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Saints transcripts: Coach Sean Payton talks about returning to team, Covid situation

'It is everyone else painting the right picture, it is about us playing well in the kicking game and on defense'

New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton

Media availability

Friday, Dec. 24, 2021

What has this week been like for you as far as preparation?

"Look, we have the video setup here. I was able to watch the video at home. Our coaches are game planning here (at the facility). We've had some virtual meetings. We virtually met today. We did some walk-through practicing today. You're adjusting and doing everything on the fly."

Are you feeling OK after your second stint of contracting Covid-19?

"Yeah. So, I am seven days removed. Today is Friday, so my last positive test was last Friday morning. Then, it's either 10 days to get back in or you test back in. There's a count that they're (NFL) comfortable with. But I'm feeling good, yes."

Can you talk about Ian Book and how he looks headed into his first start on Monday night?

"Yeah, he is doing well. I thought he threw the ball well today. I said this to the team also, obviously we have a new quarterback, but it's more than just the new quarterback. It is everyone else painting the right picture, it is about us playing well in the kicking game and on defense. He is going to do fine. He is excited about the opportunity. Obviously, there will be some plays where we want to get on to the next play, but you know, he is kind of going to class with the gameplan. He's done a good job of handling that. It's up to us as coaches to get him the right things relative to the game and where we're at offensively."

How has Ian Book grown throughout the season?

"No. 1, I'd say he's a good learner. That is something we saw in training camp. So, he picks things up. It's all the nuances of playing under center and in the shotgun. We are at home, so obviously that's important. But yeah, I think he's been someone who's been a good student of the game."

How much do you think Ian Book's past experience on the big stage with Notre Dame will help him out playing on Monday night football?

"I think it's important. You're right, he has played in really big games. He has done it consistently, if you're measuring by wins and losses, better than any other quarterback in Notre Dame's history. I'd say that's important. Yeah, obviously there's a transition to this level, but I think he's up for the challenge."

What does Ian Book do best? Does his skillset give you things you haven't been able to work with this season?

"That is a good question. I think there are certain things that he does well. He plays outside the pocket really well, I think he gets rid of the ball well, I think he is accurate when he throws it. I think he can move and escape. That is something you saw in his college tape, and we have seen a little bit of that ability here. I do not think you try to put a completely different gameplan together. I think that you try to look at the things that he knows and what he feels really comfortable with. As this week progresses, and I say that because we have a lot of time until we play on Monday, we'll get down to the things that we've seen him do and the things he feels comfortable with, along with the other moving parts offensively with personnel."

How tough has it been this week to gameplan having 15 guys go on the Reserve/Covid-19 with and additional injuries?

"Yeah, I just finished telling the team, if you're out here, you're preparing to play because the situation is ever changing. We've seen it change yesterday, it changed again today, and I'm sure it'll change again before we play. That is the uniqueness of this season. Yet, we have to get ready and be prepared if you are in. I think it is just as important in the kicking game. There's always that attrition. Players that were specialists are now moving into roles on offense and defense. How we're handling that, and all of those other things will be important."

Is there a chance any player could come off of the Reserve/Covid-19 list to play on Monday night?

"I guess there's always that chance. Obviously, they'd have to test back off. It would be mostly players that entered the Covid program earlier than later. But I think that can happen."

Due to your large status within the NFL and your experience with contracting Covid-19, do you plan on working with the league on how to handle Covid protocols in the future?

"Yeah, look, I think there's a group in New York that does that. Then, they pass down the protocols to us. I don't think I'm the only one that's had Covid twice. I'm vaccinated and I actually scheduled to take the booster last week before I started experiencing Covid symptoms, so we kind of held off on that. But I think the league will look at (the policy). I will say more on a weekly basis rather than a yearly basis, because Covid is ever changing."

What did you guys like about (Blake) Bortles? Was the process of bringing him in different at all given that you have this emergency going on? Did you sign him without trying him out?

"Well, we're familiar with the player, he was up this year for Green Bay when they had an injury to Aaron (Rodgers), last year with the Rams in the same way. So he's had experience in different offenses. He was out here practicing today. We'll get him up to speed and figure out the things that he's most comfortable with in the event he has to play."

Do you see any possibility of this game getting postponed? Like would there have to be a threshold of positive tests met for that to happen?

"Look, I can't speak (to that). I mean, I'm sure there's some threshold for every game. And I don't know what that is. And that's one of those things that we can't focus on or concern ourselves with. The key for us is the preparation right now, our players that are here."

I'm sure it feels like a long time ago, but just what was it like last week for you to not be at that game?

"It was unusual. Look, it was exciting, though. I've got to say it was right during I would say my two or three days where the symptoms were not the worst, but there's a slight fever, headache and you feel like you have the flu a little bit. But man, it was exciting to watch. Someone who's done this a long time you're proud of your players, you're proud of your staff. DA (Dennis Allen), the coaches, everyone that handled it. A challenging week, not just with me but shoot with offensive linemen that were out, various defensive players that were out in. Dennis and the staff did a great job, the captain's. I mean, that's a good football team, obviously, and a great road win and it puts us in a real good position with three games left in the season."

When you're watching a game like that on television, do you get to be a fan for even a little bit? Or are you just locked in so much as a coach that you just kind of don't look at it that way?

Oh, look, I'm a little superstitious. So if something good is happening you continue doing whatever it is. I think every one of our fans is kind of that way, you don't leave where you're sitting or you don't change things up. We played so well defensively that you just felt that those points were obviously going to be at a premium and I'm glad we made the kicks and I thought in the kicking game we played well. But to watching it at home, yeah, there's a fan element but there's also you're kind of looking at what we're doing and you are kind of watching how they are responding. So you can't have any communication but if you can, you've got a list of about 20 things you'd quickly get on the phone with but that's why we've got experienced coaches and guys that have been here a long time. Pete (Carmichael), just a number of guys that really stepped up."

You mentioned the captains a second ago talking about just getting to that. I guess I have never really thought about that. How much do you lean on those guys in a situation like that?

"Yeah, quite a bit. I mean, we've got some veteran leadership, I think real good veteran leadership on this team. Guys that have been here for quite a while and guys that have won a lot of games. All of that is important."

Since you were starting to feel better by the beginning of this week, did the process of designing the game plan for this week change at all since y'all went virtual anyway? Like did you have someone else take lead on it?

"No. Honestly, there are days where I'm at home with video and Pete's (Carmichael) running the meetings here and I'm just maybe not even tuned in where I'm just looking for things that I think will contribute. Pete, offensively and our staff offensively have done a great job, it's good to get back here today in the building, first off clean off your desk because I don't care whatever any of us do, whenever you're gone for a week there always seems to be more stuff that you've got to get off your desk and then get to the schedule for today and kind of get up to speed also being out here and seeing it."

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