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Saints transcripts: Tre'Quan Smith, James Hurst, Kwon Alexander and C.J. Gardner-Johnson media availability | Wednesday, Nov. 3  

Saints players recap Tampa Bay and look ahead to Week 9 against Atlanta

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith
Post practice media availability
Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021

Just your reaction to hearing Michael Thomas is not going to be back this year?
"Yeah, that was surprising. I came to work and we were talking in the receiver room and C.J. (Curtis Johnson) broke it to us. It's really disappointing because as a player, as a competitor, I know Mike wanted to be here and be a part of the season physically but I know he'll be with us mentally. I believe we all are hurt by it because we wanted to see him play. He's a big part of this offense. But in this league, the next man always got to be prepared and ready to play."

Have you talked to him today?
"No, I haven't."

Has this changed your approach mind-set at all or do you just still approach things the same way?
"I definitely approach things the same way. It didn't change my mind-set at all because as a player you got to do what you can do to better the team. And you've always got to be prepared for the next move because you like literally in this game, like within three seconds, one second, the whole game could change like the whole concept could change. So like I said, you literally always have to be prepared for things."

What is the mind-set of the receiver group in general, though, in sort of feeling the need to have more production from the position or the passing game in general?
"We know in this offense and behind Sean (Payton) we've always got to be prepared for anything, being able to block, being able to run routes and catch the ball. You've got to go the extra mile because this offense depends on us. And it's always a big thing coming from C.J. (Curtis Johnson) like we always have to be prepared because, say we come into the game with four receivers and majority three are going to be playing, that fourth receiver has to have to know every single position. He knows he has to so no doubt in my mind we're going to be prepared throughout the whole season because we know any chance you know at any chance someone's going to be up."

How is it going to be getting adjusted to another quarterback this week?
"In my opinion, like I said, you always have to be prepared so coming into training camp, we wouldn't only catch from Jameis Winston, we didn't only catch from Taysom Hill, we caught from all four quarterbacks, Trevor Siemian himself. So you've just got to be prepared. Like I said, you never know what's going to happen so I would say training camp and preseason prepared for whatever quarterback may play. We are going to be prepared."

You guys want to have Mike (Thomas) out there obviously, but you haven't had him this season. We didn't have him in spots last season. Does that make it easier to have already done this without him?
"I wouldn't say it makes it easier because like I said, we want him out there. It's just that we was hoping to get him out there, personally in my opinion, but like you said he wasn't already out. We've just got to stay prepared, but we definitely wanted him to be back out there. We definitely miss him."

What are some of the things that Trevor (Siemian) does well that stands out about him just playing with him?
"Oh, man, you could definitely tell he's experienced. Honestly, he came in the game and shocked me. He looked very comfortable in the pocket, he stood in the pocket, he took some hits and still delivered the ball. That just amazed me. He definitely looked like he was ready to play like no hiccups. He was definitely ready to play."

Do you work extra this week after practice with whomever will be the quarterback, maybe film study or is it just kind of normal practice or do you put in extra work with that guy?
"It's definitely a normal practice, we always work out with the quarterbacks after practice. We always watched film together so it's nothing new. We always do everything the same. Like I said, we catch routes after practice with every quarterback. If they want to work something with us, even if they weren't going to be up, if they want to work something with us we don't turn them down."

I know we talked to you about this this summer before you had the setback in training camp, but how eager are you for this sort of opportunity to play a really key role for this team now that you're back healthy?
"Honestly, I'm just taking it one day at a time. I learned that I can't get ahead of myself for nothing, man. Obviously, I had big plans coming into the season, I had a setback. So I learned to just being mentally strong. And just be focused and taking it literally one day at a time trying to finish one practice literally. That's what I learned."

Did you talk to anybody about that mind-set, did you reach out to try to get help with that mind-set?
"I'd say in Dallas, Mike (Thomas) and I had a couple conversations. It's tough. It's really tough because as a player as a competitor, you want to play and you're sitting in the training room all day. Like it's really something tough to go through. So that's why when people are hurt I do not judge them in any kind of way because I have literally been there before. It's something you want to get out of, but you can't, you've got to stick it out until you're healthy."

