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Saints Training Camp 2021: General Manager Mickey Loomis, Coach Sean Payton transcripts from opening press conferences

Saints will hold first practice Thursday, July 29

New Orleans Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis

2021 Training Camp presented by SeatGeek

Video call with local media

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Are you OK with how the Mike Thomas timetable played out with him waiting until June to have the surgery?

"Yeah, well, look, I'm not going to talk a lot about that other than to say, I'll say a couple things on it and then I don't think we will say anything more. The first is, look, Mike had the injury. We all know about that high ankle sprain. He was treated conservatively (for the injury) during the season. He came back, played in the last two postseason games, still had a few issues after the season. It was decided that he was going to treat that conservatively. And I think we all had an expectation that that would heal and he'd be fine coming into camp this year. But we get to the minicamp and obviously it wasn't quite right. And so we had to make a call and collectively made the call that he'd have the surgery in June. Look obviously, with hindsight, we would have preferred that surgery to be earlier in February or March but it wasn't. It is what it is and hopefully he's had a good result so far and hopefully we'll get him back sooner rather than later."

Do you guys have any clarity on Marshon Lattimore's availability following the off-season incident? Some people speculated that he might get suspended, have you guys heard anything on that front?

"No, we haven't."

With the Covid protocols, do you think they'll have any effect on roster spots with players that have or have not been vaccinated?

"Yeah, no, listen, I think this, the protocols are that are in place. Really, there's a difference between the vaccinated, the unvaccinated. We're lucky enough to have a real high percentage of vaccinated players. At least within the building, we can operate, relatively normal. There are some protocols that apply to the unvaccinated players, we have a few of those. But look, we've got a number of guys that are in the process of being vaccinated. And so I expect those effects to, at least within the building and during training camp, to be relatively easy to handle."

I was actually going to ask you this before you said that, but do you have an estimate of what percentage of vaccinated you guys are at players wise?

"Yeah, well, look, I'm going to count the guys that are in process, we're going to be well over 90 percent. Which is a real good number for us, for anyone really. Hopefully, we'll get to 100 percent at some point."

Does it concern you that knowing that the severity of the situation that some guys would still choose not to be vaccinated? Does that make you kind of pause a little bit that you actually have to ask for that?

"Well, look, I just think it's a reflection of society in general, there are people choosing not to be vaccinated. I wish everyone would get vaccinated, I have been vaccinated, all of our staff have been vaccinated. So that would be my preference. And yet, look, it's a free country and guys are free to make their own decisions and deal with the consequences and the rules as they sit. In terms of the NFL, in terms of our guys, they've got some protocols that unvaccinated guys have to deal with and so if they're willing to deal with those, that's their choice, but obviously, for me, and I believe in the vaccinations, I think we should all get them and I think it's for the greater good."

How important was it for you guys to get that extension done with Ryan (Ramczyk) in July? Not only to lock that up just for the long term, but to kind of give you guys a little bit more flexibility right now?

"Yeah, I think, listen, any time we can get a player extended, someone that's contributed as much as Ryan has, he earned the extension. Obviously, we've got a couple of other guys, a few other guys that we'd like to do that with as well and we haven't made as much progress, but it's just one at a time, I'm glad to have that done. I'm excited for him and the organization to have him under contract for a number of years."

The second part of that, just giving you guys some flexibility to maybe add even more to this year's roster as it stands right now?

"Yeah. So look, any time we can help our cap situation, particularly this year with the reduction and with the results of last year. And really some uncertainty as to where the cap is going to be going forward. Obviously, that gives us a little bit of flexibility. Yes."

Just curious, from four preseason games to three, philosophically, do you look at the attack differently? In four games, we knew starters in game one, it'd be first half game two, game three, and then game four maybe no starters at all, or as much as you couldn't? How does that change now with three games?

"Yeah, well, look, we had no games last year. So it is significantly different than a year ago. I did not like last year, that's for sure. I did not like not having preseason games. But those are questions I think more for Sean (Payton) in terms of how he schedules the play time, and I don't know that he's made a final decision on that. But, look, there'll be plenty of snaps available to both get our guys evaluated and prepared."

