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Saints Training Camp 2021: Transcripts from Coach Sean Payton, Taysom Hill, Jameis Winston and Kwon Alexander

New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton

2021 Training Camp presented by SeatGeek

Post practice press conference with local media

Friday, Aug. 6, 2021

Opening Statement:

"Today's practice had a big third down emphasis."

Did it seem like the offense had more efficiency today? It looked like the quarterbacks had more time to throw the football.

"Yeah, I thought early on we did a pretty good job with some of the man coverages we were getting. There's a flow we talk about with each practice that moves back and forth. We'll look at the film. It's the second day we've had this installation and the first day of this installation practicing in pads. It was good to get back to rep some of the stuff we didn't put in the first day."

Taysom Hill showed up to camp lighter (in weight) this year. Is that something you wanted?

"He is pretty good with his weight. If he is down, it might only be about five pounds. What we do before summer is go over every player's weight. We talk about what their weight was last year and see if we want to move it up or down. We come up with their reporting weight and they sign off on it so we're all on the same page. Periodically, there are some guys that we need to keep their weight on and some to keep their weight off. His (Taysom Hill) might be down some but it's not significant enough where we had to sit down and talk about it. He's comfortable and he's been in it long enough to know what's needed. A lot of guys will cut weight in the opening month of camp. I think he's in real good shape."

You've had an extended look at Ken Crawley over the years. What are some of the elements of his game that make you want him on this team?

"He can really run. He has good length. Back in 2017 he ended up starting in the second or third week for us and ended up starting the whole year. He has a lot of experience with us, but his athleticism with his speed and his range are some of his strengths."

What is the value in having both Malcolm Jenkins and Patrick Robinson on the roster now? They don't play the same position but they both have similar stories.

"It is interesting and it is pretty common in our league. Those are veteran players that we drafted, both in the first round. There is a reason guys are able to play a long time in this league; it is intelligence. They understand who they are and embrace their roles. Both are familiar with the program and we're familiar with them. You know what you're getting with them and it's an easier decision to have them than to sign a free agent that you've never really met or worked with before.

Is it surprising that Chris Hogan has been able to pick up the offense so quick?

"He is a quick study. That happens with some players, they just have real good football instincts. Aside from just picking up the offense, one of his strengths is he's a savvy player. He's smart and understands leverage. He's really good with his technique. I am encouraged with how he's been able to come in here and make an early impression."

When Kwon Alexander got hurt last year, was him being able to participate at this time this year realistic in your mind?

"Christmas night I remember calling him. It was after that night game (Vikings) at his condo. At that point it is really frustrating because it wasn't a three- or four-week injury, it cost him the entire season. It's hard to project the recovery period for such a significant injury (torn Achilles), but to his credit he's worked really hard to come back from it. He has had some hurdles, but I think the one thing that you can tell from him is his love of the game. A lot of players at this stage with some of the injuries he's had might've looked at it differently. I'm encouraged with where he's at. I don't know at that time that we put an immediate time period on it, but you knew it was season-ending. You also knew the player (Alexander) and how he was going to respond. He's got to do with being out here right now seven and a half months removed from surgery."

With Drew (Brees) being here for so long, how much more time do you have to focus on the pass protection aspect of the offense?

"Significantly longer. I kid with Drew a little bit, but he was in that kitchen a long time. He started boiling the water a long time ago. When all of a sudden, he leaves, you now have to figure out who is now doing all these different things. He handled so much. It did not just happen in 2006. That's when it began, but during the course of 15 years, all of a sudden, he's now doing the dessert tray and he's now doing the appetizers. It is something that he really enjoyed and when that happens (Brees' retirement), you revisit your baseline. Everyone else begins to understand their role and you build on the player that's now in there (at quarterback). It has been significant."

Ken Crawley seems like someone that never says die on any opportunity that doesn't work out for him. What do you like about his mentality?

"He came in the hard way. There's some grit and toughness to him, I'd agree. You pull for guys like that."

Has Darren Rizzi (special teams coordinator) challenged someone that's been here a long time, like Craig Robertson to take on a bigger role?

"All of those special teams coaches are challenging those guys. You can get evidence of it right now, but you really see it in those preseason games. There's a room full of those special-teams impact guys and we've seen a little bit of it already. There's a lot of speed in that room and they should be good on that unit. We're excited about that."

Did you have a good feel of the interior defensive line rotation coming into training camp or is that still on going?

