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Saints Training Camp 2021: Transcripts of Coach Sean Payton, Cesar Ruiz, Prince Amukamara

 'It’s still that early time in camp where there’s no light in the tunnel. It’s just dark'

New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton

2021 Training Camp presented by SeatGeek

Post practice press conference with local media

Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021

Opening statement:

"I have one transaction to announce. Keith Washington went on to the reserve list and we signed Adonis Alexander. It was a 1-for-1 transaction and keeps our roster at 90 players."

Was Keith Washington's injury a season-ending Injured Reserve designation?

"No. He has a wrist injury. It doesn't necessarily mean it's a season-ending injury, but we put him on the reserve list."

What have you seen from Christian Ringo (DL) so far in camp?

"He has had some good reps. We went through our personnel last night in the meeting. This is the second fully padded practice we've had, and I think we're going to get a better feel in the next week with preseason games coming up."

Can you comment on the return of Kwon Alexander ?

"All offseason he's someone we've paid close attention to where he's at with his rehab (torn Achilles). He's someone we wanted to have back. It was just a matter of working out the right contract. He'll get into the facility today. We'll be slow with his acclimation. He's done a great job with his rehab, but the worst thing we could do is to throw him right back into practice. He'll be with us on the roster and in meetings, but there'll be a little bit of an acclimation period for him before he's ready to go. I told him I got tired of his social media workouts. He was wearing me out."

Were those social media workouts good to see though (Kwon Alexander)?

"We had pretty good information as to where he was at in his rehab. But don't let any of that mislead you. It was a significant injury that takes time to heal, and we'll be smart with getting him up to speed."

Is there an expectation he will be ready for the start of the regular season?

"We'll base it on how he's moving around. It looks like he can be. I'm glad he's back here with us. He's well-respected. He's a guy we had a real good chance to evaluate when he was here. I know his teammates think the world of him. He's smart, so it's good to have him back."

Is the recovery of that injury (torn Achilles) dependent on the player or is it a body type of thing?

"I think it is all of the above. The general risk is the other side of the body rather than the operated side related to injury. It's about making sure he's on pace with his rehab progress. You'll see him out here running and those different things, but we'll be a little slow to put him back in team periods until we feel it's the appropriate time. It can vary based on body side and genetics."

Did you feel a need at linebacker or was it specifically wanting Alexander back?

"No. We've got a lot of guys competing and we like what we're seeing. We're just adding another good football player who we got a good chance to evaluate last year. When the season ended and we went through every player on the roster, we knew he was injured but we were always going to track his progress in getting to this point."

Can you comment on Payton Turner's last two practices in full pads?

"He's doing well. He's young. Probably rushing the passer better than defending the run so far, but nonetheless he's getting acclimated to what we're looking for. He's very coachable and we want him to keep going, keep trending the right way, and we want to keep working with him."

How important is Payton Turner's ability to play inside and outside on the defensive line?

"I think it's early for that right now. The key is finding the things he does well right now and getting better at the other areas. We're encouraged with him so far."

Patrick Robinson's role had really diminished here at times. Did he do a lot of good things to earn the opportunity to come back here?

"There's a lot of guys competing for opportunities there (at cornerback) right now. We're very familiar with the player (Robinson). He can move inside and outside, and he can still run well for a guy of his NFL experience. We'll keep paying close attention to how those guys are competing. Ken Crawley's been doing well. We've got a number of guys we're looking at, but Patrick (Robinson) is a guy we're familiar with."

What have you seen so far from Paulson Adebo?

"I have seen some really good special teams snaps. I thought he had a better practice yesterday afternoon. I think he is smart. I know he is. He picks things up very quickly. I know he has good ball skills. It's about putting practices together. He's someone who has good hips, he's sudden. You see his athleticism. I thought yesterday was one of his better practices."

There was a play in team drills today where Jameis Winston had Ty Montgomery II open on a post route, but he double clutched it and checked it down to Alvin Kamara. Is getting to him to take the checkdown part of the progression with him (Jameis Winston)?

"Well, it's part of the progression of the play. There's outlets available. Here comes another checkdown article. You're getting certain eligible into the pattern. You hear the word process with the quarterback and that's the decisions of "I like it, I don't like it". Finding the outlet and dumping it underneath for a 8-10 yard gain. It's about moving the chains and trying to be efficient, but also being aggressive. Sometimes those checkdown come in different windows. You saw Drew (Brees) for years throw through guys to the backs. It's an important part for each individual pattern. Not all are the same. Some are over the ball, some you go right or left. It's part of the spacing of a pattern that I think is important."

