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Saints Coach Sean Payton: 'We begin the process of building and putting together the 2018 team'

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton

2018 Training Camp Presented by Verizon Press Conference

Wednesday, July 25*,*2018

Opening Statement: "Before we get started on this training camp, congratulations goes out to Mr. Strief, you're officially now a member of the media along with Deuce (McAllister and) you'll be treated accordingly. Anyway, that's good news in today's reporting day. We just finished our conditioning test we will have meetings tonight."

*What are you hoping to see defensively out of this camp as it seems like you have as good as quality depth that you have had before?     *

"Yes, like in every camp you want to accomplish a handful of things. The improvement in areas we felt like we weren't as strong in a year ago and then that being said the competition within the position groups. There'll be a number of guys competing for jobs and also competing for playing time. All of that begins to take place here, and there is that sense of urgency because you know you're getting ready to move into padded practices and very soon preseason games."

*I know the expectations are the same every year but how does coming in starting camp this year feel different than last year based on the success you had? *

"Each year (is) different. I think we're a young team. That's exciting. Obviously, when the season ends the way it does you have a bitter taste in your mouth. You're having some success and yet it ends in a tough fashion. But look, there's a process that's involved here. Your coaches use that word a lot, and I think it's very important as really, we begin the process of building and putting together the 2018 team."

Given the fact that you are a little bit young how important is the role that some of the veterans might be like Kurt Coleman or Jermon Bushrod, some of those guys

"I think real important. I think every time when we sit and go through the opportunity to sign a player we talk about a vision, and not only is there a vision for that player on the field but you know from a leadership standpoint as a teammate. We think that player will be those things as well (they will) begin to take place and already have begun to take place in the offseason program. But I do think any good team that you've been a part of usually has good leadership."

*Speaking of the offseason program and the conditioning test was Drew (Brees) where you had expected him to be? *

"Yes, he's in great shape as usual. There's a certain schedule and routine if you will that he pays close attention to and it (has) served him really well. We've talked about it seems each year just with regards to nutrition, sleep, conditioning. He is a very schedule (oriented) person. So, when he's away from the building you know that he's coming back and he's in fantastic shape. He was outstanding today."

*You guys have added Terrance West and Shane Vereen. How do you kind of juggle the snaps there and then with Mark Ingram's suspension how do you juggle all of that?  *

"I think you're smart. You have a balance of that obviously you know we feel like there are two young candidates two backs that be it they're a little different in what they do, but we felt that they could help us and then with regards to Mark's snaps, it's not the first time that we've entered the season maybe with a player who's taking reps that we might lose for an early portion of the schedule, so we'll have to be smart that way."

*What led to decision to bring in not one but two veterans after OTA's?    *

"I think it is a little bit more to do with who the players were and their availability. Both do (unique) things, Shane's got a lot of versatility (and) is someone that we feel like (is) very good in protection, also he's a very good receiver. With Terrance, you see a physical runner. So, both of those players we felt like it would help us."

*With some of the changes that you guys have made in the front office, is this as settled and stable you guys have felt going into the season in a while?     *

"These years run together so we do not really keep track each year of changes whether it is to a coaching staff. There is always an attrition sometimes, if you will whether a scout leaves for a promotion, a coach leaves for a promotion. So, each year it fluctuates. I think you're more focused on who's here and moving forward."

*With all the rule changes based on an actual game in preseason like kickoff, coverage and kick return what's going to come about that in terms of adjusting to potential changes?     *

"Yeah, I think that's going to be in a good way an exciting change and a new element to the game that I'd say. We will have teams quickly making adjustments once that begins and once the preseason games begin in even the first quarter of the regular season you are going to see some things that are uniquely different than we've seen maybe in the last 10-20 years. I think that is exciting, and it is going to put all of us really back to the drawing board with regards to scheme, spacing with where guys are at. So, I am really interested to see how that unfolds and hopefully being on the cutting edge and not the studying edge."

