<span style=""> <span style="">New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton</span> <span style="">Wednesday, November 18, 2009</span>
<span style="">Opening Statement:</span>
"A couple of notes in regards to the injury report, Jonathan Goodwin (ankle) did not practice; Lance Moore (ankle) did not practice; Jabari Greer (groin) did not practice; Darren Sharper (knee) was limited; David Thomas (knee) did not practice; Reggie Bush (knee) did not practice; Tracy Porter (knee) did not practice; Sedrick Ellis (knee) was limited. We signed cornerback Chris McAlister and waived quarterback Chase Daniel."
What do you foresee McAlister's role being?
"A lot of it will be based on the health of a couple of guys in front of him. But he's a veteran player that understands defense and is someone that we think can come in and help us. We worked him out yesterday and we signed him this morning."
How encouraging is it to have Sedrick Ellis back on the field?
"Anytime you're able to get a starter back – a guy that has been a good player for you at the three-technique and at the nose – it certainly helps. At the same time, we're still repping the other guys through in the rotation. Today he felt better and that was encouraging."
In Reggie's case, were you just resting the knee?
"Yes. In the game, a couple of these guys got nicked up. In his case, we backed off of it today and held him and held David Thomas for that reason."
Is punt return an area you're looking to improve?
"It's an area we have talked about and obviously it's an area we need to improve on. We had a decent return last week with a holding call that brought it back, but we're playing a real good team this week in special teams. They have a returner that is first in a lot of categories and when you look at it, that's an area that we have to do a good job with and emphasize. Those are field position, hidden yardage statistics that will be important in this game."
Why Chris McAlister and not some other players who were available?
"We had gone through our pro personnel reports and our grades, and he worked out yesterday and did a good job. A lot of it is based on how we grade and how we stack players that are available."
Did he come in with many other players to work out?
"It was he and another player. He did a good job."
Is there a chance he could help you out at safety or would it just be at cornerback?
"That's a good question. We're looking at him now and certainly he's a guy that has experience in the secondary and his role right now would be as a corner."
Was there any thought of moving Usama Young back to cornerback to help out?
"He's a guy that can do both, but nothing specific right now."
Was the signing also based on how Randall Gay played on Sunday?
"No. It was based on the injury to Tracy Porter."
How did Randall Gay grade out on Sunday?
"He graded out better than you would have thought. The one was a Cover-zero look on third-and-long; it was a full-blitz look and the quarterback had a half-second longer than you would like to throw it and the receiver did a good job. That's a tough coverage for a corner to be in. The next play was really a play above his head. But we have a lot of confidence in Randall Gay. Those were two good plays by St. Louis."
Is it good to be facing a rookie quarterback this week?
"We spend most of our time just on the game plan and getting ourselves ready to have a good week of practice and prepare. He's a guy that has a big arm. We've seen some other young quarterbacks this year. He has given them a spark. When you look at the tape and the way they played against Miami a week ago and their win against Green Bay, I think the players around him have responded and he's playing with confidence. Certainly we understand the strengths and weaknesses of when you play a younger player, but that being said, he's a guy that's elusive, can scramble to run and has a big arm. Especially after a couple of weeks now, we'll have a challenge."
Do you feel like you're getting Tampa Bay at the wrong time? Are they a team you would've liked to have played earlier in the year?
"You get the schedule and you play it. Certainly they're playing well right now. St. Louis was playing better and we caught them after a bye. Again, the focus for us starts with ourselves. Certainly we have to be mindful of the type of offense and defense and return game we're seeing and prepare accordingly on the film study, but they're playing better."
Was Tampa's more of a substantial rebuilding project than you'll normally see in the league?
"I don't know. I think you could make a comparison to a few other clubs that would be similar and there would be some others that wouldn't be as significant. They had a roster that they felt like they were going to move some players and begin to move on and start developing younger guys. Whenever there's a change like that at the top, you see a lot of different changes that go along with it. I don't think it's very uncommon in our league."
Do you see a completely different team on film than the Bucs from years past?
"There are a lot of differences and there are some similarities. They run well on defense. They're playing with confidence on defense. The return game is outstanding. You see some changes offensively with certainly a new coordinator and a little bit of new personnel, but it's a line that has been together for a while. The good thing is that you have a good portion of the season of film to be thorough and study and look at and get the nuances of what they're doing differently in all three areas."
