New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Conference Call with Local Media
Wednesday, September 9, 2015
Opening Statement:"We had two claims obviously off the first day of final cut downs, DE Obum Gwacham and it is pronounced oh-BOOM is how it is pronounced, he's from Seattle, and then LB Michael Mauti (was claimed) from the Vikings. Both of those players came off the waivers. S Kenny Phillips, his contract was terminated. DT Ashaad Mabry was waived and then signed to our practice squad. The players on the practice squad, and most of you have this but I will go through it real quick, WR R.J. Harris, G Sean Hickey, WR Seantavius Jones, G Cyril Lemon, TE Chris Manhertz, FB Toben Opurum, CB Sammy Seamster, TE Blake Annen who was with Chicago, S Don Jones coming from Miami, and then lastly DT Ashaad Mabry. That should cover it."
What went into the decision to keep Jairus Byrd off PUP and how quickly can he come back when he is ready considering he hasn't been on a practice field practicing since June?
"I think it was real simple, I don't know the exact timeline but it was as simple as just weighing six weeks or less than that if we felt like it was going to be less than that and obviously there is a strong sentiment that it is going to be less than that. That was something that was discussed but I think after visiting with the doctors and spending time with him it was really a non-topic, but none the less was something. Look, at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday it expired. It was either going to be PUP or 53 but we feel confident that he is going to be playing before that six week mark."
As far as the rest of the secondary, it looks like you guys will have three new corners on Sunday making their Saints regular season debuts. What is your comfort level with Brandon Browner, Damian Swann and Delvin Breaux?
"Relative to our team, absolutely, one is coming from New England, one is coming from Canada and other one is coming from college. But again, the guys that we put out there, we are preparing all week and making sure however we align whether it is just two corners, three corners or even more than that, this is a real good offense we are playing. It is very explosive and they challenge you in a lot of ways with regards to their personnel groups and their receiver play."
If Byrd isn't ready to go Week one, are you comfortable having three safeties active on the roster?
"Obviously I'm not uncomfortable right now. We'll always be smart approaching the first week. I think if you looked at the last eight or nine years we probably had eight DBs up most of those games, some more, some less. So we will see how that combination works out."
What went into the decision to cut ties with Stanley Jean-Baptiste?
"I think that obviously we are disappointed. You get frustrated and it is one of those decisions. There are times where you see progress and other times where you just felt like you weren't seeing the same consistency on a regular basis you needed. I thought during training camp there were spots where he was making some strides and yet not enough. Look, when you have an investment like a second round picking a player like that it is difficult to do and yet we felt it was the best thing for us as a team when it came down to putting together our secondary and part of that is, can he play in the kicking game and be an asset, not a liability? You obviously value those picks especially those ones that are that early and it did not work out."
Obviously you want to enter the season with as few distractions as possible, how disappointed are you that Cam Jordan is being investigated for an incident at a night club?
"Your question should be what is your reaction? In other words, I am only saying that because I know how it will be reported. The bottom line is we are gathering information, we are aware of it and I am anxious to find out more. But that is where it is at and I think I know Cam (Jordan) pretty well but I also think at this time I don't know all the details and I know you don't."
The undrafted rookie defensive linemen that you kept, what are your thoughts on each of those guys?
"I thought it was a good camp for them. I thought that was one group that, all of a sudden we hit on a few whether it was (Bobby) Richardson, (Ashaad) Mabry, (Kaleb) Eulls, (and) obviously we drafted (Tyeler) Davison, all those guys at some point during camp did some things that really impressed. (Tavaris) Barnes is another one. Now, they are different players but I would say those are hard positions to find whether you are drafting or trying to sign in free agency and so we were pleased with that group. That's as good of young group as we've signed in 10 years that I have been here. Now we will see how they progress but in talking with each one of them I think that they are genuinely excited for the opportunity. We will see how much playing time these guys will get and how we utilize them."
The Saints are the only team in the league with four players on their 53-man roster that have spent 10 seasons together. How significant personally is that to you and in particularly in terms of their character and leadership that Drew Brees, Zach Strief, Jahri Evans and Marques Colston have brought to the team over the years?
"They have served us well and it is an understatement when I say that. That draft class was extremely important to the foundation to not just the short term success but for the long term stability. I've said this before, Roman (Harper) is playing well at a high level in Carolina. Obviously Rob Ninkovich just won a Super Bowl and he is playing at a high level. You just go through it, Reggie Bush who now signed with San Francisco. That is unusual to have that many players in year 10 in the same class. It means a lot. I recognize that it is not the norm. We had a little deal at training camp that involved those guys, those four players and I think a few staff members, there aren't many that were all basically here for the last 10 years now as we get ready to hit the 10th season."