*Well with that being said do you think with this new rule that that could keep the kickoff in the game?   *

"I do, I think we're hopeful it can, and I think that, being on the competition committee for my first year the members that were a part of the committee that put that proposal together I know spent a long time, a lot of thought was given to it and these were the guys that are coaching special teams or (have) been coaching special teams or players that have played in special teams, and so I think that the process was very well thought out and I'm sure there'll be some nuances to it that we'll work through."

Anything new in terms of transactions today?

"Nothing new today to announce. Brandon Coleman and Daniel Lasco (being placed on Reserve/PUP), those are the two so far."

Will you bring Cam Meredith along slowly through training camp?

"Every year you have a group that had an offseason surgery for an injury. We're really encouraged with his progress. There have not been any setbacks. He's going to go and practice and yet we'll be smart about certain days or certain periods where we can make sure we're not overdoing it, but I'm encouraged with where he's at."

Can you discuss the numbers in the wide receivers group?

"There'll be competition there, no different than any of the other positions. There's some younger players, we have some veteran players as well. I think that'll bring out the best from those guys."

How different will it be without Mr. Benson?

"Well we already miss him, by now we probably would have had a few different sitdowns and just chatted. We will miss him daily and yet Miss Gayle and the leadership in our building have done a great job of really carrying the torch in a fashion that he would be proud of. I think all of us hold that responsibility and take that responsibility very strongly. Miss Gayle has quickly jumped in and been very supportive. I know she's looking forward to the start of camp and being able to see the fans and interact. This will be the first training camp (without Mr. Benson) and hopefully we can make him proud."

Does the backup quarterback position hold as much weight in preseason games or practices in evaluations?

"You're taking all the information you can. You're taking the practice, you're taking the walk throughs, you're taking the preseason game snaps, recognizing sometimes one player might be in with the second group. Sometimes one of the challenges of that position, there might be that you need ten other guys playing well, especially in your protection in the preseason to be evaluated fairly. All of that will get factored in and that'll just be another area that we'll pay close attention to and give those guys enough reps to where we can make the best decision. We talk all the time of the responsibility and pressure to get the right 53 on the roster and in making sure that evaluation is daily and is thorough because that's what you worry about as a coach, is the wrong selection or a player who ends up not being on your team and having success somewhere else. You don't want that."

Will that be the case on Rob Ninkovich, where he eventually found a niche with the New England Patriots?

"There would be one, you just hope that there's less of those examples than more of them, but he'd be a great example. That's the most important thing we're doing right now, trying to find the right 53 and we're not trying to do it tomorrow or the next day but throughout this whole time before we get started."

There's a rumor that you let veterans have a break during the conditioning test, is that true?

"We had a little nine year and above reprieve if you will, they still get a portion of the tests, half of it. Once Zach (Strief) left, we decided we were going to (do this). There's all these things that take place when you leave, now Pierre (Thomas) has a beef with I'm sure a number of things. Each year the facility gets nicer. We just finished the addition of the new training room and that's turned out to be outstanding. Generally, your alumni are never happy with change because it's something that you can't go back and get. There are a handful of players that basically split the test between them."

Have you learned anything from training in the heat the last two years?

"I do think as a head coach the very first thing I was taught was securing the proper practice field, make sure that it is safe. In other words, you are trained to look at things with regards to the sidelines, you are trained to look at things with regards to the weather. Obviously, we get thunderstorms here and we have to be mindful of that. The heat's no different. Probably one of the things that first comes to my mind is we just take more and more breaks to keep the body temperature from getting past a safe spot. We do have a cool zone, a tent area. There will be times where we go inside because of the heat. Part of that is really paying attention to the day, the period, your team, how guys are behaving and how they are performing. Our first meeting today at 2:00 was spent on hydration, was spent on the proper footwear, handling the heat and rest. That (operational) meeting that we used to have ten years ago handled all sorts of areas. We are to the point now where that meeting is strictly medical and for good reason."

How do you deal with high expectations with rookies and younger players?

