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Saints transcripts: Taysom Hill, Carl Granderson, J.T. Gray and Nick Vannett Media Availability | Wednesday, Dec. 15

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

New Orleans Saints Quarterback Taysom Hill
Post Practice Media Availability
Wednesday, December 15, 2021

What do you think of this matchup where it seems your team's strength is running the ball and theirs is their defensive front stopping the run?
" do not remember all the statistics. Obviously look, we are familiar with this team. They are very good, certainly a good defense and I have a lot of respect for them and what they've done over the years. It will be a good challenge. I missed the (home) game this year and I'm excited to be a part of this one."

Does the finger improve or do you have to live with it as is?

Do you become more used to it? Does that in some way make it better?
"I do not know. I've started to find ways that I can compensate for it but this is something that requires time. It's going to be splinted for a certain period of time and that time frame's beyond when the season's running. It would be like this for the rest of the season."

Is the toughest part the feel of the ball in your hand?
"Feel and you lose some grip strength. So you're trying to anchor the ball on your hands, your fingertips, you're kind of closing that grip to your thumb and all that. I've lost some of that."

Does it make you concentrate on the other mechanics more?
"Yes, I think so, I think that's fair. I think it causes you to step back and get back to the fundamentals. You need to be fundamentally sound. That's something I've focused on. You go back and try to find ways that you compensate for the deficiency."

How much different is it preparing without Sean Payton today?
"Coach brings a lot of juice to practice. He is a very detail-oriented guy. I think it is opportunities for other people to step up and certainly from a coaching standpoint. I think just like anything else, the show must go on and I certainly missed having him around today. We're not going to lose a day of prep for a big game. I thought we had a good day of practice."

Did you communicate with him at all today?
"I haven't, no."

How do you rate your decision-making when you look at the last two games. Have you improved in any of those areas from a year ago in your estimation?
"It's a fair question. I think every game is so different. You try to find a way to win that particular game. Every game is different in what it takes to win. I can tell you from how I played last week and the week before, I think there's always a handful of players where you could have done better, but overall I was happy with where I threw the ball, my decisions, just kind our sense of urgency, our tempo in the run game and just all that stuff I've been pleased with."

Why has the QB power run been so successful?
"It becomes a numbers game. The quarterback hands the ball off, you immediately play ten on eleven, you're not immediately accounted for anything in that. You gain a number back when you can do some of those QB runs. That's the short answer. You have more guys to block the defense."

Do you feel good with how you are running?
"Yes, for sure, I think obviously it adds a whole element for the defense to try and stop. They are aware of the numbers game with a running QB, that adds the run game. So they have to prepare for that. It's been a nice little addition for us."

Against Tom Brady, do you find a novelty in that going against a 44-year old, or is it more a respect situation?
"I can tell you I'm not thinking about his age. But, I grew up watching him play. I am a big fan. I've seen him play a lot of big games and I was thinking of the moments I was watching them. All that stuff. I have a lot of respect for what he's been able to do as a quarterback, as a competitor, all that stuff, you can't say enough good about what he's accomplished in his career. I'm aware of all that. It's a fun opportunity for me and I look forward to playing."

Do you think this has developed into a rivalry with Tampa Bay with a lot of emotions, like at BYU-Utah?
"I think it is two good football teams and you look at Tampa going winning the Super Bowl. We won the division last year. They beat us in the playoffs and won the Super Bowl. I think that probably has more to do with it than Saints vs. Tampa. Two really good football teams that have been vying for the division the last few years. I think the late hit penalties and all that stuff, you have to play this game with emotion. That is something that they do really well. They're a high energy team that plays with emotion and again, I respect this team and again, I am excited for the challenge. I look forward to it."

Do you temper down the emotion when you aren't in the utility role?
"There's just no other position in football like playing quarterback. So, I think that there is a balance. I think when I was coming in and doing this other stuff, you take pride in the ability to kind of come in and add a spark and some juice. Certainly something I'm fully aware of playing quarterback full-time, but I think also the game is just played so differently. It becomes such a mental game. Maybe not as much a physical game as it does mentally. At the root of it, you have to play this game with emotion and passion and if you don't, it chews you up and spits you out."

Is there a line there?
"For sure, there is a line, because a 15-yard penalty in this league, that's a tough penalty to overcome. That's a struggle that players often deal with. Playing with emotion, passion, but not taking it too far. Yes, that's certainly a fact."

Have you looked at the underdog perspective, where you guys are maybe the underdog and they are supposedly the favorites even though the Saints have overall had many more wins than losses in this series lately?
"I would say that I haven't given much thought to that. You play in the league long enough, you realize that you have to come to work every week, or you will be beat. It doesn't matter who the opponent is. This game is no different. We're just always trying to find out the best process to win this football game, I'm not looking into who won the last three games, because at the end of the day that doesn't mean anything. We need to go play the game on Sunday night and go earn this win. That's the mindset."

