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Transcript: Coach Sean Payton Training Camp media availability 8-1-19

New Orleans Saints head coach speaks to the media after Day 7 of training camp. 

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Training Camp Presented By Verizon
Thursday, August 1, 2019
Post-Practice Media Availability

Opening Statement:
"Just one transaction. We re-signed tight end Jake Powell and we waived quarterback, JT Barrett. We're still at our 90 (man roster) count."

We kind of figured (Michael Thomas) would be in soon. Is it comforting to have him back?
"He's an important part of what we do offensively. He is experienced. I felt real positive. I knew Mike was going to come in in good shape. It's good to have him back. It's good to see them out there moving around."

What would you say is Michael Thomas's greatest asset?
"He is a strong target in traffic. He is one of those guys that has a good radius for the quarterback. He's a guy that really works at his craft relative to the whole week leading up to the game. His strength is run after the catch. Those are all things that I think he does very well."

Do you think he's about as double covered -- especially since he operates and traffic -- as you'll see in this league? 
"Well, it's hard to say because it varies per team, per coverage. There are weeks where we'll get a heavier role maybe on third down specifically. I think a lot of it depends on down and distance. I'm sure there are a handful of players you look closely (at) on defenses who you have to take away and certainly he's one of those players if you're defending us that you want to limit and try to minimize the threat he can have on you. That's something that you've got to work through formationaly and something you've got to work through relative to the quarterback's progression. That's part of the little bit of the chess match each weekend."

Does that (factor into why) the catch rate he had last year of almost 85 percent was so astronomical
"Well, the catch rate just deals with the consistency at which your ball goes to him and he catches it. If you're putting on a Wednesday night, third down reel and you're the opponent and you're looking at two to three or four to six and you're trying to look at who the threats are, you're trying to make sure you have a good gameplan to cover those threats and he's one of them."

Was it important to get his contract done sooner rather than later? Just so you can get him back out here?
"I think that's the case. You don't run into these situations like you might have eight, 10 years ago where you might go five, six, seven days with your rookie first round pick. That has kind of changed now with the slot system. It was good to get it done and get him out here. Obviously, we are preparing. There is a lot that we are doing right now. There always is that sense of urgency." 

When you look at Drew (Brees) working with different receivers and obviously with Jared Cook like zone versus man, you see him on a particular play, maybe it might have been an incompletion and you get with Jared and say, 'this is what I am expecting.' Is that something you do on the field and in the film room?
"That will happen with an immediate response. Drew might grab them. A coach might grab them. You see something and then again you confirm it when you are watching the tape. That's why we try to as much as we can watch the film in groups rather than separate so there is that dialogue. That's the things that you're trying to get ironed out prior to the regular season starting." 

In the past you hqve highlighted players that when the pads come on it kind of changed for the positive for them. Are there a couple of guys that (stand out)?
"We were talking about personnel yesterday, I thought the last few days, Dwayne Washington stood out. He's someone that we know we can play in the kicking game, but he's had some good practices. You've noticed it, Trey Hendrickson, at his weight and playing well. (David) Onyemata is another player. Those are a few players that you're seeing pretty consistently. (Erik) McCoy's done well inside. It's still early."

You talked about how Mike Thomas practices at such a high level. How much does that impact other guys to also help them?
"There is a formula for him and sometimes even in walkthrough with Mike, it is almost full speed. Darren Sproles was that way. He has a way that he gets ready in regards to stretch and prepared mentally and physically to play a game each weekend. He's pretty routine-driven that way."

Talk about (Terron Armstead's) development from the time you drafted him to what you're seeing today.
"He is a tremendous athlete and if you went back all the way to the (scouting) combine you really looked at some of the numbers, they were unique for a tackle. How he ran, his movement skills. He played at a small school, but it was a real good third round pick for us. He has got fantastic leadership. He's tough. I can remember the first game he started and then that year we're in the playoffs. There's a toughness and not only a physical toughness, but there's a mental toughness with him, some grit. And I think that clearly he is one of our leaders on this team and someone that's well-respected."

You're getting with the officials when they come in later today. Anything specific you're looking to ask them?
"Typically when they come in they'll have a presentation. There is a video they show. We will talk about the rule changes, we will talk about the points of emphasis, there will be questions in the room. They will show the video and then we are fortunate now to have them Thursday, Friday, Saturday. We will have them for a stretch where the players can communicate (with them). They will throw a flag on the field. We will not stop the drill. There is always that positive interaction that you get relative to how they see certain things. And we've got a handful of guys we haven't worked with before and I think that's good."

Do your defensive backs have questions for them about the new pass interference rule, where there is a challenge mechanism in place? Do they come to you about that?
"No. There's no new standard. Pass interference is going to be evaluated just like it has been before on the field. What's out of their control is if It goes to replay. The questions relative to pass interference being something that can be challenged or offensive pass interference when it goes back to New York, what's the standard there? And it's clear and obvious and those guys have all the angles and copies to look at a play. And then of course inside two minutes the replay official is in charge of stopping it and what are his standards? It's real time. Seeing it real time on a replay. That was one of the things we discussed, but we discussed a lot of different things last night."

Are the referees involved with the TV networks as far as how long they want a game to last?
"That's kind of behind the scenes because that can be controlled relative to how long your halftime is. That can be controlled relative to when the ball's in play. There's things that can take place to keep it at that spot where they want it that are really outside the officials and outside the coaches and the players. When it's a change though, relative timing, sometimes you are playing in the stadium, halftime in our league is pretty quick. If you're walking back up a ramp to your right down the hallway to a locker room, you're probably quickly going to the restroom, maybe grabbing something to drink or eat, coaches are going through quick adjustments, then you are meeting and then you are returning (to the field). The halftime compared to a college halftime is much different."

About a week into camp. Is the depth playing out the way your thought it was going to?
"Yesterday was the first time we met personnelwise. It's still early. We're working with a lot of different rotations and there's a lot ahead of us here, so it's still about the technique and fundamentals, making sure that the players know their assignment and then that'll begin to unfold. All of this is important."

When a player is new to a team, is there a point during training camp you start to worry about how much missed time they might accumulate compared to a player who has played for you for a while?
"The alert (is) when a player is new is, where is he coming from? Is he coming from a team where he just finished playing and is he in shape? Has he been in an offseason (strength and conditioning) program? Has he not been in an offseason program? It is more about what's he ready for so that we don't have an injury the first couple days he's out here. A lot of it depends on the specific player."

Did (Michael Thomas) have to do the conditioning drill?
"Well he just got here, so at some point we'll work through that."

Were you surprised you were able to retain both your offense and defensive staff in terms of coordinators and position coaches?
"A lot of that is really out of your control. I've said this before, I think it is a good thing and it's something that you want to, as the head coach, help (them move up the ladder). You want to see these guys have these opportunities especially in a head coaching position or even a coordinator position. We have a handful of guys that are going to be head coaches in this league on this current staff. What specifically are the teams looking for that they interview with? I don't know, and that varies per team, but you get a little bit more concerned if no one's calling."

You have to feel good about the retention.
"I like our group. Absolutely. A lot of these guys I've been with for quite a while. Some of them, maybe not as long, but I think that the number one thing I learned is when you're an assistant, you focus on where your feet are at the ground at that time, and focus on working and doing your job. It's a small league. There aren't a lot of secrets and very quickly word gets out as to who's doing well. If you do that, those other things come."

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