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Saints Training Camp 2021: Transcripts from Coach Sean Payton, Taysom Hill, Jameis Winston, Brian Poole, Carl Granderson

Quarterbacks met with the media for first time in camp

New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton

2021 Training Camp presented by SeatGeek

Post practice press conference with local media

Saturday, July 31, 2021

*Opening Statement: *

"I thought, overall, we got through the heat today. There are still some pre-snap penalties that we need to correct."

Is the ramp-up period any different this year?

"It's pretty similar to last year. It involves what they're wearing, the time on the field. There are certain things that make a lot of sense to do before we put on the pads. Monday will be another helmets and shells practice. Tuesday will be our first full-padded practice."

On that back shoulder throw from Taysom Hill to Marquez Callaway, what goes into that as far as having the trust to throw that ball?

"It's hard in our league to get past corners on go-routes. It happens, but it's a little bit of a higher percentage throw to throw to his back shoulder. It's a landmark, it's a trust that you need to play quarterback. I think it's an easier throw than just throwing the straight go-ball. It was a good throw and a good catch by both those guys (Hill and Callaway)."

As far as the No. 2 cornerback spot outside of Marshon Lattimore, how many people do you plan on throwing in that role to see who will win that spot?

"There are guys we view as inside guys and guys we view as outside guys. I mentioned at the start of camp that it's a position we're still looking at heavily and, in the meantime, you have to work on developing the guys that are here. That's our approach right now."

Was it a veteran rest day for Patrick Robinson today?

"Yes. He had an excused absence with a death in his family. I'll leave it at that."

With Jalen Dalton, you guys had him in camp last year and he got hurt, what were you able to see from him last year in that brief time?

"Obviously, we saw enough last year to want to develop him and bring him back. I think he's obviously healthy now and someone who we're going to look to see what kind of progress he can make. This will be an important camp for him."

Were you pleased with the consistency today with Blake Gillikin's punting?

"Yes, it was pretty sharp today. Yesterday we had some big punts, but it was more of a home run or a strikeout. That is a young player (Nolan Cooney), but it is good to have a live leg in practice. We saw glimpses of that in camp a year ago from him (Gillikin). I thought that practice period was pretty good. Impressive."

Depending on how training camp goes with the quarterbacks, could you ever envision in the NFL a two-quarterback offensive system?

"I don't know. Look, we always try to go by what we see and pay attention to what we're watching. We focus on how to win the first game and go from there. Generally speaking, I think it's important to have a stable leader in the huddle at the quarterback position. Again, we'll keep going through the process here and evaluating all the reps. They've both (Winston and Hill) had really good camps and have had some really nice throws. Both have put a ton of time in and been fantastic together. It'll take care of itself I think."

Am I reading too much into the small sample size, or has Jameis done a good job of concentrating on having more quicker, efficient, shorter throws?

"I told him (Winston) yesterday, every time you guys check a ball down to the running back there'll be an article written about it. I understand it. It's all part of the offense. You're wanting to see some of the traits that has made this offense go. Yet, it'll evolve and take on a new life of its own based on who's playing quarterback. A lot of drills that you get into might be more coverage based and you'll have to throw it underneath or there will be some drills where the defense forces you to throw the ball down the field. Both of those guys (Winston and Hill) are focused on being patient, understanding what the defense is trying to take away and playing more efficiently as a result of that."

With the interior offensive line's ability to get down the field and block on screens, does that help running backs to be more patient to extend those blocks?

"Yes. We need to be a better screen team. There's a lot that goes into that. The timing of the screen, the runner and offensive line being on the same page, and then there are some weeks with the opposing defensive front where you'll see screens not be as effective. Some weeks, they might be a high priority play based on the defensive rush that's happening. I think we can be better in that area this year."

How have you seen Carl Granderson progress since he's arrived in New Orleans?

"He's matured a lot. His body has grown. Clearly, he understands our system. I said earlier that group (defensive line) is a good-looking group and he's part of it. I'm encouraged with seeing his progress and his flexibility to be able to play some in the kicking game.

When you were evaluating Carl Granderson coming out of college, did you look at him as someone that could add on more weight?