"I think it the number one thing is when you're hopefully finding the right player that they are going to be mature enough, and smart enough and competitive enough to understand how to handle that. There's things that you learn and yet I think that there's a lot of work ahead of us right now to get ready to start playing football games. There is a sense of urgency and that's important to have. We'll talk about that a little bit tonight in the meeting. Things change as a coach, we're teachers and we pay attention to those things and I think that as a teacher you're constantly looking at ways to improve how to communicate a subject matter more efficiently to a group of people and we're always looking for better ways to do things."

What is the priority on special teams?

"I think we'll have good competition there. Mike (Westhoff) is back, along with Brad (Banta), Kevin (O'Dea) and those guys. We'll look specifically at the areas that we feel like we can improve on. I know as the season was winding down last year, it was an asset for us, those units. We had a block punt in Minnesota, kick return for a touchdown in Tampa. We became I think, one of the better special team units in the league. I think the very first thing that will be discussed tonight is when you talk 53, the quickest way onto a roster is a niche if you're a young player, that would be in some form of the kicking game. It will be important, and I think to your question earlier this kickoff and kick return segment is going to be interesting. I think that certainly we want to improve in our punt return game and we will. That'll take work and we want to find not only the right returner, but also the right group that's blocking for him."

What is the status of Westhoff?

"He's back. He had some pretty intense rehab with the surgery he had. It's good to see him, it's good to see him in the building. He'll be an important addition – he was an important part of what we did a year ago."

Why was Kurt Coleman a choice for safety?

"He was a player we knew well, playing in the division obviously, three times last year. So I have seen more film of him just because he was at Carolina. There were a lot of the things we look for – smart, tough. I think he is a guy that his peers or his teammates would consider a great teammate. He's got versatility and so it kind of fit some of the things we were looking for."

How is Coleman's communication out on the field?

"I think it's very good. I mean I think it's a strength. He's a player that knows what to do, but there are a lot of elements that go into playing that position. Certainly, as the game has evolved a little bit with regards to the passing game, those players have become more versatile. Some of them are playing over the slot more – some of them aren't."

Why were other free agent safeties like Kenny Vaccaro not picked up during the offseason in free agency?

"Listen, I can't speak for another team. I think there always is a wave of signings in the next couple of weeks and players like Kenny, good football players will end up on rosters. Each year, it depends on what the teams are looking for."

Are there any limitations on the defensive lineman health-wise?

"(Marcus) Davenport be full speed ahead. Cam (Jordan) is real good. (Alex) Okafor would be on that list that that we monitor snaps, but he'll be participating."

Is Taysom Hill still going to get special teams reps even though he's competing for the backup quarterback position?

"Yes. I think you know when you're only bringing 46 players to your gameday (roster), that's something that you're trying to say, 'Hey what can the player do?' And I know that's something he enjoys doing and he was very good at it. So we'll see as we get going through the preseason, but he's a very good athlete."

Has the team come up with an anthem policy?

"No. I think the one thing right now that we've looked at is really kind of awaiting the league and the union and kind of taking their guide. I think the fact that both of those parties, both the union and the league office itself are working on it is a good sign."

How's Daniel Lasco doing?

"He's doing well. His rehab is going well and you know he's getting his weight back up and getting stronger. But I would say he's doing well."

What's realistic for Lasco at this time?

"It's too early to say."

Do you anticipate others joining the PUP list?

"Yes. Tomorrow we will release a list. Ultimately, there is a date when they report which was today the earlier players that reported were because of injury or they were younger players. So by tomorrow, if you are going to designate someone, it has to be done within the first 24 hours. So 'Hooman' (Michael Hoomanawanui) will be another guy right now that will go on that list and I don't anticipate that being any more than those three players right now."

Talk about veterans' conditioning test?

"Just five minutes before some strong lobbying that went on. Now it's kind of a long story but now it was right before the test. There weren't that many. We're talking about eight players now there wasn't a choice that those players basically split the test and did it well."

Will you be wearing white when you face the Eagles in the Superdome?

"We're in white and it seems like a year from now."

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