Players have said recently that they seem to be getting opponents' "A-game" every week now. Do you feel like there's a bull's-eye on your back now?
"When you're playing good football, I think there certainly is a respect level from the opponent you play. But that's part of the challenge of winning each week in this league. You hope that you create a program and a team that is in that situation more often than the other."
Does the diverse attack that you have on offense help to neutralize the playmakers they might have in their defense?
"The one thing that you see on film is that these guys have good ball skills. Ronde Barber, looking at a veteran who is a smart player, Tenard Jackson, Sabby Piscitelli, Aqib Talib – all these guys catch the ball well. So it really forces you to be good with your location, your exactness in the routes in what you're trying to do. And if you're off a little bit, these guys contest throws very well. You can see that on film; they're athletic and they do a good job of defending the pass."
Talib has had some off-field issues. To what degree is the Saints' success due to not having to deal with players and off-field issues this year?
"I can't speak on behalf of a player for Tampa. We try to focus on improving and focus on getting guys that are able to do the right thing. We try to provide that structure. But he's an extremely talented player and he's having a good season."
Would you consider trading a seventh-round pick for David Thomas a steal?
"I think when you acquire a player, you're hopeful and you have a vision for the player and it isn't until three or four years down the road that you can put a grade or determine if it was a good acquisition or not. Certainly you hope to have more of those that fit what you're looking for and less that end up not being that and you understand that it's not an exact science. He has obviously filled a role for us and with the injury to Heath Evans, his role to some degree has expanded and we've been fortunate that way."
Were you surprised that you were able to get him that cheap though?
"It's all in just finding the right match with another team that was interested in a trade. Bill (Belichick) and those guys have done a great job of acquiring picks and drafting. Where one team might have depth and another team might have a need, generally there's a chance to begin discussions of acquiring a player. I don't think it was anything unusual."
Based on the injuries that you have on defense, how concerned are you with your defense being able to hold up until you get everyone back?
"I think that the key is preparing the guys during the week. I've said before that you're not going to go through a season where all 22 guys that start the season are going to finish and play every game that way. Already at this point we've had a number of guys step in that weren't opening day starters and I think that's fairly common. You could just go on and on with the players; if you started on offense, you'd look at Jermon Bushrod and Zach Strief and Charles Grant/Kyle Eckel.aspx">Kyle Eckel, who is a fullback that has played more and Darnell Dinkins' role has expanded. We've had some receivers who have filled in with Lance Moore's injury. Defensively you can go through the numbers there with the DeMario Pressleys and the guys in the secondary. I think it's the nature of a long year. When you play 16 regular season and four preseason games, that's a lot of football and I think that you're always in the process – we're always in the process – of developing all of our players; not just the starters. It's a challenge each week and that's what makes it interesting. And that's why you have to play each week and understand that there are changes happening with your opponent as well; guys are getting healthy, guys have been injured and you just hope to be on the lighter end of the injury note than the heavier end."
Based on what's going on in your secondary, do you think that teams will try to attack you through the air more?
"I don't know. We've had injuries in the front as well. How they approach us, I wouldn't know. You try to prepare for each opponent. When you're thin at a position or when there's a new corner on the field, certainly those guys understand that they'll get tested. We'd do the same thing on offense."
In regards to Chris McAlister, do you get him ready to play a game or do you get him ready for the rest of the season?
"We're getting him ready to play a game."
What has made you confident that your secondary will be able to handle this test of its depth?
"I think we're deeper from a health standpoint in the secondary. We have a number of guys with playing experience and some young guys like Malcolm Jenkins who got some more experience last week. We're at a point where we're not early in the year now. We're heading into the 10th game and the 11th week. Whoever we line up out there in the base and in the nickel will have had a lot of practice snaps and a lot of work this week in preparation for this game. I think they understand the scheme well. It's different from a year ago. And I think that their play is often tied to the play of the front and their ability to hurry a quarterback and get pressure on a quarterback. I think it all goes together."
Tampa has reportedly been working some on the Wildcat formation. How surprised would you be to see them line up in that formation?
"There's nothing really that surprises you each week. You prepare for your calls and adjustments and you get ready for things that take place during a game that you may not have seen. Each week there's a twist that you see; whether it's on offense or on defense and you just have to be prepared to adjust."