"Yes, to answer your question, he had the frame to gain more weight and add muscle mass. He's been able to do that."

New Orleans Saints quarterback Taysom Hill

You told us back in the spring you were going to kind of change things up to suit your body more toward playing quarterback. So, I mean, for you did that mean like leaning out a little bit? How did you kind of change that?

"Yeah, I leaned out. Came in a little bit lighter than I would normally come into camp. And then my weight room routine through the offseason was quite a bit different as well, not so much from a lower body standpoint, but everything upper body, backside shoulder (was) a bigger emphasis and so forth."

So the purpose for that is I guess, more flexibility?

"Yeah, well, I think as a thrower, it's more important to have a stronger backside than it is your front side shoulder. And it's (more) natural to work your front side muscles than it is your backside. And I can tell you, for me historically, when I get sore, it's all your (decelerating) motions from taking so many reps and throwing so many balls. And so throughout my career here, I was always trying to find that balance of being strong enough to do what I was going to be asked to do, but still be able to throw a ball and so forth. And so there's definitely a transition there."

You mentioned this offseason, too, you're working on your footwork. Do you feel that paying off?

"For sure. I think just having another year and the off-season, just to play quarterback, my comfort level in the offense, throwing things in rhythm has felt really good. This was day three so by no means do I feel like I'm ready to roll right now. But we had three really solid days of work. And I think the off-season has been good for me."

So that just helps with getting the ball out quicker?

"Yeah, I think the idea is you play quarterback, I think your feet really, from a timing standpoint are telling your eyes where they need to go and your eyes follow your feet. And so the more you can train that, the more instinctive it becomes. And I think overall, the better player you are."

Are you at the point right now where the offense is second nature, like you know it like the back of your hand?

"I think that there are levels to that. So as you talk about understanding the offense, the way that Drew (Brees) did, or Coach (Payton) does, I certainly don't feel like I'm there. But every year you become more comfortable in what you're doing. And I would say every year I have a different emphasis of what we're trying to do. And I think you come into camp and you're trying to find this balance of not really scheming a game plan against your defense. But I think my comfort level inside the offense is higher now that you can spend more time about what the defense is doing versus what offensively what your expectations are."

What's your approach to the competition?

"Yeah, I mean, I think every year is the same for me. This year, there's a competition between Jameis (Winston) and I and who's going to play, but the expectation for myself never changes. My routine, the things that I'm consistently working on. That sort of stuff doesn't change from year to year. And so the way that I've approached this year has been different because my role is different. But from a competition standpoint, what I'm doing and how I'm working is all the same."

Sean Payton said he joked with you guys about how we're going to write an article every time you checked down to the running back. Are we wrong to put a microscope on that? Or is that a big emphasis to make those kinds of throws?

"That's the first time I've heard that from Coach. I don't really know what to make of that. I think the emphasis is making the right decision. It's taking the shots downfield when you have it and then knowing when to check it down to get to the next play. I think it comes down to making the right decision so I'm not sure what he was alluding to there."

I think we probably made a big deal last year about how you didn't connect with Alvin (Kamara) a lot in those early games after he so often is targeted seven, eight times a game. Is that not as easy quote unquote, or a natural throw as people might think, just throwing to a running back in the flat?

"I mean, I think that there are so many things that go into a game plan, what you're trying to accomplish. I can go back and look at several plays that I had last year that I wish I would have done something differently, but if guys are open downfield then we're going to give them chances. And obviously, you're trying to get the ball to your playmakers and Alvin's one of the best at his position so we're trying to do that. Sometimes we manufacture it where he's the number one read. But I think as a quarterback, you can't cripple yourself. If you have something downfield, you're not going to check it down just to check it down."

What did you take away from the balance between running and throwing? I mean, did you almost come away from those starts last year thinking you could have run more?

