His second time through with the terminology. There's some similarities. There are a lot of similarities with what he knew in Green Bay and yet there are some nuances that are different but some of the spontaneous stuff that he can do I think presents challenges for the defense."
Have you had conversations with Mark Ingram?
"Yes, we spoke to before we even got into phase one. We've had a couple of conversations. Those are he and I talking and I told them at some point I'm going to be talking to the media and I'm going to say what I'm going to say. I don't necessarily agree with the decision and yet I certainly respect it…. He's a smart player. You know the challenge is the loss of Ingram for the first four weeks, so he can come to training camp participate much like Willie Snead a year ago in everything leading up until the last cutdown date. At that point he's out of the building for a month so, but that seems like a ways away right now. But I do I do know that he's someone that knows what we're doing and I'm sure is staying in shape."
Some agents will advise their players to stay away in this situation and some might not. He has new representation, do you have a feeling on the advice these guys have given on the situation?
"Yes, but they're not my agents though right. So it's a personal choice and that's something that collectively a player and his representation have to decide."
Do you think a player gains anything by doing this?
"I don't know, maybe. I'm trying to think, if you went back in history this used to take place a lot more with rookies before the slots. The way it's set up now your first round pick wouldn't be in training camp for three days, four days, maybe a week and there'd be that pressure, 'Hey we've got to get them in here.' So I think it depends on the player the club and they're so different when this happens. So I don't really get as concerned about something like can't control like that and I'm really focused on the guys that are here and in making sure the guys that are here are improving and getting better."
You know you've been very complimentary of this player since you drafted him. Does it bother you that you he would do this?
"Listen, it's important to separate you know personal feelings and professional feelings and you know I care so much for a guy like him and think the world of him and I told him when we spoke I said, 'Hey, I don't I don't necessarily agree with it', we talked for a long time a couple of times. So, it is what it is."
Will he be penalized if he misses the mandatory minicamp? What is the penalty for that?
"He just gets fined. He won't miss the mandatory minicamp. He's indicated that he'll be here for that."
And then what was going on with (David) Onyemata in that scramble out there?
"That's a good question. What'd you see? I saw the end of it and then I was thinking about jumping in between them."
I only want to know about the beginning.
"Look, it gets back to some of the challenges for the linemen. And I grabbed him afterwards and made sure they understand 'hey we're here to improve'. And our guys have done a good job. I thought practice was pretty good today. I thought the tempo was good. We had to come inside. Those guys in those film lifts don't really like being out there when the thunder and lightning come. But I thought the tempo was good and you know fortunately we just clean that up and moved on. We have enough guys that understand this process and understand what we're trying to accomplish."
How much have you coached or will you continue to coach to forget about last year and turn the page. Is that something you did once or will you have to keep addressing it?
"I haven't discussed it yet. Because there's so many new players I'm sure at training camp at some point we'll talk about 'hey here's where our goals are', you know there's kind of there are stages to that. But we haven't been there. There hasn't been a team meeting yet where I've discussed last season for instance. It's quickly into these OTAs once we get to training camp there'll be more time and we'll kind of look at the early portion of the schedule and we'll talk about where we're at as a team. We'll talk about that…look I think there's enough veteran players that understand the fine line in our business between a groove and a rut, and it's really like this. (In 2017) we start off 0-2 and then quickly bounce back with a couple of wins and then get on a little bit of a roll after the bye. And that's how our league is and there's some close games that you look back on that could go one way or the other. But there's nothing promised the following season after success. Handling all those things, handling the adversity just as importantly as handling the prosperity will be the message."
The New Orleans Saints hold their first week of OTA's at Ochsner Sports Performance Center on May 24, 2018.