How do you guys feel depth wise along the defensive line? Obviously, a couple of names that people aren't familiar with, but how do you feel going into camp?

"Yeah, look, I think we feel pretty good. Obviously, the one thing (is) you never feel comfortable, you always think you can add, and you always think that, hey, we can get better if we just had this piece or that piece. But in general, I think we feel good about those guys up front. Obviously, David (Onyemata) missing some games puts a little bit of a twist on that plan. But, look, we've got a lot of talented guys in that front seven and on the front four in particular, and I think we'll be just fine."

I have a two-part question. The first part is, how long have you expected Michael Thomas would miss time? And how has that influenced whether or not you're going to bring in any veteran receivers?

"Obviously, when he had that surgery, that was determined in June. And so we have known since then that the conservative treatment did not work, and that we had to do surgery. So we've had a little time."

I guess the fact that you haven't brought in a lot of receiving help, since then, does that signal that you're comfortable with the depth you have? Or you're looking to add at that position?

"Yeah, look, I think we like our group of receivers, probably more than some of the media guys do. But yeah, we'll adjust accordingly."

Then the second part I was going to ask is defensive tackle, as John (DeShazier) just asked, and receiver and even cornerback, I know you just added Brian Poole. What timetable makes sense for adding veteran players? Are we going to see more of that with your team and the league? Have you purposely been waiting till you guys are back at training camp? Or have we pretty much seen all we're going to see unless a particular player becomes available?

"Well, I think, look, free agency happened a number of months ago, and so how do you add players? You add players by, obviously, there's a few that are unsigned, but primarily it's teams that are going to release guys or if there's a trade option that comes along, and so we'll continue to explore everything to help our team, regardless of position, and if something comes along that makes sense for us, then I think we've got a history of pulling the trigger on that. So I don't have a definitive timetable for you that we are or aren't going to add someone, but we're always looking."

Do you have a timetable for Michael Thomas returning to play?

"We've had some discussions that, I'd rather not share. But yeah, I think we have a pretty good sense of what the timetable would ordinarily be and we'll act accordingly."

Can you speak to the team's communication philosophy and the ability of the front office to communicate so well with the roster?

"Yeah, I think, look, first of all, I think we have a coach that does a great job communicating to our team. You know, it's been a little more challenging this year and last year, because of the protocols and in the lack of offseason, in some cases, it's been more challenging and yet I think our coaching staff in particular has done a great job of having open communication lines. But we always try to do that in the front office with guys that we're discussing contracts with and any other issues that come up. So look, we try to be transparent. We try to tell the guys and be as honest as we can about what's happening, even if we don't know the answers. I think just being straightforward and being forthright is really the key to it."

What are some of the traits you look for in a quarterback you want to develop and specifically with veterans is there any trait that you guys feel like you can't fix?

"Yeah, look, first of all, I think that is a better question for Sean (Payton). But one thing our staff and head coach in particular's done a great job of is being able to assess what a player does well, and then adapting what they ask him to do to his skill set. And so I wouldn't want to put that in one box and say you have to have, A, B, or C, he might have, different traits that different guys have and Sean and his staff will adjust accordingly. I think they've been fantastic doing that over the years. Now, we have had the same quarterback for 15 years, so they haven't had to do that at that position. And yet, we have had over the last two years, you know, eight games that that Drew (Brees) missed and the next guy plugged in and obviously the game was called a little differently and the plays that were in the gameplan were adjusted accordingly. So again, I think that is more a talent of our staff to be able to adjust to the skill set that the players that we have fit."

Are there any traits when you're looking at a quarterback that can't be fixed?

"Yeah, it's good question. I think for us, a lot of that is intangible issues. You know, look, we're looking for leadership and high character and coach-ability and the things that are probably more on the less measurable side in terms of, what we're looking for in players and look that's across the board. It's not necessarily just quarterbacks."

With a lot of roster turnover this offseason how curious are you to see the new faces on the roster pan out?

