The New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots wrapped up their first of three joint practices this morning at 11 a.m. Following the teams working separate for individual work in a fully padded workout, the two clubs then got together for special teams, seven-on-seven and team work against each other. Following the practice head coach Sean Payton and QB Drew Brees spoke withe media corps. Below is a transcript of these meetings.
New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
"This morning's practice went really well. It's great when you have a chance to see a different team. Certainly it breaks up the routine of training camp. Defensively, you get new formations, new play designs and offensively you get a different defense. Just in visiting with Bill (Belichick) afterwards, I thought everything went very smooth. I thought the teams got a lot out of the morning practice. We're trying to give the players a number of situations. This afternoon will be much like this morning and then we'll go again in the a.m. A lot of guys are getting a lot of reps. I think when you're preparing to play a preseason game, we can't replicate the actual looks. You can try to run scout team looks, but coming here to work with a team like the Patriots certainly benefits both teams involved. We were pleased with the morning work. The weather was great. It was good to get out of the heat in New Orleans and everything's gone very well."
*Is this the first time since you met with Bill since your book came out, which included the chapter of you imitating his mannerisms? *
"No, I see him at events like the combines, owner's meetings. When I was with the Giants and he was the head coach here, preparing for the 2001 season, we came here to Bryant College to practice with the Patriots and that year they ended up going on and winning the Super Bowl. He's a guy that certainly I respect and when we got to New Orleans in '06, we payed close attention to who was winning in our league and clearly we patterned our organization after what New England was trying to accomplish. My grandmother used to say I think imitation is the greatest form of flattery. He's someone who's done a great job. They've created a great environment here that we tried to create in New Orleans. He's real talented. We were together at the Pro Bowl after the 2006 season and the loss to the Bears and they lost to the Colts. We had a chance to get to know each other then. He's someone we have a lot of respect for."
Has he read the book?
"I didn't even ask him about the book. I knew you guys were going to ask me about it."
*Are you going to give him a copy? *
"I'll give him a copy. I think that whenever you do something like this there are players that played in college together. There are players on our team that were with the Patriots, Heath Evans, Randall Gay, David Thomas and I think the change of scenery also helps. This second phase of training camp is always more challenging. When you're able to go against another team, you kind of get the adrenaline going a little bit more. The effort was good."
*What did you think of having Jon Bon Jovi out at practice instead of Kenny Chesney? *
"I told him a story that the night I was in Dallas and got offered the Saints job, Mickey Loomis called me on a Monday night. My wife and I were at Bon Jovi's concert. I had to step out into the hallway, so I could hear Mickey offer me the job. I remember coming back in and my wife asked me if we were going. I said, yes, we're going. It was right in the middle of his concert. He's another great musician."
*What did you make of the fans who you signed autographs for? *
"They're awesome. They're great football fans up there and I think that they really appreciate good football. They've had a lot of success and a lot to root for. That's a good thing."
*Will Jon Bon Jovi get a tryout at wide receiver like Kenny Chesney? *
"I don't know. He has a hamstring injury right now he said, so he's rehabbing. He pulled his calf muscle he said in one of his shows. I don't know if he could pass the physical today."
*Based on the final score against the Patriots last November, even though this is a preseason game, do you think they take any of that in and might be looking for revenge Thursday? *
"I don't think so. At this time of camp, our most important job is to find the final 53 players. The teams are different, much different and I think that all the players and coaches involved are working at trying to get better. This morning was an opportunity to do that. I think the regular season, the divisional rivalries, all those other things, I think take more precedence. It's a chance to get into some competitive drills and individually work on improvement, knowing that all of this is going to be on tape. Now you have another team looking at it. It's another opportunity for the players."
*There's certain benchmarks in a season. Was your victory over the Patriots last year, considering how well you played a benchmark? *
"I don't know if it was a benchmark. Our players have certainly heard me talk a lot about New England and what they've done and the formula. That was dating back to '06, '07 and '08. You have a chance to play that team you've tried to pattern yourself after and you just want to play well. Certainly it was an important win for us and certainly, it represented one win. You have those games like the New York Giant game or maybe a game where we had to fight back. They all feed off of each other, giving you some confidence. It's certainly an organization we have a lot of respect for."
*Have you consulted Bill Belichick about the rigors of trying to repeat? *
"I haven't had a chance to visit with him specifically about that, but we have a couple of days. He won his first Super Bowl in the '01 season and then '02 they did not, but won it again in '03 and repeated in '04. He's really the only coach in a long time to do that. To win three Super Bowls in that timeframe is unbelievable."