Now that you are back, how do you feel that the last two games went for you?
The first game, I didn't do too well. You could kind of tell I have not been there in a while, like when Jameis (Winston) threw it to me on the first play I stopped running. Like I thought he already threw the ball and he got on me. C.J. (Curtis Johnson) got on me. I was trying to really get in my groove. And last game I did much better, still made a couple mistakes. I'm just trying to improve each and every week."

What happened on that? We saw you and Jameis (Winston) kind of exchanging words on the sideline…
"The video is blowing it up. Like, literally, the exchange of words was I came off the field and Sean (Payton) asked me what happened. So I said, 'Jameis called the wrong play.' He said, 'What?' I said Jameis called the wrong play. So he asked Jameis, "What did you call?' Jameis said I called so and so. He just repeated the play. And he was like, 'What do you say?' He says the play it and I said, that's wrong. Then Jameis yelled at me. But he yelled the play. He said, 'No, I said da da da da.' And I walked away. Then I I said, 'No, that's wrong!' But I apologized to Jameis because he said the wrong place, but it was actually Marquez Callaway that messed up the play. I ran the right play. Callaway ran the wrong play and that's just all it was. He was just like yelling the play. And I was yelling like, No, that was the play. That's all it was literally."

We've got to apologize, because I think you got some heat that you shouldn't have caught.
"It is what it is being a veteran receiver of the group other than Kenny Stills, I just said, I took the blame and I apologized to Jameis like, 'Yeah, you did call the right play.' And Callaway just got off free."

I think Jameis is just a really expressive person.
"Yeah, he definitely is."

And the cameras, of course, zoomed in right at that right time.
"I feel bad that it caught us like. They blew it up much more than what it is. You probably thought we was like at each other's necks or something like that. But no, we were just talking about the play."

Just knowing that the relationship that you have with Jameis, how disappointing is it that you only got like a game and a half with him?
"Like I said, it's very disappointing. We did work a lot in the offseason. But God has a plan for everybody. It just wasn't our year, meant to be, but everybody's got to be prepared for the next thing."

As an offense, at the end of the game, when you're on the sidelines watching the defense close it out what's going through the mind when you're watching them, close out the game?
"Man, we were on the sidelines, so happy. But we've learned in this game we can't celebrate too early. But when P.J. Williams got (the) interception for a touchdown we know it was over. Everybody knew it was over, we were just ecstatic."

Just as an offensive player and in general, I mean, when a team loses a starting quarterback and the most productive receiver historically, is that as much for an offense to absorb as everybody would think it is?
"As everybody would think it is, yes. I'm pretty sure when Jameis (Winston) went down in the game a lot of people thought it was over. I'm pretty sure a lot of people thought it was over. But Trevor (Siemian) was very prepared and you can't count somebody out. That's somebody who came in. He did his job this job very well. And losing Mike (Thomas), the next man's got to be up. Like I said, I have been saying you've literally got to be prepared for the next man. And the next thing is you can't count anybody out until the clock is zero, zero fourth quarter."

New Orleans Saints offensive lineman James Hurst
How early in your career did you start playing both tackle and guard?

"My third year in the NFL I started doing that. My fourth season was my first playing guard full time."

Do you have a preference between tackle or guard?
"No. I just like to play. Situations on teams have happened where guys get hurt and I'll have to move to a different spot to go in and play and help the team win. That's really what it's all about. Even here, doing some tight-end stuff, I just love it. I love playing, I love being a teammate, being accountable to the guys, and making an impact."

What skill set do you need to play both tackle and guard?
"I think, first, you have to understand the offense as a whole and the big picture; the scheme, what we're trying to get done on each play. As you move to a different position, the techniques change pretty drastically and the person you're blocking, their style could change pretty drastically. So, having a good grasp of the offense is very important because when you switch positions, it's about knowing your techniques, what works for you, and what guys you're blocking as opposed to who to block. It's more important to focus on how to block someone."

