New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton
2021 Training Camp presented by SeatGeek
Post practice press conference with local media
Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021
"Today we were able to get outside for a portion of the practice. Today was a short-yardage emphasis. That took place inside. There were a lot of third-and-1, fourth-and-1 type situations along with other red zone plays we've already installed. At this point, this afternoon and all of tomorrow we'll shift gears for this game (Baltimore) relative to what we're seeing."
Would you say weather has been a factor in the last week or so?
"Actually, I felt like that was more of a factor during the first week for those first couple of days. It's hard to reference, when you get older, the days practicing at Millsaps or even three years ago, but we're always mindful of that with a lot of built-in breaks. We get guys in the cold truck and all those things. There's a mental toughness element there that's important. Having to fight through and having to focus during install in the heat. It's easier to focus indoors in 72 degrees. You have to be in that environment to be effective in it."
What are some of the things you're hoping to see Saturday in Baltimore?
"As a coach, you want to see clean execution. You do not want to see a lot of penalties or sloppy play. You want to see the basic fundamentals of the game like having pad levels where they should be. Typically, in the first preseason game at times that can be an alert. You want to see the blocking and tackling we've been coaching. So, really, the fundamentals necessary to play this game well, in my mind."
You said earlier in camp it's harder to get a read on the linebackers until the pads come on. Have you gotten a better feel of that group now with the pads on?
"Yeah, I like the depth at that position for two reasons. First off, defensively. Secondly, it'll help us in the kicking game. We have some athletic bodies there, guys that can run and are smart. I'm encouraged by that."
I feel we've seen Zack Baun make a play or two every practice. Is he doing the smaller things better that you've wanted to see out of him?
"Yes. He is having a good camp. A few of these guys are having good camps. Kaden (Elliss) is having a good camp. The young player (Pete Werner) is out now for a day or two, but I've been encouraged with that group. It will be good to see these guys play in a game."
What is the significance, if any, of which quarterback has the first series?
"Look, we'll have a plan. They'll both play in this first game and they'll both play the following week, and we'll flip them and go from there. We'll go through that as a staff tonight for all the roles. They'll be a few guys we won't play. We typically divide it into three phases. In phase one, it'll be 18-22 snaps. In phase two, it may be a similar amount. Somewhere in that third quarter is when we'll go to phase three. We're not one hundred percent sure relative to the roster, so there will be some guys that play more than 18 snaps, but I do not want guys to see anywhere north of 29 snaps. Special teams will be split with a first and second half rotation. We will go through all of that tomorrow with stuff like how we come out of the tunnel and warm up. That's a first for a lot of these guys. We'll go over what we do and don't do on the sideline. We're never giving an interview during a game in our bench area ever. Whoever is out there, it's important for them."
This is the first year you're heading into a preseason where your starting quarterback will likely take a significant amount of reps. Is that a different feeling for you?
"Well, from 2006-2009, (Drew) Brees was in that first phase. In those first four-five years he was out there with Jahri Evans, Jon Stinchcomb, and all those guys. They were all out there. He was young at that point, and I'd do it the same way. There are different philosophies on that. We've got to practice the game. It's a physical game, but after a while we began to adjust that process, just like we'll adjust it for guys like Cam Jordan or Malcolm Jenkins. With those older players, you don't need to see them every day, but you still do need to see them at some point. It fits into what we've done but it's been a long time. There was a time though when Drew was in phase one.
Has this training camp felt any different for you because of the quarterback position being in flux for the first time since 2006?
"Oh sure. Absolutely. It's been a lot more defined in the past. In a perfect world, you'd like it to be defined and established, but it's not. The mistake would be to try to define it and make a mistake there. The most important thing for our team is to get the right 53 guys and get the right vision and lineups for our team as we move forward. That is where we're at.
Could Payton Turner or Pete Werner play on Saturday?
