New Orleans Saints Wide Receiver Emmanuel Sanders
Video Call with New Orleans Media
Thursday, October 8, 2020
Maybe this is a stretch, but is it fair to say that without Mike (Thomas) in the lineup, it kind of forced you guys to acclimate faster and really kind of get on the same page quicker?
"I think that was going to happen regardless, truthfully. Obviously, for me, like, I haven't had any OTA work with Drew (Brees), like, we missed at least about two or three months' worth of work, right? And so we're trying to catch up to that. And I feel like it's starting to come about now. And I'm starting to get acclimated with the guys and team, like, you move to a new city, you move your family to a new city and then you're trying to learn a new playbook, you're trying to let everybody in the organization know what you're about. So, it's all a process that had to be expedited. And truthfully, I'm just now getting comfortable around just the city of New Orleans, and this organization, and just the people and how to go about their business. Because you'd think that in the National Football League, every organization runs the same way, but they don't. So, you've got to kind of get into the flow of things. I feel like, I'm starting to understand, and, like, I'm not wandering off anymore, and people telling me, 'Hey, we have got to come over here, we have got to do this.' I know what is to come next. And as far as Tre'Quan (Smith), what a great job this dude did. Mike went down, he came in and filled in that role, and filled in it well. I look at the Raiders game, this kid was balling out, and then the last game two touchdowns to help us get a win. So, I am happy for him. He is a hell of a player. Now that Mike's come back, I feel like we've got three dangerous receivers on the field at the same time. And if we can get that chemistry right, it can be dangerous."
I suppose that's kind of what I was getting at is, when Mike (Thomas) is out, you guys all had to kind of learn how to play with him off the field. And now if he's getting brought back into the mix, y'all already had that kind of chemistry built up.
"For me, like, when Mike was down, obviously, my reps went up. I was able to get in there and block and a couple routes that usually Mike is running that I was running. I got an opportunity to really showcase that I can do it. It just goes to show that if Sean Payton wants to keep a defense on its toes, he could switch it up and move the receivers around and do different stuff. Just to make the defensive coordinator stay up an extra hour at night."
You kind of alluded to this in your first answer, but on your podcast, you essentially said that you have not met your ceiling yet. You have not reached that ceiling yet. What is that in your opinion? How high can you continue to make this?
"Obviously, I've had success in his league. Every year you trying to top that so the most yards I've ever had in a season was 1,400 yards. And so for me, like that's why I say that's my ceiling. I'm trying to I'm always trying to top that, even though sometimes it might not happen, in my head, I have to try to top that just to keep me motivated. I have been to Pro Bowls, I've been to Super Bowls, I've done it all pretty much that this league has to offer. And so where do I find my motivation? I find my motivation by trying to out beat myself, right? And so I know that that's my ceiling, I know how it felt when I was playing in 2014, at the peak of my career, and that's what I'm pretty much saying is that, obviously, like, I haven't reached my ceiling. In '14, I was going and I had 180-yard games where I was just in my zone and the ball was going my way and the game was flowing my way. I hope one of those games have it for me this year. Because like I said, I know what I'm capable of. And if they want to unleash that, then they can. If not, at the end of the day, it's about winning games. I'm just happy to be here. I'm looking forward to obviously, crunch time and the big games, but right now we have to take it step by step and continuously make plays. When the playoffs comes, that's when everything gets real. I feel like that's where my role will come better in just being there before."
When we talked to you a couple weeks ago, you mentioned just all the different personnel groupings the team uses and how you were still trying to kind of make sure you were on top of that. I guess, how do you feel now with the personnel groupings? And is that allowed you to kind of play more at the speed you're accustomed to?
"Yeah, well, I got acclimated with it a little bit more when Mike (Thomas) was out, but now that Mike's back, obviously we've got personnels where I'm in the game with Mike, Tre'Quan (Smith's) in the game with Mike and I'm in a game with Tre'Quan and I'm in the game with 12 (Marquez Callaway) and I'm in the game with Bennie Fowler. And so now we're really moving, kind of getting back to that. It's crazy because the first two days is like they call the personnel and everybody's kind of looking at each other. And it is like, 'Oh, yeah. All right, let's go.' The first game when it happened, I wasn't used to that, because nowhere else like we have done that before. Now I kind of know what to expect. So, I don't go into panic mode on it anymore. We just kind of sort it out and we go from there."
The stuff you're talking about, the ceiling, and I know, like, it's probably easiest to measure it by yards and yards probably is a representation of how good it feels. But is there is there also just a feel element of that? Where is 2014 the best you've felt on the field? And how close are you to feeling that level of comfort with what you're doing here?
"It's coming. Today was a good day, a great step towards it. And then the last game as well, to be able to get close to 100 yards (a) game. A lot of it is just about confidence and comfort. To me, confidence is being comfortable, right? The confidence and the comfort builds the more and more plays you make and the more times you rep a play with Drew (Brees) and the more times you see, you hear Sean Payton say what he wants, once I build that confidence, I feel like the sky's the limit, then it will take off and it's coming day by day."
