<span>NEW ORLEANS SAINTS HEAD COACH SEAN PAYTON
(Opening statement) "It's been a good week of practice. We have two more; one today and a walk-through tomorrow at the stadium."
(On the importance of Drew Brees' comfort during the game and how they will achieve that) "Well I think the flow of a game is important for a quarterback. You try to look at the defense that you're getting and try to get some rhythm for him. He's a guy that can get real hot early and I look at it as a coach, our coaches look at it, as certainly an objective of ours. Sometimes it's through intermediate throws, sometimes a screen, sometimes a throw down the field. Just having the right balance and mix is important, but I do think that (comfort) is important in any big game."
(On how the team has handled the Super Bowl week) "We're on our normal schedule. There are a few little nuances just in regards to the bus logistics. This event here is a little different. We're in meetings right now. But this is something that we've done before in regards to travel and relocate. Our London game last year; Houston in the pre-season this year; with (Hurricane) Gustav last year we relocated to Indianapolis. You know, you set up shop in the hotel much like you would at training camp. You get your meetings established, you get your itinerary established and you try to stay in routine. Those are things that are important."
(On the game against the Dolphins and how it was a turning point for the team) "Well just in regards to the game, you know, as the season goes on you find yourself playing with leads, playing with deficits, and certainly in that game we fell behind, didn't play too well early and Miami did a great job. We kind of hung in there in the second half and made a few plays, got some turnovers and capitalized on them, and that ended up really making the difference and giving us a chance to win. All those things, I think, build confidence and you hope to draw on those things in the post-season. Certainly that was a handful, one of a handful of games where we fell behind and battled back and were able to overcome some early mistakes."
(On Saints DT Remi Ayodele) "Remi's done a good job. He is someone that gives us size inside. He's athletic. He's a good worker and he's been a nice edition really when you look at him as being someone we were able to sign as a free agent."
(On the city of New Orleans and the team rebuilding together) "The relationship with the fans I think is unique. This is a city that really has been very close to this team through a lot of hard times. After Katrina, when the Saints were able to get back and play in the Super Dome, certainly there was some symbolism that evening. I think playing good football and giving them something to be proud of is important. With as visible as many of our players are in the community, and many of them are just because of the logistics of where they live, I think all of those things make it positive and make it pretty special."
(On how his experience in Dallas prepared him to get to this point in his career) "Well I had three years there. I was fortunate to have had certainly three years with the Dallas Cowboys, an organization like that with Bill Parcells, three years before that with the New York Giants and those are a couple flagship organizations that have won a lot. Being with the people there in Dallas; Mr. (Jerry) Jones and his family, Bill (Parcells) and the staff we put together, Bill put together, was a great experience for me. I consider myself fortunate to have had a chance to be touched by all these people that we're talking about, and they are a big reason that I'm sitting here today. It was very important, very instrumental in my development."
(On acquiring TE David Thomas this year) "Well, we had lost Billy Miller in the preseason to an injury, an Achilles, and we knew New England had a lot of depth at tight end. We had done trades with them before, and it was just a matter of just trying to find out maybe if any one of those players would be available and fortunately we were, in our case, able to obtain Dave. He's a guy that plays at a lot of different spots. He's versatile, he's smart and you know exactly what you're getting. Sometimes, you've got to be careful to not play him too many snaps. With Jeremy's (Shockey) health a few weeks ago, he was playing more than maybe you would have liked. But he's certainly been an important part of what we're doing offensively and gives us flexibility."
(On any time spent with his family this week) "Last night was the one night we went out. A lot of the families got in yesterday, and I went out with my immediate family and in-laws and sisters and brother and just got something to eat and then got home and got some rest. It's really the one night to do it. So it's a great experience for the family members. They can come down here and enjoy themselves, and the key is just managing the distractions as players and coaches and handling that the right way."
(On meeting his wife at Indiana State and his family ties to Indiana) "Well, I don't know if they've been rooting for this matchup, but I've got a lot of family back in Indiana. Beth and I met at Indiana State when I was coaching. Her family is from back in that area, Morocco, Ind., which is in the northern part of the state. I spent two years as a coach (there). My high school coach was from Indiana. Had a lot of good friends and family that lived back there. My brother and sister-in-law live in Greenwood, just south of Indianapolis, and I think all of them were on the flight out here yesterday and probably were the only ones wearing Saints jerseys. But I consider that region home. Being from Illinois, you really, as you move from one state to the other, unless there was a sign that told you you were entering Indiana, you wouldn't know it. So there has been a lot of people that I've met and am close with over the years there, and it's still a pretty special place for me."