"Me personally? Yeah, I think as a running quarterback, or someone who can run, I think you kind of get pigeonholed sometimes that like, if you do run that is, it's like a mistake almost, or you shouldn't do it. But I can tell you my mindset's no different than most quarterbacks. If there's a guy downfield and you're having an opportunity to get the ball to them then you're going to do that. I think the thing for me is, there are certain coverages that are really enticing for a duel threat QB to take off and run and at the end of the day, it's all about having good plays, back to back good plays, first downs, move the chains and to go and score. I do think it's a difficult balance, sometimes as a dual threat quarterback to find that, but I try to stay true to my reads. If there's nothing there, the great thing is I can make something happen."

Do you and Jameis (Winston) pick each other's brains a lot?

"Yeah, I love working with Jameis, he works really hard. I think he's really smart. He has got a lot of experience playing the position. And so I think the culture here has been no different (than before he arrived). I'd say Drew (Brees) was a great mentor and allowed all of us to pick his brain and he's obviously not here, but between the four (Hill, Winston, Trevor Siemian and Ian Book) of us in our QB room, we're always working together, giving feedback, if someone makes a good decision, we certainly let them know that we thought it was a good decision and good throw. And if there are questions, there plenty of times where I might make a throw, but I want to see what happened on the backside of that I'll come back and I will ask Jameis or Trevor or Ian and so forth with the coaches. We have got a really, really good room and a group that really works well together."

New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston

How does it feel going through your seventh training camp?

"It feels great. Obviously, we know that it's a process and we got to get better every single day and it's just the beginning. But so excited to be with this team, a bunch of great guys, a bunch of great teammates, and excellent coaches."

Where do you feel you're at right now, mentally?

"Yeah, you know, continuity is always a great thing for any position and being able to experience Sean's (Payton) and Drew's (Brees) relationship gave me a good grasp of the system. But obviously, reps is what's important. This year, you know, I probably got more reps in three days than got all last year. So it's an incredible feeling to be able to have an opportunity to go out and execute because I'm more of a, you know, a visual learner. I like to apply what we do and apply to certain concepts and I will learn better that way. So it's been fun and I think I'm getting a good grasp of it. But obviously, my objective is to get better every single day and I know what the great head coach (can help with), his resume speaks for itself, and we got great guys in that quarterback room and we're helping each other and we (are) building."

How much more confidence do you have to be aggressive as a passer when you're gunning for a starting role as a quarterback compared to last year when you fill in for Drew Brees in that San Francisco game?

"I think it depends on the situation, right. I think our defense does a great job of mixing up coverages, especially right now. I mean, they probably have three installs in and so we have a great in a defense that makes you check the ball down, right. But when those opportunities are there, to get big plays, you want to execute them. We did that pretty well today, I know Taysom (Hill) had a nice back shoulder (throw) to Marquez Callaway in a spear. So once you get those opportunities, you want to execute on those. But my main goal is again, to really perfect this offense, and whatever they need me to do, I'm able to do."

Do you feel you are able to apply everything you've learned thus far?

"Yes, I feel like I'm getting better every single day. But one thing that helps, I'm telling you, when you're able to watch greatness, run it, you feel the mentality that you just like, I can go and watch film of him do it, right. I'm just trying to replicate what he does, right? And then I get a grasp of different concepts that I like, more than what he may like. You kind of pick and choose. Definitely when I'm planning, when I'm sitting there watching film (of) things that I may like more than him. But in terms of the offense, I feel like I'm grasping it well and I'm executing a pretty good."

How important was it for you to work with your wide receivers this offseason, specifically Tre'Quan Smith?

"Like I said continuity, like the more times I can see him getting in and out of a break the better for us, right. We want to be on the same page. He's one of our elite receivers and we have to be on the same page together. So it was definitely a privilege to get to work with one of my main guys, down in Tampa, and it was fun. You've seen how it translates out here on the field me and him. That probably was our first incompletion today on the freaking slip. And we'll take that incompletion at the end of the day, we know that sometimes it happens, right?"

What about just the importance of being able to spend time together?