"I think it's still on going. Obviously, with David's (Onyemata) absence when we start the season, that's the significant one we have to replace.

With fewer preseason games this year, does that change how much other players are on your radar as opposed to last year?

"Well, it's three games instead of four. We'll try to have a plan each week and an objective in each game as far as the timeframe with the roster cuts. You are able to put together the practice squad off of that. I think it is relative to how you play those games with starters and backups as far as how many reps they get. As far as seeing other teams' players, you have one less game exposure to see them. Sometimes you go off a college grade if you look at a rookie that gets cut that we had good (scouting) grades on. Maybe you don't have as much exposure in the preseason tapes, but the task of scouting other games is still awfully important. You can point to several players, Taysom being one of them, that we claimed off the final roster cuts. With a player like that (Taysom Hill) that comes in without using many resources, that's a good thing."

New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston

How do you think you're doing so far in training camp?

"My goal is to get better every single day. My goal is to get better every single day and I know this is a process of every day, I'm tallying up how I'm doing and I'm trying to get better the next day."

What do you look at when you evaluate yourself?

"Decisions, that's all, I am not looking at completions. I'm not looking at anything besides decisions."

How hard is that to just focus on decisions when things don't go your way?

"It's just the process of how I'm trying to try to do things and I know ultimately, the more great decisions we make, the better we're going to be off for it."

Are you seeing that day-to-day progress that you're aiming for?

"Oh, absolutely. We're getting better now. We are getting better and we are looking good too. So we got to keep looking good and obviously the consistency. (We have) had great opportunity these past three days really, in particular to get some great work with the young guys. Having guys like Easop Winston stepping up, having guys like Jalen McCleskey step up. Great to have Tommylee Lewis back that's my guy. We had built a great connection on the scout team last year, so these young guys have been stepping up. We (were for some days) down to three tight ends so Juwan Johnson, Adam (Trautman) has been to do over (extra) work, so it has been great to get some work with these guys and build rapport with some of the guys that I haven't been throwing it to (as much) early in camp."

Do you felt like you've gotten better every day you come off the field and if you don't feel that way like I guess what do you do?

"I am going to study. I'm going to put my feet in the ice tub and I am studying, right. I am trying to see what can I do? How can I process faster, right, there are some places where I do make the right decision, but like you said, how am I getting there quicker, right? How can I eliminate things in our concept to get to the right place faster. Me and Demario (Davis) were talking about something yesterday I hit AK (Alvin Kamara) on a Y route to the left. Demario said hey, it is man coverage. Once you recognize it is man coverage you got to get there now. Because if you give me a step it is too late. Obviously, Demario Davis is one of the fastest middle linebackers in the league. It was kind of misconstrued, I am just like, come on with the Demario, like you compared to another guy. It is a different story. But we do we have elite speed in our division with Dein Jones and Devin White. So that one step makes a difference. So learn from those guys, from a veteran like Demario and Malcolm (Jenkins) has been very challenging to me. So I weigh that into my decision making process as well."

If you have a bad practice, how do you go more to the mental aspect of it to correct your mistakes?

"Yeah, absolutely. Visualization is the key, right? Like I'm trying to visualize that thing. I'm trying to make that thing deja vu, right. I'm trying to do it. I'm trying to visualize it happening before. I'm saying you heard a deja vu. I'm trying to visualize that happening before it even happens right? Before, I'm skipping that process. You know, that's actually a thing."

How frustrating is it to have a slight overthrow on a deep ball?

"We get another chance. It's not frustrating. We get another chance and a chance to feel the camaraderie with these guys. We're going to connect. I look back and it's just been one week of this. Man, we got a long way to go, right. We can't get too high and we can't get too low. That's what Coach Sean (Payton) was preaching the other day. We can't get too high. We can't get too low. We have to stay in the middle and have to be composed and we have to go out and execute every single day. Because that's what it is, it's about executing every single day."

Is this considered a quarterback-friendly offense?

"I would say this offense has enough weapons to be very quarterback friendly and you have an elite offensive line. One of the best (running) back tandems in the league right, with Latavius (Murray) and Alvin (Kamara). I ate some sneakers, but excuse my language right? One of the best tandems in the league."

Are you more excited or eager for a preseason game then maybe you ever have been in your career?

