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Sean Payton Q & A on Minicamp Practice #1

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New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Minicamp Practice #1 Press ConferenceOpening Statement:"The one player that wasn't here was Thomas Morstead, our punter. He was excused for a funeral and he'll be getting back tonight. It was our first morning of the minicamp and so far, so good. We just have a lot of work ahead of us."

How do you prepare for the looming four-game suspensions for Charles Grant and Will Smith?"One of the things we'll do out here is to rotate the order of how these guys are getting reps. In minicamp here, with eight more OTAs, all of training camp – we have a lot of time to mix up the repetitions and we'll be mindful of that."

Are you comfortable with the personnel you have behind those guys heading into the season?"Yes. Purposefully we've been able to go out and acquire some guys at that position and get some depth, some guys with experience. We'll be prepared."

Did Marques Colston have a setback or do you just decide to hold him out this morning?"With him and Reggie (Bush) both, we're just gradually increasing their workload. Both of them are getting some work in after practice. They're at that stage where we just don't want them getting tangled up in a drill. We'll be smart and continue to increase their workload as we see fit. There hasn't been any setback."

Do you still have Reggie Bush and Lance Moore penciled in as your top punt returners?"Obviously we're going to look at Reggie; we're going to look at Lance Moore; we're going to look at Lynell Hamilton/Skyler Green.aspx">Skyler Green; we're going to look at Tracy Porter and Jason David. So if you look at five right now that are going to be getting some reps along with some of these younger guys, that's how it will start off."

So you're not shying away from having Bush and Moore back there?"Not at all."

How has Darren Sharper fit in with the defense so far?"So far pretty well. He obviously has a lot of experience and he's been here throughout the whole offseason as we've added and really installed the new defense. He's been involved with it just like everyone else. It's not like some of these new players coming in are behind because we're really looking at a new installation for everybody. He's been able to handle it from the beginning."

Is it the same for Jabari Greer?
"Yes, it's the same for Jabari and really quite honestly for all the veteran players that have been here."

What have you seen from Anthony Hargrove andGarrett Hartley/Paul Spicer.aspx">Garrett Hartley/Paul Spicer.aspx">Paul Spicer so far?"Both of those players have played in the league and have experience. They're different types of players; Spicer is someone that we feel like is stout at the point of attack and plays the run well. Anthony Hargrove is someone that can get up the field and rush the passer. Their skill sets are a little different and yet they are at key positions for us, especially if we're looking at possibly losing some players to start the year."

When you bring those guys in, do they know about the possible suspensions for the other players?"I think so. I think they're aware of it. The better question would be, 'Are we bringing those two players in if that looming suspension doesn't sit out there?' And the answer to that would be, probably yes."

It looked like Devery Henderson has improved on catching the ball cleanly. Have you seen that?
"I think that's accurate. He's taking some reps at 'X' right now, which is really the other side of the formation with Marques (Colston) not going full-speed yet. It's helpful when you can move him a little bit. Certainly he knows the 'Z' position, but outside of the specific position, he's catching it cleanly and playing with confidence and he's done a good job. He had a good morning practice today."

Is this the Jeremy Shockey that you wanted to get, the player we saw on the field today?"It was our first practice and he's healthy, so you were able to see him move around better. But it's early and we'll see."

Is he as healthy right now as he has been since you traded for him?"I think that's true. He came here off the injury in New York and then he had the sports hernia. There has been enough time between both of those injuries now to where if he's not 100%, he's getting back into a rhythm."

Has he been at the OTAs?"We had four OTAs that he was excused from. I use that term although he doesn't have to be excused from them. There were four OTAs that he wasn't able to be at, and we're here at minicamp with eight more OTAs left."

What has been your early evaluation of having Tracy Porter back on the field?"It's a big plus having him back. We felt like he was playing at a pretty high level when he got injured and he's certainly going to be in the mix at the corner position. We feel like he has a good skill set and understands the defense. He has good cover skills and range and it's a big plus."

How does Dan Morgan look right now?"He's picking things up pretty quickly and he seems to be moving real well. His movement skills have been real impressive and that's encouraging."

