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Saints transcripts: Mark Ingram II and Kwon Alexander media availability | Friday, Dec. 17

Saints players look ahead to another prime-time matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday night

New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram II
Media availability
Friday, Dec. 17, 2021

What's it going to be like without Sean Payton on Sunday night?
"That's the guy who leads our ship, so it's obviously going to be different not having him out there, but we have coaches who can step up and have done this numerous times before. Pete (Carmichael) always does a great job preparing, installing, calling plays, and getting people lined up to execute our plays. He has done this before. I remember many years ago when Sean was hurt, and Pete stepped in to call plays. Our offense was still successful and put up a lot of points, yards, and made a lot of big plays. He can step into that role right away with the offense and many other players and coaches will help pick up that slack. We try to pick each other up, support each other, and have each other's backs. We know what the standard is. Coach Payton set the standard for us, and we go out there and try to execute to that standard, regardless of who's out there. We take pride in that. DA (Dennis Allen) has been a head coach before and he does a great job of organizing practice, getting us through the periods, getting us on and off the field, making sure guys are taking care of their bodies, and making sure guys are executing the plays so we can do what we do to earn a victory. So, we have lots of coaches who step up and take that brunt off of us and take that brunt off of Sean (Payton) so we can be comfortable. Like I said man, he set the standard. We know what the standard is, and we do not compromise the standard, regardless of what the situation is. So, we have a lot of great guys, coaches, and players who are looking forward to the challenge (on Sunday)."

What was last week like with you being on the Reserve/Covid-19 list?
"Yeah, I really did not have any illness at all. On the day I tested positive, I kind of felt like post-nasal drip and an itchy throat kind of on that night before. I just drank some tea, got some sleep, and I was good. So, I did not really have any sickness and I felt high energy. No symptoms, really. I was waiting for the 10 days to get two negatives (tests) as quickly as possible, but I kept testing positive unfortunately. I tried my best not to see anybody. I was just waiting to get back with the team. I was angry when I couldn't play Sunday. I woke up Sunday angry. But you know, it's just part of what we're dealing with right now. Everyone has to stay as safe as possible, mask up, wash your hands, try not to be places you don't need to be. We have to take this seriously because a lot of people are getting sick from it. We just have to do our best, do our own part, and everyone has to be responsible and accountable."

Is someone going to attempt to replicate the intensity that Sean Payton brings to the team on gameday?
"I think Sean is Sean. Nobody can sit here and try to be Sean. He is his own person, his own coach. What he brings to the table is irreplaceable. But what other people bring to the table is also irreplaceable. I think everyone just needs to step up. You do not just go out of the norm and try to fill a void for someone that is not there. You just try to be yourself, bring the energy you bring, and try to be contagious amongst your teammates with positive energy and positive plays. You know, everyone is positive to each other and supports each other. Especially going into a night game in Tampa Bay, a critical game for us, I think that everyone will just raise their standard. We have to elevate and raise our standard. We know what the standard is here, so everyone just has to go out there and play to the best of their ability, execute according to the best of their ability, and put themselves in the best positions to have quality plays and help the team win games. I think we're all going to do that as players from an individual standpoint and I know the coaches are going to put us in a position to have success. We have guys who have done this many, many years, like I said. DA (Dennis Allen) has been a head coach before, Pete (Carmichael) has called plays before when Sean (Payton) has been out, along with many other coaches who have shown great leadership and great coaching ability to put us in a great position to execute and have success. So, we are all leaning on each other and going to go fight for each other. We are going to hold it down for Sean as long as he's gone, you know what I mean? We have a great team, great coaching staff, great players, and great guys who know what the standard is, the opportunity we have, and we don't take it for granted. We're going to go out there and fight and put ourselves in the best position possible to go out there to have success and win a game."

I know you guys have been dealing with this for the better part of two years now, but how hard is this just in the NFL right now where things can change on a moment's notice, like it did today. Like how flexible do you guys have to be?
"You have to be super flexible, you have to be able to prepare and be able to adapt to change and to the circumstances. And that's just what we've been dealing with and the world has been having to deal with. You have to be able to adapt to change in the circumstances that are given to you. And now everyone's under these intense Covid protocols, and you have to abide by them, everyone has a responsibility to be accountable to their teammates, to be accountable to each other. I had to miss a game last week and so did Cam. There's so many other people that are positive this week. We just hope that everyone stays safe, everyone stays healthy and everyone recovers quickly from this, but you just have to be able to adapt to the change and adapt to the circumstances. And that's just part of the world we're in right now with this Covid, how easy it is to pass the virus and we just all have to be smart, we have to be aware of where you're at, who you're around, wearing a mask, staying distant, not being places that you don't have to be and if you are just making sure you're masking up and taking those types of precautions. Yeah, you just have to be able to adapt to change, adapt to the circumstances. It's difficult, and it's challenging for everyone. But something that we have to do, it's something that we have to learn to thrive in."

