New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton
2021 Training Camp presented by SeatGeek
Post practice press conference with local media | Monday, Aug. 2, 2021
"Just real quick, a couple transactions. We signed four players: Devonta Freeman (RB), Prince Amukamara (CB), KeiVarae Russell (CB), and J.R. Sweezy (G). We waived Lorenzo Neal (DL) and Lawrence Woods (DB) and just added Dillon Soehner (TE) to the reserve list. That keeps our roster count at 90."
What's the vision for Devonta Freeman? We all know he's a household name from his time in Atlanta. What's your plans for him?
"It started with Ty Montgomery. Ty's played running back and receiver for us. We want to focus a little bit more on his reps being at receiver. We were one spot too light at the running back position. Now, when it comes to Devonta, he's someone we're obviously familiar with having played against for a number of years in Atlanta. He's got good versatility in the running and passing games. I've been a big fan of his. We've seen him a lot. I think it's a good addition to the running backs room. I really think there's some versatility he brings and I'm excited about that."
What are some of the things you guys are looking for from Prince Amukamara?
"The handful of these signings I just mentioned have played at a high level (before in the NFL). It's an area (cornerback) where we were one spot too short on our numbers. He had a good workout. We definitely felt like we needed to add a corner to our group, and we'll see how he does. He's long, he's what we're looking for as far as his size, and he's got a good, tough makeup."
Do you have any thoughts on the lower number of interceptions in 11-on-11 drills so far? Is it too early to evaluate that?
"From a defensive perspective we grade it. We do not from an offensive perspective right now. Today, I felt we got the ball down the field a little bit which was encouraging to see. I thought the offense had a little juice in their legs coming off the off day and practicing inside."
It feels like Andrew Dowell has a nose for the football. Every day it seems like he is always around the football even though it might be after the play sometimes. What are your thoughts on him so far?
"I agree. That's a good thing. Each day there's been something with him; a punch out, a tipped ball, a stripped ball. A lot of times it's been a hustle play. That's good."
As far as the plan for Devonta Freeman, was the plan to get him that many reps in his first practice?
"Well, I think we had a pretty good rotation. He's in shape, so it goes back to the number count at running back. We were one man light when Ty (Montgomery) went over to receiver full time. He had 10 team reps during team period, but so did Dwayne Washington and Tony Jones Jr. It wasn't anything unique or different."
What's it been like having Zach Strief around on the coaching staff?
"Really good. He's doing a fantastic job. He's bright, an extremely good teacher, and has transitioned well. I think he's been a really good addition to our staff. He's seen the whole process. When we were talking in the team meeting room the other day about how things have changed relative to practice schedules, there's only two or three guys that can reference what practices were like in 2006-2007. That would be Zach, Brian Young, and Fred McAfee. I think those are the only three that can remember the Jackson, Miss., training camps. The point being that it is 2021 and this is how camps are run (today). He's done a really good job of getting acclimated. You can tell this is something he's got a passion for."
The other day you wanted to talk about improving in the screen game. With the athleticism of someone like Erik McCoy, is his athleticism unique for that spot?
"Well, it's a plus, certainly. I think our timing and landmarks, not just saying the running backs and O-line, but I think we can be a little bit more in concert. Then, getting into the screen game with the right looks, that falls on us as coaches. I think it can become a more effective type play for us."
With full pads Tuesday, what are you looking for in that practice?
"We'll add a few different periods in. It gets a little more physical. We spend so much time coaching how to practice without them which is a challenge, especially with new players and guys that aren't used to the tempo yet. It becomes a little easier from a tempo standpoint relative to what you can and can't do. It's about carrying them and getting used to them because that's how the game is played."
From a player relations standpoint, how important is that to you to have positive relationships with guys on your roster?
"I think it's real important. That was one of Bill Parcells' greatest strengths. He had nicknames for guys. It wasn't just one side of the ball or the other. You spend so much time with everyone that ultimately, you're creating belief and credibility in your program. That starts with us as coaches and the players either buy it or they don't. When you get a culture, you are excited about I think it is great to see. I think it pays off each year. Guys want to come play here. Our best salesmen are our own players. Free agency has changed a little bit so it's not quite the same recruiting process, but ultimately, it's down to the contracts. I think that's important."
I think back to the time when you mentioned to Drew (Brees) that you might draft Patrick Mahomes. You made it a point to have a conversation with him. Is that something, you don't want any players being surprised about?
