New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
2019 Training Camp Presented by Verizon Opening Press Conference
Thursday, July 25, 2019
"Just real quickly, there were a couple of roster transactions to bring everyone up to speed with. We signed defensive tackle Ziggy Hood today, cornerback T.J. Green, and linebacker Josh Martin. So those three came on and then we waived two players. We waived/injured defensive tackle Kenny Bigelow Jr. and then we waived wide receiver Chad Hanson. We were at 89, that puts us right at 90. Two came off, three went on. Hood will be in jersey 76, Green will be in 36, and Martin will be in 54."
What can you say about the Mike Thomas Situation right now?
"Listen, I think it's something that hopefully will be resolved soon. It was more common I think back when some of these picks weren't slotted, more common with rookie players. I think his agent, Mickey (Loomis), those guys are working on it. I'm optimistic that it'll be done fairly soon."
Would you say that you're surprised right now that he's not here?
Is he giving you the impression that he won't be here until it's done?
"No. Just what I said. Listen, I'm sure those guys are working on it and the focus that I have now obviously are the players that are here."
When you have a situation like that would you talk to Michael at all on the side? Not about the contract, but would you guys communicate
"Yeah, I might, but I wouldn't talk to you guys about it."
T.J. Green looks like you may have stepped away from football last year, when did you guys declare him ready to return?
"He went through the workout. (He) looked pretty good. He's someone that has battled a little bit of the injury bug, but we thought he moved around well. We'll have a chance to evaluate him."
I know you don't like to talk about injuries, but can you give us an update on Sheldon Rankins? Where is he as far as his progress?
"No, I won't because that will lead to updates every week. He's rehabbing. I know he's on schedule. (If I use) New precedents (in discussing injuries) here, right in the middle of July, then I'll be upset for the whole year."
Can you tell us his roster status? Is it PUP?
At the beginning of training camp, it was announced today that a lawsuit by a fan regarding the NFC Championship Game officiating is proceeding. How do you guys put that behind you with all this noise coming from outside?
"I'm unaware of any lawsuit. Obviously, it's behind (us). Obviously it hasn't made significant news. Look, we're focused right now on where we're going and this team. We have a tough early part of the schedule. It kind of begins right now. I haven't seen any news on that."
Looking at the importance of the center position with Max Unger retiring and what he meant to the team, is the competition for the starting position truly wide open or how do you pass the torch? Is it just competition and you rotate the guys in there, whether it's (Nick) Easton or (Erik) McCoy?
"Both those guys are going to receive a lot of work there. Obviously Nick has played that position. He has also played guard. There will be plenty of reps for those players, for us to receive a good evaluation on the veteran player and the young player. Look, it is always difficult replacing a talented player and someone like Max (Unger) who is also a real good leader. But I think we have two guys that have played that position pretty well."
There were high expectations last year, maybe higher this year. Last year you kind of embraced the prove them right (slogan). Do you take the similar approach or is it a fresh thing every year?
"Look, we don't have any specific slogan. It's not to say that we wouldn't have something, but I think that you start with the fundamentals. You start with the basics, all the things that you're able to do now in training camp, that you were unable to do in the spring (because of the lack of padded practices). And again, the pressure is always on the selection of and the evaluation of the correct 53 and your practice squad. That's the thing that we have to be on point with."
Given Drew (Brees') age. How much do you anticipate maybe managing reps in training camp and probably you want to get an extended look at Teddy Bridgewater with the ones?
"We've been doing that for probably the last three years, so it will continue with a practice plan, throwing plan. But in a similar fashion, different position, there's a handful of players that will have a whole month laid out. Terron (Armstead), Cam (Jordan), depending on the player, Ted Ginn. It's just trying to be smart."
I'm piggybacking off that with Teddy (Bridgewater). It'll be a full camp. How much are you kind of embracing seeing him go through a full camp?
"He's going to receive a lot of work. Taysom (Hill) will receive a lot of work. We'll have the snaps to work with, but it's something (spacing out the quarterback snaps) that's begun a few years ago."
Is Ted Ginn now the leader in that wide receiver room since Michael Thomas is not available? How does that go about with Coach (Curtis) Johnson?
"Look, we haven't met as receivers yet, but I think we have a pretty good mix of guys. Certainly Ted's played a long time. It's a room that there has been maybe a little change, but not a lot. It is no different than any other position group. Those guys will be training and working hard to improve. Mike Thomas as well. I think that the leadership there, it is not like there are three veteran players there, but certainly Mike has played long enough now. Ted Ginn has played quite a while and we've got a good combination of some younger guys. (Rishard) Matthew's a veteran player. That'll evolve."
As far as Cameron Meredith, a lot of fans are asking, "is he ready to step up?" We haven't really seen him in OTAs or Minicamp, where is he at right now? Do you think he's ready to roll?
"Listen, he completed the conditioning test. This will be an important camp for him. I am sure he's excited. The key is, is getting the work in that he's going to have an opportunity to (compete) and then there's that balance of being smart. There's a handful of players that are coming into training camp full and yet we have to be smart as we bring them back to that workload."
How did the guys do on the conditioning test?
"They did pretty well. There is a new surface in there, a new fieldturf surface, which can be a little sticky so the sleds were a little bit slower. It was good. I was pleased. I thought they did a really good job."Jared Cook talked about in OTAs and minicamp the reason he came here was that you highlight tight ends in your offense. How excited are you to see what he can do during training camp into regular season because he has so much upside with his size and speed?