(On how he has grown as a head coach since his first training camp) "Well, I think you're learning all the time. I think that certainly, just as we ask our players to improve, study, hone their skills, the same has to be expected of us. There's certain experiences that are hard to simulate, maybe, and each year, something – something maybe little, something maybe big – comes up, and you deal with it and reflect back sometimes at the end of the season. You try to look at ways where you can improve as a head coach. I think that's the nature of teaching – at least good teaching – so that's something we try to pay very close attention to."
(On what a Super Bowl victory would mean to him personally) "You know, one of the things that you talk to your players about, an accomplishment like that almost binds you forever as a team, a coaching staff. More important than any of the celebration or any of the other things that go along with winning a championship, I think that in itself is pretty significant."
(On if there's a danger of getting too wrapped up in trying to play for the city of New Orleans) "Well, I think throughout the course of the week and by game time, I don't think when we meet or talk, there's any of this, 'We've got to win one for the city' speech. In other words, I think that's just a sense, a feeling that exists or permeates really throughout the course of the year or throughout the course of the players' time here. That sense of or that feeling of, 'This is pretty important to everyone,' and they remind us daily how great the fans are. They remind us daily how important it is to them. So that being said, I think games like this come down to the execution, the details. Players will be excited to play. All the little things that really allow you to win games and all the little things that potentially could cause you to lose games, and I think they understand that."
(On if there's a word he attributes to his team this week and if he expects to sleep well on Saturday night) "Focus is a good word. That's kind of one of the things that we've talked about all week long. And I think (despite) the challenges that exist during the course of your week that break up maybe your routine or things you battle against, I'll sleep fine. Just like any other game, you'll have a routine. But I think that overall, the work week's going well, and I think that the schedule and the way our players have managed the schedule and the distractions, that they've handled it well."
(On how much offensive flexibility is taken into consideration when constructing the roster) "A lot of it is, when you sign a player, you have to have a vision for the player. In other words, we're not going to draft and sign, and then when they arrive say, ''Well, we'll do this.' Generally, when you sign a free agent player, you have a pretty clear vision as to what you want to do with him. I think it's important each year to be flexible in regards to the health of your team, in regards to whose playing well, and to try to put them in good situations that give them a chance to be successful. He (TE David Thomas) provides some flexibility in that he plays 'Y,' he plays 'X,' he can do a number of things. That's a good trait to have."
(On the task of getting his team ready for the playoffs after losing the final three games of the regular season) "I think the key was preparing to play well in the playoffs. Much was made of finishing the regular season and a lot was written about it. Most importantly, it was just getting prepared physically and mentally to play the divisional round, no different than the approach Indianapolis was taking. Certainly, we wanted to win, a couple of those close games we weren't able to. To get guys healthy, and to really focus on taking advantage of playing at home against Arizona, and then home again the next week against Minnesota, that becomes most important."
(On what he has learned from football that he applies to his daily life) "Hard work. I think that commitment is critical. The challenge often times is finding that balance with football and family. It can at times consume you and take from family time, and that's something that I think you have to pay attention to always. It's something that still I can continue to look at from a schedule standpoint and really look and try to evaluate how to do a better job of managing time that way. I think that the commitment aspect of hard work and dedication, those things all would apply."
(On the relaxed feel of this team this week) "If you go back earlier in the year, this term 'big game' was used. In week four against the Giants it was a 'big game,' and then week seven or eight another 'big game,' and then another one on Monday night against Atlanta. Then there's another 'big game' against the Patriots, so you get used to that idea that we're in a big game. If you continue to play well, we're going to be in more games that are certainly bigger than this one, and obviously this is the last game. This is the championship game and yet, that routine, that mindset as to preparation and going and playing, and keeping it just like we've done throughout the course of the year. Sure, there's going to be nerves, and guys are going to be wound up, but we're going to manage that fine."
(On if he has done anything to prevent his defense from becoming awed by Peyton Manning) "He's a tremendous player. We've got a lot of respect for his accomplishments, just like we did with Kurt Warner, Hall of Fame player a couple weeks ago, and Brett Favre, another Hall of Fame player last week. We've had a stretch here, where each week these guys are special. He's done it – we were talking about this at breakfast – he's done it over time. His staying power, and his consistency, and his approach is unique. That's why it is talked about so much. We've got a lot of respect for his abilities and what they've done offensively there, and coaches, and preparation. It will be a tremendous challenge for us. We're going to have our work cut out for us with the way he's playing."