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Sean Payton talks Saints rookie camp, signing Devon Walker

Quotes from Sean Payton's post practice press conference from rookie camp on Saturday, May 17, 2014

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Rookie Camp Media Availability
Saturday, May 17, 2014

Opening Statement: "We signed our two fifth round picks, Vinnie Sunseri and Ronald Powell, also our sixth round pick Tavon Rooks.  We just finished our third practice so we will have another one this afternoon and one in the morning."

What do you see when you get to see players in person?

"You begin gathering the information and we told them in the first meeting the evaluation process begins.  There are a handful of different groups here and to be pretty simple, we've got our drafted players from this past draft, the free agents that we signed after the draft and then there's also a number more than half of this camp is made up of three day tryout players and those are some veteran players as well as first year rookie players.  The good thing is you get out here, we have plenty of numbers (of players) so you are able to run your drills and you start becoming familiar with how they are picking it up.  Without it being contact you are really looking at installs and quickly getting their assignments down and seeing who is in shape, that kind of thing.  So far it has gone well, the weather has been outstanding."

When you drafted Brandin Cooks you envisioned him a versatile player?

"Yes, he is versatile.  He is someone obviously who is a receiver and I think we can line him up in the slot, line him up outside.  He has a very good skillset in regards to his acceleration, his speed.  He catches the ball well.  I like his toughness.  He has handled these first three practices well as far as the installation.  We line him up at X and we move him around but right now we typically try and give these guys a position in these early camps."

What have you seen from Ronald Powell?

"I think so far he has handled what we are doing well.  He seems to be in good shape and there are some positions that are more difficult because you are not in pads.  Last year, I'll give you an example, it was hard to get a sense on how Khiry (Robinson) ran until we got into training camp and I would have guessed he was maybe a different style runner through this spring time and when we were pads he was much different.  I think the same thing can apply for a handful of players where the pads really define them a little bit.  But he is doing well."

Are the recovery times with ACL injuries quicker than normal given Vinnie Sunseri's progress?

"I read something, they all vary and depending on the injury, depending on the patient, depending on the procedure there are a lot of variables that go into it.  Fortunately for him (Vinnie Sunseri) it was just specifically the ACL.  He had a good procedure.  He is rehabbing it well.  We will be smart and be careful.  But he is able to move it around.  We felt when we saw his second pro day, the first time he was able to work out, we thought that it looked pretty healthy and that it wasn't a complete workout and yet it was one in which we saw enough to feel like it was progressing.  We will be smart though and any time you have a surgery like that it can take up to a year, but we feel like he will be full by the time we start training camp and for the most part with what we are doing out here he is looking good."

With a guy like Brandon Coleman, is this an important camp for him and what do you think about him so far?

"Well, I think that we are always paying attention to how they are moving.  He is a big target.  He has been very productive and there are just some little things that we are working on with him just in regards with his transition, but he has picked things up well.  He seems to be moving around well and the other thing is, you want to be able to find out or educate yourself on what weight we think these players should be at.  So far he has done a good job and again, with the limited snaps all of these guys have had, he has handled it well."

What did you like out of Jordan Jefferson enough to give him a look?

"Well we are pretty familiar with the player.  We saw him up at LSU, he actually threw at our local workout here that we hold every year in the indoor facility.  When you have a camp like this, it is important to have enough arms, but he's athletic, he is big, he's picked things up well and just like the other two guys, he is quickly trying to get as familiar with the offense as possible.  He has handled it fairly quickly and it is still a work in progress.  There are things to work on, his foot mechanics, his drop mechanics, but we saw a couple of workouts and obviously have seen him play."

What do you hope to see out of Jacob Hester?

"He is one of those veteran players that is here on a three day workout.  He is smart.  He is very instinctive.  You can see that.  He makes good decisions at the snap of the ball.  He rarely does the wrong thing.  He has good hands.  It is my first exposure to him really in this type of setting.  He has been with a handful of teams, I think everywhere he has been there has been a niche for him.  He is certainly a niche type player that knows what to do."

