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Saints Training Camp 2021: Transcripts of Coach Sean Payton, Taysom Hill, Jameis Winston

Payton on Gardner-Johnson: 'He’s been at the scene of a few crimes'

The New Orleans Saints take the field for Day 12 of Training Camp presented by SeatGeek at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center

New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton

2021 Training Camp presented by SeatGeek

Post practice press conference with local media

Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021

You had officials at practice today. What were you hoping to see with them watching practice today?

"They're here for two and a half days. It happens every training camp. Tonight, they'll present rule changes and points of emphasis in the meeting. These guys are league officials, so, they're talking to receivers about alignment and any other questions our players have. It's good to get our league officials out here for a period of time to get used to what will be called and what's not called in games. Of course, the video meeting every year will be good for our players to see. It's good not just for the younger players but all of our guys to see."

Are there any rule changes in your mind that are more concerning than others?

"No. There's just a handful of points of emphasis such as unsportsmanlike conduct. That'll be something they call more this year. For pulling linemen in space, when the corner takes on the block there can't be an intentional cut block below the waste. There's a no cut zone relative to certain running plays or pass protection. There's no single big rule change, but it is important to be on the same page when the season starts relative to what the changes are and what they will look to call closer."

Did the officials mention the changes for heavier enforcement of the unsportsmanlike rule today?

"No, that will come up tonight. What they did today was officiate practice. I'll introduce them tonight and they'll go through all those rules tonight."

Is there a big difference in the routes that the tight ends run compared to the receivers?

"No. I would say it's a complementary package of routes. Generally speaking, if it's an F tight end running a certain route it's fairly similar to the slot receiver's route tree for the most part."

For a guy like Juwan Johnson, does that mean his transition was fairly easy to tight end from receiver?

"No. To your question, those were a lot of the routes he ran as a slot receiver."

Yesterday, Mayor Cantrell said her office had a conversation with the organization about fan attendance policies this season. Have you heard anything about those conversations?

"No, I haven't. I haven't at all. I'm sure those communications are taking place, but we're focused on different things. That's someone else's department."

What are some of the things Taysom Hill has done well in training camp so far?

"When plays break down, it's hard to evaluate without a game setting because of the quick whistles in practice. He's getting through his progressions quicker. I think the reps in this offense are what he needs. I think both (Hill and Jameis Winston) have gotten the ball down the field effectively at times. Overall, the in and out of the huddle, going through the progression from the primary to secondary targets, you're seeing a gradual improvement with him (Hill) in those areas."

Do you mean an improvement from him (Taysom Hill) compared to last year?

"Yes. Absolutely. He's getting a lot more work at it now."

Was that something he (Taysom Hill) wasn't great at last year (going through progressions)?

"Well, he just hadn't had the reps. He was playing all sorts of different positions for us. He wasn't getting a lot of the reps until he was starting. That's an area I know he's working on."

You have discussed in the past couple years since he has developed Deonte Harris' role in the offense expanding. Is his health the only thing holding that expansion back?

"No. We see the same vision for him. We just have to be careful about the balance for him (between offense and special teams). He's a smart player. He's exceptionally smart on the field. He has a really good feel for timing, the passing game, zone and man coverages. He's one of those guys that never surprises the quarterback within the framework of what he does running his routes. That savviness combined with his short area quickness and his speed; I do see an expanded role. It's about managing that though with the snaps he's getting as a returner."

Is he (Deonte Harris) one of the factors in the receiving core you and Mickey alluded to in your press conference a few weeks back?


How special is Deonte Harris' short area quickness?

"Well, there is speed, which can be measured. Some players can stop faster than others. He is one of those players that can stop faster, and transition quicker than others do. That's the second way you can separate from a defender. He's strong in his lower body and that quickness is a big strength of his."

Is there anything about the way CJ Gardner-Johnson expresses his competitive spirit that raises your concern level given the new crackdown on unsportsmanlike conduct?

"Yeah, absolutely. I don't have in front of me the number of penalties he's been involved in, but he's been at the scene of a few crimes. So, that's something we have to pay attention to."

New Orleans Saints quarterback Taysom Hill

What are the things that you're consistently doing best right now?

"Yeah, I think this is the most reps I've ever had here in New Orleans and I think every day, my comfort level of getting out seeing things and making quick decisions, just gets better and better and that's all about experience, all about getting reps and as I look back to historical, you know, the camps that have been in the past to this one, that's what really sticks out to me. But it's been a rough thing."

Sean Payton said you were quicker getting through progressions, that there's a noticeable difference. I'm guessing you feel that too?

"Yeah and I guess it's two ways to say the same thing. So again, my comfort level operating in the offense, just continues to grow and grow and it really becomes, it's all about reps. The more reps you get, the more comfortable you are, the quicker you see it and the quicker you get through it."

Are you eager to see how all this work translates onto the field against an opponent?

"Yeah, for sure. I know it's preseason, but anytime you have an opportunity to go out and compete, you want to make the most of it. So that has never changed. So it's another opportunity to get better and I'm excited for a lot of guys. There's a lot of really good relationships, a lot of good friendships in the locker room and this is a great opportunity for everybody and I look forward to these opportunities, just as those guys do and I'm going to do my best to facilitate these guys to have a good experience."

