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Saints Head Coach Discusses the Saints and Falcons

    <span>              <span style="">Opening Statement:</span>                  

"Let's start with the transactions: on Monday, we placed Charles Grant on injured reserve and we signed defensive tackle Hollis Thomas. Yesterday we lost linebacker Pago Togafau to Arizona's active roster and we signed practice squad linebacker Ben Moffitt. Our numbers stay intact there. From a practice standpoint, really the injuries to report are Reggie Bush (knee) – did not practice, Jonathan Goodwin (knee) – did not practice, Jeremy Shockey (hernia) was full today and Jahri Evans (ankle) was full today. Really it's just those four players. Getting back to a normal routine today, the practice was really a base, first- and second-down installation. Tomorrow we'll move on to nickel."

How confident are you in Bobby McCray filling in for Charles Grant?

"I think he'll do well. His reps had increased prior to Charles' injury. Looking at the San Diego game, Charles hung in there and gutted it out and it really wasn't until a few days after that we realized that it was maybe going to be more significant than we had hoped. Jeff Charleston is another guy that will factor in and will have to take snaps and will have to be ready to do that. In Bobby's case, he has experience and it won't just be nickel snaps now; it will be snaps in the base as well as the nickel."

When you signed him, did you see him as a third starter?

"He's a guy that we certainly have confidence in. We believe that it's important to get a rotation and that was one of the main reasons that we signed him – really to help the efficiency of the group in general. Jeff is going to have to help in that role as well now."

Will coming off the left side for McCray be a bit of an adjustment?

"He has played both sides this season and in Jacksonville he played over on the left side, so we'll look at playing him on both sides and rotating Will (Smith) a little bit as well. But I think he's well-versed to playing either the left or right side. I think he's comfortable with it."

Could one of the defensive tackles possibly kick out to the end after the signing of Hollis Thomas?

"If you look at it that way, we're a little heavy at tackle. Really we signed Hollis because the roster spot was available and the plan was that if he was healthy that right about this time we were going to be interested in bringing him back. We're a little heavy at tackle, but at the end position I think Jeff will bring depth for us and we still have Josh (Savage) on the practice squad who has played for us."

How much of a gamble is it to cut both of your kickers in the middle of the season?

"It's not a gamble if what you're watching during the course of practice and pregame is telling you something. I can't recall the last time we really had a chance to talk about the Charger game, but the pregame was tough and probably led to my decision to go for it one or two times, really the one time – the fourth-and-one down on the one-yard line would be different – but the fourth-and-three or four to Billy Miller. It was just having a confidence level and seeing something and paying attention to what you're seeing, not only in the games but in practice and in pregame. We were struggling at kicker; we were struggling a lot. It's really trying to pay attention to what you're seeing and being true to an evaluation and I think in both cases, the two players that we've signed, I have been real encouraged with and they're going to get an opportunity. But in regards to who we had to waive, it wasn't just one game really, it was a course of a week leading up to the game and there was plenty of snaps to evaluate. The punter maybe not as many."

Mehlhaff was missing in warm-ups and that made you uncomfortable?

"He was struggling in warm-ups. It's hard to go out there in pregame and see what we saw and feel comfortable in kicking. The extra points we felt like we were sweating a little bit and that's not a good feeling."

Was when he missed the extra point the final straw?

"I just think the body of work and then certainly the week leading up to the game and then pregame – those were all things that factored into the evaluation. We brought a bunch of guys and worked them out at both spots and I'm anxious to see how these guys do; I think they're going to do pretty well."

You brought in another rookie kicker. Was there an urge to sign someone with more experience?

"We tried to go with what we saw in the workout. We worked a number of guys – guys with experience and in his case a guy that is a rookie. Now his college career was pretty impressive and he was in a camp with Denver and he kicked the best during the workout. The good news here in the past week is that he has done a real good job and that's encouraging. He is a rookie, but nonetheless I think he has a strong leg and I'm pretty encouraged with what I've seen in the week-and-a-half that we've had him now."

Was Hartley a guy you looked at during the draft process?

"Yes. He was one of the two or three guys. He kicked at Oklahoma and has obviously kicked in some big games and I would say that he has very good leg strength. You'll have a chance to see that when you watch him kick, not only on field goals but on kickoffs. He has a good stroke and I've been encouraged with what I've seen."

Where is he consistently getting it down to on the kickoffs?