"I'll often say that teamwork makes the dream work, right. So the more I just get to know who that guy is, he gets to know who I am, you know, you kind of build that trust, right? So it's one of those situations where you look that guy in the eye and he's like, yeah, I know what page you're on, you know, and I know what page he's on. So anytime you can build that team camaraderie with anyone, you know, the offensive line, you know, that's why, Sean (Payton), you know, promotes gatherings. But with COVID and all we couldn't do that, right? We've kind of lost that aspect of that team building. So the only time we get to spend time together is in this locker room so we definitely got to take advantage of that. But this offseason, being able to spent time with Deonte (Harris), Lil'Jordan (Humphrey), TQ (Tre'Quan Smith) and Adam Trautman and Juwan Johnson and Nick (Vannett) and all those guys. Like you just know, like, when we get on the field like, hey, we've been here before, we already executed these plays. So it's a different type of connection."

You said you learned from Drew Brees to help your decision-making, is that why we've seen more check downs than usual to start camp?

"It wasn't decision-making. We're making money off of decisions, not results. So we are not result-oriented and as long as long as you're getting completions we're doing well. We have a great defense, we have a great offensive line. Defenses get tired when they see completions, right? They want you to check it down and check it down, but I think that's what Drew perfected over the last three years of his career of just lulling defenses to sleep and then go over their head and there you go a touchdown."

Can you share with us what Drew told you after the playoff game last year?

"You know, he just was motivating me, man. Like, I'm going to keep that between me and Drew. You know, like I said, I've seen I got battle through all the things he had to go through last year. So just for him to be able to be aware, be present to share something with me and that was probably his last game, you know, that was a privilege and honor. So I'm going to keep that between us. I think he'll respect that."

Have you and Drew stayed in touch this offseason?

"We have."

Is that check-down mentality a change for you at all?

"No, it is not a check-down mentality. Listen, t's take what they give you. And I think that's one thing our coaches preach, we want to be elite in our progressions, like we want to do that, me, Taysom (Hill), all the quarterbacks, we want to be elite in our progressions, right? Typically, offense always says someone is always open, right? So we want to be able to move through those progressions quickly, and be able to get the ball completed."

How did you guys take the Mike Thomas news?

"I was devastated, he's one of the best receivers in the game, right. But the thing about Mike Thomas, he is working his tail off to get back with us, right. So it is not like we have a guy that's not going to be working. This guy's one of the most dominant receivers over the past five years. This guy has a tremendous work ethic. This guy wants to be here. So I guarantee you, Mike Thomas is working his tail off right now to get back with us. And that's what we're going to be able to cherish. We're going to remember this year from Mike Thomas, right? All great players go through adversity. I had some adversity, I had to sit the bench all of last year, right. So all great players go through adversity. Mike Thomas is going to bounce back stronger than ever and that's what this culture is with the Saints organization. Before I even got here, the past four years this team has been winning, this team has been together. So we're going to embrace our teammates and we are going to love on our teammates and we are going to have their back until they get back."

Were people upset with Mike Thomas?

"No, we're uplifting him, we are encouraging our teammates here. That's what we do. We got his back. I got his back, 100 percent."

What are your early impressions of Ian Book?

"I love him. He has to be more prepared, especially on his rookie performances (laughter). He can't get called out in the team meeting and not be able to prepare, like he has to be ready to sing his (rookie) song. But no all jokes aside, Ian has been doing really good. He's been very receptive. I love our quarterback room. Even with Trevor (Siemian), Taysom (Hill), all of us have great relationships, man, we're all building to help each other out. Because the thing is about this team, right, as quarterbacks we have to put the team in front of all of us. We all have our individual goals, right, we all have individual accomplishments that we want to accomplish on the field. But collectively, we want to be able to make the team go and I think we're together and I think we're all doing that."

Did you reflect on your time last year waiting and now being able to compete for the starting job?

"It's always a great opportunity to have a chance to be one of 32, right. And like I said, man, we've got great coaches, (we) have a great team, man, I'm so blessed to be a part of this team more than anything else. And you can't put a price on having an opportunity to be an NFL quarterback. I mean I think that's one of the most desired positions in all sports is to be a quarterback and I have a great chance to be that."

Can you go through the pass to Deonte Harris from your eyes?