How much changes for you now that Jameis Winston isn't playing quarterback?
"Obviously, you know, we're going to miss him. He's a great teammate, great leader, but I don't think a whole lot changes for us as offensive linemen. At the end of the day, you have to have a quarterback back there and you have to protect him. We know whoever the guy is will be studying, on top of the game plan, and accountable for their job. We know we have to protect whoever that guy is and we're going to run our offense. It's going to be what it's going to be."

What was Trevor Siemian like running the offense on Sunday?

"Extremely confident and calm. Everyone's looking, it's a big moment to step into. Everyone was feeling for Jameis. We thought it was a tough injury in the moment, so, Trevor came in and took command immediately. I don't think he left any doubt. There was no doubt in that huddle. I think as soon as he called the first play, everyone said, 'Alright, let's do it, here we go', and we had to finish that game out and finish with a win."

Is it hard not to go home and tell your wife who the starting quarterback is when you find out in practice in terms of not discussing what happens in practice and gameplans?
"Oh yeah. You know, wives, families, kids, are an extension of us. They understand how this industry is and how injuries can affect a team, especially at the quarterback position. Everyone is looking at him since he's the big name and what's going on, but they understand. Our families don't put us in a position that might make us uncomfortable or ask questions we might not want to answer. I think they understand and know what's expected of us; they're more concerned with us and our individual days and jobs.

What's in the DNA of this team that you guys keep rolling no matter who goes down?
"I think it says a lot about the culture here and about the guys that are brought in from different teams or drafted. You know, the management and coaches here knows what they are looking for and what kind of guy that is. That is just a testament to if you are here, it is for that reason. You expect so much out of yourself as a player and we expect so much of us as a team. When you have a group of guys like that, it becomes a little easier to replace a guy here week-to-week when you're in a situation like this. I think it's the whole group, it's everyone, not just the 46 or 47 guys on gameday, but the sixty something in the building that set the standard."

What was the mood around the building today with the Michael Thomas news?
"It's tough. It's always tough when a guy is done for the year, no matter who it is, especially a guy with his incredible skill level. It's really tough, but without using next man up, that is what it is, it'll give a guy who's been working really hard throughout camp and practice the opportunity to prove he can step up and make plays. I think you've seen that from our receivers, particularly over the last couple seasons. Guys have stepped up and made plays. That's what they're going to do, and we know we have the guys to get it done."

What did you think about Adam Trautman's block on Lavonte David on Sunday?
"It was really impressive. The fact that there was a bobble back there, which took the play a little longer, but Trautman was still driving his man through the end zone, everyone knows that's a one-on-one, that's a touchdown block and he made it. We expected him to make it. He's a great player that's getting better and better every single week. I expected him to make (that block). When it happened, it's a whole other thing."

Do you see Adam Trautman embrace the contact when blocking as a tight end?
"Absolutely. From his rookie year, some of the blocks he was making out there, everyone in the building was saying, 'Damn, this guy is for real'. Obviously, him playing quarterback and having that experience for him now, he's been a really good player for our offense. He can do everything it seems like. He's a really valuable piece of our team."

Are you ever going to get a chance to play tight end in certain formations?
"I do not want to give anything away in these press conferences. But yes, I could do it. Never say never."

How big of a deal is it to lose two of the biggest pieces to your offense (Winston, Thomas)?
"Yeah, it's a lot. Especially in a short time frame, for sure. I kind of said it earlier, the way that we move and operate is just to move forward. Worrying about the past doesn't add any value to our locker room or our team and won't help us in any way. Moving forward with who we have, understanding guys' strengths and weaknesses, being a good teammate, and being accountable will put us ahead in a lot of situations."

Do you think this team can handle these injuries better than most would?
"Yeah, I think so. I've only been on two teams, so I don't have a huge sample size there, but I think so. Guys here are just resilient. I think they understand what it takes to move past big and important injuries. Dwelling on it certainly doesn't do anyone any good."

What went through your mind when Alex Armah caught his first touchdown Sunday?
"I was really excited for him. Running over there, celebrating with him, spiking the ball, brings it back, hits someone's legs and it was just kind of a disastrous moment. I think he made up for it though by putting a good one into the ground after we gained some composure. But yeah, I was really excited for him."