"I'm excited to go out and compete against my teammates every day. All things aside, man, I am grateful to be out here and have an opportunity. I'm grateful to talk to you guys, right. Like, I have embraced this process I have been through the thick and thin, like as a quarterback in this league man. I am never taking the day again for granted. You know what I'm saying. So I'm excited and I think our defense does a great job of mixing things up. We get on some of the DBs a little bit, like you knew that route was coming. But like you said, you know, the way Sean (Payton) and Pete (Carmichael) and RC (Ronald Curry) are doing things up top man. We put our guys in different situations where I have defenders come to me like, hey, man, like I thought this was coming and it's different. It hasn't been like that in other places, right. Like sometimes they like we know this is coming, but we're mixing things up. We're giving guys different looks, whether it's a split, whether it's a stem and changing it up a little bit. So we're playing some good football."

How about Marquez Callaway basically being wide receiver number one out here all of a sudden this summer?

"Well, we know we have one of the best receivers in the world in Mike Thomas, but when you have young guys like Quez (Callaway), who is holding his weight and dominating out there. I mean when you get to compete, like I say I take pride in competing against the Demario (Davis), Marshon (Lattimore), Malcolm (Jenkins), Cam (Jordan) every single day. Because those guys are the best and Callaway is getting a chance to compete against Marshon Lattimore. Like you don't hear his name enough, you know, as one of the top DBs in this league, right. So that's making him better, that's making him go higher and that's what you want, we want to elevate when it's time to really show up."

You kind of almost talk like a pastor, is that something you developed or is that just who you are?

"You can ask anybody and that is just me, that is just me this. Like I have always been optimistic, but sometimes I have been too optimistic, right. I think I kind of had to fine tune just understanding reality, a little bit. You have your ups and downs, but man, like, my gratitude was built from my father, from my mother. I had some very humble beginnings and you talk about a pastor, like, I know my lord and savior got me. I was listening to a sermon about Tony Evans, he said Jehovah-jireh, you know what that means? That means the lord will provide. So I am banking on that, so when I come out here and I apply myself, every single day, I work my butt off. It does not matter how to speak. As long as I'm out there, doing my job. As long as I'm out here being the best man I could be to ya'll, to my teammates. I'm getting the job done. So regardless of how I speak, regards how I carry myself, I'm trying to be the best man I possibly be. I have two sons. I'm rocking my one son on my neck right now. So I got a lot of things I got to represent and I understand it's bigger than me. And I want to show these guys like, hey, like I'm a CEO in this thing. You know what I'm saying. I'm ready to take that next step. It is a privilege to be to be a quarterback here. So I have to carry myself a different way. I'm not a 21 year old kid anymore. I'm a grown man, I would say, this is big man status."

Do you ever think about how important it is to fulfill the promise of having been national champion, Heisman Trophy winner and the first overall pick and is that something that's helpful to think about?

"I think about again, man, how grateful I am to be in the position that I am in now. Like I said, I can't take nothing for granted anymore. Because you don't know when it's over. We lost a coach (Gregg) Knapp (a couple weeks ago) and I remember working with him at the combine. Life is short. You don't know when it's over for you. So every day you can't take for granted. You have to embrace it and move forward. Like yeah, we won the national championship man it's great to see teammates like Devonta Freeman and Derrick Kelly, being on the great team with him. But, man, is that it? You know what I'm saying, Oh, you won the Heisman. Is that it, it's been almost 10 years ago. You know what I'm saying, like how much have I grown? How much have you grown in the past ten years? You know what I'm saying. So we are on to bigger and better things and how do we do that? How do we process that? How do we accomplish bigger things day by day. Day by day, we get better and better. That was a little prayer we said in high school, that's like 15 years ago. You learn things that you learned at a very young age and you try to apply them now."

When you're watching film and grading your decisions, what are some of the things you're looking at?

"Again, how can I process information quickly? How can I execute better? Was it the right decision and that's it. You know, how can I execute better? Was it the right decision and that's it. I try to keep it simple. I don't try to get too in depth. Typically when you overthink things, it's not really the right thing. We try to keep everything simple and go out and execute."

How much motivation do you draw from your Tampa Bay days and last season when you had to see them win the Super Bowl?

"My motivation is bigger than another team? My motivation is these teammates out here with me right now. My motivation is my family getting in town today. Like I know it's bigger than me. So that drives me every single day and like I said, me receiving a chance to be out here on this football field on a very mild summer day in New Orleans is a privilege."

