We are pleased for the first time to welcome in new Saints linebacker, James Laurinaitis (on Friday's Black and Blue Report). One of my favorite off season signings that's for sure. James joins us here via the telephone away from New Orleans. Not for long through, he'll be house hunting and moving and joining the Who Dat Nation here shortly.
First of all James, congratulations. I know the free agent process isn't easy. I hope that you are happy with your decision.
Yeah, I am man. I'm so excited. I think definitely when you go through that process it's a lot of anxiety especially, luckily for us our daughter is only a year and a half so there's no school involved or anything like that yet. There's just all about the wonder about where you're going to be, where you're going to live. I'm really excited. You know, New Orleans was the first team to kind of reach out and I just felt comfortable from the get go.
What was most comfortable James?
To me, it's just the stability. I look at the stability in the program, the organization. You look at the quarterback, head coach combo there. You look at the similar scheme to what I was used to. I know Dennis Allen, he runs some stuff that is similar to Gregg Williams but he has his own flavor, his own personality and I really just felt comfortable talking to him. Joe Vitt is a guy that I had a memorable combine interview with Joe, a very fun interview. I know Jo-Lonn Dunbar is a guy that played down there in New Orleans and then played in St. Louis with us. He had a ton of respect and nothing but great things to say about Coach Vitt so I'm very excited about the feel of the organization and really a hungry young defense. I'm excited to be a part of it.
It is young and it's had its problems here recently, James and I think that Coach Payton would back me up on that. When it comes to what Dennis Allen and Joe and the other guys are going to ask you, they're going to lean on you a lot here, aren't they?
Yeah, I mean I think what they were looking for is they want somebody that's going to be able to bring leadership down there and really just join in with the guys. I'm excited to just jump in and compete and you know, I'm looking forward to being a guy that can run the defense. I have that experience doing so. You know it's always a group effort and it's not going to be one guy that can change everything but I'm excited to get down there. You know they speak very highly of the other guys that they have and if I could show you how amped I am to get down there and really start. You know, I'm a guy that's always in the weight room, I always want to be in the film room. I can't wait to get my hands on the play book and start going through it and talking ball with everybody.
Yeah, you're kind of a gym rat in the football sense. When you look at your experience in St. Louis as a guy who helped turn them into a defense worth talking about, what of that experience will you bring to try and make the Saints defense a better conversation?
Yeah, I think really it takes with defense in the NFL, a lot of it is hey, can we all understand our system so well that we can play fast, fly around the football and know it so well that we can study a lot on the opponent. When there's confusion in any defense and we had that at one point when I first got to St. Louis, you know there was numerous calls and if everybody wasn't on the same page it's how big plays happen. You know, somebody gets uncovered or someone gets beat badly because there's indecision. Really the last few years we had everyone on the same page and that comes from not only good coaching but it comes from veteran player leadership and getting everybody to be on the same page, whether that's extra meeting time with players and studying film together, stuff of that nature to make sure there's really no grey area. I think that is what I'm look for too as long as everybody, all 11, are on the same page then we can go around, fly around, play fast and try to force turnovers and get the ball back in Brees' hands.
James, you never missed a game at the pro level, how have you stayed so durable?
Man, I tell you what, it's really just a blessing. I honestly believe it's by the grace of God I've stayed healthy. For some reason I've seen a lot of guys take really good care of their body and they just still get hurt. I really just feel fortunate and blessed to avoid that. You know I've never missed a game in high school or college and not in the pros so I'm thankful for that. I do take really good care of my body. When I first got in the NFL, I would try to piggyback on what Steven Jackson would do because I saw Steven as kind of a warrior, a guy that took really good care of his body, whether it was massage, cold tub, acupuncture, stuff of that nature, diet. Just really try to treat your body like a machine and put the right stuff in it and it's worked for me so far.
The St. Louis Rams are no longer the St. Louis Rams, they're off to Los Angeles. I can't imagine the distraction or the atmosphere that you all went through as players all during last season with that kind of up in the air. Did it change you in any way? Did you grow from it or was it hard to get through?
You know, really quite honestly during the season it wasn't much of a distraction. If you could limit your family members, you know like your extended family on asking, "what do you think is going to happen?" If you could just get them to quit asking the question and say "hey if anything happens everyone's going to know, it'll be out there in the media." Because in season it was easy you just basically went there, you focused and you focused on the next opponent. I think really in the offseason before the prior season and really when the season ended, it was just kind of looming in the whole building. Nobody seemed to be talking about it, it was just kind of out there in the media and you were wondering, hey are we supposed to stay in St. Louis, are we supposed to look for other places, are we supposed to sell our property? You know what are you supposed to do. I would say it wasn't as stressful for me but I can't speak for everybody else on the team and how they handled it.
