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Sean Payton talks about signing Cortland Finnegan

Transcript of Coach Sean Payton's Saturday press conference

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
2016 Training Camp Presented By Verizon Post-Practice Media Availability
Saturday, August 13, 2016
Opening Statement:
"One roster move. We waived Jordan Walsh and signed No. 39, cornerback Cortland Finnegan. We're still at 90."

What do you like about (Cortland) Finnegan?
"Obviously, he's experienced. I think the vision is as a nickel — a guy who can play in the slot. He has, I think, pretty good football instincts and awareness. We, of course, have seen him throughout his career, most recently in his last part of the season with Carolina. I think that'd be the initial vision—someone that's experienced and understands how to play in the nickel."

That "PF" on your hat, (what does it represent)?
"This is (for New Orleans Times-Picayune sportswriter) Peter Finney. He passed. Man, we heard the news, and we just started sharing stories about him. He was here my first year, and he'd ask this long question. He would squint, and then he would just start (scribbling) and you would be like, 'He is not really taking notes. He is just doing this to make you feel like he is taking notes.' We were all fortunate enough to be around him for the latter part of his career, and our prayers go out to his family."

When you, as a coach, try to gauge the psyche of your team, how do you do that? Is it an instinctive thing you can feel?
"A little bit. I think you have to go by what you see, and part of it is that you are kind of waiting to see behavior and adversity and how they do to start off and towards the end. I thought we were good at practice today. That was one of our better practices. It was not perfect. There were a handful of things. But we got a lot of different periods done. I thought it was competitive. It was good to get into some of this heat that we are going to see when we go to Houston and back home (to Metairie). So, I thought we got a lot done."

Is chemistry something that's very important on the offensive line?
"Yes. I think it's important on your team. It's important in a position group, if you will. I would say yes. And so, it's good to see that full group healthy today. With Terron (Armstead) going out there, Andrus (Peat) went to right guard. But I do think it's important."

How about in those zone blocking schemes? Is it more important to be used to the guys?
"It'd be the same level of importance as it would be in a gap scheme or in a dropback pass protection. It's just the calls, all the different things that go on working together."

How difficult is it when you look at practice and the games, and you have the number of penalties (you did against the Patriots), when it could have been double digit if they had accepted every one? In practice there are no officials, so the defense might look like it's having success, but really an official would have called a penalty?
"It is hard to catch, as a coach, everything unless the officials are there. I thought the game we just played was a perfect example. Oftentimes, you get on the bus, go down the column, look at third down, red zone, and a handful of numbers. You think, 'How did this team lose?' To me, you look at the penalty differential. I think it was nine and 14—we're just taking the gross. But, when you look at four turnovers and, I'd say, the rushing numbers— those were the two that, if I gave you those, then you would say, 'Well that makes sense. I understand how the home team won.' So, you have to be able to, when the game is over and you don't have success, grasp why that happened. I think that was a big point of emphasis today. There were some things when we watched the tape that were encouraging. Yet, I've said this before, everyone can do his job, but then there's a turnover late in the game, and everyone goes home on the bus. That's just how our league is."

Now that you've had time to watch the tape, what were some of those encouraging things?
"Early on, defensively, we got pretty good pressure on the quarterback. We started with three three-and-outs. I thought Erik Harris had some big plays on special teams. I thought (Marcus) Murphy had a few big plays in the kicking game. I thought Tommylee (Lewis) did some good things. Now, there were a handful of snaps (on which) I did not know where he was lining up. But he's going hard. I thought (Garrett) Grayson bounced back a little bit after the first throw. It's a bad decision with the coverage we saw; yet I was anxious to see how he responded to that adversity. I thought (Kasim) Edebali stood out a little bit on tape. We had our opportunities with a couple interceptions dropped. We have to be able to come up with those plays. I thought the return game was encouraging in all areas when you looked at the differential, kickoff and punt returns. So, there were a handful of positive things happening in the kicking game. Those would be some early things that I would say, just off the tape. I thought Thomas (Morstead) punted pretty well. The field goal at the end was not good because you are really trying to play a game-like situation. You are a score and a field goal away, and you're trying to get the score on the first possession, so you have to settle for the field goal and then know that you are now within a touchdown. You miss that, and all of a sudden, it kind of puts (the game) out of reach. There were a lot of things that came up in that game that were helpful for us to see."

A lot of number one receivers get labeled as divas. How does Brandin Cooks compare to that concept?
"One of his greatest strengths is his ability to learn. I'd say he's extremely humble. Just knowing him, I know the thing that most impressed us during the interview process was—you just needed 10 minutes in the room, and you'd heard enough. You know how he's been raised. Listen, his past coaches, his mom, all of the people that have been influences on his life have done a great job because he's a great teammate. He's a team-first guy. I think he would be the antithesis of that stereotype, if we had a stereotype that existed."

You wanted to add depth at linebacker. (Craig) Robertson and (Nate) Stupar, they seemed like they've added a lot, even early on.
"I would agree. (They've added) in the kicking game and even—they have had some playing time (on defense). Robertson started a number of games last year, Stupar the same way in our own division. So, I think we've helped ourselves in that area, and that's encouraging. They are going to be on the field for a lot of snaps."

You said you envisioned those guys playing a big special teams role, but as camp has progressed, are you seeing that evolve into more of an every-down role?
"We have enough packages where, similar to offense, you're just wanting to create a vision for some redeeming trait or quality. I would say those guys are competing for, not just special teams, but also for packages that go in defensively. Yes, I think that'd be fair to say."

I know it was only one play, but could you see the speed of (Sheldon) Rankins on that screen play?
"Not until we watched it on film. He can run. I thought there were some good moments for him in that game, and then there were some learning moments like there'd be for any rookie. But I think he has got some pretty good awareness and instincts. I think you are just going to continue to see him from one game to the next hopefully keep progressing because, so far, he is doing a solid job."

What did you think about the way (Garrett) Grayson used his mobility?
"It's one of his strengths. I think on the one play he scores, he knows it's a run option, especially with him. There were a couple of poor protection snaps where he kind of came out of it and really turned a bad play into a good one. That was encouraging."

How serious is Stephone (Anthony's) injury?
"You know I'm not going to ever hit on the injuries. It's not — we were a little fearful it might be something more than it was, but I think we'll have him back sooner than later."

Has the linebacker group been more active in pass coverage this year than in years past?
"I think a little bit. I think we're more athletic at that position group as a whole."

Will you look at both kickers and Thomas (Morstead) for kickoffs?
"Certainly, the kickers we are looking at exclusively. With a few of these rule changes, I think that there is a good chance that we might just punt with Thomas. If we need a 300-yarder down the middle of the fairway, then he has that leg. But I want to be smart with his leg, and I think the approach has been, with these two kickers, giving them that detail. Again, everyone's working on this kick that lands on the goal line. No one wants to concede the 25-yard line. There is a point in the game when you will—you are ahead two scores, and you do not want a kick return. New England the other night (was) the same way; all of a sudden, there was a full legged (kick). But there are going to be more kick returns this year. I think that's a certainty."

With the two point conversions you (and Bill Belichick) attempted, was that something you had talked about?
"Well, I think both of us felt like—I know he wanted to put them in some situations, and we wanted to do the same thing to give us the chance to get through the mechanics of possibly running it or throwing it. So, it's the perfect time to do that."

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