"Listen, the exposure in the spring for us was good in that he was able to begin learning the offense. Look, for us it's finding things that we think he does well. He's someone that I think picked things up pretty quickly this spring and does provide a stature challenge. He's someone that runs well after he catches a football. A lot of times you might get the yards after reception, but he's someone that you've got to tackle because he does a good job after the reception. We're excited he's with us."
Because of how deep this roster already is and just the talent already in place and there will be so much competition in camp, how much better can this team make each other because of all that competition and talent?
"I think that is the question as you start camp relative to the roster, the right group of guys. This team will be different than last year's team or the year before. I think historically, and I don't think this will ever change, but that competition is what can bring out the best in an individual."
The stuff you were able to do offensively last year with Taysom Hill, as you do the sort of self-evaluation in off season, is there more meat on that bone? Are there more ways that you could use him? Is that something you expect to maybe be expanding?
"I think, to answer your question, I think you're constantly looking at ideas that would suit his skillset. He's someone that obviously runs well. He's a tremendous blocker and loves playing football. I think he's a big part of what we do as a team. He has versatility. For a guy to be able to play in all the kicking game snaps, I don't know how many snaps he averaged on offense, but I know there's been games in the 20s. I think that throughout this preseason and then as you get into the regular season a lot of it's opponent driven. He's been fun to work with."
Is that sort of creating new stuff? You've had Drew Brees here for a long time and It's been a spectacular offense, but that was so drastically different, some of the stuff that you were able to do with them. Was that good for you?
"If you went back and studied the history of our offense, each year's been different. In the early years Terrence Copper was starting at Z and (Marques) Colston was starting at X. We had a handful of tight ends that we featured, probably Deuce (McAllister), Reggie (Bush) a little bit more, Pierre (Thomas) pair the next year. We have had some different tight ends play, Billy Miller. Then (Darren) Sproles, Jimmy Graham. I kind of look at it the same way. You have a certain skillset then and you feel like he can help you. What are the things that we feel like he can do well and let's make sure we're asking those questions as opposed to the things he can't do well. Some of it maybe is unconventional or maybe not. And yet it's still trying to highlight the strength of the roster that you're working with."
What did you like about Ziggy Hood and Josh Martin?
'With Josh, he's been a real good special teams player and his physical was good. Ziggy's been a very consistent player. It's not unusual for us to have a workout like that prior to camp. Coaches are back in the office. We brought in a handful of different positions to kind of update. Even if a player is not signed, you can at least update the grade relative to what kind of shape he's in. We'll have a whole ready list once you get into the start of the season if there's an injury. You kind of know here are the two or three players that quite honestly we could be calling on a Sunday after the game to organize a flight in. You're gathering the information all the time and these guys fit some specific areas that we thought were important."
Looking at special teams, the coverage units have been outstanding the past couple of seasons. When you look now with the return game, are you really optimistic about what you've seen so far like with Marcus Sherels or whoever it might be? That's one area you definitely can get a whole lot better, particularly in the punt return game.
"Our kick return has been good. Our punt return game is the one area we'll continue to work on. We've done a good job rushing the punter. We've had some blocks. Certainly there's things that you look at after the season is over with. There's no secured position for any one player. He's had experience, (Marcus) Sherels has and I'm optimistic and looking forward to watching him in the preseason. That's something that can certainly be an asset for you and help put you in good field position."
Was there a moment in his first three years here where Michael Thomas, whether it was in practice or in a game where you realized he was a special receiver?
"Well, it's typically never one moment. It's a series of practices, it's a series of games, confidence is established. For Mike (Thomas) it had happened early because we saw that success in his rookie year. For some players it takes longer. That's something that, to his credit, he came in and very quickly was ready to compete, learn, and then establish the rapport, if you will, with Drew (Brees)."
What spots or position groups are maybe you keying in on particularly? Like certain battles?
"Honestly, and I understand the question, but look, you could look at a few different spots. Center for instance, we talked about. Punt returner, we just finished discussing, but you're looking closely at all of it and paying close attention to that old saying of go by what you see. The method in which we acquired a player to get here is certainly not necessarily related to once they're here. There's an expectation now and so look different than Cam Jordan maybe or a certain position group, but there'll be a lot of competition, not just at center. At linebacker, corner, nickel, pick a position. That's what we're getting ready to start on."
Was there anything that particularly stood out with the growth of your second year receivers, Tre'Quan Smith and Keith Kirkwood?
"They both played. A lot of times for a rookie receiver to play and to play as many snaps, I think we can lean on that experience and build on it."
Aside from Mike (Thomas), is everybody here?
Looking at (Marcus) Davenport and the expectations for him. You've talked about the progression from rookie year to two or three years and a lot of it's confidence. Where is he at? Is he ready to roll to be on the opposite side of Cam Jordan?
"He's doing well, we haven't been in pads yet, so it's hard to say, but he's healthy and we saw how we played when he was healthy last year. I'm sure he's excited and looking forward to it."
New Orleans Saints kickoff Saints Training Camp presented by Verizon with opening press conferences from Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis as well as make final preparations to the new field improvements at Ochsner Sports Performance Center on July 25, 2019.