New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Friday, September 02, 2011
"The next two days for us, like every year at this time, is going to be heavily spent on our roster and also on our Green Bay preparations. We're kind of in the midst of some of that beginning right now. We'll keep you guys updated as it pertains to any changes with our roster."
Looking at your team's depth, was that a point of emphasis this offseason?
"The one area we felt like would benefit from it was special teams. You're right when you make the assumption you want to have depth. You always want to improve the last part of your roster. As it pertains specifically to the kicking game, that's an area we feel like is pretty important. Hopefully as this season goes on, we'll be able to look and see the signs of that."
Talking to some of the players you all brought in, some of these guys played bigger roles on other teams. Do you think the success of this program has allowed you guys to bring these guys in with smaller roles?
"The program to some degree is responsible for us signing a few of those players. With some of those other players it was just an availability period, there was no other availability. In Darren (Sproles') case, his role will be similar to the role he's used to. Certainly the same way with Aubrayo (Franklin). More than anything, I think when you get to that period with free agency, there's a lot that goes into players' decisions - financially, location, the type of team, and all of those things."
How does this process work with releasing players? You're always evaluating them in training camp. Do you call them in individually or after you've finalized your decision with the roster?
"We call them in individually. It doesn't all happen in one day. It doesn't all happen at one period of time, but it's a process where we visit with each individual."
How much does the experience of last year's game come into play where your team has been in the position the Packers are in as defending champions and don't have that pressure?
"It's the third time we've played this game. I think more than anything else it's getting your week set ahead of time. It's an earlier week. Understanding the type of emotion the game provides for the team that has the home game that has just won and being able to recognize that. Certainly a lot of guys that are on this team experienced that a year ago. It's still going to come down to doing the things that win games and playing well. I think just having played it last year with us being the home team, you do have an understanding of what type of game it is starting with the kickoff of the season, all the hoopla that goes around it from the league's perspective."
Jonathan Vilma was added to this team when you were originally building this roster? Would you say he gradually or quickly developed into a leader of this defense?
"I would say fairly quickly. I think the very first thing that takes place, and that took place for him, was getting up to speed with what we were doing defensively. To some degree, that's by the position, since the middle linebacker is the signal caller on defense. In his case, one of the things he's very good at and very comfortable with is the role of a leader."
Do you see the same type of qualities in Vilma as you do in Drew Brees?
"Number one, he's a tireless worker. It's awfully important to him and he's a very, very good athlete. When you start combining a number of those things – his work ethic, he's very prideful and he's used to winning, his competitive edge – they carry over to how we play on defense and it's the type of player we're looking for on this team in general. There are a lot of skills, not only physically, but from a leadership standpoint that he exudes and does a great job with."
I've heard you say before how important it is to Vilma. Did you know that about him and was it on your scouting report when you brought him in?
"Yes. The feedback we had gotten, and it's a little bit tougher with an unrestricted free agent, but I felt like we were getting someone that was very driven and a great worker and was smart. When the trade took place and we had him here, all of that began to unfold and we could see it."
Has the league given you any indication of whether you'll have Will Smith and if he can play?
"I haven't heard anything."
Last year, didn't they tell you the week of the game that you would have him for the first week and they would decide later on?
"I can't recall last year but I haven't heard anything this year."
Are you looking forward to coaching in Green Bay with your roots in the Midwest?
"I think it is a special place. We went there in 2006, and I think more than anything we're looking forward to getting the season started and we're playing a really good football team. That's where our focus is. I don't think it carries any extra interest from me in regards to just the region. Certainly we have respect for their tradition and the success they had a year ago."
Do you have a special appreciation for the Packers history and tradition?
"To open the season in a primetime game against last year's Super Bowl winner and it happens to be in Lambeau Field, there are a lot of things that gets your competitive juices flowing. It will be a tough environment. It'll be a really good challenge and you have to take into account you're playing a team that won the Super Bowl last year. All of those are things that we'll feel and we'll see and recognize as being a big challenge."
I've heard other coaches talk about enjoying playing good teams on the road in a tough environment because it tells a lot about their team? Is that the case here?
"For us, we recognize that it's the first game of the year. That being said, it's earlier than most. It's a game that's featured on national television, and yet we have to pay attention to all the things that allow you to play well in a game like this. Certainly you'd like to think that when you play a team that won a Super Bowl that you're going to get tested, and I'm sure that's the case this year, and we're looking forward to it."
Peter King had a story in Sports Illustrated about the evolution of defenses. How long does it take offenses to catch up with what the defense is doing or get ahead?
"I think it's something that's constant back and forth. I think as the game has shifted more towards a passing game, defensively then there's that much more pressure to affect the quarterback's timing. The multiple looks, the multiple pressure looks, the pressure to the quarterback is an important statistic, so it goes back and forth."
When you factor in the four play callers in this game and the time you've had to know your opponents, do you think this is going to be a bigger chess match than usual?
"I don't. I think especially early in the season it's going to come down to blocking and tackling. It's going to come down to protecting the football and the execution. That's typically what's going to win or lose games especially in a game like this that's first on the schedule in early September."
Have you been thinking about different plays in the past couple months specifically for this game?
"I think you look at the team you're playing and part of the plan has to be within your own team – who's up, who's healthy – so I think it starts that way as opposed to these fancy new ideas are going to be the reason a team wins or loses. It's going to come down to some of the basic things."
Realistically, how long does it take for an offensive line to gel where they feel completely comfortable with each other?
"It can vary. I think it depends on the unit. If you have four new starters or a whole group of new players it could take longer. If you have a returning group it may not take as long. A lot of it depends on how many new players are in that group and how much experience those players have. Sometimes you're bringing in a rookie who's starting and sometimes it might be a veteran like Olin Kreutz. A lot of it would vary depending on how many veteran players you're bringing in and how many players are actually new to that system and that offensive line."
Zach Strief said it's difficult but it might be more difficult for someone like Olin Kreutz who is new to the system?
"Zach's had a little bit more time with the system, but nonetheless that learning curve begins right away the day when Olin got here. His experience sure has helped him."