New Orleans Saints WR Emmanuel Sanders
Video Call With New Orleans Media
Wednesday, December 30, 2020
How long has it been since you've had a haircut?
"Going on two weeks, probably the longest I've been. But it's okay. I'm in grind mode right now."
You've played in some really talented divisions over your career. So you know what it takes to win a tough division. The Saints won four straight here with the win last week. But, no team's ever swept the (NFC) South. How tough is that to do? Just knowing that the games are played for a reason and sometimes bad teams have good weeks?
"Yeah, I mean, it's tough. But you know, is it attainable? Yeah. And we'll see on Sunday, you know, I'm looking forward to it. We got a lot at stake, right. If we win, and Green Bay loses, and Seattle wins, then we get a first round bye. And, you know, regardless, we get the number two seed and two home games, if we win as well, you know. And so, we're playing for a lot, but I'm looking forward to it. With a win, I guess it would go another notch on Sean Payton and Drew Brees' belt, right. Sweeping the NFC South. And it's something that, you know, it's my first year in this division, but, you know, to accomplish that feat, that's big."
You talked about a kind of still having a lot to play for, does that make it easier, I guess, it's been a long season with everything you guys have had to deal with. But having a lot to still play for, does it make it kind of easier to stay, you know, like you said in grind mode and locked in, as you know, hit this final game?
"Of course. But, you know, at the end of the day, we all want a Super Bowl. And so, you know, at some point, you know, your body gets tired and your mind is tired. And you're doing the same things over and over. And it's pressure with the situation and expectations are high. But, this is what you play football for, at least that's what I play for. We've got an opportunity to win it all. And so, I am definitely in grind mode, mentally, physically, all the time. Because I am in year 11. I do not know how many opportunities I'll get to go to another Super Bowl. And to be on a Super Bowl caliber team. It's a blessing, so I'm trying to take advantage of it."
The last couple weeks, you have hit on a couple of those like shot plays, downfield plays. Why do you think you come up open on those? What makes you good at those in your words?
"I think it is just a good play call and good execution. We work it at practice. And it is something that I've done like, when I played in college, I was a slot receiver, so I really did not catch the ball down the field too much. But, that is something that I remember Mike Tomlin telling me I had to add that to my game in order for me to really take off and have 1,000 yard seasons. So, I start working on my deep game, catching more deep balls. It feels good to see it all pay off."
Sean Payton was saying part of that was you and your ability to kind of recognize coverage on the fly? So, how would you explain that? Is it just like noticing that stuff just like when you're on the field to know when to break your routes off and all that?
"Yeah so, like my coach, Curtis Johnson, he always tells, you know, all the guys in the room, he says play with your eyes, right. And you know, a lot of times guys are running with their head down or thinking, they're overthinking. CJ (Curtis Johnson) always tells me, play with our eyes because once that ball snaps you're going to see the DB, you're going to see the look in his eyes, you try to notice everything that's going on, on that particular play. It's crazy because on all my deep balls I can envision exactly all of the moving pieces that were moving around and exactly where I needed to fit in, in order for Taysom (Hill) to give me the ball, Drew (Brees) to give me the ball. I still remember that because, you know, I try to play with my eyes and try to keep my eyes up and notice the DBs, the cornerbacks, the safety, the linebacker. I try to notice if somebody's running by me, I try to hear the footsteps, I try to just go through that. And that's why I like playing here as well, because the walk thrus kind of helped me with that as well, in terms of allowing me to see it and really play with my eyes, play with my body, (and) get a feel for the game."
If you can just reflect on how this season has gone, specifically in terms of having kind of signed up to play for a certain offense that would feature Drew Brees and have Michael Thomas out there on the field with you? It hasn't always worked out that way. But, it seems like you've been able to influence results and the results have been good on the season as a whole. So how do you think it's worked out?
"You know, even with all that, though, we're still sitting here with an opportunity to get the number one seed, with an opportunity to get two home playoff games. And so there's one thing I tell my wife all the time, it's about expectations. Sometimes expectations aren't good for the both of us. And so, I know that the media had expectations, Emmanuel Sanders and Michael Thomas getting together, it's going to be a crazy year passing, Drew Brees this and that. But, at the end of the day, we're still sitting exactly where we wanted to be. Obviously, we want to be better and not have to worry about anybody. But, we still clinched the playoffs, still clinched the division and we have everything ahead of us that we want to attain. And so sometimes, it's not about…they say it's about the journey, but sometimes it is about the destination at the end of the day. And so, we're able to get to our destination."
When you talk about it being a blessing to be on a Super Bowl caliber team, it looks like you've been to three Super Bowls with three different teams, right? You're trying to make it a fourth here? So, do you feel like that's just pure luck and coincidence? Or do you feel like you like to think that you've had some kind of influence on that?