New Orleans Saints Defensive End Carl Granderson
Post Practice Media Availability
Wednesday, December 15, 2021

How different does Tampa look compared to earlier this season?
"Yeah, they look a lot better and as the seasons gone on, they picked up their intensity. They're passing the ball a little more. I think they're number one in passing. So overall it's a better football team that we played weeks ago. So we got to come out ready to roll."

Do you consider this a big rivalry game?
"Yeah, more intense. Like I said, they got better as the season went on. We did too on defense. So we just got to come out and stop them."

How do you grade your own performance the last couple of weeks?
"Um, I say I feel okay about it. There's always room for improvement. So I'm ready to just come out this game and get even better than last game. So I've been playing a lot of snaps and taking advantage of my opportunity. So I just got to come and keep focusing on the details and be ready to go."

I got to imagine you enjoy playing a lot of snaps, right?
"Yeah, I enjoy it, injuries happen, it's the NFL, so you got to be ready for whatever, so that's my job."

How different was it not having Cameron Jordan at the game?
"It was very different, Cam being a leader and one of our captains, that's very big. We miss him. We (are) ready for him to come back and I expect him to be back soon. We definitely miss him."

What was it like not having Sean Payton at a practice?
"Yeah, obviously, that's the head coach. It was really different not having coach there and we wish him well and expect them to come back ASAP."

Different how?
"Sean (Payton), he's always that coach that brings the juice, so that's what we missed about him."

Do you hear Sean Payton at practice when he is there?
"Yeah, absolutely. Sean is always paying attention to details. So if they're not on point, he's going to speak up on it."

How does Coach Payton bring the juice?
"He just comes with the intensity, (he) comes ready to work, comes ready to practice. You can't start off slow, so you just got to come with your head on fire. That's bringing the juice."

Sean does that every practice?
"Yes sir, even on a Wednesday, throughout the week he brings the juice. He picks up the tempo and that's what the head coach is for."

New Orleans Saints Defensive Back J.T. Gray
Post Practice Media Availability
Wednesday, December 15, 2021

How is practice different without Sean Payton there? How does it feel different with Sean not on the field?
"It really wasn't much different. We were really still in our routine, doing our same preparation that we were really doing so. We've got people to take over those roles and make everything keep rolling."

You don't feel anything different? Like there's not a different vibe?
"Just a little bit, his presence not (being) there. But we still like focus on everything, making sure we've got everything intact for this week."

But he brings a pretty big presence?
"Oh yeah, he does."

What was the battle like with Justin (Hardee) this past Sunday?
"It was a crazy battle. I was actually looking forward to that battle all year and it finally happened last week. Just going against one of my brothers, it was legendary to be out there on the field, to share that field with him."

You made a bunch of plays on Sunday, your own performance, how would you grade what you did in that game?
"I feel like I did pretty good. I feel like it is a lot of things that I can get better at too as well."

I think the commentators were talking about how you are one of the better special teams guys in the league. But what do it sort of take to get to that, that mindset to be that kind of guy?
"Relentless focus, you have to have relentless focus, be relentless in your preparation and your routine. The things that you do throughout the week is going to show on game day."

As a special teams guy, do you feel like that's what you are, you have to sort of accept that's who you are just to be really good at it?
"Just embracing my role and wanting to be the best at whatever you do. And I feel that I'm going to be the best at whatever I'm doing no matter what it is."

Do you feel like you're the best special teams guy in the league?
"I feel like I'm the best."

As a guy who's a leader on special teams, how would you grade what Blake Gillikin has been able to do?
"He's been doing a lot of great things. He's been setting me up to make plays, setting up everybody else off on the punt team to make plays and putting good balls out there. As you've been seeing, he's downed a lot of punts inside of the five, inside the 20. And he's really been making my job easier as well."

It's kind of an art form isn't it? To be able to kick it 50 yards and sort of dive, right?
"That's art. That's what you call art."

How would you describe the team's mindset going up against Tampa Bay in particular on Sunday night? They're defending champions, they're favored in this game but it's not like you guys haven't beaten them three out of the last four so probably gives you a little bit of confidence or think it's going to be intense or what are you expecting it to be like?
"We just treat everybody like nameless, faceless opponents. It's just next team up, going throughout this week and we're preparing for ourselves. The only challenge is making ourselves better."

