New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
OTA#3 Media Availability
Thursday, May 25, 2017
You have already put out a statement on Cortez (Kennedy), but with the (#96) helmet decals today, could you talk about his influence on the team?
"If you did not know better, and you saw him, you might think he worked here. You guys who have been here for a number of years have seen him around a lot. My first time here interviewing with Mickey [Loomis], we had dinner and Cortez would always make sure that if it was a nice place, he was there to join you. He was just here for the draft weekend. All of us are devastated, that would be the way to describe it. It just was so sudden. It's tough; it's tough. He and Mickey were extremely close. I think Mickey said it best; as great a player as he was—and trust me, if you had to pull a starting lineup out of the Hall of Fame on defense, he would be in the starting lineup—he was that good a guy off the field. He was friendly to everybody, and will be missed."
I know it is super early, but who is Josh LeRibeus, and what do you like about him?
"Listen, we have got a lot of funny names. We are taking a look at a few of these guys for special teams, and he is someone that we think has some versatility. We'll see as we get going. The trick when we have 90 guys is, 'can we bring that many kickers and long snappers to camp?' So you are always trying to balance those numbers, and this time of year we get a chance to see the long snappers and the other guys. He is battling, and he is doing a good job."
When you get the veterans and the rookies out here together, what are you looking at?
"It's really the first chance out on the field. Football school is a little different; it has been mainly walkthroughs the past couple of weeks. This is the first chance for the younger players. A couple of things happen. They have a chance to see an experienced player ahead of them do certain things that they have been doing. The learning curve for them is greater, and their ability to pick things up are enhanced when they have the older players here."
The NFL relaxed the touchdown celebration rules. What are your thoughts on that?
"Really nondescript. I think the goal is to take the gray area out of the officials' hands. If I were an official, I would think it is a positive, because it makes it a lot easier for them in regards to not having to throw a flag. It will bring excitement, I'm sure. The irony is that in this first year, you will get more thought given to choreography than you ever have had in the history of the game. That will all be good." Any reaction to the other rule changes?
"No. The overtime (changing to 10 minutes), we expected that. The main concern with that's that last year they had a few games that went into overtime the whole length, and then one of those teams played a Thursday game (the next week). I still prefer the old, true sudden death. It was very easy to explain. But I think most everyone was in favor of the change."
You've been through a lot of these OTAs. Being through so many, have you learned how to maximize this time?
"The trick's in the competition, and yet when you say 'competition,' sometimes it can go too far. You really have to be smart with what you're doing without pads on. You're trying to find that balance. For us, from a mental standpoint, it is the repetition of the teaching progression—those guys getting it and hearing it. They are going to hear the same thing in training camp. The most important element still is the weight room and their conditioning level."
Justin Thomas and Drew Iddings are switching positions (from quarterback to wide receiver and from defensive tackle to guard). Where are they in their transition?
"Right now, what we'll do is we'll go through this camp and look closely at where we put guys. We will move guys some. It is too early for these guys, especially those two. It is really early in the process. We are trying to look at where they have the best chance to fit and make a roster. Aside from offense or defense, the kicking game is going to be just as important."
How about your early impressions of Adrian Peterson?
"He has picked things up well. He has been here through the whole offseason program (since he signed with the team). He is in good shape and moving around well. It is good to be able to get out and do some football movements and get that timing down. He has done well."
Speaking of Adrian Peterson, you threw in his direction a few times. It seems like he catches the ball smoother than people expect.
"When you get out here without any type of game planning, you are really trying to roll the players through and expose them all to the different concepts we have. But yes, he's comfortable catching the football in space. He is on top of the protections, much the same way as you would expect Mark (Ingram) or any of those backs to have a variety of things that they can do. Now, as you get closer to the season, you begin to hone in on how you want to deploy certain people. Generally at this time of year, defensively and offensively, you are seeing guys play the nickel, you are seeing them play outside, and you are seeing a handful of different combinations in the rush patterns. So it is no different at running back. But he made a few catches today that looked pretty good."
Adrian has said that he didn't think it was fair to lower expectations for him based on conventional wisdom about running backs' age and injury history. What do you think of his approach on that? Does the personnel department make it too scientific sometimes?
"He'd be the one guy that you would say's already gone against conventional wisdom. I think that I would agree with him. With not only his skillset but also his physical ability and the way he trains, I think he is excited to get back."
In general, what do you think of conventional wisdom?
"It is what it is. Conventional wisdom, it is the percentages."
Was Mark Ingram's absence injury-related?
"We just sat him. There are a couple of players who were not here and a couple of players who we did not practice. We will take it each day."
Can you update us on Max (Unger) and what his situation is?
"Not really an update. He had his surgery, and it went well. We expect him to be back hopefully earlier in training camp than later. He is doing well, he is rehabbing here. He is still in a boot and still kind of immobilized. The timeframe in training camp will depend on the recovery period and how the rehab goes, but I know they felt pretty good about the procedure."
You would think he'd be back for the start of the season?
"I said this already once. We have a goal for him to play in the preseason, so that would be probably Week Three or Week Four."
Any pleasant surprises for you over the last few days?
"No, it'd be too early. There've been a few guys on defense making a few plays and the same way on offense. We are giving them a lot in the installation right now and moving through it. Guys are picking it up."
Looking at the wide receivers and their youth, a guy like Corey Fuller seems like he's stepping up as an experienced receiver.
"I think it is one of those positions where there will be good competition. He is a guy that is versatile, who can do things in the kicking game and is willing to block. I know he is a guy that can run. (Quarterbacks coach) Joe (Lombardi) was with him in Detroit. So you have a player that has played in the kicking game, someone that has good speed and is a willing blocker—those are pretty good traits to start with."
You've always had multiple backs, but having Ingram and Peterson—both guys who want the ball and are used to getting it—how are they going to coexist?
"We will figure it out. We have had that before. Shoot, the first six months I was here, I was sitting down with Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush and Aaron Stecker. That trait of wanting the ball is obviously a healthy one. We will make sure each week to put a plan together and utilize what those guys do well. It is a long season, so we will figure that out."
The ability to add an 11th player on the practice squad, what does that do for you? As far as the scouting department is concerned, what do they think knowing that you have to expand overseas now?
"Let's back up, so everyone knows the question you are asking. Our division got an exemption with an additional player—call it 'Player 91'—and then an exemption for when the season begins to have an 11h guy on the practice squad. So that being said, it is not that you are necessarily scouting overseas, but it is a chance to take a peek at a player. We have grades on the player; we are familiar with him. I will be anxious to have a chance to see how it goes. As you get into the course of the season, when you have a defensive lineman, that would be one position where it is a plus to get an 11th practice squad-type player. But relative to that, I think it is good. I am excited to meet him and get a chance to see how he does."