"Well, obviously I wanted that play back. But I mean, that's the thing it's next-play mentality, right, incompletions we're going to live with incompletions. But again, with the connections, the more and more we rep that (and) later on in camp you're going to see us connecting on that, the more and more we have reps where we feel the cornerback kind of sitting inside, the more and more I can communicate to Deonte (Harris) on film, watching the film like, hey, run it like this, hey, how do you want that ball? Do you want me to drive that ball a little bit more? Hey, do you want me to lay that ball on a little bit more? And I think that's what leads to execution, right. That's the most important thing you can run that play over and over and over again. But the execution may lead you to another place in the progression. So I know me and Deonte worked that ball a lot this offseason, not against a defensive player like (Ken) Crawley. So we're going to continue to get better at that and we're going to start executing on that."

Pete Carmichael said you've really tried to look at all the throws you've made in your career this offseason. Do you normally do that?

"Really, every year, I get a chance to do a self-scout of myself. But I mean, this year, I mean, I have so many people to self-scout. We had Tom Brady playing in an offense that I played in the year before. We had Matt Ryan playing in an offense with Dirk Koetter in Atlanta, we had Drew Brees playing in his offense, we had three great quarterbacks playing in this division in an offense that I know and we had Teddy (Bridgewater) playing in Sean's (Payton) offense in Carolina. So self-scout was kind of a little bit easier, because in our conference, while we were watching against defenses in our conference, I was able to watch each concept against different defenses. I was able to watch four great quarterbacks execute in those systems. So I was able to take some things from them, I was able to take some things that I learned from my experience in those offenses and obviously, this new offense with Sean, I'm able to see different concepts and stuff that I enjoy here. So it was an amazing year for me in terms of just growth of learning football overall, because I had so many pieces in place to be able to take things from.

When did you do that self-scout?

"That's a whole offseason thing. Actually during the season I was able to communicate with some of the guys about just like, hey, like this is what he's thinking, Tom (Brady) and Matt (Ryan), this is what they are thinking because I have been in those offenses and as I watched them, right. I peeked them every single week. I peeked Atlanta and some of Carolina, not much of Carolina because we run the same offense, but I definitely peeked at Atlanta and Tampa Bay every week, conceptually on their offense. Just because I've been in those offenses."

Any early impressions of 17, Jalen McCleskey?

"I think he can fly. I think my cousin Easop Winston (laughter) is a great player. We have got a lot of great targets. Like I said, our job as the quarterback is just to get them the ball. I think everyone's doing a great job right now."

Why do you think Deonte Harris might have a more prominent role as a receiver in the offense?

"I just think because he's an excellent football player. A lot of guys might be specialists. A lot of guys might be just deemed as receiver or running back. But I think the thing that our organization does is we recruit, we get great football players. I know all of you hear the term, the more you can do, right? Obviously, he's trying to elevate himself higher. And I definitely think he's capable to do anything he puts his mind to. So obviously, he's made some plays for us in the passing game as well. I remember (the) Minnesota (playoff game) when Taysom Hill hit him for that big post, right. His role is definitely going to expand just because he's so talented, and he's an elite football player."

Were there some plays where you were looking to get it to Deonte Harris?

"Anytime he is on field, like I said, I'm going through my progressions and if he's open, I'm going to give him the rock. You know, if he's not on the fine AK (Alvin Kamara) or Tay (Deonte Harris) underneath or someone underneath to get the ball to them. It is completions, it's all about completions."

Did you have trouble finding Alvin Kamara wearing a number six jersey?

"Nah, but I know AK isn't going to be wearing number six. Shout out to T-Mo (Thomas Morstead), that was a great number six in this organization for a long time. We definitely miss him. I know he's doing a great job."

New Orleans Saints cornerback Brian Poole

** What is it like getting acclimated here?**

"Obviously, coming from New York, I just want to be a part of a winning culture. I feel like they have that here. I just want to be a part of it."

Is it surprising how long it took you to find a home, given some of the personal success you have had in your career?

"I understand it's a business. I understand I'm coming off an injury. I understand the business."

How do you view yourself in terms of an interior and exterior player?

"Really wherever I can play to help the team win. That's all I want to do."

With the Falcons you were in an overtime game against them three years ago. What kinds of memories do you have of the Saints?

