Following yesterday evening's 27-24 loss in the preseason finale to the Tennessee Titans, the Saints immediately returned to preparations for their season opener against the Minnesota Vikings on September 9. Head Coach Sean Payton met with the media and discussed the club's return to a regular season routine, gave an update on LB Jonathan Vilma and also discussed the preparation process for the Vikings.
"Today's schedule is like day after one in the regular season. There's more going on with the roster than normal, but, tomorrow will be like the players day off. Sunday will be our first practice day like Wednesday. The initial schedule will be changed a little bit because the practice squad players are not available to us until just after the lunch hour (Sunday). Rather than a 10:50 start time we're going to move it back. The main reason for that is the final practice squad and their availability. Otherwise we would be into a normal Wednesday schedule that will take place on Sunday. It will just be later than earlier. Overall we had a lot to go through this morning. We are still in the midst of making some decisions. At the appropriate time Greg (Bensel) and our department will release the roster reductions. We're not doing that at this moment. That's something we're spending most of today on right now."
Have you told any players they've been let go?
"I've told a number of the players. In fact, probably the majority of the players."
Can you confirm the ones that have been let go?
"I'd rather not confirm who has been and who hasn't been. They're just getting the information to their agents. I think the time to have the releases will be when we give it to you here and announce it."
Do you think it will be today?
"Yes, I would expect later this afternoon, once we feel like everyone's been contacted."
How's Jonathan Vilma doing right now?
"Pretty good. He stayed here. He didn't travel to Tennessee. His rehab's gone well. His treatment's going well. He's here three times a day now. Today being Friday, each day's significant towards him being healthier. So far it's been pretty good and encouraging."
Were any decisions made based on last night or were they more cut and dry?
"I think without getting into a specific example, I think last night's game helped some players. Certainty its part of the equation when you take four exams back in school, the fourth exam means something. We got a lot of playing time with a lot of players last night. We also got nicked up a little bit at a few spots. We'll wait and be able to give you further information on a guy like (Jonathan) Casillas or Chris Ivory, but it did give us a great chance to evaluate some of these younger players."
What is the decision-making process on Darren Sharper?
"Clearly he's a player that we have to make a decision on today or tomorrow. He's someone that we have to look closely at with the progress he's making with his injury and he'll be one guy we have to spend some time on."
Like in 2007, how challenging is it where you have to go through the Thursday night preseason game and jump into preparations for a regular season game so quickly?
"It's different. It just happens a little quicker, as just as I mentioned in the beginning. This is a Monday schedule. We're going to begin to look at the tape and game plan the Vikings, which we've already done. Tomorrow we're into game planning. Usually there's a day or two where you're putting the roster or practice squad together before you technically get into the week. It's a challenge just that it happens quicker. The positive is that you play that game and you have a little bit of a bigger break and a mini-bye week.
When you look at the Vikings, do you watch preseason film?
"You spend a lot of time on maybe half of the exhibition games, depending on how long their starters play. A lot of the time you'll look identically at the same tape because of when we played them last and including our game, which we obviously didn't previously look at before we played them. You spend a lot on last year's season and enough on the tape in the preseason to notice any trends and certainly to look at any new personnel."
Do you feel good about this team?
"I don't know. Everybody loves to ask that question to start the season. I feel good about this team knowing the locker room we have and what we just accomplished. That being said, how we handle injuries is going to be important. Can we correct the penalties that seem to have been at a higher rate in this preseason than I like. I like this team a lot."
Were there any addition injuries last night besides Jonathan Casillas' and Chris Ivory's?
"None that would have been significant."
Can you discuss your appearance at the Champions Square event tomorrow sponsored by Verizon?
"Verizon's done a great job. They are really on board now as a league sponsor. Their presence allows them to put on an event like this. It will be my first chance to see that area. A lot's being done and being rebuilt there and it's really providing a great venue for entertainment and for food and all sorts of things. It will be the first time for me to get over there and see it and be a part of Verizon and as someone that is working with them I'm excited about it. I know Drew (Brees) and I will be going over at the same time later on. I'm anxious to see how it looks and I'm sure the turnout will be outstanding.
Are you more comfortable heading into this season than last?
"It's hard to look back. I think when you have success, certainly there's confidence that comes with that. At this time last year we were coming off an 8-8 season and you were focused on improvement. But I think most importantly this is a different team. Today's roster additions and reductions and all that takes place, it's different. When people use the term repeat or defend the title, they're inaccurate because you're not dealing with the same team. It's a different team, a different model. So, our job is to go through the tedious steps that we have in the past to prepare for this year. The focus right now is Minnesota."
Have you ever appeared at a pep rally like the one you will tomorrow?
"I'm sure I have, probably a number of them."
Could you picture Bill Parcells at a pep rally?
"I haven't really given much thought to it."