This will be the fourth straight year of sellouts at the Superdome. What are your thoughts on that?"It's a credit to our fan base. To some degree, the fan base has shifted a little bit after '06 and regionally you're seeing not only the local fans from New Orleans but more of the state, you're seeing Mississippi, you're seeing Florida, Alabama and that's all a positive thing, especially with the economy now. I think the fans are pretty smart in their decisions as to how they want to spend their money and it's a positive for the organization. It just keeps getting back to putting the right product on the field and certainly we're appreciative of it."

What happened to Darnell Dinkins and did Adrian Arrington hurt himself out there?"Arrington is coming off a hamstring from the last OTA so we really didn't see him do much except for the walkthroughs. We feel like we'll have more of him here in the next two weeks. Dinkins and (Dan) Campbell were the two guys that got nicked up a little bit. Dinkins looked like he twisted his ankle and Campbell twisted his knee so we'll get those two guys examined. But Arrington had a hamstring from our last OTA practice."

Have you seen progress from Robert Meachem?"Yes. He's healthy and he has a real good grasp of what we're doing. He's someone that has been involved the whole offseason and is playing with a lot more confidence."

There were a couple of skirmishes out there this morning. Does that just show the players are feisty and ready to compete?"I think that's fairly common when you get together here and you start working against each other. The key is just being smart and understanding what time of the year we're at. We have a long way to go."

What was your reaction to Shockey's hospitalization? Did you talk to him?"No, I didn't. I'm sure I'll have a chance to visit with him here. Really, outside of that, I know it happened on the weekend and out of town. What's important is that he's healthy and he gets back to what we're doing here and getting on the same page with what we're doing offensively and our quarterback. These repetitions for him – not only at the minicamp but at these next OTAs – are going to be important, especially coming off his injury."

Are you happy with his attitude throughout the offseason?"This is the first offseason to my knowledge that he's been around and been working. I would speak first from a group standpoint and I say this at the team meeting last night, we have a chance to where we're over 35 players now that are over 100% of the workouts and that's probably double where we have been in the last two or three years. This is the first year where everyone has been here; in other words we haven't had a player holding out or not involved. There are various degrees of how much each player has been involved, but overall it has been our best offseason by far."

In the practices that we've seen it's looked like Dan Campbell has been catching the ball well and looks smooth out there. Is that what you've seen?"He catches it well. I don't know about looking smooth, but he catches it well. He's someone I'm familiar with; obviously we had him in New York. He's a guy that gives you a presence in his blocking. He's strong at the point of attack in the run game, he can block defensive ends in the passing game, and he's functional as a receiver, which is important. If you look at his assets or his skill sets, it would start with his ability to block in the run and the pass. He made a real nice catch out here in the one drill."

How much catch-up will Malcolm Jenkins have to play when he finally gets back here?"Fortunately, he has graduated and he's flying in tonight. He was able to get his exams done and he'll be in tonight and you guys will see him on the field tomorrow. That's pretty important. That gives us Saturday, it gives us Sunday and that gives us all these OTAs coming up, and he's already been at the rookie minicamp. I think the learning curve for him will be smaller than it would have been had he had to wait longer."

Did Mike Bell seem impressive to you out there?"He has been doing well. He's done a good job. He still hasn't been here a full year but he knows what we're doing. He's big and he's a guy that is relatively young when you look at the age of a running back. He's someone that is in the mix and will have a lot of opportunities."

ConsideringLance Moore/Rob Ninkovich.aspx">Lance Moore/Rob Ninkovich.aspx">Rob Ninkovich's ability to play defensive end, do you think this will be the most competitive battle you've had at long snapper here?
"One of the things that we've looked at with Rob is making sure that his focal point starts with being a snapper and then having the flexibility of being able to play on the defensive line. You're seeing him spend more and more time with the specialists than maybe in years past or when he was in Miami. You're always trying to develop that position and have depth at that position and have competition, and I think we have that right now. We'll see how that plays out."

Do you have him listed as a long snapper more than a defensive end now?"I think that would be fair to say right now, long snapper first. With the depth at defensive end, it gives him the opportunity and the flexibility to go play on defense, but still that's the mindset as to how he's going to make the team."

Will you give that job to whoever performs best as a long snapper or does Ninkovich have an edge because he can do two things?"We still have to look at the results at the position and make sure that whoever is our long snapper is someone that we have confidence in. Obviously it's an added bonus if a guy can play another position on the field because you're always looking to see how many snaps we can get these guys in when it comes to the game. That will factor in, but it still starts with snapping."

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