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Saints Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams QA July 31

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New Orleans Saints Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams
Post-Practice Press Conference
Friday, July 31, 2009

I didn't get a chance to talk with you during all spring long and I have lost my voice. I even wrote it on my practice schedule to protect my voice but I haven't done a very good job of that. My voice has to get in shape just like they have to get in shape because coaches usually use our voice more than our bodies.

What are your impressions of the talent you have on this defense?

"I think right now we're learning how to play good defense. I think these players are a lot better than all of you gave them credit for last year.

"I've been a lot of places where we've had the opportunity to develop young players too and people ask me what kind of players I like to coach, and I say I like to coach good players. They have done a good job here. There is a good culture here; there's a good nucleus of guys here. I'm still in the learning curve of learning about them. We had a really, really good offseason, but all that did was make us even. We've just gotten even as far as the language and the vocabulary to where we can start at ground zero from the start of training camp and be even with the rest of the teams in the league as far as the learning curve. I think our guys here really want to be good and their dedication in the offseason was the first time that I've been involved with a football team defensively that was 100% in the offseason. They didn't miss a day. There was a little bit about that they might get cut if they missed, but they cooperated and I'm very happy with what I've seen so far. We're still in the infancy stages of trying to figure out what we have. As you guys are going to ask a lot of questions about this training camp like who's starting, there are no starters. Sean (Payton) has made that evident, I've made that evident, now everybody is interviewing and everybody is looking for their positions. We're going to play a lot of different people; we're going to play a lot of packages of defense and the guys that play the most for us are going to be the guys that produce. In practice and in meetings, there's still a learning curve going on there."

What is the importance of having good feet as a cornerback?

"In this league, I think the best athletes right now are at the wide receiver position so the corner matchups are very critical and you have to have the ability to run if you're going to get out there on the Autobahn to play those guys. So they have to have great speed, they have to have great change of direction; we'd like for them to have good size because as you see with our receivers here and you have to be able to match up with tall, long, lengthy cornerbacks. I've had some really good corners that have not had much size but they've equalized the ballgame by turning those big receivers over; they cut their legs out from underneath them, they play very physical and they understand how to play safety help. Right now, we have to do a better job of playing the ball when it's in the air. Those are the things in the secondary that we have to do. And it's not just to say it's the secondary. If you guys want to put the blame on the secondary, it's not that. We have to do a better job of rushing, we have to do a better job of tackling, we have to do a better job of coaching, we have to do a better job all the way around to play better defense here and right now it's a good time to get started. I'm really looking forward to getting started with these guys."

Where are you in terms of finding potential replacements for the two defensive ends that are likely to be suspended?

"The big thing there is that we have 80 guys in camp and we have guys that are competing for spots. Those guys are competing for spots too and what we're going to end up doing is that when the final cuts are made, we're going to have enough defensive ends. You're going to see people all training camp long in practices and in games play more than one position. I'm one of those guys that like guys that are versatile players. Corners have to play safety, safeties have to play corner, linebackers have to play defensive end, defensive ends have to play linebacker – you'll see defensive tackles move out and defensive ends move inside. We're going to have enough guys to show up and play on opening day against the Lions; we're going to have enough guys."

You said earlier that you when you got here you liked what you saw in the guys. Did you come here thinking that maybe it was going to be more of a dire situation?

"I did my homework and I knew that Mickey (Loomis) and Sean (Payton) had done a great job of establishing a culture here and that locker room is really strong. It's a really good locker room. I get way to much credit for Xs and Os. I specialize in dealing with difficult people – so you guys and I ought to get along – and I specialize in dealing with changing culture. The culture has changed here and Sean has been brought up in a family of coaches that understands how important culture in the locker room is. This is a team game; an individual won't win a championship. We have to have a team that plays as a team, that likes playing with each other, so the culture is good. I just have to figure out and have a chance to see them compete under stress and understand what we have athletically. Those are the things that right now training camp is important for me for."

Were you happy with what you saw at first glance today?

"You guys haven't had a chance to see them as much as I have and we're going to practice that way all the time. I'm never going to be happy; never. There are a lot of plays that we have to improve on, but our effort, our intensity, our communication – those kinds of things are pretty good for day one."

What's the best way to describe how you have set the tone for that defense? It almost seems like they're trying to win at practice. Is that something you've instilled?

"Do you know why they keep score in a game? They want to know who won. We do want to know who won on every single play and we grade the practice on who won on every single play. When I walk up in the meeting tonight, there's going to be a grade sheet and these kids are just like you want to give them little stickers and little candy bars – they're going to get their candy bars tonight when they see that grade sheet from the practice. They won't talk about it with you guys, but it's important and it's amazing. This is not a real complicated game. Guys who play hard, guys who do what you ask them to do all the time are going to have a chance if they're smart and tough. So far, I've seen good toughness on day one and pretty good smarts all spring long. But yes, it's important for us who won every single play in practice."

