New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
2019 Training Camp Presented by Verizon Post Practice Media Availability
Friday, July 26, 2019
What did you think of day one?
"I said yesterday I thought we handled the conditioning test well. I thought these guys, today moved around. I think with the weather; we've got a good stretch here where it's maybe a little milder. I think the setup for the fans is outstanding. I was really excited to see how that's come along with creating the shade. It's come a long way. You used to sit out there and all I heard was the beer man selling beers and that was your only way to get cool. Everything was good this first practice.
The pads do not come on for another day for the team, but with Emmanuel Butler what do you want to see out of him once the pads come on because he looked pretty good today?
"I would agree with you. He's somebody we've noticed. Advancing in what we're doing, understanding the system and terminology, minimizing the mistakes. That is half of it. It's hard to evaluate players if they're inconsistent in their assignment or they don't know what to do. It's hard to get a proper evaluation. That's why this installation starts again like it does. We kind of being to replicate, although we have more practice time than we had in the spring, but we begin to replicate a situational install that we work on."
What's the first day of training camp like for you personally?
"Listen, it's a big transition in that you go from time away and you kind of know that last week of vacation is on the horizon. It's almost like you know that you're getting ready to get on an aircraft carrier for six or seven months, but yes there's a level of excitement. There's also a level of here we go, let's go. If you're not careful it can sometimes occupy your last week of vacation, but it's good to see I think most guys came back overall (with the conditioning test), I was pleased with how yesterday went. We made some renovations to the facility again in a different area. Those turned out outstanding in the team meeting rooms. All that stuff is good and again, I commented on (how) I really liked the setup here for Training Camp. I think it's an important part of what we do and I think anytime you open your camp like most teams do, it's a chance for the fans to see you practice."
Do you get a better look at trying to execute the screen play when the pads come on for your team?
"There's some coverage looks that aren't as attractive. We're early enough in the install where we're not necessarily checking out it, but there's some looks that you receive where you just need to ground it. In a perfect world you're catching a spot drop zone, with a rush call. As you get into the season, you try to minimalize and prioritize it to this is the look, this is the look, if not let's get to something else and not waste a play. It is good for the defense. The guys that I think it really impact the screens are the two inside defensive tackles. Those are the guys that can make screens difficult. They feel the guard get light and then all of a sudden, they key the (running) back. It's a little harder on the ends. Sometimes it's a little more challenging for the second level players, but when your tackles become aware of how it feels different, those guys can really help with the traditional slow screens."
With Alvin (Kamara) entering his third year, is this when we finally get to see him unleashed in this offense?
"I think he's an exceptional runner. I think he's very good as a receiver and so generally when you have a running back like that it's not difficult to get him touches because you can turn around and hand him the ball on occasion and you can out him into the route. But, he has that skillset where he does a lot of things well. The counterbalance to that is making sure you maintain that proper number of touches. More importantly, the other touches that aren't necessarily Alvin's, whether they come from (Latavius) Murray or whoever else is in the game, I think that's going to be important part of what we do."
So that workload will be similar to what we've seen?
"It will be similar to what we've been seeing. We've been pleased with the balance we've had with him. We think it's been a good count."
Has Jared Cook been as good as advertised?
"We just finished our first practice. We saw enough in the spring to see the size and the stature and some of the challenges of covering him. He's picked things up quickly. He is another target, especially if we're getting coverage rotated on the weak side."
When one of your main guys isn't here, not necessarily Michael Thomas, does it change anything for you?
"It hasn't happened recently. After the last CBA when you look at it, generally it was a rookie (holdout) back in the day and it might take four days or three days, but after the slotted assignments that quickly went away. I don't think the topic of holdouts are as significant today as they were ten years ago. I can recall being in camp with the Giants waiting on (Jeremy) Shockey four days, five days. It was just a lot more prevalent then. I envision at some point they'll get that number worked, but until then we will work on who is here"
It looks like the icebox is more formal this year? It doesn't look like it came off a freight train.
"Here's what happened. It's the same kind of unit. The old one you guys entered from the one end and you had a claustrophobic problem, then you had a problem because it was dark and you had to go all the way back. I think someone made a couple renovations and it's more like a dugout now and yet it's cold and effective. We didn't need it as much today, but there will be a time for that, especially for the linemen."
Did Zion (Williamson) say he wanted to get some pads?
"My whole thing with him was, and I told him, 'this is not about football, this is just another shoe deal, another jersey deal.' Two days of practice is all we need and you will receive another shoe deal. It doesn't have to be as big as the last shoe deal. Another jersey deal. Put him in another number. It was good getting to meet some of those guys."
Are you up to snuff on the tweaks that they made to the rules changes?
"There weren't many tweaks. I am because I'm on that committee. Basically, last month or a month and a half ago, they wanted to revisit with all the staffs that had a chance to digest the change. The discussion was really are we ready and certain that we want to handle it inside two minutes like all replay and the decision was yes. Then it was specifically guidelines for that replay assistant because so he is not pushing the button and stopping six plays every time you are inside two minutes. We worked through that with the clubs, league office, and the committee. You want to make sure to explain it to the fan it is like every other replay. Above two minutes a coach has a challenge flag. We didn't change how many challenge flags we have. I don't think you're going to see more challenges, in fact I think you are going to see maybe less because you are going to want to hold on for a bigger call now maybe than just an eight-yard gain, but that is up to the coach. Inside two minutes, you have to have a timeout now, but inside two minutes replay can handle something. That format doesn't change; we've just added two penalties to it."