Was keeping four wide receivers purely a numbers thing at this point? Could one of them end up coming back next week?
"That could potentially happen and yet we really looked at trying to protect and look closely at the overall roster. We discussed receivers five and six and even receivers five, six and seven based on how we had them graded and yet we saw four, but we have flexibility with regards to what we do week to week. Obviously with Seantavius (Jones) on the practice squad here, he has some experience. We will kind of see how that goes but we felt that these four guys certainly were decisions that we were settled on."
In all seriousness, did the team have to sign off for Drew Brees to be on the Bear Grylls show?
"Listen, I am being serious, I have no idea. I had heard about this thing and my impressions were this is kind of a Sea World environment where he jumped on an alligator. What I saw the other night was completely, first off when you live in Louisiana you don't have to go to South America to jump on an alligator. It was a lot different than how it was described to me and it wasn't described to me by him, but I am sure that we will look closely at the structure of this contract. It was pretty unbelievable."
Would you let him do it again?
"No. No. No."
Are you half joking or are you upset about this?
"Listen, it's happened. I am watching it live and I am looking at it and I keep waiting and the helicopter is going to South America and I keep thinking okay what is the catch here and I keep watching and I am watching this guy with an Australian accent who everyone knows and I must not have been in tune with television lately and I don't know him. He is throwing a noose around an alligator's mouth and I am watching our quarterback jump on it and it was all news to me. So, no, listen, it was after the fact. I had heard something three, four, five months ago about him jumping on an alligator but like I said I didn't envision the environment or the set up to be like that. I don't know that I have talked to him or grabbed him about it but I am sure it was a great experience for him. Look, I am sure they had a lot of other precautionary measures that we can't see on TV. You've watched these shows, every time you go to a commercial break they are taking about how this might be death. So I am sure they had him in safe hands."
How pleased are you entering the season with the changes you made to the front office?
"We'll see with regards to this year. With regards to the front office there's been quite a bit of change in scouting. Jeff Ireland's come on board. He's a fantastic evaluator. I've worked with Jeff in Dallas for three years. He replaced Ryan (Pace). Ryan had been running the draft for the years prior to that. And then Terry Fontenot does a great job in our pro department. I think we have a great group of evaluators. Right now those guys are working hard both in the college and the pro game. We will see where this draft class goes."
Back to Drew, what went into the decision to play him only four-or-five series over the middle two games? Do you think in the modern game with modern training techniques that 36 is a little young to start worrying about the longevity of an elite quarterback?
"Well, let's answer the first question; I think in year 10 of what we're doing and based on what we saw in training camp, he has been sharp. He has been playing sharp in practice. He has gotten a ton of reps. Obviously, he is a lot further along than a year ago when he strained his oblique. I think that it was just kind of paying attention to what we were seeing in practice (and) the work that he received versus New England. I would say that the second preseason game with New England would be probably about what we would have played him. Maybe in '06 or '07 with those guys, it was a little different then. We played guys a little longer (then). We felt like the work was in so it is really paying attention to the experience and the timing. With him, I think it was easy. The challenge is with some of the players like Marques (Colston) or some of the veteran players that hadn't received the same snaps. We tried to get them as much as we could as they got back and got healthy. To your second question, where 36 is relative to age, I said this before and I believe this, I know his routine and I know how detailed it is. I know how he takes care of his body, both from a recovery (and from) a nutrition standpoint. All those things give him a chance to really be ahead of the curve, relative to what 36 is. I think that he looks great and he looks sharp. I see someone, aside from the South American trip, that looks like you couldn't tell his age. I guess you'd say that he looked young in South American too, right?"
What kind of went into the decision to do conference calls?
"A lot of it is our schedule. It has changed now with the way that the work week is set up. It is real efficient. I know a handful of other teams have begun to talk about it. I think all of the same things get accomplished. We finish up practice and you guys have the open locker room and coaches get back in here to start working on third downs. It really just made sense that way. We will keep paying attention to possible changes. We will keep paying attention to how we handle the work week and try to be as accommodating as possible."
Do you plan on doing this throughout the year? Will you not make yourself available to television?
