New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Conference Call with Local Media
Wednesday, December 29, 2021
Can you talk about one of your memories of John Madden?
"It goes without saying that we have seen in a quick 24 hours of what an icon he was in this industry and depending on your generation, there's a generation that sees him first as a coach and then there's a generation that sees him as an announcer and then there's a generation that sees him as having the video game. I was lucky enough to be a part of all of those. When I first become an offensive coordinator in the NFL with the Giants, he covered a lot of our games. We had some good teams. He had that NFC (assignment working for FOX Sports at the time). If you were one of the better NFC teams you were going to be with today's version of Buck and Aikman. It was much different. My early exposure was a lot of these production meetings. I think I would call him a good friend. Someone who I always felt was so even-keeled, down to earth and real and very complimentary for someone who was young. I know it led to a few years later being in Dallas and meeting with Al Davis and being offered the Raiders job. That came from Madden to Al. Because when you're a former football guy and you get to go in and out of every building like the production crews do, you get pretty familiar with the players and coaches with each team. What I remember most is the announcer. I recall when he was a head coach and yet, a larger part of my football days (age span), I would remember he and (Pat) Summerall and the games they would cover. Years later in the NFL and he's covering our games. That was kind of a cool honor."
Did you realize that he got his start in coaching at a four-year college at San Diego State, where you also had your first college coaching position?
"I did. I only knew that because there's something about these ties to different coaches that have been there. I know that Foxy (John Fox) was there. A lot of different coaches have been there. They had some Wall of Fame that if you played, there went there, coached there, but I did know that. And I knew he didn't like to fly."
Obviously we are all getting familiar with the new COVID rules. Are all of your quarterbacks available to practice today?
"We're not practicing today. We take a Monday night schedule kick it back a day. Would we have them all today? No. But we get with the new protocols, guys are coming back on. They're kind of coming back on like they went off, sporadically and so it was easier to start with where we think we are going to be by the end of the week with the game and work backwards. Cell phone pings now, we get two or three guys coming off (Reserve/COVID-19 list). Last week, the cell phone pinged and they were going on. Obviously the new protocol is five days from your (positive) test and then the second part of that is you feel okay. You don't want to be with symptoms. Someone has symptoms still, then they wait. So there's a projected add on day each day for who's coming back today. Who do we think is coming back tomorrow based on the five day window and (if) they are asymptomatic. We're not practicing today. We'll be starting tomorrow."
Do you have concern players could hide their symptoms in order to come back to the field earlier?
"It certainly could happen. I think there are a lot of concerns. We're trying to be flexible, the guideline, they're changing a little bit just as we are learning a little bit more about the strain, the Omnicron virus and I think that there would be a concern. If someone hurries back and they are symptomatic, they still have a chance to (spread). I would think we've done a good enough job with our team to talk about (taking into account) how they feel. We've gotten groups of players and coaches back. When I say groups, I mean two or three, four, depending on when they went out."
How do you guys as an organization keep up with all the rules changes?
"We have a team that certainly is dedicated to that and it's perfect. They tell us the latest and then we'll go. After a while you get numb to it a little bit and you're just reacting. You're done getting surprised after you're surprised enough."
Is there any positive that you had the opportunity to see some people you ordinarily not seen and to evaluate given the situation on Monday?
"No, that's my mom. She's finding a positive in something. My mom would say that. I understand the question. Anytime you're playing players, you're receiving a chance to evaluate them. You would rather it be where it's not in such a meaningful type of game. It just was what it was. I think the answer is yes a little bit. I'm going to give you an example, Easop Winston Jr. I feel much different about today before he stepped on the field for us when we needed him a couple weeks ago. This exposure for him has been good, so I think it can help. Whether or not it directly helps your team in that game (is yet to be seen). The point is that it can help a player."
Carolina has been through some significant changes offensively since the Week Two meeting?
"Yeah, when Cam’s (Newton) in there what they're doing and when Sam’s (Darnold) in there, you're kind of preparing for both and understanding what they like to do with both. They've had a change at offensive coordinator, a new play caller, a lot of different things. You really need to rely on the tape and study it and kind of go by what you're seeing in the games leading up to your game. There will be some wrinkles I'm sure. The two things are both those quarterbacks are playing, they have uniquely different skillsets and they both can be challenging."
Do you plan to go right back to Taysom Hill as the quarterback prior to the COVID outbreaks or do you play it close to the vest?
"I want them back in the building before I announce. It's Wednesday and I'm not going to give the anticipated starting lineup for Sunday ever. Like ever. Especially when they aren't here yet. I expect to have them back (Hill and Trevor Siemian) and look forward to having him back and look forward to having the rest of these guys back."
What were your thoughts on how the offensive line played on Monday night?
"It was challenging. It was a good front and we got sacked nine times. Do we just want a good soundbite or quote here?"
No, I'm not, I wanted to see what you thought of the play of the interior?
"There were some good plays, but there were enough that weren't good enough. I think we can be a lot better and we will be."
Along those lines, do you think the offensive line injuries with both tackles out has impacted this team more than any other injuries this season?
"I think both tackles is fair…Trying to say more than ever before or the most…But both tackles, especially those two, I think that's been a big challenge."