"We'll see. I'm not going to rule those guys in or out. We'll see how they feel today. They don't seem to be long-term injuries. I'm anxious to hear the trainer's report today.
Do you change how you evaluate how people act during the game or do players have to change their sideline behaviors for you?
"No, they have to change. I don't want players sitting on their helmet with both ear pads sticking out the ear holes. I don't want players sitting on their helmets. I don't want players giving in-game interviews while someone else is playing. So, there's some attention to detail and it has been consistent going all the way back to 2006. That does not mean it is necessarily right for every club, but that is what we believe. These snaps are important. They may not be as important for a more veteran player, but they are very important for someone else. You want your team into the game, paying attention and staying focused. In every game there are learning moments. There's certain things we expect."
When planning reps for the players, specifically the quarterbacks, do you communicate that to both guys at the same time or separately?
"We tell them together. They're in meetings together, they go to quarterback meetings together. Pete Carmichael, Ronald Curry along with myself will establish the plan for the week and we'll tell them. We do that with every position. These players tonight and tomorrow will have a clear vision for how many plays they'll receive, how long (they'll play), what group they're in. That's the first thing you want in a preseason game. We want organization, not clutter. We want 11 guys on the field, no substitution problems, no quarterback-center exchange problems. You want the fundamentals to be in place to get started in the right direction. As coaches, it's giving clarity to that as best as we can.
Did the team get a presentation from officials last night?
Any highlights or takeaways from the officials' presentation?
"No. At some point, you guys will get one over zoom or something. There's a handful of rule changes. There are some points of emphasis. I read already unsportsmanlike conduct is a point of emphasis moving forward. There's some adjusted ruled to when you can and cannot cut a player. Any low blocks must happen inside, not the tackle box, but the tight end box, 5 yards each side. So, a wide receiver can't go downfield and cut a safety. On the flip side, when a tackle pulls to go block a corner trying to support the run, he can't go low. All of these rules are proposed to help with the head and neck injuries we see statistically. There's a couple officiating mechanics relative to replay. The officiating meeting was last night and it's pretty normal. We read the bios of all these guys (officials), and this was a very experienced group. It's probably as experienced a group of officials we've had come talk in my fifteen years here. This crew has worked a lot of playoff games. They've been really helpful."
Was one of the points of emphasis the number of holding calls being down last year?
"Well, that's a good question. We saw that as a (competition) committee. We spent time on it. There are a few fouls harder to call consistently and that's one of them (holding). You can find offensive holding if you're looking for it on a lot of plays. It's about finding what you want called and what you don't want called. I think it'll be a little north of where it was last year, but it was unusually low (last year).
When you get to phase three of the game, do you keep some of the older guys in there for the sake of continuity?
"Sometimes you have to. We have not purposely left a veteran in for continuity. These guys have to function just as they would out here. They're going to make mistakes and we'll correct it on film. But we want them to make mistakes going fast. In some areas we're a little thin, like every team, so some guys might play a little bit more."
It seems like the energy at linebacker is very high and forcing turnovers, do you like the amount of energy that group is showing?
"Yes. It has to be high. We were good at forcing turnovers last year. We put up the top ten teams every year in the turnover differential. There is a formula with how many you gave and how many you took away. I think we were fourth or fifth in the league in that department. Every team in the top ten besides one was a postseason team. When you went into the bottom ten, every one of those teams besides one that was picking early in this past draft was in the minus column, noticeably, in turnover differential. It's the one statistic, regardless of how you play, if you win that statistic but don't play your best game it can be the spaghetti sauce to make the game taste good. It generally ends up predicting the winner. You can play well but turn the ball over and can lose a number of those games despite the tape looking good. That has to be something we're coaching, thinking about, and effectively executing in all three areas of the game."
Do you still but heavy emphasis on turnover differential even though at times a few turnovers are random?
"There's times when a ball gets tipped or something like that. But there's only so much randomness. When running backs wear sleeves, it can cause some fumbles and things like that."