**New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton
2021 Training Camp presented by SeatGeek
Post practice press conference with local media | Friday, July 30, 2021
*Opening Statement: *"Some announcements to start with, guys who have passed their physicals and are moving off the non-football injured list are P.J. Williams and Derrick Kelly II. We've added Tommylee Lewis to the active roster. We currently have 90 players on the active roster."
What did you think overall on practice today?
"I thought it was decent. I thought we had to battle through the heat. It wasn't as quite as crisp as yesterday, but we'll look at the film and get a better chance to evaluate it."
Mickey Loomis said in his opening press conference that all three guys on the NFI list (P.J. Williams, Wil Lutz, Derrick Kelly II) would not be on the list for an extended period. Specifically with Wil Lutz, is he expected back soon?
"Yes. I think we're just being smart about it. I don't expect it to be longer than three days. We're just being mindful of his (Lutz) groin. I don't want it to be something that lingers on throughout the season."
When you say it was not quite as crisp as yesterday, can you elaborate further on that?
"You come out here and instead of being in a 72-degree environment you're practicing in a 102-degree environment. That's just part of training camp."
How would you characterize Marcus Davenport's production up to this point and what do you expect from him this season?
"It's been up-and down in his career based on his health a little bit. He's had really good moments and times where we've been really encouraged with him. He has to stay healthy and be available. I think he's had a good offseason, he's healthy, and I'm pleased overall with the development of the defensive line room. We'll see how he does this year. It'll be a big year for him."
I know it's early but what kind of progress have you seen from Marquez Callaway thus far?
"This camp would not be the proper evaluation for that. Last season would be the proper evaluation for him, and he played a pretty significant role for us down the stretch when we had some injuries. I felt like he came into his own a little bit. You saw him in games toward the end of the season playing confident and playing well. Early on, he has been doing the same thing, but I saw his growth last year. I am encouraged with where he is at."
You lost a couple of big pieces from your coaching staff this offseason. For the most part you just rearranged responsibilities from within the staff. Can you talk about the confidence you have in this staff and the importance of hiring versatile coaches on your staff?
"We've been fortunate to have good continuity on our staff. Some guys have been here a long time. When you have success, you're going to lose good coaches. I can remember Mr. Benson once visiting with me about having a bunch of coaches interviewing for other positions around the league. I responded by saying we should be more worried when no teams are interested in our guys. They're all guys we pull for and think will do good jobs at other spots. We look closely at filling the vacated spots. If it is a qualified guy we feel confident about from within the staff, we can make those moves. We've also hired guys outside the staff. Each time it's different. You're looking for the best fit and that process is just part of it."
What are some of the things you evaluate when you have two punters in camp?
"Part of it is being smart with their legs. You are looking at young talent. It's not just about having two punters, it is more that you found a second punter that you think has ability. You watch Nolan Cooney today; it was a little boom or bust when he was kicking. When he was booming, it was pretty good. It's not like you set out to say it has to be a certain number of punters in camp, it's only that amount if you have another candidate that you want to develop. Overall, it is an easier position to grade than some others. All of the stats are there to evaluate; the hang time, consistency, but more of it is developing another good young player."
What is your evaluation on Noah Spence? He's a veteran guy now, is it just a matter of him being healthy so you can further evaluate him?
"He's coming off a pretty significant injury. It's about finding that spot for him to do what he does well and trying to get him snaps. We know he can rush the passer. We have to find out if he can help us in the kicking game. It's about finding out how he can get to 20-25 snaps a game. That's important."
Are there concepts that Chris Hogan is very familiar with in past offenses that he's been with to make his transition easier with you guys?
"I can't speak for the past offenses. I am obviously familiar with his previous role in New England, but I think his smooth transition is from his high football IQ and NFL experience. It's not uncommon for someone, even if the terminology was different. There are route trees that are similar, there's principles that are similar. I think it's more credit to his overall football IQ."
Quick quarterback question, in terms of knowing where he wants to go with the football and timing with receivers, how's Jameis Winston looked in those areas?
"I think he os doing well. We've rotated first team reps each day. Basically, the first day of install we rotate 1s and 2s, tomorrow we will go back to rotating 1s and 2s and flip the rotation. A lot of it is install driven. He's familiar with what we're doing, and we'll keep evaluating all of those guys each day."
New Orleans Saints strong safety Malcolm Jenkins
On all the teams you've played on, while nobody's won as many games as the Saints the last four seasons, there's been a lot of turnover? Talk about some other teams you've been on where there's been a lot of competition like there could be here?
