Following the club's final full-length practice before Sunday's matchup with Seattle, Saints head coach Sean Payton gave a final injury update and also discussed the progress of TE Jimmy Graham, as well as the discussion of the upcoming conference and divisional races. Below is a transcript:
Opening Statement/Injury Report:"Jon Stinchcomb, knee, probable; Reggie Bush, limited, questionable; Chris Ivory, shoulder, limited, probable; Patrick Robinson, ankle, limited, questionable; Malcolm Jenkins, neck, limited, questionable; Darren Sharper, hamstring, did not practice, out; Pierre Thomas, ankle, did not practice, out; Jeremy Shockey, rib, did not practice, out.
Is it kind of surprising considering you were so optimistic about Reggie that he's limited and questionable?"The week went well. I'm going to work him and Patrick Robinson out pregame just to make sure. There's still a lot of time between now and gametime. The week went as we had hoped. He's gotten good reps, good work. You can't just say you're going to take him and give him eight snaps. He has to be ready to play. I want to make certain with both he and Patrick."
Pierre Thomas did not practice?"He did not practice. He's out."
Was there swelling?"He's progressing. What you guys have talked about all week and what you've written is accurate. He's getting better. We don't feel like he'd be ready to play in this game. He didn't practice. He went through a little agility work again. He's getting better. We just keep getting it closer to 100 percent."
Shockey hasn't practiced all week. Is that a long-term concern?"No, I think the key is the pain and dealing with the discomfort at his position, which is blocking and catching above his head. There's still soreness. I would say it's pretty typical considering the injury."
Jimmy Graham turned a lot of heads in camps and then came along slower. What is it that he's really had to develop, work on and get better at?"I think a couple of things. First, getting into the lineup at his position with some guys ahead of him is challenging, yet we've tried to expand his role each week. Certainly his strong suit is his ability to run and play the football above his head. You look at improving his blocking technique, looking at some of the different experiences he's had with the position."
Does route running fall into that category?"No, I would say that would be a strength with the way he runs. As a young player I would say that's a strength of his and he just keeps getting better. All the nuances that go into that position is just more than one-dimensional. It's multi-dimensional in what we ask the tight end to do."
You guys worry about what you can control, but people are certainly looking at races. How do you balance the two?"Seven games left in baseball you're talking about the playoff chase. Seven games left in our league really is one game past the midway point. It can be a long time and it eternally is a long time. It's the understanding that there's a lot of football left and you just understand that focus has to be on this game. The fact of the matter is that when you get to three games left then you're learning a lot more about the competitions. Already you're gaining information about who's playing well. I'll use Chicago as a great example. I would say quietly they're at seven wins and I don't know that any of us can reference each and every one of those wins. I think that's somewhat the nature of our league, certainly this year. Really the focus is on the challenge of that week and you condition yourselves that way. Anyway else is something that doesn't serve you well."
In baseball you have players and coaches in the dugout watching out of town scores as well as fans. When do you get to that point here?"I think everybody is paying attention to AFC-NFC, but it's probably just a little earlier. I think the great way our game's covered now each week, I think people look closely at 'if the playoffs were to begin today'. I think the challenge is keeping focus on the game at hand. I think it has to be, but I think the interest, discussions and what's talked about by so many people that are covering the games is healthy and entertaining. Trying to stay focused on and understanding that there's half a season left and that there's a lot that can happen in half a season positively and negatively is a challenge that you face when you're preparing a team, coaching a team and are a member of a team in that stretch."
*Since Pierre Thomas won't be playing, will you leave him behind to rehab? *"Well, it's a home game, but let's talk about the question as it pertains to a home game. What we try to do with an injury like an ankle or a hamstring it that he'll be at the stadium and a lot of times out for the early portion of the game and then a guy like him or Darren Sharper will get in the training room and try to get off of their feet so they're not standing for three to three-and-a-half hours and maybe get some treatment in the training room while the televisions are on and try to get as much of the game where they're off their feet. That's typically what we do for a home game."
Has Thomas had any soreness or swelling as a reaction to being on the field some this week?"No. I think more than anything that I've been encouraged with this week because it has been different than the prior weeks. In other words, it's a step in the right direction and there have been no setbacks. It's just getting the strength, the cardio – all the things that go into playing running back and getting healthy at that position, specifically with an ankle injury."
With Jeremy Shockey out, might you activate Tory Humphrey as your third tight end?"That would be a possibility. Tory has taken reps this week and we have Zach (Strief) that can play in that role. But that would be a possibility."
You had mentioned Chicago as an example of a team that many people might not know about all of their wins. Do you feel like your team is one of those teams that is flying under the radar?"Week by week there are certain games that draw attention to teams. For example, there was a primetime game and Atlanta had a big win against Baltimore and you become aware of how good that team is. Or Philadelphia wins over Washington and you become aware of the threat that they are. A season ago, the win we had against New England was like that. There are certain games that can draw attention to a team and as you look at the record and then you put two and two together and say that this is someone that we can't overlook. I think when you look at the win that Chicago had last night and you recognize that they have the most wins in the NFC today, I think that that's kind of the nature of the season. For us, the Pittsburgh game was an important win for us, and yet following it up with another road win at Carolina was important. That's one more part of winning football and battling when you have a setback; trying to not start counting your chips, if you will. November football is important, though. Teams that have done well in November historically have contended and I think we recognize the importance of this month as well."
Can you remember a season that has been this compact in the standings this late in the year? What do you think it says for the league?"The league has been set up and each year has become more popular and you look at the television ratings as they continue to get better every year. There's interest and the great thing about it is that you're never too far away as a fan from your team possibly having success around the corner. I don't think that exists in the other sports. Hope springs eternal and I think that if you start doing things well – and we've seen it this year where we could list four or five teams that last year struggled and are right now in the thick of things. But I would also say that if we went back and researched five years ago, we'd probably see some similar records and the competitive balance that we see now. Maybe not quite to the extent but certainly that's something that you guard against each week in your preparation, knowing that it really becomes more about your own focus and making sure that your own team is ready and your players are ready to play that game before moving on."