Who won this morning's practice – defense or offense? Do you break it down that way?

"You're asking a defensive coach who won? An honest answer is that it's not even close who won either practice."

So Brees beat you again, huh?

"No. In fact, you saw who stayed after practice to do extra after practice. He's a joy to be around. Even on every single play, there's a won and lost after the play, you can watch him and he'll glance over at me. He'll glance and if they won the play, he just wants to get affirmation and say 'I got you on that one.' There are a lot more where I'm glancing at him right now. He'll catch up. Usually defensively you're a little ahead of the offense on timing, but he's special. He's truly a special competitor."

You have head coaching experience, but what's a facet of being a defensive coordinator that you relish in the coordinator role?

"Being hands-on with the coaches and hands-on with the players. A lot of times as a head coach you're off doing all kinds of things and sometimes you don't spend enough time doing what you were pretty good at before you sat in that chair. I really, really like being with the players every single day and being with the coaching staff every single day. I'm not going to be a person that's going to back away from hands-on teaching every single day. That's what I love. I love the competition of practice, the hard work that you have to have during the week and I wouldn't trade those three hours on gameday for anything."

Could you talk about the competition at the cornerback position?

"It's good competition. We have eight guys that are competing and even the young guys – the corner position from an ability standpoint is very challenging. From a mental standpoint, it's cover that cat. How are you going to cover that cat? There are a few tricks that we try to teach them to help them do that, but we have good competition there and all those guys are going to get a chance to play. It'll be a healthy battle at every position – not just corner. There are going to be some shocks and surprises all training camp long. But the guys who play are going to be here every single day. You have to be accountable and you have to be available every day. If you want to be a professional athlete, you have to be accountable and available every day. If you're not practicing and you're not playing, it's hard to do that."

How hard is it to coach an effective secondary when it seems like the pass interference call is becoming more and more prevalent?

"What we try to do is defensively we try to stay one step ahead of the offenses. We have to adapt and we have to improvise. If you guys have followed my track record, I've done that everywhere I've gone. I don't pigeon-hole these guys into a system. We have a versatile enough package of things that we're going to do defensively that athletically we're going to decide who the best athletes here are and play the things that they're best at playing. With all that being said, there's going to be healthy competition at every single position – you're going to see that. You're going to see our linebackers be able to do some things that maybe they haven't had a chance to do before in the past because they're to be better rushers. We need for them to be better rushers. We're also going to try to find ways to get the fastest group of human beings on the field at one time. We have a lot of different packages and a lot of different ways to play the same old defense. We're just going to try to do it with different people and when the situation warrants that we can play with smaller and faster people, we will."

Can you talk about how we hear you yelling about loose balls even when it's an incomplete pass?

"We treat every single ball on the ground as a fumble. That has to be an instinctive reaction that we're looking to pick the ball up and scoop it and score. We don't want to be surprised in a ballgame when the ball gets popped out. What we do is that when the ball is on the ground, you're going to see us treat it as a fumble. The only time when we're hesitant when the ball is on the ground is when #9 (Drew Brees) fumbles a snap, I want them to stay away from #9's hands and feet. But poor old Mark (Brunell) and Joey (Harrington) might get the brunt of it."

What are your thoughts on how the spotlight has been shined on you since you were hired here?

"That's all you guys, that's not me at all. I've been trying to get an opportunity to coach with Joe Vitt for I don't know how many years. Our contracts haven't worked out to do that. He's been in this league longer than I have. And I've tried to hire Bill Johnson at two other staffs and we finally timed it up to where I could do that. I'm just a piece of the puzzle; I really am. I'll be a better coach when these guys play better. How we're going to get them to play better is to play hard. That's what we're promising; we're promising to play hard. I can't affect very much what mom and dad gave them in the gene pool; the coaches don't change that. Mom and dad need the blame more than blaming the coaches. But playing hard and hopefully trying to play smart, that's what we're trying to help them to do – to play a little bit smarter, play a little bit harder, and these guys have bought into that pretty good."

What was your opinion of Darren Sharper when you were evaluating him and then what have you seen so far?

"Darren has been a friend of mine, an acquaintance of mine in the league as he has as different times of the year flipped over into your job. He and I have stayed close after some of the interviews that I have done with him and he has always from afar liked what we've done defensively. We use our safeties and give them a chance to make plays. He's in the books at being able to make plays on the ball and that's why he's here – to help us make plays on the ball. I have to help keep him fresh, but the instincts and the ability to make plays on the ball – that's Darren Sharper, that's not us, that's not me."

You're talking about things you can't teach people. Does he still have something at age 33 now that other guys just don't have?