Do you have a different mind-set when you're playing quarterback and you're running the ball, more so about sliding or out of bounds?

"Yeah. This is a question that I've been asked throughout my entire career at BYU and it's a hard thing to balance. I think at the end of the day the most important thing, if you're the guy, is it's all about availability. I think that there are opportunities when you might need to be Superman, depending on the situation, but at the end of the day, you've got to be available for your teammates and you got to protect yourself. So that is something that I think about regularly."

Have you practiced sliding?

Yeah, there's some film out there of me sliding somewhere. I have not practiced sliding in New Orleans. We did practice sliding when I was back at BYU and it was a big joke back there. But yeah, I think that, look, it's one of those things that availability is the most important thing, you know, at that point. So it's something that I'm mindful of."

Has this training camp felt a little different for you than years past?

"Yeah, man I've had so much fun this training camp. As I look at my career in the NFL, the ultimate opportunity and goal was to be in this situation, and have the opportunity to play quarterback. And so as I look back at other training camps, man, reps were so limited and now I'm having the opportunity to get reps and see so many different things and I think that my progression as a quarterback has been really good. And again, you just can't replicate reps and experience and it's been a really fun camp to do that."

How important are the preseason games compared to every other practice day?

"Yeah, to me every day is an opportunity to get better and I think we go through different installs. We have different things that we are working on and everything else. So I will say that my mindset will be the same. I think it is hard to say that a practice would be more important than even a preseason game, because I think anytime you can simulate a game and there are so many situations that will get put in, in those games, those are super valuable reps. And it will be really important, for sure and then I am excited for the opportunity. But I do think that there's also a lot of variables when you get to the preseason and things that you can't really control. So I think it's all part of the evaluation. I don't know where coach's (Payton) mindset is, on all that. But every day is important, every day is an opportunity to get better and whether that's practice or a preseason game. I approach it the same way."

Do you know who will get the first team reps in this first preseason game and does that matter to you?

"No indication, so I'm not sure where they're at on that. But Coach (Sean Payton) will handle that when he does. And, again, those are things that are out of my control. So I try not to worry about those ones and just be ready and make the make the most of the opportunity I get."

What do you think about Juwan Johnson and Marquez Callaway?

"I don't really know what's being said about those guys. But I think they are great players and I think that they are really good. I think Juwan is a guy that can create a lot of mismatches for us and he's had a nice camp. I think Marquez has had a nice camp. For me personally, it's what I expected from those guys. I'm not surprised to see them make plays the way that they have and as a quarterback, you try to create opportunities for them to see what they can do, especially in a camp setting like this and those guys have had really stepped up."

Can you talk about things being out of control during a preseason game?

"Yeah, I think that's fair. I think there's a lot of things that are going into a preseason game, where I know teams do things differently. But we really have one day that we kind of prep for those preseason games and it's all about, man, can you just get out and execute and play fundamental, play sound football. But there are a lot of other things, in terms of personnel, that are out of your control."

Are there any difficulties in building momentum when you're kind of going back and forth in practice with different groups and switching every other day?

"Yeah, I think that there's a comfort level as you're rotating, you might get really comfortable with a guy and then the next day, you don't have them, or you're not throwing it to him. But at the end of the day, you're trying to bring an entire core and elevate their play. So I think it's a good exercise for all of us to get reps with different guys and see what they're capable of and as you guys know and as you've seen, it's not a matter of if you get injured, it's a matter of when in this league and we certainly have a next man up mentality here. I think it's also been a great experience and great opportunity to work with a ton of different guys this camp and because we're going to need all of them."

Do you think Marquez Callaway can take the next step heading into this year?

"Yeah, I think that we saw last year. I think, man, I think back to what he was doing last year and this was a kid that when you created opportunities for him, he took advantage of it. And so I would say I saw that last year from him as a rookie. And now Mike (Thomas) is banged up and he's had an opportunity to continue to step up and more opportunities presented for himself and he's picking up right where he left off. That is what this league is all about is taking advantage of the opportunity and he's a guy that has done that."

When you see Deonte Harris you have to feel pretty good about that matchup involving him, right?

"Yeah, it's awesome. Deonte is a special talent, he's a super rare player and he's a guy that, man, he's just as quick as he is fast and you talk about a guy that can create separation, it's him and so you see man coverage, I can tell you as a quarterback, he's a guy that you're going to sit on a little bit longer, because you know he's going to win."

New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston

What have been your impressions of Marquez Callaway?

"He's a worker. He's a dog. He's stepped up. I mean, the way he stepped up for us last year, a lot of guys were surprised, but I got a chance to work with him a lot last year. Being an undrafted, rookie free agent and being as dominant as he has been. He is just a baller."

What did you see on that deep ball earlier to Deonte (Harris) in practice today?

"I mean, I think last time I talked to y'all you asked me about a deep ball and I told you we're going to eventually connect. He just outran everybody. So I gave him a chance."

How rare is his ability to get past people, and you don't see a lot of people like his size running that deep ball I guess?