"Well, look, first of all, I do believe we have a pretty strong core group of returning players that have performed and performed at a high level and obviously, you know, we expect and assume that they're going to continue to do that. But we've also got what I think is a really strong group of younger players that are ascending and obviously, there's some guys, you know, second-year players and third year players that you would expect to improve. And look, we're anxious to see as we get into training camp, how that manifests itself."

Are you guys having any more contract talks to some of the guys who need extensions, or if that's the kind of put to bed now the seasons about to start?

"Yeah, well, look, I'm not really going to answer that specifically, other than to say that I've never been a believer that, you know, you cut things off at a certain date. I think anytime we can get a contract extended and I'm not one of these guys that say once the season starts we don't have any more discussions. I think you can get a contract extension done at any time if it makes sense for both parties then you do it."

Other than Michael Thomas and Derrick Kelly, are there any other players who won't be ready to go tomorrow?

"Yeah, we've got a couple guys Wil Lutz, P.J. Williams, they'll be on NFI (Non-Football-Injury), it's soft tissue stuff that'll resolve in a few days. So I think all three of those guys Derrick Kelly, Wil and P.J. will all be pretty quick turnarounds."

How do you have a competition between Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill when they're playing style is so different?

"It's a good question and you're right. That's a better question for Sean (Payton). I think at the end of the day, though, you're really looking at just the end result, the production, is the team moving, are we moving the football, are we scoring, all those kinds of things. And there's more to it than that, obviously. But this is a results-oriented business. And that is true for, for all of us, for every position, every player position, every coaching position, every front office position. It's a results-oriented business. So we'll look at the results throughout training camp and Sean and his staff will make a decision."

What's your impression of James Winston?

"Yeah, I've said this. We've all been impressed. You have this impression of someone, but until you get them in the building, and you're around them. It's just an impression and I think everyone has been really impressed with Jameis and how he's handled himself and his dedication to his craft. And look, I think we've got a number of guys there in that room that have that type of character and so it'll be exciting to see those guys perform during this training camp."

Do you still have an expectation for fans at training camp practices and for fans in the Caesars Superdome in full numbers?

"Yeah, I think first of all for training camp we have got, I think seven, eight, nine practices open to the public and I expect and we'll assume they will be well-attended. We have protocols we have in place that don't allow much contact between our staff and those fans, but they can come out and watch and look I hope they do. I hope they turn out like they would in any year. I think we always practice better when it is in front of the fans. Look currently, we expect full houses at the stadium that's important for the New Orleans Saints. It's important for our home games to have the crowds that we've had over the years, they're loud, they affect the game. And we are all looking forward to a full dome. And so, yeah, that's our expectation."

Will you have to look at kickers with Wil Lutz being out?

"Yeah, I don't expect that. This is just a short-term deal. So I wouldn't expect that. No."

New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton

2021 Training Camp presented by SeatGeek

Video call with local media

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

I assume you knew Michael Thomas needed surgery, how do you deal with it and how it affects the state of the wide receiver position if you have to spend some time without him?

"It appears we're going to have to spend some time without him. It's disappointing and we'll work through it with the other players that are here. The surgery took place, obviously, we would have liked that to happen earlier than later and quite honestly it should have."

Was there a lack of communication in between?

"No. I'm going to leave it at that."

I know you guys haven't added a lot at the receiver position besides Chris Hogan, but are you comfortable with the current depth that you have or do you think that's something you will continue to look at?

"The guys we have…We think we have a number of guys that have played quite a bit. We'll always pay close attention to the roster and kind of go from there. I couldn't say today that all of a sudden that's something…There's other pressing positions ahead of that position."

Want to list them?

"Next question."

With some of the protocols the NFL put out, do you think they'll have any affect on roster decisions as far as vaccination and unvaccinated players?

"It is what it is, the difference obviously this year is we're split, albeit a small number, but from a team standpoint, we have a high number of players that are vaccinated, yet we have a number of players that aren't. You kind of go based on the protocols that they give you."

What are the things that you like about Brian Poole?

"We are familiar with him. I just saw him in the cafeteria. He is a good competitor, he is tough, I think he is a really good tackler. He has played at a high level on some pretty good teams."

