New Orleans Saints Running Back Tim Hightower
Conference Call with Local Media
Monday, December 28, 2015
Has coach Payton's offense made it easy to integrate into the playbook at midstream like both you and Travaris Cadet have or does prior familiarity on both of yours parts help?
"It's a little bit of both. You can't just throw a guy in a system. I don't care what system it is, he isn't going to have success. I think it's a little bit of coach Payton doing a good job of putting guys in position to make plays and working towards their strengths. That's bringing guys that will fit the scheme he wants, but also having some familiarity with the system (helps). I think it would be a lot more challenging if you were stepping in somewhere (without prior exposure), where you have to get a feel for the game and learn the checks and learn the offense and the different nuances of the offense. To have some familiarity with it but also have a gameplan and being put in a position (are both important)."
Does your performance over this latter stretch of the season give you a boost or help you find a landing spot in 2016 whether it's with the Saints or another club?
"I can only hope so. I don't know. I take things one day, one week at a time. All I know is that I've given it my best these last several weeks and plan to do so this final week, if that's good enough to earn me an opportunity next year. "
How is your body holding up after 28 and 27 carry games?
"The body feels good. I woke up this morning a little apprehensive. Typically you go on adrenaline the day of a game. Certainly after a win, regardless of what happens, it kicks in. The next day you wake up, then that's what you really find out what you did and your body finds out what exactly happened and when I woke up this morning, I woke up a little slow seeing how my body was going to feel. I went in and got a good workout in and I was fine and got a good treatment in. I could probably play a game Wednesday if I needed to. That's encouraging."
You did go to sleep then after your early morning tweet? Is that a little different than after other games or is that the case after all three games?
"It was very different. I wanted to sleep, but I was in and out. It wasn't a nervous feeling at all or an anxious feeling. I was feeling good. I was so excited. I wanted to get back to work. When you have an opportunity that I've been given, you just want to take advantage of it. You don't want it to end. It's one of those things. You just don't want it to end. I was just so thankful and so excited going to sleep and I just kept thinking about what I could have done better and what I can do next week to get better. I literally couldn't get back to sleep. I was excited to watch the film and move forward to next week."
What do you think you could do better?
"Still with the timing with it. I think I get a little impatient with the runs and setting up the runs and blocks a little better. Every single run has a different timing and a little different rhythm to it. Every single run kinds of sets up a different run and play action and really understanding it and really understanding where the hole is hitting and where Drew is strategically and not to get caught up in the moment of each and every individual run. Anytime you see Drew (Brees) on the ground, you never want to see Drew on the ground whether that's pass protection or whether that's running my checkdowns like I'm supposed to (or) chipping a defensive end. You never want to see your quarterback on the ground, so I want to make sure I get that cleaned up."
There is a lot of talk these days about the danger of playing football, the movie out about it and things like that. You seem like someone who would have options in life without playing football. What makes it so attractive to you or anyone else to want to play this game so much, regardless of anything?
"That's a good question. I feel like I've been blessed with the gift and ability to do it first and foremost, but I think being part of a team, regardless of whether it's football, you could add basketball or another sport, they would say the same thing. They are part of a team. It's not easy to go out there during the summer at training camp, to fight through adversity, injuries, different things and then to deal with life outside of it. But when you're on that field, you come together as a team. You put your pride aside, go outside, guys are working for one goal collectively. When you get that win, you are so thankful because you know what it took. It took lots of guys making sacrifices for their family, their bodies, personal sacrifice, whatever it was. Guys have had different journeys, whether it's Delvin Breaux or other different guys. A lot of things come together for one purpose. You get the support of the community. It's such a beautiful game and a beautiful sport. To be a part of that is a special feeling and a true blessing."
Do you think that applies more in football than in other sports, because it takes such a team effort?
"I think so. Again, I don't want to knock any other sport and I have a respect for every single sport, but yes, you need to have a strong quarterback to win in this league, but there is no one-man team. There's no such thing as a one-man team. In basketball, you might have one guy who is carrying the team a little more than others. In football you need 11 guys. You need offense, defense, special teams (and) coaches. You literally need everyone collectively doing their job, working together to have success. I think that is a beautiful thing about it, how much you rely on other people and how great the reward is when it all comes together."
Sean Payton has never lost 10 games in one season as head coach of the Saints and you get a chance to be a part of. Is that something you would want to avoid for him, or to use as a rallying point as a team?
"No, not at all. In the same way he has never singled out an individual player, an individual statistic, nothing like that, it is always about the team. He does not bring something up unless it involves the team. It is not about him or individual records or anything like that. It is about the team and doing whatever we have to do to prepare to win that week and I would not single out anything. We want to win every single week. They do a great job preparing us and we do a great job. I think we've done a great job these last few weeks regardless of what's been going on outside of us, just going to work and preparing, doing the best we can to get a win. That's our only focus. I don't know how much if anything that plays into it."
As far as your comeback with 32 teams available, have you reflected on why it happened here as opposed to somewhere else? Does it have more to do with personal relationships or is it just kind of circumstance?