I was wondering what you thought of the tempo of the offense on Sunday at the Lions. It seemed like that was kind of what we're used to seeing from the Saints offense so what did that seem like from your perspective?
"Yeah, it felt good. The tempo was definitely there. We were able to run the ball and when you run the ball how we run the ball, obviously, it opens up everything and so if we can keep our running game where it's at, the sky's the limit. Everybody talks about Drew, but if we can keep AK (Alvin Kamara) and those guys running how they're running, it can be dangerous. We've got to keep that running game going because I know, not to say that we've made the playoffs or even speak like that because we've got a lot of games left to be played, but I know once the playoffs do start for any team, the run game is what really gets you over that hump and makes you a lethal team to make the run. So, (if) we can keep it going, it can be dangerous."
I wanted to kind of get your take on Sean Payton and his philosophy. I know he spoke to us this week about how he preached to the team of not feeling sorry for yourself with all the injuries and adversity with the late night on Saturday night going into the game on Sunday. You're a veteran player, you've been around a lot of coaches. Can you speak to that kind of tough love and not allowing the players and coaches and staff to kind of have a built in excuse?
"Yeah, I mean, Sean Payton is my guy. Just to see him come to work every day and the attention to detail that he makes his players pay attention to and just knowing his offense, the ins and outs and the little details of it and how him and Drew (Brees) work together, it's everything that I've always wanted to see, right? Because when you say, 'I'm going to go play for the Saints with Drew Brees and Sean Payton.' You know that this offense is going to put up points. It reminds me of when I played with Peyton (Manning), like, you sit back, you observe, you say, 'why are these guys having so much success?' Then you see it day by day and it's like, 'Oh, okay, I understand why they have so many success.' He's a coach that understands and from a play calling standard, it felt good to go into a game and him tell me, 'I am about to get the ball in your hands.' And really, I (nearly) had a 100-yard game while I really didn't have to do too much work. Every single play he was pretty much calling was wide open, like, nobody around me. That makes him special. He has it. Kyle Shanahan had it as well when I was in San Fran and Peyton had that. I'm lucky to be playing under a head coach like that and I appreciate it and to have a quarterback like Drew."
Did he specifically say to you all at any point, "Hey, this is how the league is. You can't have a built in excuse, that you have some adversity." Was that part of his message?
"That's universal, right? Even on the high school level, that's universal. Name a coach that says, 'Oh, we're dealing with this, we're dealing with that, let's roll over and quit.' Nobody's going to say that even at the peewee level. It's always going be that. Hey, look, it is what it is. That's life in general too. Like, it is what it is, this is the hand that I was dealt and I've got to deal with it, right? I've got to try to play this hand to the best of my ability. When he said that, everybody already knew that. If you made it to this league, you're already built like that. For him to say that, obviously, it was more reassuring than him motivating guys, right? Because guys are already motivated by that anyways."
You've played with some future Hall of Fame quarterbacks and you've played with some rookie quarterbacks too. With the Chargers going with Justin Herbert this week. I was just curious, in your experience when you've worked with rookie quarterbacks, what are some of the positives of that? And then maybe some downsides of that too?
"Justin Herbert, I don't really know too much about him. I watched one of his interviews, I think he is an interesting person, right? I think he's a guy that goes out and has complete confidence in himself. He reminds me of like a Gardner Minshew type, complete confidence. So, definitely different. So, you really can't grasp really, and I do not know him, I just saw from the interview, I was like, 'Oh, this guy's different.' Like, you could just tell he's going to go out and sling the ball. In his head, he is not a rookie, he is going out, slinging the ball, trying to win games, and playing with absolute confidence. That's just based on the interview I saw. That's one thing that I say, 'yeah, the Chargers are coming in, but he had a hell of a game last week, too.' I think he threw for over 300 yards and as a rookie, he's balling. He's doing well. So, we've got to prepare for that. We can't take these guys lightly, we've got to try to go out and win a game and in and put up points."
You've kind of touched on it a couple times, getting used to the city. I've been wondering what was the toughest thing for you to get used to down here?
"First, it was the weather. I'm from Houston, but have not lived in Houston in like 10 years or practiced in Houston in like 10 years, so I had to get used to sweating again. And then it was just getting acclimated. I think COVID had a lot to do with that, when to bring my family out, trying to find a house, trying to find a perfect location, somewhere for my kids to not really leave the house so much and have a pool to play in. I think it was all everything, just balancing everything, right? Because back in the day, it was simple, right? I was by myself, I just had to worry about myself, I could live in a hotel, but just trying to balance everything, make my family comfortable, and then learning the playbook and get acclimated, but I think that I handled it all pretty well. I'm happy where I'm at right now from a mental and physical standpoint. I look forward to day by day because it's just going to keep getting better and better."