New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Post-Practice Media Availability
Thursday, November 27, 2014
Opening Statement: "Happy Thanksgiving everybody. Let me just read you one roster move, we brought up from our practice squad nose tackle Lawrence Virgil and then put Brodrick Bunkley on Reserve/Injured. We added Garrison Smith, defensive tackle, to the practice squad which puts us at 53 (on the active roster) and ten (on the practice squad). Any questions?"
Virgil was a guy with a small school background. You saw enough of him in training camp to keep him on the practice squad?
"Yeah, definitely. The impression we had was that he would be a real good practice squad candidate. I think he is a real good worker, a good technician. He's young, obviously, and I think it was an easy decision with regards to making that move."
"And you are still able to measure it even though he is running a lot of scout team work. Now whether he is up (active) on gameday or not will be just a matter of what we do each week."
And Garrison Smith is someone you all…
"We had four guys in here the other day that worked out. We looked at all of them and he's the one we ended up signing. They were all practice squad eligible candidates."
This is the first game where wind, weather, and grass can be a factor for you. Do you look at the weather reports before?
"I think we kind of went through that in Carolina. I think the surface here will probably be a little sloppier. It sounds like (it will be) low 50's, good chance of rain. There is always a wind there that you have to be mindful of. You pay to extra attention to the footing, what type of cleats you're wearing, and you'll make sure you get acclimated pregame. Make sure you have the right shoes on, that's important."
It has been notorious to kick field goals at Heinz Field. Does that go into the decision-making process?
"I think typically in a game like this you get out there during pregame and you get kind of an idea going this way where we need to be and going the other direction where we need to be. When you are inside, generally, it's constant, call it the 35-yard line max. In a game like this, obviously it can vary considerably. The other thing, and just as importantly, more than even the wind, is the footing for the kicker with his plant (foot) and how is the surface holding up. Those are all things you consider."
Out of all of the teams in the NFL, the Steelers are one that you face probably one of the least amount of times. Does that make it challenging?
"Well it's like half the league, the AFC, on a four year rotation home and away. It's not a division opponent, it's not an NFC opponent. They are based out of an okie defense. Dick (LeBeau) has done a great job there defensively. Offensively they're playing at a real high level. You are looking at a team that has been pretty hot lately. We're going to have to do a lot of things well. I think our players understand that. We watch the film, we go through the scouting report on this, and we understand number one the strengths and weaknesses. I think you dive into the personnel as quick as you can."
Last year during the 5-0 start John Jenkins saw significant action. How much did his play contribute to the 5-0 start?
"He was, I would say, a real good contributor as a rookie. His weight was down, he was in shape. He's someone who stays on his feet. He is active. He had a setback in training camp, obviously it took him a while before he was able to get back at it, but he's doing well right now. He was one of those young players that came in and acclimated himself real quickly. He comes from a good program at Georgia where they play good defense. I think the transition for him was pretty smooth."
Do you think that second-year players usually see a drop off in production where they think they understand everything and maybe they're still learning?
"Honestly, I would say there is no set pattern really. There are guys that in year two all of a sudden pick things up and excel. You probably have a little bit of everything. I think that generally in year two you see a raising in the level of play just from the experience. I don't know that there would be anything specific to that. Are players that maybe don't have the same second-year as their first year? I'm sure there are."
How much of a setback was it with that injury?
"Enough where it kept him out of practice. At his position, it's such a physical position where you're engaged every time you're on the field, you are wanting to make sure he has the strength and the power so it's not aggravated. Part of it is the football conditioning, the pads, carrying the weight, all of those things."
Did you get a chance to read or hear about Benjamin Watson's word about Ferguson?
"I heard about it, I haven't read it yet. I bet it's impressive, I've heard it's real impressive. He's just one of those guys that we're fortunate to have on this roster. He does so many things for us not only on the field but off the field (as well). He's strong."
As far as the level that Benjamin engages at, among the athletes you've been around is it relatively uncommon?
"It would be the exception. With him is a calm, confident person who is a great leader. He's got a lot of experience. There is that football respect, there's that intellect respect, check the boxes and they're all filled. Again, he takes real good care of his body, he's in real good shape. He's the first tight end in free agency I've graded that I felt, and normally you identify if you are getting a pass-catcher or a run-blocker, in his evaluation that he had unique versatility in that he did both things very well."
Is that a good message to younger players, that you can make an impact like that if you take a measured approach?
"I think when you have players like Ben, both on and off the field it's real good when younger players are in that room or on that team or on that side of the ball and see someone like him."