Do you see a difference in the ability to adjust to pick things up if a player has been through a camp like this before as opposed to someone who hasn't?

"Yes it all varies.  There are some rookies that learn exceptionally fast and they pick it up right away and there are some veterans the same way.  They may understand the ropes a little bit more, but in saying that there are some veterans maybe that don't pick things up as easily.  It is a mixed bag and we try and really once they get here, put the name on the helmet and really go by what we see.  We try and do that the best we can.  The pressure is always to try and evaluate 21 or however many workout players that are here and try not to miss out on someone who has done good things and sign them to a contract.  That is the key, is to making sure in a short period of time we are getting enough snaps to look at or maybe one specific characteristic they do well that we think will carry over."

Is it a coincidence that you guys dip back into Grand Valley State and West Texas A&M this year?

"I think so.  I think some of those other programs have done a really good job.  Grand Valley, West Texas, each year now there were other players aside from the ones that are here that are in other camps.  With the scholarships the way they are, you see a lot of good football, not just at the major college level.  We try to scout it accordingly."

With Brandon Coleman, was it injury concerns that made him an undrafted player?

"I can't speak for the other teams but I don't know.  I know it was going to be harder for us to draft a receiver after drafting one in the first round, but I am not sure.  He is certainly a size (player).  I think he had a little bit more productive junior season, but seven rounds is not a lot.  It used to be more than that.  Shoot a number of guys make rosters that weren't drafted.  I am sure he is looking at it that way and competing for a spot."

Did you have to reiterate the whole Khiry Robinson story?

"Well it is not just Khiry.  I think during the process we are in touch with the agents and look the agents are smart and they are able to look over a period of one year, three years, go back nine years and look at the amount of players that have made a roster as a free agent.  Khiry is a unique example in that he was here on a tryout. Billy Miller was here as a veteran tryout player at this camp and was signed to a roster spot and ended up being real productive for a stretch.  I think that is something that is earned by reputation and history.   We just kind of try to educate them as quickly as we can.  It is a short period of time when the draft ends and when you are signing a lot of these players."

Do you have a comment on the House bill 1069 and how it impacts the franchise?

"No, I've read a little bit on it yesterday and honestly I don't think I can shed any more light to it.  I don't think it is a big of a deal as the initial news as it hit because it happened to seven, eight, nine other teams.  I think that it will take care of itself.  My focus really is to make sure our locker room is in good shape and getting prepared and looking forward to the season."

Is Stanley Jean-Baptiste a guy that is a little raw?

"I think he is doing well. I think there are certain elements to his game that he is further along at.  He's certainly comfortable at the line of scrimmage at a press technique because of his size.  And that being said, because of his size, when you play more off coverage that transition becomes a little tougher, but so far we really like what we've seen from him.  He is athletic.  He has good ball skills.  He played receiver and he seems to be real smart."

Is there anyone that has stood out to you?

"Well a lot of them have.  It would be hard to start singling out guys after three practices but we have these little cards with numbers on them.  The problem is the font is too small.  I have to go back into my office and put readers on to see.  The overall group and the attitude has been outstanding.  I would say the weather obviously helps and one of the things we always talk about right from the get go is just being available.  On a short three day period you see where players have been dehydrated or maybe their shoes and they are not able to practice in the pm.  There are a number of reasons maybe to keep a player out, but I would say after three practices with the weather we had that for the most part, guys have been very attentive and the energy has been very good."

Do you think Timothy Flanders skillset is transferable to the NFL coming from a small school?

"Yeah we will see.  The hard thing is making an instant evaluation.  We try to stay away from that.  We have a ton of time here, most of these young players will be able to stay with us now through the OTAs, into the veterans minicamp.  There is one specific example, Brandin Cooks, he is on a quarter system so that will put him back at Oregon State's campus until his graduation and then he will join us for the last week of our organized team activities.  But these guys will slowly transition into what the veterans are doing right now."

What is it that you can see from the running backs position at this point that would make you want to invite them back?