Drew Brees had his hands on everything in this offense, more and more the more experienced he became. When you're looking at the process of setting up the protections on the offensive line, do you guys have to build that back up from scratch and how do you kind of view that as the quarterback?

"I will tell you one thing Drew started here in 2006 and that was a long time ago. So these coaches, they know what they're doing. Because we have pretty much the same offensive staff since 2006. So the guys we have working up top are great. They are elite. So I'm letting them do their job and I'm just doing what they ask me to do and I know if I do that, I know that's what #9 did and look, he turned out. So I'm definitely just going to listen to him and hopefully great things happen."

What are your thoughts on Kwon Alexander?

"I love Kwon Alexander. I've known Kwon since I was 14 years old (as teenagers growing up in North Alabama). Think about that. You know somebody since you were 14 years old, you get a chance to play football with him (later in life). Think about how much adversity he has faced (with his injury). Now he has overcame and was resilient, like that inspires me. So why would I not want to have high energy? Why would I not want to persevere? When all eyes (are) on you?"

Did you grade yourself in the gauntlet?

"Listen, Jeff (Duncan). The first time I went through that gauntlet I blew it up. OK. Yeah, I know, they don't show you that, right. But the first time I blew it up. The second time I got hit pretty good. But I kept my ground. I stayed up. You saw that ball. Do you see the ball? The ball was secure. So I finished in the end zone. OK. Like I said, we're going to be resilient. We're going to be resilient. Thank you. Appreciate y'all."

New Orleans Saints linebacker Kwon Alexander

Can you talk about your commitment to wanting to be back here, but at the same time knowing that you would have to rehab your injury on your own and then work out contract terms?

"I took a better approach, took care of my body, making sure I was healthy and eating right and everything and now I feel legendary."

Did you work with Dr. Reef before or was this your first time?

"This was my first time this year working with him this year."

What brought you to him?

"I saw Alvin (Kamara) going. I talked to him about it. I saw how well he was moving with his body."

How close do you think you are?

"I'm 100 percent, but I'm just easing in right now. They are just trying to get me moving around, because I was in a cast (for a period) and everything (the extensive rehab with the injury). When they're ready I'm going to be ready."

Do you feel as explosive as before?

"Way, way more explosive. Dr. Reef got me more explosive, so I appreciate his help with everything."

Do you rehabbed in seven and a half months. What did they tell you at first when you suffered the injury and needed surgery as a timeline?

"I don't look at a timeline. Everyone tried to give me a timeline with some stuff and I was just trying to rehab by body and my body is legendary, so I'm ready."

Was it shocking how quickly you came back?

"No, I just know when I put my mind to something, I know I'm going to do it. As soon as it happened, I knew I had to get my mind to where it needed to be and I got there, working hard, eating right, it got me to where I needed to be, just working and I'm here now.

What makes you keep battling back and coming back?

"I never give up. I'm going to do whatever it takes. That's just me, my mindset. When I say legendary. I'm just going to keep working.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Taysom Hill

Is there one thing that stands out to you most about this week in practice that maybe you're most happy with?

"Yeah, I think as training camp goes on and evolves, I think your timing with the receivers and all that stuff continues to be a little bit better. And the way that we've done this training camp is we've had three practices with the same install, which I think has allowed for young guys to step up and, and play fast. There's usually a learning curve as new guys gets in the offense. This is our first full weekend to practice and you've seen that."

You guys are doing like the position specific stuff, you're trying to throw into like the trash cans. I know with that stuff you're actually like working on specific things, do you enjoy the actual competition aspect of that too?

"Yeah, I think it's a fun way to get good drill work in and we're all, we've been playing sports since we were little kids. And so it's all about competing, and if there's nothing on the line, then it feels a little bit different. So we certainly have a lot of fun with it. But it definitely gets competitive."

Who's winning right now?

"Honestly, it's a good question. We have been like back and forth trying to figure out what's on the line here and I don't know that we've been keeping too close to the track because we don't know what it's for. So I don't have an answer for you."

When you mention the younger guys have the install where people can maybe play a little bit faster, does that allow you to be a little bit more decisive?

"For sure. I think anytime as a QB as you come out and see guys break the huddle, lineup, sprint to where they are supposed to be and then as you see guys run the right routes, getting in and out of the breaks as a QB that is what you want to see. We are always working on decision making the timing and all of that, but it is a two way street. And so as you see that, your confidence as a quarterback let that ball go when you need to is much higher."