Fair enough. Hey, I'm always interested in what makes a man. What influences the way a man or woman for that matter rose up and becomes their own person? I have to admit, I watched a YouTube video this morning about your childhood. It was fascinating. Growing up as the son of a pro wrestler. Do you like talking about childhood? Is that something you embrace James? Because that answer seems to be different from anybody that I talk to that grows up in I guess a non-traditional household.
Yeah, you know I don't mind talking about it. I really enjoyed watching my dad wrestle growing up. You know, I think any time you go to a new place it's a story that's going to come up because my dad did a profession, you know he's in the hall of fame for WWE and what he accomplished in the ring. I'm very proud of the accomplishment that he had and I think any time you have stories like that where you have a father who was successful in one realm and then a son trying to be successful in his, it's interesting stuff. Chris Vaughn and I joked about it all the time and I think Chris got it worse because he and his father did the exact same profession. We always talked about the father-son talk and all that kind of. But no, I don't mind talking about it. It was crazy. I didn't really realize until I got to college that my childhood wasn't normal because to me all I knew was my dad went on the road wore spikes and face paint, came home and he was dad. You know I didn't realize that was kind of an unusual childhood.
Did you inherit some of his showmanship?
Ha, I don't know. I don't know. I tell you what, I have no desire to do that profession but when it comes to for a while there some of my celebrations used to be old wrestling stuff for a couple years there. Just to kind of tie the two together. I don't know, I think I'm a little more reserved than my pops is. You know those wrestlers are self-promoters, they do a lot of that kind of stuff. I think really I'm a little more on the reserved side than the old man.
James, part of the reason I bring this up is because I think you're going to learn about New Orleans Saints fans, Who Dat Nation, they love characters and they love characters who can back it up. That's why I'm gaging whether you're going to I guess maybe dip into that pool a little bit and engage yourself with them.
Oh, I'm very excited to join Who Dat Nation. I mean I remember playing down there, goodness I don't even remember what year it was now, all I remember is Sam Bradford running down Roman Harper after he picked up a fumble and one of my buddy, one of my best friends, Malcolm Jenkins has two picks that game. I remember being down there and just the excitement in the atmosphere is unbelievable and I'm really excited. Coming from a fan base that been through some bad football in St. Louis, you know we struggled to get a full sell out for a while there. It's kind of one of those things is this year you're going to get over the hump over and over and over there. To go from that to a place that's going to be absolutely packed and rocking and enthusiastic and have a kind of its own living breathing thing as there fan base, I'm excited for it. I can't to play in the Dome with that kind of energy.
It's interesting you bring up your St. Louis fans because I get the question a lot about, hey you ever see anything like what Who Dat Nation or Saints football, the culture is anywhere else in the country and I always say yes I have actually, it's St. Louis Cardinals baseball and how closely that team ties into the city's culture. It's really the same as Saints football does in this city's culture here. I think you're going to absorb, be absorbed into it pretty quickly.
Yeah, I'm excited for that. You're right, I think the Cardinals up there run the city, they have the players and the fans they're just so intertwined together with just the culture and the passion for the game and you definitely see that down in New Orleans. I remember when I called Dunbar and I called Jenkins asking about it, they both were saying "you're just going to love the city and the passion from the fans, you know they are just one with the team and there is such a pride there." I'm definitely excited for that and I can't wait to get started.
James, I don't often do this but let me just ask you this, is there anything that you want Saints fans to know about you or the style of play that you'll bring? Or is there a question that you thought or you wanted me to ask you today that perhaps I have left out?
No, to be honest I mean I think the style that I bring is just I'm trying to be an extension of the coach on the field. I really pride myself in trying to be a player that when the coach goes to bed at night he doesn't think about whether I'm going to prepared or not the next day. You know, I'm a guy who likes to be in there super early in the morning to work out and get film in. I always want to know a couple days ahead kind of what the game plan is and what we're doing. I love to watch tape and just love being part of a team and kind of what I'm excited about is getting to know these guys, getting to know the players. I've reached out to a couple of them through text messages and just really let them know that I'm excited to join and can't wait to meet them and just build relationships. You know you just have to come in and work hard and really prove yourself and the fact of being reliable and durable and just kind of accountable on the field. Once you do that, that's when the respect comes and trust from your teammates. I can't wait to get that process started.
James, all the best in your house hunting. I hope you have a smooth and successful move and I'm excited to see you around the facility very soon.
Likewise. Can't wait to get started.