"I think he just he has a knack for tracking the ball well. Size does not matter. I think that's been proven in this league for a long time. We've got some elite players, regardless of how big or small they are. When you're a football player, and you love this game, you find a way to make it happen."

How has the time that you two spent together this summer working out together played out on the field? It seems like you've developed a connection?

"Oh yeah, the more and more reps we get here, the more and more work we get off site, is always going to help to me. I am a guy who enjoys working, I am a guy who enjoys that team comradere, and I have got to have a connection with my receivers. So I am just thankful for him to be willing to come to work with me and be able to run and get those reps."

When you're working on the deep ball, what is the process of kind of dialing in, the trajectory, the distance, especially with different receivers? Obviously Deonte (Harris) is a little smaller, how does that kind of develop?

"Well, the coverage really predicts when you could take a shot or not. And obviously, you have to know your target, right? So speed makes a difference, with a guy like Deonte you put more on the ball, and trust that he's going to outrun the coverage and go and get it. With some other guys, you probably just want to align it and be more accurate down the field and put it on them, some guys you just want to throw it up, give them a chance to make a jump ball attempt at the ball. So it's really based off what type of concept we have, and what type of coverage the defense is giving us."

In terms of this offense, obviously, you're more comfortable going into this camp, what do you feel good about and what do you think you have to improve on in this quarterback battle?

"What I look at is improvement, I've got to improve on everything, every single day, like you can never get too good at execution. Making it habitual, making my eyes faster, processing information faster. And that's something I'm challenging myself every single day, in terms of study and visualization and working out."

What is your self-critique of two weeks? How do you feel?

"I've just got to get better. And that's how it's going to be all year. Really, I have to get better, I can never stop getting better."

Do you have to get better at everything?

"Every single thing to do with this offense, conceptually. Like I said, this offense has seen someone who's mastered his offense for the past 15 years. So I am never going to arrive. I'm going to continue to push myself and find ways to get better. Whether it's footwork, whether it's progression, whether it's accuracy. I'm just challenging myself, like today on my wristband, it was precise passing. So my purpose today was to be as accurate as I possibly can be. I don't know what I went today, but I know I could have been way more accurate. It's just finding something every single day to get better at."

Sean Payton talked a little bit last week about how he charts out and what he is grading. Are you guys getting daily grades of what you did that day or the previous day? Are you getting grades on every single pass as you go right now?

"Yes. We're getting graded on decisions, accuracy, and obviously completions. So we are getting graded on those three things, but like I said, my goal is to go out there and compete and get better, right? So I'm looking at that sheet. I'm like, 'Yeah, okay, I have to get better at this.' And then I am going in next day, I'm going to the study room when everybody is gone and I am studying that concept, right? Just trying to find a way to grind."

So what you did this morning, you'll be hearing about it this afternoon?


What can you accomplish Saturday night that you can't accomplish out here?

"Well, beat another team. I think that's the biggest thing. We're excited to head up there and compete, man. Last year, we didn't have a preseason so I'm excited for really, the guys who have been waiting on this moment, I've been waiting on this moment to get back on the field and play. So I think that's the biggest thing we can accomplish as a team is to see how we have improved so far in camp and get the chance to compete against a really great organization."

I know you didn't play for Bobby Bowden, but what did he mean (to Florida State as a power)?

"The culture. The culture of Florida State. You've probably got three coaches in college football that everyone knows their name and he's one of those guys. I mean, just a top notch Christian guy, the way he carried himself, all his players loved him, what he stood for in Tallahassee was too big for me to explain. But I'm just grateful for the traditions that he built. The coaching staff that he brought in to help give me the opportunity to go there and want to desire to be a quarterback at Florida State. I was fortunate to have a great head coach in Jimbo Fisher, but him even guiding Jimbo for four years in his career to help him be the coach that he is today. So everybody in Seminole country, we're thankful for Coach Bowden and we just send our love and respect to his family because he lived a great life and a victorious life. So God bless him and his family."

What have you seen from Juwan Johnson working with him this offseason and then what he's been able to do in camp in with that transition to tight end?

"Yeah, I think the biggest thing is improving on the transition. He has not taken any rep for granted. He's in there blocking, he's in there catching, like, we know the things that he can do athletically outside, but the way he sticks his nose in there, and the effort that he gives in that box is something that you really can't put a pin on it. I think he's doing an excellent job and he's working. That's what we're all doing every single day."

Was that you I saw juggling while walking backwards?

"That was Juwan (Johnson)."

Obviously, every rep is important, but just how much more important are the live reps on Saturday, knowing that the pressure is real and tackles are potentially going to happen?

"I think that's one thing that Drew (Brees) did a great job of is assimilating that rush coming every single time. Just the timing, the precision of everything. And we get challenged every single day to not get caught in a pocket, be able to make movements that will really action-packed. Sometimes defense gets in there and they get our hands on us and they let us know that it was a sack, but I think what you said is very important, we're ready to compete against another team and play some real football. We know we've got to protect each other to a certain point, but it's going to be an all-out Saturday, and we're excited for that."

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