How do you decide how often to run in practice, since there's really no threat of actually being tackled and you can go further into progressions? Does that feel like, I don't need to work on takeoff running in practice?

Yeah, I think that's an instinctive thing for me. And I think that's one of the things that as someone who can run and you have the ability to make plays with your feet that I feel really comfortable doing that. And so when I'm at a practice, there's a situation today where I would have ran in a game situation, but I want to work on stepping up, getting the ball out, working through my progression and everything else. I think that there's a balance of making it game like to where you're taking off and making plays like that, but in a practice setting, I'm going to work on getting through a progression."

How do you think you'll treat the preseason? Would it be similar?

"I'm going to treat it just like a game."

What are some of the things you look at when evaluating your performances out here and practice? We kind of get caught up in completions, etc. but I'm sure you're looking at a much more refined thing.

"Yes. We've talked about this before, I think what makes a quarterback great is his decision making, accuracy, timing and so as I'm evaluating my film, those are the things I'm paying attention to. Obviously completing, complete and there's matchup, personnel things, stuff like that, but there are three things I pay attention to: The decision making, was the accuracy there, was it complete or incomplete. And those are what I evaluate."

Have you seen a lot of growth from Marquez Callaway this summer and how he carries himself and how he's performing or he's just getting opportunity and he looked like this last summer too?

"Yeah, I think Quez is one of those guys that when he's had the opportunity he's taking advantage of it. So I have not seen Quez not have an opportunity and not step up to it and we saw that last year. I think we're seeing that this camp where Quez has played really well. His opportunity is really high and he's making plays."

As you're going through, you're cycling these wide receivers as you're going through a quarterback competition what's the process of getting like comfortable with new receivers, guys who just got signed, how does that play out?

"Yeah, it's certainly a process. We were kind of talking about that earlier. When you see guys getting in and out of the huddle, up to the line of scrimmage and running the right thing and the right depth and their break and everything is where it's supposed to be and how it's supposed to be your comfort level to throw it on time increases significantly. And I would say I don't necessarily need the rep with this young guy to see what he's doing, if I see him doing the right things, I'm going to trust him and cut it loose."

With as big a role as Drew (Brees) played in like setting protections and stuff like that given his extensive experience in the league and with the team. How big a part of that is this right now and just kind of getting on the same page of everybody, getting everybody in the right spot?

"I mean, yeah, it's very important to kind of make sure you're protected. As a QB, you've got to know where you're hot, and if you're hot, and where those throws are. But I would say, we're, the process of doing that might be a little bit different. We're putting some responsibility on the centers and so forth. But ultimately, it's our responsibility to make sure that we know where the hots coming if we are hot and making sure that we're doing this the right way. I think the process of doing that has been no different than what Drew was doing when he was here."

Just a quick one on what you're actually seeing on the other side of the line of scrimmage, just from your position in 11 and 11. Maybe watching film, with all the turnover on the interior defensive, do you get a sense or have any impressions of how the guys who are filling in there are doing in terms of being disruptive?

"Yeah, I think they're doing really good. I think a day like today, third down, they put in a little pressure package and stuff so you felt a little more pressure from those guys. But I would also say that it's not, I don't know how fair it is in practice when they're staying away from us. But there's plenty of guys that that are showing up on film and guys that are making plays up front. I just feel like this place has done such a good job personnel wise bringing in the right guys putting them in the right situations to be successful that my concern around that stuff is just not very high."

You mentioned your weight loss with rebuilding your body in a different way through the offseason. Did that help with your mechanics, is that something you felt like you needed to do to improve something?

"I don't think the weight loss improved my mechanics, but part of your training to be a quarterback is flexibility. Certainly strong backside shoulder. Our guy Will Clapp could attest to that. But those are the things that I was working on. I think anytime you can improve the strength of the backside shoulder, your flexibility that will help in throwing the ball."

So was losing weight in the offseason a goal or was that just a byproduct of you changing your routine?

"I just felt like, if I'm not going to be blocking defensive ends and backers and safeties and stuff then I didn't need to carry the extra weight."

Is this kind of more what you would naturally carry in your frame?

"Yeah, this is a good weight. I'd like to be 215 right now. This is a good weight for me."

I was told you're a scratch golfer, has that affected your golf?

"No, well, football certainly affected my handicap. Before we reported for camp it was pretty strong (laughter)."

Like where?

"I was playing at a four before I reported to camp."

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