"The one thing that you hope is that he is able to pick up the terminology so there is a mental element to the weekend.  In Khiry's (Robinson) case, it took a while.  It is a lot that we are giving them.  You want to see that they can run, they are fluid, but there are a lot of things you can't see.  Fortunately for us, we were able to get him to the 90 man roster in training camp and then it became a little clearer. It's assignment, footwork, speed and agility, those are some of things you can see out here without pads on."

When you are deciding who is going to be here for rookie minicamp, how do you decide between different personalities?

"Our focus starts with the grade.  We've got grades on, not just the players drafted, but every player in here has been graded on college tape.  When the draft is winding down and we are in the seventh round, we start stacking these magnets back grade.  If you wanted to look at the grease board, you saw all the way to the left you have quarterbacks and you might see a one underneath it so we will sign one.  Then we have three, four, five of them listed, they are magnets based on grades.  We do that for each position all the way over to kicker.  Some positions might have two or three spots available.  The challenge always is in the process of calling these players when the draft is ending of trying to identify your top guys and offer them the opportunity before you get to the middle or the bottom of the stack.  It is really a process done by grades, their scouting grade and is there space, did we draft a safety and probably going to be a little harder for us to get a player we drafted at a certain position."

If a guy has issues that aren't criminal nature, how do you decide what is considered a distraction and what is just a unique personality?

"We have two colors. We pay attention to the red color which is injury history and the blue color which is character.  Through the draft process we pay real close attention to their health.  We meet with the doctors, we go to the rechecks in Indianapolis and we establish if they will be a red or a light red grade with injury.  With regards to character, we look closely at school reports, our security, and league security. If they aren't red or blue, they are like a clean magnet.  We keep it that simple."

Can you talk about Derrick Strozier from Tulane?

"He worked out for us at the local workout and he initially played running back.  I wasn't familiar with the player but Mike Neu and C.J. (Curtis Johnson) were able to reference what he did early in his career.  He worked out as a running back and he did some really good things.  He graduates this afternoon so he will be at that ceremony and he will be back here for meetings and then be back here tomorrow.  He is pretty smart.  He has really good hands.  He is quick.  He has been impressive just in this short brief three practice window."

Is it his choice what position he wants to go with?

"Yeah, I think when he came to our local workout he wanted to work out as a running back.  To his credit I think he felt his chances were better with his size at that position than maybe playing defensive back.  I know he was their player of the year on defense and played a big role in their success.  Very quickly you can see why.  He is smart and he understands what we are doing and it seems to come pretty quickly to him."

Can you talk about your special guest today?
"We have some roster spots here. A lot of the time we're full, but (right now) we have space. We're going to sign…he thought he was coming to Drago's to eat oysters, he didn't know it….We're signing Devon Walker to a contract today with the New Orleans Saints. He was a team captain for the Green Wave in 2012. He came in as a walk-on in 2009, earned a scholarship and became a starting safety, obviously he's been an inspiration to our region and community, the Tulane family and it's carried over to us at the Saints. It's a pretty good day for him in the morning getting signed, graduating in the afternoon, so he's officially (a Saint). I don't know when Mickey (Loomis) is having him sign the contract. I'd make sure to look it over though (laughter), make sure you have the correct bonus in there. But we're going sign him today to a contract. I'm proud to be up there with him. I'm super-proud of his recovery and the way he's handled and approached this. I know he and his family are thankful for the support of so many that have helped him through this process."

Walker: What does this moment mean to you?
"To me, it's almost like one of my dreams come true. I've been a Saints fan almost since I was walking (as a kid). Just to be a part of the team and be around the players is more than I could hope for."

Walker: When did you find out about this?
"I just found out. I thought I was on the way to eat some oysters. They tricked me and brought me over here."

Walker: Do you still want the oysters?
"I might try after the graduation ceremony."

Payton: What does it mean to have his enthusiasm from watching Tulane from afar?
"It's unbelievable. You see the leadership and I think it permeated through the team and coach (Curtis) Johnson and those guys, I think all of them became better for having been around Devon and the inspiration he gave. It rubbed off. We're excited for him and I'm excited to see him in his graduation gear too."

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