Yesterday, Bill Belichick was using Danny Etling as a receiver, do you think what you did with Taysom (Hill), and I know there's been wildcat guys before, but do you think that's where this game is going?
"No, I think it is all player-related. What Bill's (Belichick) done with Etling is not a surprise at all because it was not too long ago he was doing that with (Julian) Edelman. A quarterback out of the MAC that ran pretty well, good athlete. The uniqueness with Taysom (Hill) is strictly that he is a quarterback and what he's doing on special teams and the different body type than a receiver/quarterback. He's more of a tight end F and he's really good at it. The lesson is always there's good football players and it's creating the right vision for them. Sometimes we spend too much time on what they can't do and not enough time on what they can do and I think that's a lesson for all of us."
How has the battle for the center position looked so far?
"That will be important and we will have a chance to evaluate, but it has only been one practice."
Going back to the challenges, is that something that you and the other coaches drill on this time of year with all the new rules?
"Not yet. If it's something that the player can control. Essentially, we're going to have the ability, and I look at it like an egregious offensive pass interference that happens against us, you have to get confirmation. Again, you only get two of these. If you see something obvious, you throw a flag. If you see something that should have been called, you throw your challenge flag. Anytime there's a challenge it goes to New York, you understand that. The replay guy upstairs is kind of like we are inside of two minutes. If he stops it, it goes to New York. We will get specifically into the officials when they come here in five or six days. They will talk about that with the team. I think what is more important is we are not changing offensive or defensive pass interference so it is not like we're coaching a different technique. It's just what is going to happen if there is a challenge."
The narrative, the hangover over the last two years, you all have had heartbreaking losses, I know you have been asked a bunch.
"Well, it was the same question that was asked last year though. So, look it's important that the team moves on but honestly, and you know me well enough to know that, regardless of what just took place last season relative to your team. Success, failure, high success, a lot of failure the league is set up in a fashion were you're drafting accordingly, (you look at) your schedules accordingly. We have a tough schedule that we are going to have to play, especially early on when you look at our first four games. But, that's were there at. So, we look more specifically at how, the travel, what are our best ways to handle the schedule. But, this is a young, resilient team. We are going to hit more adversity, shoot that won't be the last time."
Do you feel like the process alone kind of eliminates carryover from your year? In fact, Dennis Green used to say the valley of 0-0, you're back down in the valley now, the process of getting ready.
"Yeah, I think the other thing that is a little different than 20 years ago, where you might only have six new players that make a team, the turnover is greater. So, this is a different team, there's a lot of new faces, guys that have gone on. It's a new team and the schedule and all of those other things they don't wait for anyone. So, we really focus on the things that we can control."
So, you're not got going to bury some sort of casket out here?
"No, no…I've done that before, wasn't effective."
Sean, is it something that you plan during the year, I know it is worked out between coaches, but who you are practicing against? The Patriots (in 2016) and then the Chargers (the last two preseasons), they're all contenders. It's not like we are practicing against a team that is 3-13.
"Yeah, I think there are a couple things that go into that. Number one, Anthony (Lynn) and I worked together for two years in Dallas. I know him well, we know their staff well. Our exposure and experience the first time was a good one and then it also provides a climate change at the right time, where all of a sudden you get out of the humidity for four or five days. So, it has just worked and I know that they feel like they have gotten something from it. Yeah, they're one of the top AFC teams. So, that's good when you're putting two good teams together and there is an understanding of what we are trying to get out of these three days. We are trying to improve each other. We're not on the schedule and if we end up playing each other, there's only one way that happens and I'm sure both teams would be happy about it."
Coach, obviously Mike's (Thomas) not here, the wide receivers, what have you kind of seen out of that group, especially with maybe some of them getting some extra reps cause Mike's not here?
"You don't notice the reps so much because we are at 12. We have some experience with Ted (Ginn Jr.), Tre'Quan (Smith). (Keith) Kirkwood has been here a year, Austin (Carr) the same way. It is a smart group, some of these younger guys are doing well. So, watching the whole practice and the back end of those reps, those drills, I thought some of those guys today looked pretty good."
Big picture tight end question. About the position and its evolution, there's a narrative that says it's become much more receiver-oriented, at the same time I've seen coaches like who value certain formations with additional tight ends. So, what exactly is it?
"Well I would say this, for us it's important in the run game to have someone that can block. I would argue that it is important for anyone to run the football consistently or what you want to do with your scheme, it's important. I'd also say, that the receiving tight end the guy that can stretch the defense inside (is important). So, look in a perfect world you're getting one of these guys that does both things very well. So, there's not that predictability when one's on the field or the other. I don't know that much has changed, now where we are getting the player from maybe. There are some guys that we have gotten from basketball. But, I don't know that much has changed relative to being able to run the ball and then also effectively throw the ball. The ones that you see that end up in the Hall of Fame are probably guys that did both pretty well."