You saw in Tampa with all his interceptions, is that something he (Jameis Winston) hasn't been great at in the past?

"I can't speak on that. I know we're a team that throws the ball a lot to the runners. It is just the system we're working and, in each play, he and the other quarterbacks going through the proper progression the same way. Sometimes the best answer is to throw the ball away. He threw one away yesterday and it was a good decision. That's the main thing."

What's the main challenge for Juwan Johnson switching to tight end? Is it blocking?

"Yes. You're closer to the line of scrimmage and involved with more defensive ends and linebackers than he was as a receiver. He put on a little weight. He's going along and he's eager to learn. He's had some playing time. It's our job to do the things he does well at that position. I don't necessarily see him as a point of attack like running power behind him, but there are a lot of tight ends with his type of stature. They're close to 240 pounds, not as heavy but long and a good receiving threat."

You seem to be getting opportunities to receive a lot of evaluation from the wide receivers, especially today with so many absences. How do you feel about the group in that regard?

"Good. We have a couple different type players. We've got some speed you see with (Jalen) McCleskey, LJ (Lil 'Jordan Humphrey) is coming along still. I'm encouraged with the camp he's had thus far. Ty's (Montgomery) receiving exclusive work at that position, and I think it's helping him. There's been a number of guys each day. Today there was a few other plays. It's a little bit of a long march here, but they're competing, and I like how they're playing.

How has Kawaan Baker looked to you so far?

"I thought he had a good practice today. For him it's just learning the offense, the different formations. There is an abundance (of learning) for someone that has come from a different system. I know he's a willing blocker and I think he's someone who will help us in the kicking game too. I thought he had a good practice today."

Is there an update on Tre'Quan Smith or Deonte Harris?

"No. Nothing that I think is going to be very long, but there's no update.

You're a week now into training camp. Is it too early to tell how the roster is going to shape up?

"It's still kind of ongoing. I like the way these practices are working. We have another week and a half before preseason games, and we'll keep working. It's still that early time in camp where there's no light in the tunnel. It's just dark. That's where we're at right now and I think that's a good thing.

When are you going to take them to Blue Bayou?

"No Blue Bayou trips. Not with the off days. That's their choice if they want to go on their off days."

Saints guard Cesar Ruiz

How much different has this camp felt to you compared to last year?

Yeah, it is definitely a lot different. Now I am coming in (and) I have a year in the playbook. I understand ahead of time what's going on. So, right now it's not more of a mental thing for me, it's this technique of improving in football."

Are you feeling more like yourself being out on the field this training camp?

"Yeah, definitely."

Is it a lot easier just focusing on one position now?

"Yeah, that too. Definitely focusing on one thing, one position. Like I said, my mind's not racing a lot. I'm focusing on right guard with the team and working on coaching points and practicing all guard stuff."

How tough was that transition from center to guard?

"It was a little different. I played center, switched to guard. I never really played guard. So first I am trying to learn it and it takes a little bit of time and then I had to miss some time (injury). So just working into that was definitely a little different some things I was never explained before. But now I'm coming into it, I know what I'm doing, fresh, just ready to go do."

Did you do anything physically different as far as the way you want to come in at or how you train in the offseason for those two positions?

"Really regardless of what happened this offseason, my main focus was to get my strength up and put a lot of muscle on. So basically, my plan was this offseason, I started the offseason off, lost 15 pounds and just bulked it all back up, just muscle, try to bulk it up like that"

Is your weight the same as what you are listed at (316), but with more muscle than last year?

"Yeah."

What has been more challenging thus far in your career for you, pass protection or run blocking?

"I think honestly, it's really a combination of both. I think the biggest thing is that everybody that you go against is good at something, their own particular thing, and if it's a guy you've never seen before it's like, alright, what is he good at? And then it's just learning what guys are good at. You never really know what to expect all the time."

Do you feel like you're more confidence this year?

"They are probably right. (I) Definitely feel a lot more confident. Just I'm not really (thinking as much) my mind's not really racing like I said before, I'm not really all over the place. I'm just out there having fun, honestly. Yeah, I'm having fun playing football, learning and just getting better every day (learning) from all the guys."

Does that help you play faster knowing you're not thinking as much?

"Yeah, I'm just having fun playing football right now and getting better every day. That is my focus."

What are some of the things you had to think about playing guard last year?

"I was just thinking a lot and just put a lot on my plate that I did not have to. I would know something and sometimes second guess myself and things like that. But now I just know. I just know what's expected. What's supposed to be done in a play and I just know those things."