"This, for us early in the work week, helps. I like you guys. I want to see you. I can't just be on the phone with you. We'll figure (it) out. This is week one here and early in the week, it helps us a lot, schedule-wise. I think that just paying attention to it and just the give-and-take with the media, I think, is important. Obviously, I think all of you guys do a great job so it is really more about our schedule and trying to be most efficient for our team."
As of today you've got 21 newcomers on the team; that is a 40 percent turnover from a year ago. Is that significant as a positive or negative or does is just have to play itself out?
"I think that number is a little higher than normal. We are coming off of a season that was disappointing. They'll be a handful of guys playing in their first pro football game this weekend and I am excited to see how they do. There will be some growing pains (and) I am sure but there will be a bunch of these young guys playing."
Given how much the team is rebuilding, the depth at cornerback was a pretty big priority for you guys this offseason. Is this just like another reminder, given that you have had a couple of guys out, that you can never have enough depth at that position?
"I think that the direction that the game has moved, I think that those players that can cover or rush the passer, are at a premium."
Can you tell us a little bit about Michael Mauti? There has been attention on him being his local standing here.
"I am not as familiar with his high school background. I know where he played at. I know that he played at Mandeville High and I had heard his name before, living over there. One of the challenges is the final cut down with every team, let's give or take, are moving 22 off of the roster. Some of those go to injuries or suspension but really a ballpark of 22 players from 32 clubs. That happens by 3 p.m. our time Saturday. That information we get, I am going to say, within the hour. Quickly we are trying to look closely at the handful of targeted players that we would've rated from all of those other clubs. There is kind of an anticipated list that we have. Not that is not etched in stone because that is our projections and yet there are always changes to that once those cuts are released. Michael was a player that we valued as a special teams player, but also as a linebacker. He is physical. His tape was impressive and really was until, I would say, Saturday night. On Saturday when you get that final cut down and you feel like you have wiggle room on your roster and we felt like we did, than last wire can be important. We spent a lot of time on him. We spent a lot of time on Obum (Gwacham). There are so many different players to cover at different positions. You're really trying to watch their preseason tape and last year's tape, if there's any. He's a guy that played inside linebacker, Mike for them. He played some outside for them but we view him as an inside player. I think that he is a great communicator. He is tough so we were excited that we were awarded that claim."
Can you explain how you chose Zach Hocker and how close that battle really was?
"I think that it was real close. You guys know that. I don't know that we went in with any preconceived idea of who we thought it might be. Each of them has traits that we liked. I would that one of Zach's strengths is that he has a very consistent stroke. If we just watched, in a real tight copy, him kick the ball, it would be hard to tell when he's attempting a 45-yard field goal or a 20-yard field goal. It is a very consistent swing pattern. I think him hitting the field goals early in the preseason, for him, was a big confidence boost. Obviously, it came down to the wire. I don't think that we factored in kickoff. Both of those guys were able to put the ball into the end zone. Thomas (Morstead) is a luxury that we don't take for granted because of the way that he can handle the kickoff duties. It is the one positon that you can chart and chart every one, punch it all into a computer and you can spit it all out and get results. The only thing you can't do with that in practice snaps is that you can't value it the same as you would a game. There are probably not enough kicks in a game. At some point any of these kickers that we are seeing had to kick for their first time. We are confident that he is going to do a good job."
With bringing in the other guys for tryouts yesterday, was that just kind of doing your due diligence?
"We've done this before. When the season starts, we try to get a short list at a number of different positions. Tuesday the players aren't practicing. We had tight ends in here, we had receivers in here and we had kickers in here. We had a bunch of different players in here that would be on a short list and if there ever were a need or an injury, it is up-to-date information. We saw how they ran, we saw how they worked out so it is really us just doing that. I am sure that we'll do it again and you'll see other teams kind of doing the same thing."
How big of a challenge is it to open up against a playoff team like the Cardinals?
"In the early part of the schedule we've got a handful of 10-win-or-more teams. I think that Arizona certainly had a great year last year. It is a playoff team. I think that Bruce (Arians) does a fantastic job. It is an aggressive defense with a lot of different pressure packages. They're fast and I'd say that they do a lot of things and a lot things well. Offensively, it is a team that you'd say is built around big plays. They have some real good speed at receiver, two good running backs and I would say that Carson (Palmer) really makes it all go. He has good timing and anticipation. I think that Bruce has done a great job with their staff of putting a package together that really suits him."
How ready are you to get this season started?
"You get to this point and you have gone through preseason games and all of training camp. You get to that anxious stage where all of these things this week like the first team meeting, as you get started for your first regular season game, all of those things get you fired up."