"No. I don't have anything I just think I just position myself on good teams, right? You play long enough in this league, I was fortunate enough in 2010 to be on the Super Bowl team. And you know, we didn't win it all, but just to see all the pieces and exactly what was going on. And if you pay attention to football, you'll know. Like, once you hear free agency, you'll know there's probably like four or five teams at the end of the like, even at the beginning of the season they got a legit shot at winning the Super Bowl. So, you know, I've always looked at it from that situation, not more so the money. Obviously, the money had to be okay. Because, you know, I'm trying to be financially stable, you know, at the end of the day. But, it was also about winning and being happy. Because I know me, like I hate to lose. And so, I have always turned down more money in free agency just to go to a better team or position myself, just so that I can be on a Super Bowl winning team. And I did it when I left the Steelers in free agency. I turned down teams like Jacksonville, Tampa Bay. I turned down Kansas City, and ended up choosing Denver because I thought that that was the team that was going to win it. And then, I got this year, I turned down, Buffalo and obviously Green Bay, they're playing really well. But, I feel like this year, in free agency, was probably my best year in terms of like, I had all good teams. I had all good teams that were looking for me to be there. But, it was just really about my happiness. And I have always loved Drew Brees and Sean Payton growing up in Houston right down the street. And so, I said, why not? Why not get the opportunity to learn from these guys and play with these guys."
I asked you this last week, on the young receivers, you said, you know, it's all about reps and you know, just having them not worry about it. How did you feel that they played last week?
"Oh, they played well, Marquez Callaway, you know, I'm telling you guys, you got to remember his name. If the guy stays healthy, he's going to be a special player in this league. And he's not even close to hitting his peak. He's going to hit it because just based on how he's built, like, good humble kid and wants to work hard. And he's a guy, man, who, you know, they're not taught, they say it's a good rookie receiver class. Nobody's talking about him. Bu this guy is, this guy's a player. And when I go into games and I look across I know that he's going to make some plays. And he's a special rookie. And then Juwan (Johnson), he came in and he made a catch and AC (Austin Carr) made a catch. His foot was out, could have been a touchdown. But, his foot was out. I feel like we all contributed to the win. And so, it feels good. I know those guys feel good as well."
You're talking about Curtis Johnson earlier, what's it been like to play for CJ this year?
"First we started off, the first, probably hour we started off a little rough. Because CJ has a big personality and he's going to test you. So he, I didn't know he was testing me, but he was testing me. I guess just testing my manhood a little bit. So, I had to bow my chest up a little bit. And after that, you know, probably like two days after that I started to see that CJ (Curtis Johnson) is a good dude. Like, I enjoy, like on Saturdays you come into work and he willl have sermons up. And he will give us like a 10 minute sermon just about the Bible and the Holy Trinity and just everything. I really enjoy spending time with him. I love that dude. He's taught me so much. And he's one of those guys who like, even if I have a question about family like, anything, right. CJ (Curtis Johnson), he's pretty much done it all and seen it all. So, I always like to go to him for advice. And certain things. I always tell him, like he's rarely wrong about anything. And you know, he is one of the guys I know, even at one o'clock at night time, I can pick up the phone and call CJ (Curtis Johnson), he'll be there. So, he's a special coach. And I've enjoyed my time with him."
I think that's a running theme, by the way. I think he and Michael Thomas didn't get along, like at their first meeting either?
"Yeah. That's how it goes with CJ (Curtis Johnson). He's going to test you a little bit, but he's going to bring the best out of you as well."
You guys have had to basically put a bandaid on the team pretty much every week. Man-up after man-up, next man-up mentality, all that stuff, going into the playoffs maybe a little bit banged up. What does it say about the resiliency of this team, this locker room that week after week you guys have proven your depth and been able to make it this far?
"At the end of the day. When you look at the roster, I've always said we had depth. But, I didn't think that we had depth in terms of the receiver room, I'm speaking specifically in terms of what we got. And then, Tre'Quan (Smith) goes down, Mike (Thomas) goes down. And then, next thing, a new guy, Marquez Callaway pops up on the scene, right and he's showcasing his talent. And this team is just resilient. But one thing I cannot take credit away from him, is Sean Payton and the way that he's been coaching. This guy's bringing the best out of his players. And week in and week out, he puts us in positions to win games. Whether Drew's (Brees) out, whether Drew's playing, none of the receivers are playing. He's calling plays, making plays and all that. Offensively speaking, Alvin Kamara has been having a crazy year for us and carrying the load. And I just feel like we have all taken our turns and made our plays. And therefore we are sitting here in the position like I said, with two home games on the line and number one seed."
Following up to that, how I guess, fun may not be the right word. But, how cool is it to watch Sean Payton be creative when he doesn't have Drew Brees and you have used six different offensive line starting lineups? And having to get creative with just the personnel that you have?
"Listen, we're talking about a coach who's doing the griddy with Jordan 11s on, right? One thing about Sean Payton is his confidence. He's probably the most confident coach I've been a part of and as he should. Because he pretty much, he's been doing it a long time. He's a great coach. And like I said, in my opinion, Sean Payton is a Hall of Fame coach. At some point he should be off in there. And I've been enjoying my time with him. And it's just not even on the football field. Even off the football field, just talking with him and cracking jokes with him. I have enjoyed my time with him. He's a legend in my eyes."