Since we haven't asked you this question before, how do you put on a quarterback competition fairly in terms of evaluation, snaps with the first team and other elements?

"No, and it's kind of been enjoyable. Both (Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston) those guys are going to compete in camp. We're going to do our best to give them every bit the opportunity to be our starter. I'm not going to lay out the timeline relative to the snaps they're receiving or any of that, just that they both have had a good offseason, both I think are very well-respected in the locker room not only for their skill set on the field, but their leadership and work ethic off the field. We'll go from there."

When you work with a quarterback, are there any specific traits a guy absolutely has to have?

"There's a certain skill set physically and mentally, both of those areas that you would look at that you have to see. You have to see a player in the process, a player that's a good worker, you have to see a player that has arm talent. There's certain things at this level that you look for. We feel like obviously that both of our guys that we've worked with already have those traits."

Along those lines you mentioned work ethic and leadership, how much does practice and preseason games go into your evaluation, the intangible stuff?

"All of it does. Everything that we begin seeing, all of that factors in."

Do you install the same offensive plays depending on the quarterback that's in, or are there some variations even in the first couple weeks of training camp based on the quarterback?

"It's a fair question. I think it bends a little bit and our job is to give them opportunities to do things that they do comfortable and that they do well and that becomes a little bit of the uniqueness in this offseason but nothing that we can't work out."

Is this different than at 16 other training camps where you could have different installations for the personnel at quarterback?

"I've only had 14 prior training camps, not 16 but it's different. Obviously, it's the first training camp that we've gone into without Drew (Brees) who has been the starter, so sure it's going to be different."

Would you say you are happy with how your team has responded to getting the vaccine and doing what they have to do?

"I don't know if happy's the word. I still struggle with the balance of an overall understanding of where we're trying to get to. Clearly there are other teams that are behind where we are at and hopefully we can get to that 100 percent mark."

Can you talk about the signing of Chris Hogan with his unique background?

"Yes, look again that's another player we've seen and actually practiced against, someone we think has a lot of the skillsets we look for. So we are excited to have him."

How important was it to get Ryan Ramczyk locked up for several years?

"Yes, look, he's been tremendously consistent, available and one of the better right tackles in football. I'm glad he's on our team and he's certainly deserving of the contract that he received. That was one of those that when you looked at it closely, that was a must for us. He's too good a player."

Did you want to get a workout done with the Jaguars and it just didn't happen?

"Yes, I think right now with the way that our schedule sets up that we're going to stick with just practicing here."

In general what are some of the things that you might stress to some of your younger players going into training camp?

"In general, it's hot, all the details relative to being available, understanding the culture, understanding the importance of each practice, taking care of their lower body. There's a lot of things we will be smart about being outside and then being inside with the weather. We're going to have some heat here in the first three or four days, so we'll be smart about that."

Obviously, it's a free country and people can do what they want, but you're educating your players on the vaccine. Do you have a message for the fans knowing how important a full stadium is and the expectation of having that? Is there a message of what they can do?

"I'm focused on a camp, not a PSA right now. I appreciate the question and you want people to be educated and understand where we're trying to get to. I'm just one of those guys that prefers to look at the science as opposed to some other things. Mainly just focused on this team and the locker room right now. Obviously, we want to play in front of our fans. It's a huge advantage for us. You just paid attention to the Stanley Cup finals, you had one team with great success winning the cup with a tremendous fan base down in Tampa and their opponent (Montreal) didn't have that same advantage, but those guys in Tampa did a great job and I think it means a lot. I think it means a lot to your players."

How do you guys feel at cornerback now with an open starting job?

"It's still a position there. There's still a player there that we need to find. We're looking at everyone that we feel would be a candidate to fill that must."

Would you be able to identify any players that you've been impressed with at the start of camp opening up?

"We just had a conditioning test today, so we're probably a little bit early with that question. Thank you for the congrats (wedding), but our first practice will be tomorrow."

Is the slot still a vision for Brian Poole since he has spent much of his career at that specific position?

"We'll see where that's at. Brian's certainly been a slot player in the position that he excelled at. I think it's important to narrow that focus down to an outside player."

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