"Yes. I like those guys. Young guys drive me nuts. Once the season gets started, once we start with our 53-man roster, there are no longer old guys and there are no longer young guys, they're our guys. That's the ones we have to do it with. It doesn't matter how young you are – you're old enough to play in the National Football League. It doesn't mean that you're too old – you're young enough to play in the National Football League. You have to play – they're our guys."

Does he have the role of being the quarterback of the defense?

"He's one of the quarterbacks, yes. He's doing a good job so far."

When you were doing your homework on this job, how big a factor was being able to come to a team with the number-one rated offense?

"It was huge. I wanted to draft Drew Brees when I was the head coach of the Bills. One of the reasons I'm here is that we didn't draft Drew Brees with the Bills. I will say this – I have a pretty good background of speaking across the country and doing success seminars and interviews and all that kind of stuff, but in all the years that I've been at the Combine, of the about 2,000 men that I've interviewed, Drew Brees has to be in the top five. When I was the head coach of the Bills when he was coming out, I fell in love with him in the interview. Everyone was questioning his size, as if that matters, and his arm strength, as if that matters. We're looking for what is "it". I can't define "it" but he's got "it". You can't believe when you're around him how every single thing that he does is a competition – every single second of the day is a competition. In our conditioning test the other day, he had to win the last one of his group. It was important for him. Why? Because that's how he's made up. He understands how important it is to compete. In order to win in this league, once you get to the playoffs you have to have a field general that can navigate through some unbelievably stressful situations. He was a big part of me going ahead and making the final decision to come here, yes."

Do you look at a player that's holding out any differently as a coordinator than you would as a head coach?

"When I first started, you had two three-day minicamps so if a guy wasn't there, you really couldn't do a lot of installation back in the old days. Now, you have a lot of OTAs and (Malcolm Jenkins) was able to make a healthy number of the OTAs. He has a good, firm grasp of what we're doing. Obviously I want him here as soon as he can but that's just a part of this business. I really don't worry about that. I worry about the guys that are here getting coached. Once he gets here, he's going to have to compete and interview just like them and get ready to go. He's a good young man, though. He's real sharp. He has a good level head on his shoulders and now he just has to go through this process like all first-rounders do and once he gets here we'll indoctrinate him pretty quick. It'll be brutal at first when he first gets here, but that's just what the first-round choices go through."

Did Sean Payton call you every day during the interview process?

"Yes. He drove me nuts. He's ADD. He called a lot and texted a lot and what I was trying to do was to get all my family together and make some family decisions. One of the things it came down to also was that I have a beautiful daughter in college. She said, 'Dad, do you expect me to visit you somewhere in the winter?' I said yes. She said then I had better not take the Green Bay job. I'm just kidding. She didn't want to go someplace where it was cold. Mike McCarthy and I go way back, we're real good friends and they have a real good young, team up there too, but this was the place that was the best fit for us to come."

It seems like most daughters would like to spend their spring break in New Orleans in their college years?

"She came down for a weekend. Fortunately it didn't fall during Mardi Gras, which was good."

It doesn't seem like you feel a lot of pressure?

"My playing days are over. I don't play. I look forward to looking at these guys. There's no more competition or pressure than I put on myself. I look forward to going out there with these guys and finding the final 53. That's the most important decision we can make as a coaching staff and Sean has done a great job of it. We're going to pick the right 53 out of the 80 that are here and out of the 80 that are on other teams too. There are some guys that might come in late off of other teams as well, because our pro personnel department does a great job of keeping track of those too. We have to get the right guys and they've done a good job. Gary Gibbs is a very good football coach. They've done a great job of building a foundation. There's a really solid foundation of defensive football here and they played a lot better than a few big plays here and there would warrant. These guys want to play good, they want to play better and hopefully we can help them a little bit."

Can you talk about Jason David?

"Jason David has had a very good spring, all of those guys have. Usama (Young) has moved to another position and he'll be able to play both positions, because he's had a corner background and is now a safety. All of those guys have had good springs and I know our scouts are saying some really good things about how they're moving around on the back end. We really have to keep our fingers crossed and I really believe this if you watch teams that make runs at the end of the year is health. We have to keep these guys healthy."

You say that everybody is in an interview process. What do you look for in that?

"Every single day, I'm looking at their intelligence. I'm looking at their toughness. I'm looking at their ability every single day. Every comment, there's no such thing as a stray comment. Where we've done a very good job is that I'm a pretty good communicator and we're trying to get everybody to communicate and do a good job of communicating on the field and I think you guys who covered the team in the past, you can see how loud they are and how much they talk. When they keep secrets, bad things happen. I want to make sure that they're communicating through verbal, non-verbal – you see all the hand signals out there. You also see, which a great competition now is, you'll see Drew Brees listening to what we're saying because he wants to get an edge. Now we're giving him dummy calls. All that right now is kind of a fun chess match. They are interviewed on their toughness and intelligence every single day."

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