What did you do this offseason to get to that point of feeling confident?

"Really it was just being able to wind down. Just winding down and looking over my film that I did from past years. Looking over my film and that was really it. I trained with different guys, I trained with Lane Johnson all offseason, just learning football IQ from him and different things like that and just how things work. It helped me a lot."

Saints defensive back Prince Amukamara

Can you talk about how this offseason kind of went for you and what led to you jumping on with New Orleans?

"So I was in a position where you reach out to former contacts. So in the offseason, I'm reaching out to Robert Saleh with the Jets and I know the Bills had interest last year so I reached out to them. It was all like, they want to see how the young guys do at camp and potentially give me a call then. And so just waited and stayed ready, yeah, and then I got a call from the Saints a couple of days ago. So I'm really proud of myself, just made sure I was ready. This is the first time I've ever had a workout for a team and so that was new to me. And so I'm excited that I did good enough for them to sign me."

Playing alongside (Marshon) Lattimore, they really played a high level (Janoris Jenkins) and him last year, do you feel like you can come in with all your experience and fill that role?

"Yeah, I mean, whatever role they have for me. They haven't really established it. I know the quickest way to get on a team is for sure special teams, especially from where I'm starting. So just making sure that I'm engaged. And yes, I do prepare like a starter and I want to compete out here, like, I do want a starting spot. But there's a lot of great guys here. And yeah, we'll see where the chips fall."

You said this is your first time going through the tryout process. Is this also your first time joining a team this late and maybe even after camp started? What has that been like just kind of dropping in?

"Right, so I mean, it is tough because some GMs and some scouts, they try to just work out a guy just to see where he is at and no intention of signing them. So I asked my agent like, what type of deal was this? And like, what do I pack? He said, 'just pack like you are going to be out there for the rest of the camp. And so great thing I did. It is just different. It's almost like the combine, like, you have the whole scouting (department) and the GM, all of operations there with their hands folded across just watching, just taking notes. It's a little bit nerve wracking a little bit, but then at the end of the day, we just do the DB drills that I've been doing for a while and yeah, and it was pretty easy."

Obviously, last year, I don't think you saw a snap, how did that year kind of get you prepared for this year? Did your process change at all?

"That's a great question. No, last year was for sure humbling. Especially just being cut from the Raiders, first time I've ever been cut, and then going to Arizona, which I thought was a great opportunity to play there, but then not even being brought up. But I did have an opportunity to sign with Denver with (Vic) Fangio and the season. That was during the season around week 11, week 12 and really wanted to play, but still thought I had a great chance in Arizona, Arizona looked like they were going to the playoffs. But it didn't happen. It's always hindsight. But it was just humbling. Got to learn a lot, got to see what the scout team guys went through. I was really just there just helping out guys, anytime a guy needed a breather, just go in there, relief him because I knew my role and stuff like that."

Was there a hunger for snaps last year?

"100 percent, I mean, that's why I'm back here in year 11. It's a whole lot of pride and basically not allowing the 32 teams to have the last say about my career and just allow myself to have the last say and show the guys and teams that I can still play. I know I'm still in a place where I'm auditioning and so if we get to preseason, like I know I'm auditioning for 31 other teams and yeah. That's my mindset to just show the league that I can still go."

What would you say has been the highlight of your career so far? Was it in a Giants or Bears uniform?

"That's tough. I mean, Giants, it's kind of hard to beat that just because we won the Super Bowl my rookie year, but I feel like the Bears is probably where I made a mark and where I made my name, probably where I played the best football so it's a toss up between those two."

It's kind of odd, the last few seasons you have had a lot of former New York Giants cornerbacks on this roster with Eli (Apple), obviously Janoris (Jenkins) and now yourself. What do you think when you see that? Is that just kind of coincidence or is there something going on in that group?

"Yeah, probably coincidence. I mean, Coach (Peter) Giunta is here. He was my first ever NFL cornerbacks coach and so having some familiarity with him kind of makes it an easy transition. But yeah, Eli is talented. You've seen how talented Jackrabbit was and is so yeah. Definitely big shoes to fill."

How do you feel like the first couple days have been?

"The 40 up downs had me questioning if I still wanted to go a little bit and I thought it was a joke, but yeah, I like it, I like the mindset of that. It is the rite of passage. It is a privilege to play on this defense and I haven't experienced this New Orleans humidity yet. So I am still holding my breath, but it has been pretty solid so far."

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