*Do you think these fields out here have Coach Parcells' mark a little too? *
"Yes, there's probably a little bit of Bill's stamp on it. It was funny we faxed each other the practice schedules. Those are set up much the same way that Bill had set them up when we were assistants with them. There are some similarities and we got to tell some stories last night."
*People talk about Bill Walsh's coaching tree and it will always stand but doesn't Parcells' tree with you, Bill Belichick and Tony Sparano seem to be growing too? *
"Those are two Hall of Fame head coaches. Usually when you have staffs that win and have success, generally the assistants that are a part of that have a chance to get their opportunities. I was fortunate to have worked with someone like Bill, young in my career to help shape what I became as a head coach."
*Can you talk about Terry Malone? *
"I hired Terry in '06 when I got the job. I knew him. We were at Maryland briefly together. He's a guy that is clearly a team player. He has experience coaching a bunch of different positions. He has the tight ends for us and does a very good job with it. He's a guy that is a good staff guy, very loyal and hard working."
New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees
What were your impressions of the Patriots after practicing with them?
"I think they're a very good football team. They are a playoff-caliber team and they're one of those teams that each year you expect to go deep into the playoffs and be a championship contender every year. They have some very good players on defense and it's fun to play against them. We played the Patriots last year but before that it had been a long time so a lot of these guys I haven't played against a whole lot so you're back to the mentality of studying their personnel, studying every defensive look. It breaks up the monotony and makes it fun."
Do you ever get a chance to talk with Tom Brady off the field at all?
"Occasionally. His life's crazy; my life's crazy in the offseason with our families and everything else that we have going on. But I have a lot of respect for Tom, both on and off the field. We'll talk occasionally with a text message or whatever. With any quarterback around the league, there's that mutual respect and the quarterback fraternity. We all kind of know what each other is going through. There have been times when he's texted me words of encouragement or congratulations and I'll do the same for him. There's a mutual respect there."
Sean Payton said that you both have studied teams in their years coming off of a Super Bowl win. Has he shared any of that with you?
"He has, and I've done the same as have some of the other guys on our team. You'd be naïve to think that you're just going to step on the field and it's going to happen for you, that teams are going to roll over or be intimidated because you're the defending world champs. If anything, it only gets harder because everyone is gunning for you and you have the big bull's eye on your chest. I think the main focus for us is to just get a little bit better every day and to not let the little things slide; constantly focus on the details and focus on the fundamentals and all the little things that are going to get you a little bit better every day and don't look too far ahead. It's all about one week at a time, one day at a time; I could throw out all the cheesy clichés, but the fact is that they're true. That's what we're trying to do – just focus on one day at a time."
Is there an example of a team that stood out to you as to how to do it?
"The last repeat team was the Pats. That's another reason why coming up here and playing against these guys…we know what these guys stand for and their organization. What they've been able to accomplish has been unbelievable, especially in the era of free agency where you get so much turnover on a team and yet they've been able to adopt that philosophy that nobody is bigger than the team and it's all about one day at a time, one game at a time. There are a lot of things that we can learn from them."
When you hear your name mentioned with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning as the elite quarterbacks in this league, does that mean anything to you?
"It's an honor to even be considered with those two because I think they'll go down as two of the best of all time when you look at their accomplishments and the number of championships they've won. I really don't concern myself with it too much. People will say what they want – positive or negative – and I choose to focus on what I need to do to get a little bit better every day. My goals and aspirations are pretty high. I've set the bar high for myself and I just want to accomplish those things."
Speaking of Brady and Manning, are you paying attention to what's going on with their contract situations?
"Sure. Any guy who plays your position and is in a position where they're negotiating a new contract, that affects you. In a way, I'm paying attention and in a way, I'm not because it's all about playing football right now. It's not the offseason anymore. I know there was talks of that but for now it's just about winning football games and that stuff will take care of itself."
You had a perfect QB rating in the game against the Patriots last year. What went into that? Was it game planning or just being in the zone during the game?
"That was a big night for all of us because we knew the gravity of that game, playing against a team like the Patriots on Monday Night Football and wanting to keep the undefeated streak alive. It just felt like the next step in proving that we were championship worthy. For me, I'd like to think it was just like any other game, but that game was a little bit bigger than the rest."
And you were so banged up in the secondary that you probably felt you had to score a lot of points, right?
"We brought in Mike McKenzie that week and he got a big interception in the game. Chris McAlister had been brought in the week before and hadn't played so that was his first game. Our two starting corners were both guys that we had literally pulled off the street within the last week and I think that says a lot about our team and our defensive scheme and our head coach and the way were able to pull it together and win, and win in big fashion."