How big a moment was that for the fullbacks to have a spotlight in a game?
"It's huge. A job like that, he is just running into linebackers all day long just crushing people. For him (Armah) to go out there and catch a touchdown pass, touchdowns in games like that are so huge and so important as opposed to field goals. A guy like that being able to score with a job that doesn't have much glory was really awesome and I feel great for him."

What was the reaction in film study to see guys like Garrett Griffin and Kevin White make key catches like they did on Sunday?
"Excitement for sure. Kevin White made a huge play. (Garrett) Griffin made some big catches and like you said, Armah's touchdown catch. It's exciting to see everyone get in on the action. That makes us harder to defend because the defense cannot just say we're throwing it to certain guys. There are a bunch of people contributing, and it makes our offense complete and more well-rounded."

Is that the embodiment of the 'next-man up' mentality?
"That's right. That's a great phrase."

New Orleans Saints linebacker Kwon Alexander
How does it feel to be back and were you worried you'd be out longer?

"It felt legendary just to get back out there, man, just to be on a grass, be with the defense and go out there and make some plays. I've just been working my butt off, trying to get back and I finally got back and was able to do some stuff I do on the field."

Do you feel like they have been putting you in in high leverage moments?
"Man, I don't know, they just play me how they want to play me, you know, right now I'm just going out there doing whatever DA (Dennis Allen) tells me to do, wants me to do I'll go out and do it to the best of my abilities. Just try to help out the defense (and) just happy to just be back on the grass, for real."

What is it like helping Demario Davis with the pregame huddle?
"Yeah and I mean I've been doing it, but Demario he talks and you know everybody listening, so it's just bringing more energy, because you know the DeMario gets into it and then me and Deuce (Chauncey Gardner-Johnson) get out there and bring more energy to it, to his speech and everybody feels complete and ready to go so that's what we're going to keep doing."

What did you see on that P.J. Williams pick-six?
"The moments always big when you get a takeaway. On that play I was just saying I was trying to block, was going to try to block for him. I didn't know if he was going to go out of bounds because it was close to the end of the game. So I didn't know if he was going to go out of bounds or if he wanted to score. I just try to grab him, just push him to keep going and he just ended up scoring and that was a big part of the game, big play of the game."

How does this defense feel they have performed in the first half of the season?
"For us we always have confidence. If you're going to see we always play with energy and everything we just build and we just keep building and building and the more confidence we get the more better we're going to get and everybody's just playing for each other and playing with each other and we're gonna be better be better every game we play. We practice hard, we communicate and we are all together."

Do you guys carry that confidence that you are one of the better units in the NFL?
"Yeah, we work like that though. We work like that, and it isn't like anything was just handed to us. We get out there and work for it and big things come when you work, as you can see, you know, we've been playing with on defense. We got to be better, every defense got to get better and better every week and that's our goal."

What's your thoughts on the Saints and Falcons rivalry?
"Just being a part of the rivalry, man, I feel like every game is like a rivalry for me. I am trying to win a game so I don't play nobody else different. I don't play anybody else different. So once we get out there we trying to step on everything so that's what we do and that's our mindset."

What are your thoughts on the LSU coaching situation?
"I've been just hearing, I can't keep up with too much you know, I got a lot of stuff to do here. I just be hearing around you know, I can't control none of that. I love Coach O (Ed Orgeron), he a great dude, great coach. But I don't know what's going to happen after the season and stuff like that, but I wish him the best."

It's Alabama week in that locker room for LSU so I'm sure they're ready to go.
"We always pump up for Alabama week and I can't wait to watch them play. I don't know what time they play yet, but I definitely been in tune."

Did you beat the expected timetable for your injury this year?
"I don't really be having a timetable. Whenever I feel healthy and ready to go that's how (I know I'm ready). I mean that's how they control it and whenever they're ready to put me in I'll be ready. Nothing really was hurting, or nothing like that, but I just had to wait my turn and get healthy a little bit, let it heal up a little bit and now I'm back in action."

Did they set a timetable for you?
"They don't really tell me that because I heal fast. So like, there's no point, there's no point really telling me that because I'm going to try to beat that anyways."