"I don't know. There are a lot of things in this life I don't know and I'm learning not to question. For whatever happened, Sean Payton, Mickey Loomis, Tom Benson and the whole staff gave me an opportunity. They gave me an opportunity of a lifetime. A lot of guys have worked hard and are deserving of it, but they get beat out. I really don't question why. I don't know what the connection was. I don't know what stimulated or sparked the conversation that we're going to bring this guy in and give him a chance and to be honest, I could really care less. All I'm thankful for is the opportunity and I'm just wanted to make sure I took advantage of it and made sure that if someone else in a similar situation as I'm in one day, they'll get an opportunity because I made the most of mine."
Did they make it clear to you when you were released prior to the season opener that you were on a short list to be re-signed?
"Coach Payton has been upfront with me from day one. He's let me know his expectations of me, what he wanted and where I stood and what he expected from me and nothing caught me by surprise. He told me the options that were on the table. How they were going to play out, I don't think either of us knew exactly how they would play out, the role I would play, how long I would be gone. I don't think anyone had an exact timeline or timetable. He was very upfront with me on the different options. I understood what they were and why they were. I have no hard feelings. I understood that. I'm just thankful that things worked out where I was able to come back."
Did you think it would be here where you came back or were you close to landing with another team?
"I really wanted to be here. I really felt something special about being here. I loved the coaching staff. This is a great group of guys in this locker room and the leadership here. When you go through a whole summer and a whole training camp (with a team), you want to finish what you started and you develop that bond. I was really hoping it would be here. To say it wouldn't possibly be somewhere else, that would be dishonest. I definitely did. I just wanted to play. It got to the point that I wanted to just play football. (I was) Keeping the faith and believing this was where I was supposed to be for this time and fortunately it worked out."
New Orleans Saints Safety Kenny Vaccaro
Conference Call with Local Media
Monday, December 28, 2015
What led to the success of you blitzing yesterday?
"I think everybody was doing their job. It was a great play call by Dennis Allen and I was just able to make the play."
Do you feel that you developed as a blitzer this season?
"A little bit. I have always been a blitzer. Sometimes, you're just fortunate enough that when your number is called, you make the play, and then everybody thinks that you are a better blitzer. I have always taken pride in blitzing. I would say that I have gotten better, just knowing what the offense is trying to do and how they're trying to draw up the blocking schemes."
Would this victory mean anything to you just beyond this one game? For example, winning three out of the last four and what that might represent heading into the offseason?
"A win is a win in this league. They are so hard to come by and they are so hard to get. It doesn't matter if you're in the playoffs or out of the playoffs. You want to get wins. You definitely want to build momentum going into the playoffs. You want the young guys to know what it feels like to win and that we can win if we are on our A game. It's definitely a good feeling."
You guys on defense had no penalties for the first time this season (against the Jaguars) and (against the Lions), you just had one; is that a result of technique?
"I don't think it has anything to do necessarily with technique. I just think that we're kind of on a higher alert. If it's close, they're going to call it. We understand that so we just have to play. We can't let the referees control the game. We have to play through it."
Have the high number of penalties earlier in the season impacted the way that you guys play?
"It is kind of give or take. You want to be aggressive and you want to be relentless but at the same time, you have to be smart. I think there are good and bad penalties. Our coaches tell us that all of the time. Some things you will take and then some that you cannot stand for. You have got to pick and choose."
How impressive was the game that Delvin Breaux turned in yesterday?
"It's the same thing that I have been saying all year. I told you all before the season started that this is who this guy was, and that it was just a matter of time. He's been playing like that all year. It is nothing new and it is not really a surprise to me."
How would you describe the way that Sean (Payton) and the coaching staff have approached keeping the team together when things have been a struggle? Would it mean anything to you to avoid a 10-loss season?
"It is big to me. I feel like the difference between 7-9 or 6-10 is a big deal. It is a double-digit loss (season) instead of a single-digit. I just think that it looks worse. It is a big deal. Like I said, we may not be going to the playoffs but you're putting your resume on tape. There should be no issues if a guy's going to go out there with passion and play hard because there should be no question."
You won yesterday but you are still giving up a lot of points and yards. Do you think this is just a group that has been hit so hard with injuries that these are just the best guys that you can have out there? Has it been the communication?
"Communication is not a problem. We're good on that and we have been good on that for a while. I just think that we have been hit with some injuries and we just have to play with the group of guys that we have right now. We've given up a lot of touchdowns. It is what it is. I wouldn't blame communication on it."
What do you see as the future of this team next year?
"I think we have a good core group of players. I wouldn't want to get into next year because we have one more game. I think we're building. I think, like coach has said all along, that we have the right set of people in the building. We just have to put everything together. I am definitely not making any predictions but we could always get better."
Are you hoping to see a parallel with this team and the 09' team who went 7-9 the prior year?
"I hope we can win a Super Bowl next year. It doesn't always work out like that. Those guys on that team just stuck with it, eventually had a breakthrough and they got it done. I know we are going to get better. We have a lot of young guys, especially on defense right now. Every game's precious to go get better and better. In time, we will mold together and we will be the defense that we can become."