"I was in Atlanta for three years. We had a lot of good matchups with the Saints, won some, lost some. This is an organization that always had a winning culture. I just always wanted to be a part of that."

How would you describe this defense and what you would like to bring to it?

"It's fast, aggressive defense, I think that's what my playing style fits."

Does the time you spent in the NFC South help you get adjusted here or not really?

"I wouldn't say that. I try to start fresh every year. I try not to use the past or anything. I just try to start fresh every year."

Were you really waiting it out with a call to come from the right fit?

"I just worked out. I have a trainer down in Florida that I train with, really good trainer, keeps me in shape and ready to go."

Is there anybody you have covered the last few days who stands out?

"All the receivers are good to be honest."

Is it too bad Julio Jones isn't in the division anymore?

"Julio's a good friend of mine."

How have you adjusted to the heat so far?

"I'm from Florida, so it's pretty similar to Florida I would say, the heat and the humidity."

What are your thoughts on Jameis Winston working against him?

"Jameis is a really good quarterback. Obviously we have history from the same division. He's a really good quarterback."

New Orleans Saints defensive end Carl Granderson

** Have you put on another 20 pounds?**

"Yes. When I first got here I was about 243 and then I got up to about 254. So my second year, I played around 270. Now I'm 277. My body has matured, developing and I'm getting bigger and stronger."

Obviously they look for that in their edge guys. How does that help you in terms of what this team would like you to do?

"It helps a lot. You can't be tossed around on the field. Being bigger and stronger helps you play stronger, a lot better to hold your weight on the field. So that helped me in the way of taking on blocks, power."

What goes into adding 30 good pounds?

"It's definitely a process on gaining weight. It's a routine. It's a job. You have to take care of your body, make sure it's recovered, work out. You need to eat healthy. A lot of protein shakes, Muscle Milk and staying on top of it. My diet is a big thing for me. I'm going to continue to improve that."

Being a Sacramento native how did you end up at Wyoming?

"So I ended up at Wyoming because in high school I was 6-5, 173 pounds. Unfortunately I was too skinny. A lot of guys recruited me and they were trying to picture at defensive end how I would go from 170 to 250. It was impossible. So Wyoming took a chance on me, gave me an offer, that was the only offer I had and I took advantage of it. So, I went from 173 and within two or three weeks I was 190. So I ended up playing as a true freshman at 200.

Why did the worm celebration go away?

"I did the worm one time and I kind of retired. Cam Jordan came up to me and told me to not do that again. I learned from a veteran (laughter). I haven't brought it out back since."

Talk about the type of rotation you envision in season and how that will help you group in the regular season?

"Going into the regular season, you need to have at least seven or eight defensive linemen. So, this whole camp is to evaluate our defensive linemen and see who's going to prepare us to win a championship. Moving forward, everybody, Payton Turner, Cam Jordan, everybody is evaluated. So we have to do our job at the end of the day."

Discuss the importance of shedding a tag as a pass rusher and proving you can stop the run?

"I just have to improve on playing faster and playing harder. To improve, it will come, but continue to think run first, because if you stop the run, that's the only way you're going to pass rush, so I just have to improve on stopping the run, getting TFLs, so I can rush on third down."

Can you talk about your work with defensive lineman trainer Aaron Day in California in the offseason?

"So, offseason, I went back to Sacramento and said I needed a pass rush. That's when I contacted DLineVids, who happened to be down the street from Sacramento, which is 30 minutes away and we linked up, so the whole offseason I was in Sacramento working out with DLineVids and getting better. He helped a lot. I saw him two or three times a week and he helped my game. I'm excited to see this season what kind of tricks I have up my sleeve."

Changing your body do you think you still run like a gazelle or is there a compromise with the bulk up?

"No, I feel like as I get bigger and stronger, I get more powerful. I have to go into camp and go into go into the season conditioned. I'll be able to run for a long time. I can run a little bit. The main thing for myself is to work on my conditioning, fly around the field and be ready when the season comes."

Do you still feel like a gazelle?

"I'm more powerful now, so the terminology I use now is probably a horse since I have horse legs, mustang (laughter)."

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