Following a two hour practice outdoors at the club's practice facility in Metairie, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton and Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams met with the media. Among the topics Payton discussed was the progress of Pierre Thomas and on a lighter note, his son's admiration for Bengals wideout Chad Ochocinco. Williams talked about his unit's emphasis on takeaways as well as the development of S Malcolm Jenkins. Below are transcripts:
New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
"With the final injury report, Anthony Waters was limited today. He'll be questionable for Sunday. Pierre Thomas, running back was limited. He'll be questionable for Sunday. Running back Ladell Betts with his neck did not practice. He'll be out. Those are the three guys of note."
Does Pierre have a real chance to play in this game?
"He had a good week of practice with the reps he got. We'll see where he's at come Sunday. He doesn't have any of the swelling. Some of the soreness has gone away. I thought he moved around well. Not only did he take team reps, but he took scout team reps, kickoffs, a lot of the things he's trying to do to not only get his timing back, but from a cardiovascular standpoint to get in shape and ready to play in a football game. I'm guarded and yet we'll see on Sunday where he's at."
With Reggie Bush it was a couple of weeks of practice before you let him play. Is this is a different situation?
"It's different with an injury and they're different players. The injury's different completely."
You talked about easing Reggie back repwise in the Dallas game. Is this the same type of scenario?
"No, I think we're at the point now where we're going. You still want to recognize that this is the second week back after some significant time off. He's had enough full speed work where his pitch count will be up there."
Will there be the same type of plan in place whenever Pierre Thomas comes back?
"You have to be smart about it and you still have to recognize with your limitations on gameday with the total roster and the decisions that go into the 46 guys that are active, he has to be ready to play. I think you'd be smart about it."
In your transcript with the Cincinnati conference call and it discussed your son's liking for Chad Ochocinco. Does he have a lot of memorabilia from around the league?
"When we had a chance to coach in the Pro Bowl in the 2006 season after the NFC Championship game, as a young child, he was exposed to these players. For a week he's around and having a chance to be at practice and seeing not only a guy like chad, but LaDanian (Tomlinson), guys from our team, other teams. For a kid that's quite an impression. Beyond the game we played in Cincinnati in 2006, we had the joint practice session. These guys play the Madden. They get on the fantasy teams. They do a lot of that stuff. They know all the players."
Is he a fan of this guy in particular?
"He just got a signed hat from him. That's the flavor of the week."
Did he get that at the Pro Bowl?
"He got that when we practiced against them in 2007."
Is Ochocinco on your son's fantasy team this year?
"I'm not sure. He has Andre Johnson. He was dinged up a little yesterday. It's kind of like that commercial where you're on to the next player. I don't understand it too much, but he's done pretty well with it."
New Orleans Saints Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams
The Bengals have given up 104 points off of turnovers this season. Do you come into a situation like that licking your chops?
"You're hoping it continues, but of the things we've talked about is that they're not giveaways, but takeaways. They're things you have to get. We've had those ones that have bounced back to the other team or we've dropped a pass here or there, but we hope. One of the things coach Payton has pounded in and I know I've pounded it in all week long is that of the their nine losses, seven of the nine losses have come down to the last possession. They're been in the ballgames that have been tight to go into overtime or win the game. They haven't gotten it done for whatever reason. It shows you the importance of the two-minute possession, defensively or offensively. They're a dangerous football team. I've gone against the staff quite a bit and know that staff pretty well and I have a lot of respect for how they go about trying to get things done there. I think their line's playing very well. I think Paul Alexander does a good job coaching those guys. He's been there a long time, so there's a philosophy of what kind of person (they want) and what way they want their line to play. They're big, huge guys and their skill guys are very talented. TO's (Terrell Owens) playing very well. He's playing better than he did last year. He gets more balls to him. Their running back has played very well. We have our work cut out for us."
What hasn't gone well for them?
"The takeaways are a part of it. That's been kind of their Achilles heel. They've turned the ball over in some not so opportune times and people have been able to put points on the board defensively or at least shorten the field for the offense where it's a three point game and all of a sudden a ten point swing, because all of a sudden it's back the other way. That's really been it, because they've moved the ball on everybody."
You were pretty successful against Terrell Owens last year in Buffalo. How different is defending him in this situation where he plays alongside Chad Ochocinco?
"It's a different style of offense and it's also a more talented quarterback to tell you the truth. I think in Buffalo last year we blitzed them maybe 50 times in the respect that we brought corners, safeties, everything. We were forcing the ball to be dumped inside if they could get it off. He's playing out there on the edge and balls weren't getting out there. They have a really good philosophy of offense. This is a team that Sean has emphasized all week long won all six games in their division last year. This team was a playoff team and the ball hasn't bounced the right way for them a couple times. We have respect for them, quite a bit of respect for them. Not only have I told our guys that they've won all six of their division games last year, they beat Cleveland twice who beat us already this year. We better understand what kind of a fistfight we're getting into."
Do you know the number of forced fumbles you've credited your team with?
"Not off the top of my head."
Is it number one in the league?