"Today I saw him somewhere around the two, the goal-line, the one. But kickoffs are one thing, but it's really the points now that matter. I've said this before and looking back at the success that John (Carney) had with us, you don't take it for granted but in hindsight we wouldn't have made that move and it's alright to acknowledge that. You appreciate the value of field goals in this league when games are played so close. But I've been encouraged with (Hartley)'s foot now, not only on the kickoffs, but really with the way he's been hitting the ball on field goals. It has been good."

Does his range go to 50-plus?

"I think he has plenty of leg. (Playing) inside this weekend we'll go through pregame and see how they're kicking and see how they're handling the balls and try to get a feel for what the distance is."

Who is the holder now?

"The punter."

When looking at Matt Ryan, how hard is it to be impressive like he has in your first year in the league?

"He's a guy that coming out you saw a lot of good things on tape he has done a great job of acclimating himself to the offense. He's playing with a lot of poise and a lot of confidence. Collectively as a team, when we watch them we see a team that's entirely different than the prior years that we've played them. Collectively they're playing with confidence and it starts with how he's playing and their belief in him. He's accurate, he's tough, and you'd have to go back a long ways to find a rookie who's playing as well and winning as many games as he's been able to in his first year, and that's a credit to him and what they're doing offensively and as a team, defensively. He gives you a chance and as an organization, we know that with a guy like Drew Brees, you have a chance each time you play and that has been a big plus for them."

How much of his success can be attributed to the play of Michael Turner?

"I think it all goes together. Michael has done a great job and currently they lead the league in rushing, but in Matt's case, you still him making plays on third down. He's doing a great job of managing the game, especially for a young player. He's accurate and he has a lot of confidence and his teammates certainly have a lot of confidence in him."

Has Carl Nicks done enough to make the starting job his own even with Jamar Nesbit back full time?

"He has done a lot of good things. Certainly as a rookie he's learning, but he gives us a presence in there and he's strong and powerful. It has been a good addition for us and a good draft pick for us. He gives you some things inside that really help you in protection and help you in the running game. Obviously in Jamar's case we have a guy with experience that has been a starter and those are good problems to have."

Is Jamar possibly a backup at center as well?

"You have to have versatility. If you're carrying seven linemen, chances are that one of them has to be a swing guard or center and the other one has to be a tackle. Jamar is versatile enough to do that."

Do you like the idea of Jamar being available to be a utility backup at both positions rather than trying to start him at center?

"I think that we look at how we can get our best five on the field and certainly Jamar gives us some flexibility in that he's played a lot for us and we don't take that for granted. His natural position is guard and yet he can come inside. Matt (Lehr)'s natural position I would say is center and he can go to guard. That's kind of how we approach it."

How important is it for you to try to put two wins together for the first time this season?

"It's a division game and it's the next game on our schedule, obviously, and it's an important game. Coming off of a bye we're going to have to handle the atmosphere and handle the crowd noise and handle all those things that come with playing well on the road. We look at it much like Atlanta probably looks at it as an important divisional game at the midway point of the season. For both teams it's important."

With losing Charles Grant being just the latest injury to deal with, can you almost take it in stride at this point?

"You can only dwell on it for so long and I think what's most important is that we deal with who's getting ready to play. Obviously you don't want to lose a starter – someone like Charles – and we hope his recovery is fast. They tell me the procedure went real well, but right now we have to get ready to play this game with the guys that are healthy. We have dealt with some injuries to date and that can't be an excuse for us. We're going to have to play a good game – not just at the end position – but at the rest of the positions. We've had to rely on a lot of other players stepping in with injuries and this is just another example of that. That won't be a reason for us or an excuse for us."

Can you update us on Reggie's progress?

"His rehab is going real well. He didn't practice today but it would be too early to rule him out for this weekend. He's doing real well."

So there's a chance he could play?

"There's a chance. It would be an outside chance, but there's a chance. We felt back when the surgery was done, based on the doctor's report that this would be where he was at on the schedule and he has done a good job with the rehab, so I'm encouraged."

When did Charles have his surgery?

"His surgery was done Tuesday."

What was his specific injury?

"He had a torn left triceps. It was similar to Hollis', but not quite as serious."

Weight-wise was Hollis where you wanted him to be coming back?

"Not bad. He was in the ballpark. He still has some conditioning to do, obviously, and we'll see where he's at this week."

Would it be unlikely that Hollis would play Sunday?

"I don't know that that's the case. This is a team that runs the ball real well and in order for us to play well in this game, that's one of the objectives – I'm sure with both teams – to be able to contain and control the rush. This running back is very talented, they're blocking well up front and doing a good job with him. Hollis is a guy that could factor in."

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