"Yeah, just keep guys up to speed. I think there has been one scenario where we released a player, and I didn't get to tell him first. It is difficult to begin with, but you never want that to happen. The communication process, they appreciate being brutally honest relative to where they're at and where the organization is at. In that case, what was extremely different was that it was draft day and Drew had taken a group of friends on a tour through the draft room. The draft had not started yet and at some point, I looked across the room and thought, man, we might be drafting a quarterback while he is in the room. So, I grabbed him and said hey, come here and pulled him aside to let him know. I think there's players like that who you should communicate with. I was thinking about this earlier today. Certainly, there will be a player or two that might help him on offense like Alvin (Kamara) for instance and ask "Hey, where do you see this player fitting in? Tell me what you think". Right away from him the feedback was positive. I think that relationship and communication is established over time."
From an offensive perspective, why is it so difficult to defend the bootleg? We're going to see that week 1 with Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay.
"Yeah, I think there's two things that take place. It's easy to tell the end to contain. When I coached that youth team you hear the parents yell "Contain, Contain." When you do that, that run can cut through the backside B gap and you're yelling at the end about who's making that play. There's conflict sometimes. There're certainly some teams that can be more effective with it. Secondly, it's about how your quarterbacks can handle it. Some quarterbacks, like the young kid we drafted (Ian Book), is very effective outside of the pocket. He has a lot of throws either scrambling outside, stepping up, or designed plays to put him on the perimeter. A lot of it is your own talent and the opponent you're playing. Certainly, it's a compliment to the wide zone scheme."
What are your impressions so far of Ian Book?
"He's done a good job so far. He's picking things up. We give him a hard time because he's a rookie. We were working the last play out of bounds today where you can burn seven seconds off the clock when you throw the ball high, far down the field. I told Ian it'll be four seconds for you until we see your arm. He's handling everything we are giving him. I like the early signs and moxie from him. It's been good."
Where did you get the seven second time drill from?
"Seven seconds is about the time that runs off the clock when throwing the ball away. The clock stops when the ball hits an object. Typically, it hits the ground, but when it hits a player or the bench it stops. Anything north of six seconds is what we are looking for. It's an end of game situation where you don't want to punt and risk having a blocked punt. You can end the game if you are ahead. Or, at the end of the half if you are on your own 15-yard line with six seconds left, I would call that play on fourth down instead of punting. There's a couple of different drills for it, but that's the situation we worked today, last pass out of bounds. That either wins the game or ends the half."
You also worked the drill throwing it backwards, what is that drill?
"That's at the end of the game where we are going to take a safety. There's 28 seconds left in the game, we have a lead in the fourth quarter, and I know we're going to get an aggressive punt rush. If I'm doing it on offense, we snap the ball, throw it back to the receiver and he steps out the end zone. If I'm down inside the 10, I might do it with the punter and let him do the same things. Just trying to preserve the win and utilize the safety rule to help us secure a win.
Can you comment on Ronald Curry's growth as a coach?
"Yes, he's been with us for a long time now. He's certainly deserving of having the opportunity to coach the quarterbacks. He played quarterback (at North Carolina) before he was drafted. He's extremely sharp and I know he's excited for the opportunity. He is a good communicator (and has) been in these spots as a player, so I am excited to see his progress. He has done a really good job, he's very talented."
What could Jalen McCleskey's speed bring to the offense?
"You're looking for some trait at receiver. Some guys are bigger who don't have great speed, but some smaller guys do. You're just looking for traits you can apply to a play. That's the first thing that comes to mind. You can see what he does well and how we can use him."
You look at all the quarterbacks regarding getting in and out of the huddle, you look at a guy like Trevor Siemian that has started 20 games in the NFL, you've got to be pleased with that room's depth from top to bottom, correct?
"I am. We have a vision for each player there and then it's just about completing the vision and figuring out how they fit and can help us. Their ability to get up and get going out of the huddle, without having a veteran guy like Drew Brees around who did that, and you didn't even have to pay attention to, is very important. We've always had a fast tempo type of offense in and out of the huddle. You don't want that to change, but that's an area where we've been pretty good so far. When you get into the preseason games you really get to see it then with changing plays and seeing how much time is left on the play clock. So far, they've all (quarterbacks) done a good job with that.
How were you on the bootleg?
"In high school I was good, college not so much. In high school I was one of those outside the pocket passers. I was too small."