New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton met with the media after Friday's one hour and 45 minute practice at the indoor facility. In the availability, he gave the club's final injury report of the week, a report that RB Pierre Thomas has been added to. Below is a transcript:
"We'll hit the final injury report here: Robert Meachem (toe) was full, probable; Remi Ayodele (ankle) full, probable; Alex Brown (shoulder) full, probable; Chris Ivory (hamstring) full, probable; Jimmy Wilkerson (foot) full, probable; Reggie Bush (chest) full, probable; David Thomas (knee) did not practice; he's questionable; Jeremy Shockey (groin) did not practice, he's questionable; Anthony Hargrove (knee) did not practice, he's questionable; Anthony Waters (ankle) did not practice, he's questionable; Marques Colston (knee) did not practice, he's questionable; lastly Pierre Thomas (ankle) was limited and he's questionable. Today was like a Thursday with a nickel emphasis. We have one more tomorrow, which will be a little bit longer than a normal Saturday."
Did Pierre Thomas re-injure himself yesterday?
"No. We just listed him just as it is. Just less reps because of the ankle; limited."
So there was no physical setback?
"No. And nothing more about injuries. What I'm going to do anymore is just read the status and not discuss injuries."
Jeff Charleston and Marvin Mitchell came up big on the goal-line stand the other night. How important is it to have role players like that contributing?
"That was significant. If you go back to the Steelers game, we had a similar stand in regards to coming away from a sequence of plays with no points. Considering the ball was on the one, that's a game-changing type of series of plays. Those guys did a great job. Just going through the telestrator on the TV show that I do and watching it over and over again, it's all about get off and pad level and we had good penetration. On the second play when the ball came out, that was huge in a game like that."
You've talked about guys knowing their role is important. Would you say that Charleston and Mitchell are two guys in particular who know what their role is?
"I would say that's accurate. They know who they are. Both of them play a substantial amount of snaps; although they don't start, when you look each week at how many snaps they're on the field for, it's quite a bit."
Has Marvin Mitchell's role in particular increased this year?
"As we've gotten into some of our defensive packages that have included him, some of the (three-man line) stuff and some of the odd fronts, he's played more and done a good job with that."
As the calendar turns to 2011, do you have reflections on the past year?
"The season has gone by quick. I would say from experience that typically when you have success, it goes by quickly. When you're not playing as well, it seems like it can go on for a long time. I would just say that the time has flown. Here we are with one week remaining in the regular season and it has just gone by fast. It's good to be playing for something at this point in the season. Our goal is to finish this thing the right way and get better this weekend with this next opponent. We'll have a challenge with Tampa; a year ago we got a real good game from them and they ended up beating us. I'm sure that they'll be ready to play as well."
Does the fact that you may not have a bye leading into the playoffs change what you do leading into the start of next week? Are you starting to look ahead at all?
"We really haven't begun to look to next week. A lot of that has to do with the fact that we're on a short week ourselves after getting in here when we did on Tuesday and pushing practice back. You get consumed with the challenge in front of you so that doesn't allow you to look at New Year's or allow you to look at playoff scenarios. Certainly we pay attention and understand the different scenarios, but because of the time constraints and because of the short schedule – and for that matter even if it was a regular schedule, there is so much to be done in preparation for this game that we haven't gotten to that. We will at some point, we just haven't yet."
Does it help that your two potential opponents next week are teams that you've seen recently in Seattle and St. Louis?
"If that scenario unfolded, I think it's a positive for both teams having played each other and getting a little bit more experience with each other."
If you do play on Saturday next week, would you just accelerate your schedule or might you shorten it up as you did this week?
"That's a good question. We'd have to look at it and look at the time slots and then make our plans. Once you get to this point, the key is making sure that we're not on the field too long. I think the scheduling and the practice time and all that is important and something that we take seriously and look at closely. That would be the case if that were the scenario."
Do you marvel at how fast Jimmy Graham has developed?
"He has progressed quickly and I think to some degree we talk all the time about touches. We have a number of guys each week going into a game, looking forward to opportunities. Lance Moore's stepped up and had a very good season. Jimmy Graham and his learning curve have happened very quick. He's done a very good job. You kind of earn that confidence. It was a play that we had run earlier in the game. We had just kind of tinkered with the route we were running with Jimmy based on the field position and down and distance. If you recall, we called a timeout just to think through what we wanted there and discussed two plays during that timeout and ended up going with that specific play. We just happened to get man coverage, which put him on a safety instead of a corner and he did a good job with the route. Drew (Brees) did a very good job with the location of the throw and the execution was good. For a young player that was exciting. As a coach, it's exciting to see his development."
When a guy gains the confidence of the offensive unit so quickly, how much of it is coaches and how much of it is Drew coming to you and saying I'd like to throw to that guy in the end zone?
"It's a combination as we all watch practice. You see his skill set and you see him continue to make plays. I think when you're a young player, you gain confidence through production and not only on the practice field but in game settings. I think that's the case with Jimmy."
I know you hate to give away a competitive advantage; we're not trying to help the bookies. We're trying to inform the fans?
"It was a Saints fan that blogged (Marques) Colston coming out of surgery. I was waiting for you to have the nerve to ask me according to a blog and you just hypothetically asked me if Colston had a surgery. I understand that and yet, really the report is what we give and you're right. I do hate to have any type of competitive edge that would work against us. I think injuries clearly in my experience can potentially do that. We'll list them. Just to discuss them, there's no benefit for us in regards to each week's game and really from our perspective, this is what the league requires. That's really it. The league doesn't require us to discuss the injuries from day to day, nor surgeries for that matter."
If Pierre Thomas can't go, what are your thoughts regarding kick return duties?
"We would again look at a number of guys if that was the scenario. We would look at guys that have had experience there. We've worked Robert (Meachem). We've worked Devery (Henderson). We've worked Adrian (Arrington). Adrian's a guy now that he's up that's taken snaps there. That could happen if we want to back off some snaps for him."
Is it a surprise Arrington hasn't been snatched up by another team?
"He's had opportunities and to his credit, at one point in the season, I won't get into teams, but he elected to stay and had an opportunity with another team on an active roster, which is pretty impressive."
Can he expect to actually play?
"Yes, we'll see. We'll see where he's at. If he's active and on the game day active list, you hope he's playing a role. You talk about that all the time because that number when you look at 46, that's a small number and there has to be something that they're doing. If it's up he'll have a role."
Has Robert Meachem improved as a threat on intermediate routes?
"I would say so. I think that he's improved his transition and his ability to sink his hips. He had a big intermediate route on a deep in or dagger, what we'd call, a third down conversion. When you have that fastball or speed, you can sometimes get that cushion of the intermediate routes to be more open. It's more challenging for a player that doesn't have the top end speed to separate underneath. Robert, has improved with his route tree. That's helped him."
How does that help in addition to the route running skills of Marques Colston and Lance Moore?
"Each week when we gameplan and sit in the meetings at night, a lot of thought is given to personnel. Who are we asking to do what? Who are we asking to do that against. So, there's times where you spend a half hour on one route, wanting to make sure that you get the matchup you want and you're asking the people on your side of the ball to do what you think they do well. A lot of attention's given to that. As a player, he adds things he does well to his list. That's a good thing."
How many of Robert's routes were a matter of reading the situation and improvisation as opposed to being called?
"There were two that were more improvisation or a broken play. One of the third down completions wasn't a broken down play, it was a deep dagger route. He's also a big receiver. That target area is good for the quarterback."