You always seem to come back early from injuries?
"Yeah, I don't really worry about the timetable. I just worry about how I feel. I don't know how everybody else heals up, but I know how my body heals and that's what I go off of."

Do the injuries make you appreciate every play?"Oh man, I appreciate every play, every play. I've been through a lot. I mean every time I step out that's why I just have fun with it. Like I always say, you only got one life and one chance to play this game and I go out and play 110%, 150%. Whatever I got to play, just to have fun and touch the grass again."

What was your message to Jameis Winston with his injury?
"Yeah, you know, Jameis' got a big heart and I already talked to him about it. He already up, excited, he's down, but he's ready to attack his rehab and he going to come out well. Man Jameis' mindset is legendary. He always talking positive so I know he'll come out well on it."

New Orleans Saints safety CJ Gardner-Johnson
What are some of the things Dennis Allen does well to put you guys in a position to force turnovers and make plays?

"He knows us as players. I think knowing your players is probably the best coaching attribute you can have besides calling plays. If you know your players, you know what they can do, so going out there, competing, and knowing what we do best. It's obvious what we run out there and when you turn on the film, there's a couple little setbacks we have to fix and some details to fix. But other than that, we're ready to keep it rolling."

Can you expand on what the safeties do to make this defense the way it is?
"You have Malcolm Jenkins. Sometimes you have to become smart. You have to train yourself to the level that's he's at. He's been in the league a very long time. He's played in two Super Bowls. I'm trying to feed off him and understand what he's seeing and thinking so we can go out there and take the pressure off of not just any one player on defense, but on a defense as a unit."

How anxious were you to get back on the field Sunday against Tampa?
"It's over. That's what it felt like. That was a statement win, but we have another game to play and a whole regular season left to play. Right now, we're just focused on Atlanta, but that feeling going out there and putting the game in the defense's hands felt really good. Everybody looks at this organization and thinks about the offense, but I think Sunday showed everyone that we have one of the best defenses in the league."

What are some of the things that Trevor Siemian has showed against you guys in practice?
"He's ready. He won the game. He's 1-0. Now it's time to go 1-0 again."

How big of a loss is it for the Falcons to be without Calvin Ridley?
"You never want to talk about things when they're losing. You just pray that he gets better mentally and everyone around him in the league gathers around him as brothers. Outside its football stuff. Mentally, we have to make sure we check on each other (as players). So, I'd rather pray for him to forget football and make sure he's fine and his family is fine. I know he's got a brother (Riley), so I hope they're together making sure he's doing well. We're not focused on what their offense is losing, just hoping our NFL brothers can get his thoughts back together and come back to the center point and play football again whenever he's ready to."

What impresses you about Kyle Pitts?
"Let's play. At halftime, I did some talking and guess I got crucified for saying something about the Dome. So, I'll see y'all Sunday. I'm not going to say anything, I'm not stressing about anything. Let's play football."

Can you explain what you saw on your interception Sunday off of Tom Brady?
"I call it baby goat. I saw baby goat just floating and had to go save him. I was jamming my receiver on an island, and I saw little baby goat floating in the waters and had to go pick him up."

You described yourself in training camp as being cocky about this defense. How much do you and the defense embrace carrying the load of this team, especially now with losing Jameis Winston and Michael Thomas for the season?
"I'm still cocky. I don't know what you want me to tell you. They said the best defense was going to show up last Sunday. We'll show up again. I just pray that both of my teammates get healthy and get back fast so they can be a part of the team, a part of the wins, and on the field as much as possible. But, as far as the defense as a whole, we just need to make sure we do our part and make sure the absences that you guys' notice don't look so big."

Did you notice a difference in the defense with Marcus Davenport and David Onyemata back in the lineup?
"To be honest with you, yes and no. Yes, because they're impact players and no, because I have to focus on my job. With that being said, I'm just glad they're back. With David on the inside and Davenport on the edge, it gives us more firepower to go into the game with to keep the guys fresh. We're pretty deep up front, so keeping guys rolling, keeping this going, and we'll be fine."

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