Saints head coach Sean Payton met with the media following Thursday's practice. During the press availability, he gave an injury update, talked about the progress of rookie CB Patrick Robinson and also discussed the short turnaround from Monday's game at San Francisco to preparing for Sunday's game vs. Atlanta.
*Opening Statement: *
"Zach Strief, knee was full today. Chris Ivory, knee was full. Usama Young with his quad was limited and the following three players did not practice: Anthony Waters, Reggie Bush and cornerback, Randall Gay."
What happened with Gay's independent exam due to the concussion?
"That test was done this morning. He's still not cleared. We'll go at it again and see where he's at tomorrow and just keep monitoring his progress and make sure that he's full speed and ready to go if we put him on the field."
*What do you have a feel for about the Falcons? *
"A couple things. I think Mike (Smith) and his staff has done a great job. They've put a team together that's built with speed. I think they're a team offensively that certainly has big play ability. The quarterback has done a real good job. Defensively, they run to the ball very well. They cause a lot of problems, because they're multiple in the looks they give you. They pressure you. They're very well-coached."
*Is there anything you remember about your last meeting with them? *
"Nothing specific. Just that it's a hard-fought game. The one we played here went back and forth, certainly with the momentum swings. It ended up being as I remember real close and one where the momentum shifted back and forth and we were able to make enough plays in the end."
*Patrick Robinson was inactive last week and now with Randall Gay's injury could be thrust back into a role potentially. Do you think he's ready? *
"If Randall can't go he'll have to be ready to go."
*Can you talk about the progress you see from him? *
"He's doing well. I think certainly he understands what we're doing. He's had a couple good practices. Just from the snaps we've given him yesterday and today, he's done a good job. He and Leigh (Torrence) are both getting a lot of work."
*Matt Ryan seems to be a guy with a quicker release than your first two quarterbacks you faced. How do you face the different dynamic? *
"He's a hard sack. They're different and I agree. He's someone that doesn't take a lot of hits. He's very decisive. He knows their system very well and is comfortable in it, so when you watch him play, the ball doesn't come out fast. He operates very efficiently with his play action under center, certainly his throws under center and then under the gun, in a lot of the games we've played, it becomes very difficult to get after him with pressure because he gets rid of it so quickly. But, he has great arm strength. Certainly he has a lot of confidence in his targets and where he's going with the football. They give you a lot of looks."
As a rookie who has not practiced fully in a regular season practice until today, what kinds of issues could Chris Ivory potentially face?
"I think more than anything you want to make sure you have a role for him, if in fact he's going to be one of the guys you get in the mix. There are certain things he does well. There are certain things you continue to work on and the key is identifying what the player's role is if you take a guy like (Chris) Ivory or Jimmy Graham, one these young players. You want to be able to before the game say this is what we want and this is what we need. That would be no different for him."
*Can you talk about the special teams unit's ability to recover a turnover like in the other night? *
"I think the turnover that night was significant. We felt in that game that the kicking game was going to be important and we ended up with a number of big plays in the kicking game, the punt return by (Reggie) Bush, the big turnover. That was a big part of the win. Our coverage units have done a good job. I think it's going to be important in this game as well."
*Chris Ivory ran hard in the preseason. Are you curious to see if that can carry over to the regular season? *
"With any young player whether it's Chris or these other guys we're talking about, you're anxious to see how it transitions to a regular season game against a lot of starters. In his case, or no different with some of these other guys, you're anxious to see him play. Today was clean with him. Today we got into some nickel looks, some of those looks he would or would not be involved with, but I think we all are."
As a young player, is pass protection a big deal for Ivory or do you talk to him about ball security? What are the things that you need to remind him about?
"I think you hit on all of those things. If you ask what the transition is for a running back from college to the NFL, it would start with protection – the multiple looks that defenses give you, not only in base but in nickel. That's a big learning curve; there's a lot there and certainly you stress upon ball security and all the little things that go into playing that position at a high level."
How big of a challenge is it to come off of a road game on Monday night, especially on the West Coast?
"I think you have to look closely at your schedule itself and understand that you're coming off of a hard-fought win and then losing time coming back. You have plenty of time for that Monday night game and now it's flipped around where we've tried to back off some of the snaps. We've put together the schedule to where they were going to be in later yesterday. I think you do have to be mindful of that and certainly that is a challenge. You want to make sure that mentally you're getting through the reps and you want make sure that if anything, the plan is reduced because of the short week and then put that together and implement it."
Since you had 11 days in between the previous two games, were you doing some advance gameplanning on Atlanta?
"No, usually when you play a Monday night game you have time on Monday to get a lot of the scouting report stuff done and some of the film study done, which we did while we were in San Francisco, which I think is pretty common."
So you want to reduce the gameplan and not have too much in it with the shorter prep time?
"You want to be careful and not have too much in your plan, as far as scheme, plays, defensive calls, special teams. I think you want to make sure that the plan is such that it reflects the amount of time that you're practicing. If you're going to reduce practice and reduce snaps, then you have to be able to reduce the plan to some degree."
Facing that kind of challenge on top of Reggie Bush being out, does that make it doubly reduced?
"No, I don't think so. It's just overall plays that you look at, run and pass, just making sure that there's not too much where you're not getting to practice it all. But I think with his injury, there are certain things that immediately you move on from and there are other things that you look to."
The Falcons have been picked by some to win the division. Do you care about that?
"What do you think?"
I think you do. Will you use that as a motivational tactic?
"Honestly, I think that all of that is unimportant to all of us, myself included. I really wouldn't know how many people have picked them to win or us to win; it's really unimportant. What's important is what happens. To be honest with you, it's not something that we've looked at and pointed at. Certainly we believe that this is a team that we have a lot of respect for and this is a team that has gotten better each year. I think they're well-coached. Our players see that and we have seen the additions that they've made in each offseason but I don't think that after having had success you pay as much attention to who's picked to do what because ultimately it doesn't matter."
But playing a team that is a very good team in your division, do you look at this as measuring stick game where you can find out where you are as a football team?
"Where we're at is we're 2-0 and it's a division game. You can point to it and say that it's our first opportunity within the division and it's certainly and NFC game because of that and this is the only game we can play. Outside of that, that's what it is. It's a real good team. That's how we handle it, just in regards to the preparation and the meetings. We'll study closely what they do well, what their strengths are, and knowing that it's a team we're familiar with just as they are with us. The programs have been together now and have been established. I think that's the most important thing."
So you won't handle them any differently than when you did when you played them when you were 12-0 last year?
"No. Again, at that point we were playing a division game and that was the game you played. That's the way we approach it."
If you're in Atlanta's shoes, could this be a game where you're putting a lot of stock into it?
"Certainly they played well last week and I'm sure they're looking at it much the same way that we do. Anytime you play in the division, and for them they're playing the team that won the division a year ago – we've been in that position ourselves. But really this is Week 3 and this is the third game of the season and this is the only game you can win this weekend. So it's the most important game and it's the one you play."