"I think every team, every year you're going to have a significant amount of turnover. You're fortunate if you don't. So I don't think the situation we are in is unique at all. I think when you look, especially on the defensive side, some of the guys we're missing, the guys who step into those roles are veterans, who have played a lot of ball in the league and who we have faith in. But to your point, there's still a great opportunity for younger guys to compete and get people on the field. That competition breeds excellence. The biggest thing right now is how do we encourage and light a flame under that competition to not only have the veterans step up and play quality ball, but have the young guys push and see how we put the best 11 on the field. For me, I see it as a great opportunity for us to really elevate the foundation we have already established with the veterans."
Do you see the hunger on the field with some of these younger players?
"It's still very early. We haven't put on pads yet. What we're really doing now is getting our feet wet and stretching our legs a little bit, but as we go throughout training camp that competition is going to go up, the expectation level is going to go up and I think it starts from the veterans and the captains on the team being able to set the tone of what competition looks like, not only from each veteran that steps on the field, but from every rookie and every young guy. That's what we're building right now. It's a race every day to raise that bar higher and higher."
What is it like going to a new secondary coach in Kris Richard?
"This might be my sixth or seventh DB coach in my career. It's not new to me. One of the things I was excited about after we lost AG (Aaron Glenn) was to get around Kris, because I spent some time with him at a Pro Bowl a few years back when he was with Dallas and I know he's somebody who knows football, very energetic, knows how to lead men and that's one of the things we had with AG. With a DB room like we have with a lot of personality, youth and energy, you need somebody who's not only going to be able to coach X's and O's, but is going to be able to lead. I think we have that and it's exciting to see someone who is going to push everyone the same way, from me the 13-year veteran all the way down to the rookie, so we have high expectations in our room to perform and I think it's good to have Kris Richard to elevate the expectation higher than what we have there."
With all of the different teammates you have had over the years, how would you describe C.J. Gardner-Johnson?
"He's somebody that you love to have on your team. You hate him as an opponent, but he's somebody who has energy every single day. He forces you to compete, because he's going to test your pride every moment of the day. You want that, when you talk about trying to create an environment of competitiveness, an environment that allows you to be mentally tough. He's one of those guys that's going to train your discipline, how you respond to adversity and it makes him better. Everybody now gives him their best because they want to shut him up (Laughter). It's one of those things. I love it. It keeps me young. I challenge him every day. We have our own little competitions within a game. He's one of those guys that's going to make people better by his own personality."
What's it like being the second-oldest guy on the team and with younger guys coming in, how do you respond to that youth?
"Me and P-Rob (Patrick Robinson) were talking about it today. Our rookie and second year we were looking at guys like Pierson Prioleau and Will Smith, guys that we saw as old heads. Now we're old heads. You do look at these rookies and see their heads spinning a little bit. It's all part of the process. They'll get their footing and get to compete when they get some opportunities. The biggest thing is just being an open book to those young guys when they have questions, always giving them some answers to things I'm seeing. It's all part of it."
How do you look back when you were a rookie and maybe your head was spinning?
"I think the biggest thing I wish I had was to just be yourself, understand what you've been, who you are and how you've gotten to this place. Don't try to be somebody else. Don't shrink yourself to try to fit in with veterans. Do what got you here, while understanding you have a lot to learn and improve on, but when you step in the grass, it's the same game you played since Pop Warner."
Of all the quarterbacks you have played with like Drew Brees, Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston, what are some of the differences in technical aspects?
"I'm not giving away any tips on my own quarterbacks, but somebody like Drew, I learned a lot about safety, by playing against him. Asking him what are some of the things you are looking at. I remember disguising coverages and thinking I had a good disguise and he makes the throw immediately and I'm like what did you see there and he says it had nothing to do with you, I was reading the linebacker and so you get to see how the entire defense as a puzzle gets the information, how you need to be in synch with the entire defense, not just two safeties or a nickel to do coverage. But each quarterback is difference. You have some that will scramble so you have to account for that. You have some that can look off and manipulate coverage. You have some that can get rid of the ball real quick that are real cerebral. The good thing here is we played against a number of those in our own building and that prepares us as we go through the season to see different quarterbacks."
What you say is challenge going into camp not having one of your starting cornerback last year and then not having the other based on NFL decisions. In your experience is that something that is not as hard to overcome as it appears?
"No, I don't think it is. If we had two injuries, it would be the same thing. It's a very common thing in our league to have guys step up and when we turn around see who we have out there, we have Patrick Robinson who has 12 years. You don't get in 12 years unless you are someone who can play quality reps. If this was happening in week five and we didn't have any answers, we would have to bring somebody off the street to kind of bring them up to speed and then it would be an issue. You've had an entire offseason and training camp understanding what we're going into. So I don't think it's a challenge at all.