"It has to be up there. We work very hard. You guys are around practice to see how hard we work on it to the point of choices, decisions, and consequences. If our guys aren't doing a good job of it, I have to get them over on the sideline to reinforce it and make sure they do a better job of it in practice. We work very, very hard on it."
Was the one recovered by a Dallas tight end after a force fumble one that was frustrating?
"Sean (Payton) gave us some time off this weekend. I relax by working. I don't ever take time off. I keep going through the weekend. I try to look at every single fumble that we had caused this year, which I did. I was going to try to make it a point of emphasis and try to rip our guys' tails a little about when it's in a crowd, the most important thing is to possess it. When you're in space, scoop it and score. Every single fumble, I couldn't fault our guys on one time this year, on the decision of how they were going to try to get it recovered when they got it back. Some of them just bounced immediately right back to the other team. Some of the other ones that were kicked back a little bit, they were going to cover them up. It's just one of those things that are jarred loose. They're making the right decisions, we just have to keep them. The more times you get them, we'll get them."
Do you not mind them just falling on it?
"When we're in a crowd. When the ball's in a crowd, possess the football, but when there's space and one of the things you'll see us do, with some of our more talented players, we teach them that when it is in a crowd to get into space by bumping it, kicking it, getting it into space and getting it away from the crowd. We haven't had many of those. Last year, right before the half at Miami we had the one that we batted back in bounds and got it recovered right before the half to lead to a field goal. We got to work on that situation. In fact this week, one of the things I showed on Wednesday, the very first clip was that great play from Oklahoma State where the kid jumped out of bounds and batted it back in bounds. Those are visualized plays. I want our guys to go to sleep at night dreaming about those things. How can you put your body in a position to help us with a takeaway or a great play. We practice them. I tell them habits are harder to break than to make. Once you make a great habit, then we continue to try to reinforce those things. The ball's very important. Everything we do in practice, the ball's the most important thing"
We haven't talked to you since the Dallas game, how special was the play that Malcolm Jenkins made?
"It was neat in the respect that it reinforces our total beliefs. It magnifies for all of you to see what a great kid he is. I'm not saying that Malcolm's the only guy that could do that, because in practice, a lot of times when you guys aren't around we have several of those situations. Leigh Torrence is very special on that. I see Mark Parson, a practice squad guy, do that against our offense. Almost every day we do something like that against our offense at practice. To be a significant play, to be an impact play, it was special at a very opportune time and how we grade the guys in film and how we grade our production is very important and we try to take the subjectivity out of how we grade things. There were teachers growing up where you would wonder how he or she gave you that grade. There's subjectivity in anyway you grade things. We try not to have that. That's an impact play that counts double points to how we go about grading. Every single day when a guy walks into our room, their grade card's up. Their grade card's up from the practice the day before. Their grade card's up from the game the week before. It's part of what we talk about everyday in my PowerPoint. We spend the Saturday night meetings before the game, spending a lot of time on that because it's a production business. When you don't produce, you're not in this business very long. All of them have an individual motivated part to produce. The team also benefits greatly when all those guys are on the same page. It was a great play for Malcolm to make. It meant a lot to me because I know how hard that kid works. That kid wants to be great. I think a lot of us use the word great too much anymore. Darren Sharper's not great yet. He'll be in the Hall of Fame some other time. I don't ever call him that. He makes some great plays. Malcolm really, really wants to be a special player. The reason I tell you that is behind the scenes if you can tell all the things that you and I aren't supposed to see of him preparing to play. He doesn't know I see as many things as I see on how he works to be really good and I think it made him feel like that kind of play was worth it."
I thought his 40 time wasn't good enough coming out of Ohio State?
"What you'll love is that one of the things is when I snuck into town up there…You guys could have known who we drafted because I went to only four places that year and the four places we drafted someone out of that place. When I went into town to work him out, I spent a lot of time, a day and a half before…I don't care about the workouts. Those things with underwear and that stuff, doesn't make any difference on whether a kid can play or not, but I had to find out some other things from character and intelligence issues and discipline, accountability and trust and all those other kinds of things. I've been real fortunate. I've had some really good first round draft choice DBs for the last 15 years and when everybody was knocking the kid that he couldn't run. He runs fine. But the reason I really liked him when I left there was that I knew he was a football player. The kid could play, corner, nickel, strong safety, free safety. He can play nickel linebacker. Greg McMahon gets irritated that we let him play on only one or two special teams (units) now, because he is a phenomenal special teams player. He's just a football player. Going up there I had to find out the other things that are important that I hadn't seen on film. I liked what I saw on film. He's a good kid. He runs more than well enough to play in this league. Take a look at other guys you've had to cover for years that had great times that ran like they had a piano on their back. Once they get into pads and competition with a little fear in their heart, their legs don't run very fast. Those times, I'd rather do my own official time when I see them turn and go on a go route, break and drive on an out route. When you watch that kid play and I watched one game when Malcolm played three positions in college, that doesn't happen very often. I'm just happy nobody else was that high on him, because I was high on him."