There's some reports out there that there's a lot of discussions with the NFLPA about wanting to eliminate the protocols altogether, like the daily testing and the quarantine lengths and things like that. Do you have any thoughts on that? I know you spent a lot of time talking about Covid today, sorry, I'm just curious what you thought.
"I know those guys are working and trying to do what is best for us. But, if you are not testing, I do not know how you are going to find out if guys have Covid or not. Obviously, I hated the 10 days I was gone. I wish I could have been with my teammates. I wish I could have been with my family and my friends, but I'm just thankful I didn't spread it to anybody. So I think the main thing is just trying to make sure everyone's safe. Make sure everyone's healthy. Make sure everyone's families and everyone around them are safe and healthy. So whatever protocols we can come up with to make sure guys are healthy and safe and that their families are healthy and safe that's what I support. But yeah, man, so we'll see what they come up with. And hopefully, it's the best thing for everyone that we can be safe, healthy and have a season."

We haven't talked to Cameron Jordan this week, but just wanted to ask you, I'm sure you talked to him last week, but what was it like for him? He had that long streak, had never missed a game. How tough was that for him you feel like?
"I know it was tough for him because it was tough for me. I've missed games so for him to play 172 games, whatever it was, it's really astounding to even think about it, that the man has never missed a game. I mean, I know he's had back surgery and lots of other different things that he has played through and he has never missed a snap, an NFL snap of an NFL game in 11 years. It's just astounding. It is crazy and the fact that he had to miss his first game because Covid, I know that was painful and difficult to sit there and watch the game, it was painful and difficult for me to sit down and watch the game. And unfortunately, I'd missed the game two weeks ago or whatever because of my knee. But just putting myself in his shoes, I know it was super difficult. I know he was frustrated. I know he was upset because I was and let alone having a streak like that come to an end because of the Covid protocols and all of that. So I know it's difficult for him. But he's just a great dude, a great player, he's going to bounce back, he was able to prepare this week, and we're ready to go out and help our team win a game on Sunday night. So I know that's what he's focused on and that's what we're all focused on. But I know it's super frustrating and difficult for him to have to sit there watch that game from home, not being able to partake in the team's victory. But he's healthy, his family's healthy and I'm healthy and I think that's something that we could all be blessed and happy for."

New Orleans Saints linebacker Kwon Alexander
What does Dennis Allen bring to the table since he will be the acting head coach this week?

"He brings excitement, physicality, you know, he has just been a great defensive coordinator all the way around. He going to get us right. Man we're going to handle business and (he's) the best man for (the job) right now."

What was the team's reaction to Sean Payton testing positive?
"The reaction was, man, we just got to stick to the plan. We're praying that Sean is going to be fine and hopefully we get him back sooner, but we got to stick to the plan, stick to the goal and get ready for Sunday night and get this victory."

What are some of the things the team will miss not having Sean Payton around?
"We're going to miss a lot about Sean. Just him being himself, like I said, he's the big dog and we're going to play for him. We hope he's doing well, doing fine. We just know we got to get out there and make it happen and get this win for him."

Does it mean anything for you to go back to play in Tampa Bay?
"I mean that's why I got drafted, that was home and I can't wait to go back and feel the atmosphere, feel all of that, but my home is here now. So I'm ready to go out there and to the best of my abilities and get the job done."

How different is this Tampa Bay team from the one you played on Halloween?
"They just got better over the course of the weeks. We've been getting better too, so I really just focus on us and what we can do when we get out there. I don't really worry about those guys, you know, I feel like we prepared legendary this week and we're going to be ready to go."

How much have you seen Leonard Fournette improved since arriving in Tampa Bay last year based on that he's a former college teammates?
"He's back to his old self, he's been a dog. He's been catching the ball out of the backfield and been doing a lot of legendary things. We got to put a hold to him though, we got to get it right and make sure we're on top of our stuff and we got to handle him."

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