New Orleans Saints Tight End Nick Vannett
Media Availability
Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Do you look forward to playing these primetime games against a good opponent?
"Absolutely. I think since I have come back and played (from IR) I've already played in two primetime games. Half of the games I've played in have been in primetime so far. But the thing is, you can't let (primetime) become more than what it is? At the end of the day, it's still a football game. Obviously, it's against the Bucs. They're a great team, but we can't make it more than what it is. We have to keep doing the things we normally do throughout the week and just focus on the process. If we do that, we're going to get the outcome we want. So, that's all I focus on. I try not to make things too big or too small, just try to be consistent with my approach this week. That's just how I roll."

Was there any message from Coach Payton or any other coaches about not getting too emotional against Tampa?
"I mean, those things are going to happen, right? We've kind of built up a rivalry with them. Obviously, they're a good team and we are both chasing for the same thing. Every year we're both chasing the same thing, so you're always going to have that chippiness there every time we play them. I think we just have to be smart enough to not let (those emotions) become to where we make boneheaded mistakes or it's costly where we're hurting ourselves. It's going to be an emotional game. It's going to be a battle, but we have to be smart and not cost ourselves."

Have you ever played with a quarterback like Taysom Hill? How would you describe him as a player?
"The first word I think of is that he's tough. He's a tough son of a gun. I mean, just the things he can do. He's so physical. He's a quarterback where we run so many quad powers, quarterback powers. Most quarterbacks usually don't want to get their nails dirty. So, you know, it's cool when you play with someone like (Taysom Hill). I think he rallies the troops around him. He's well heard in the huddle and guys respect that. He is a quarterback that does whatever it takes to move the ball downfield and will do whatever it takes to move the ball downfield and win on Sundays. I mean, yeah, other than Russell Wilson, those are two guys that are kind of in a league of their own. They're just tough guys and they're going to do anything, no matter if they're hurting, they'll do whatever it takes to win. Even with his (injured) finger, he's still playing. It just shows you the kind of guy he is and the competitor that he is."

What's been your impression of your role catching more passes over the last couple of weeks?
"Yeah, I mean, like I said, I approach each week the same. Whatever my workload is, I try to focus on that and do it to the best of my ability. I think with that, it's brought upon more opportunities each week. I just try to do the same thing, just focus on my load, and focus on the process. Obviously, it's been going well so far and that's where I have to realize that I can't take the foot off the gas. I have to keep going with my preparation and the process with everything I do throughout the week. If I do that, everything else will take care of itself. Obviously, this (opportunity) is all I've ever wanted. Ever since I've been in the league, I've been very hopeful for this opportunity. I'm really happy to have it and trying to take advantage of it as much as I can."

Have you emphasized to the coaches about your soft hands?
"They know. They see it every day."

Is there anything about the identity of the offense that makes it more productive when Taysom Hill is playing quarterback?
"With Taysom you can run a lot more movements and play actions. The defense has to respect our running game with Alvin Kamara and Taysom in the backfield. You have to respect that. Those linebackers with bite on (the run) which creates opportunities for me to slip behind (the linebackers) and get open and do all of the things that we have done. So yeah, (Hill) creates more opportunities. I like that a lot, because it gets me open, and it keeps the defense on their toes a little bit. It makes us unpredictable. When you have Taysom back there you can definitely do a lot more things than if you had a pro-style quarterback or whatever."

Was it strange not having Sean Payton at practice today?
"It was strange, actually. When they said he was out sick, I said, 'Oh ok, I wonder who else is going to be out today.' But, I think we just showed up. I harp on it a lot, just focus on the process. It's Wednesday practice, so we focused on first and second down. It does not matter if the head coach is here or not, we still have to take care of all of our stuff. Hopefully he's feeling better and can get back with us soon."

How well do you think Coach Payton would respond by you saying it doesn't matter if he's there or not?
"I'm sure he's on a conference call with the other coaches. He'll be able to do meetings with the staff even though he's not physically here. I'm sure he's going to be able to do all of that stuff. Like I said, we're just going to do what we do and try to win the week."

Did Pete Carmichael handle Sean's responsibilities in practice today?
"Yeah, he just called out the plays and got the personnel groupings right. Everybody did exactly what they normally do, we just had one missing piece, and it was Coach Payton. Everything else went the same today, which is good. That's how you want it to be."

Do you think the plan this week will be to dial back running the ball considering how well Tampa Bay stops the run?
"No, I would imagine we just keep attacking, right? I think AK (Alvin Kamara) coming back really opened up a lot of things for us. I don't think we realized how much we missed him, doing what he did (last week in New York) with our team running for over 200 yards. Whenever you run for that many yards on the ground, it opens up everything else in the passing game, and really the entire offense. So, that's really the key to success on gameday, finding out if you can run the ball. If we can do that against this (Tampa Bay) defense, I mean, everything else will take care of itself. I would imagine we are still going to be aggressive and that is just our identity. So, we are going to stick to that. It's going to be a battle, so, you know, the more physical team is going to win."

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