New Orleans Saints Safety Malcolm Jenkins
Video Call with New Orleans Media
Wednesday, December 9, 2020
How special is it just to be not only going back to Philadelphia but also going an hour away from Piscataway?
"I wish fans were allowed. We've been locked away here for a long time. It's been a minute since I've seen my family so to be that close to home (and) not be able to touch and feel your family is a little tough, but I'm excited man. Obviously, accomplished a lot in that building, I've got a lot of friends that'll be on the other side. I'm really looking forward to opportunity to compete."
I wanted to ask you about not just the Eagles, but the city itself. What does that city mean to you?
"Man, I love that city. I call it home in the offseason. I've given myself, everything I've got into that community, invested a lot into that community and it's given the same love back to me so that city holds a special place in my heart."
If you look at that last play of the Falcons game on Sunday, the Hail Mary pass, it looks like Calvin Ridley makes no play for the ball and goes right at C.J. Gardner Johnson. Is that common on a Hail Mary to have one receiver just try to take defensive backs out? Or did that strike you as unusual that he took that opportunity to take a shot at C.J.? Does that make sense?
"Yeah, I didn't see that. I was more focused on the ball. And even when I watched the tape, I really didn't notice that. But for us, it's about how do we win the down. So if a receiver wants to abandon the football, then better for us, we've got more numbers. I do not really have a comment on that. I didn't notice it until you just said it."
When it comes to C.J. it seems like almost every game we see somebody literally lose their mind at him. Is it among NFL players? Look, I know there's a lot of talking, but is he like the Michael Jordan of talking on the field? Is he elite at that?
"Well, I think like anything, you create a reputation, right? Guys approach you based on what they've heard or seen on tape. So a lot of times, we'll play teams and you can just tell that guys have that attitude coming into it that they're not going to be the one to, I don't know, take any of his crap, and they end up getting out of their our own game and he's not even doing anything. So whatever he's doing is effective. So I always tell him, live on the edge, play on the edge, just don't hurt the team. I think he does a good job of that, really walking that line of being tough, in your face, but really never putting himself in a position where he hurts us as a unit. So I think that's a positive."
Do you think there's any correlation between building depth like you guys have in the locker room culture, establishing a good locker room culture?
"100 percent. Luckily for me, I have been in two good locker rooms where you always preach depth and availability being huge factors in the type of players you put in a locker room. You want guys who are going to be committed to preparing like a starter, even though the chances of them playing are not there because we know in this league injuries happen, crazy things happen, especially now with COVID, the ability for people to step in and play without having to drop off is how you win consistently throughout a season. I think it is one of the things that obviously has helped us, especially on the back end over the last few weeks with guys kind of going in and out. We've been able to just plug in a new guy and keep our planning and production the same."
Is there something to the culture of maybe guys wanting to come and play there in terms of if you're a free agent or whatever?
"Yeah, I think we've got really some of the best backups in the league. I think Patrick Robinson is a great example of that, somebody who is a first round pick, played a lot of football in this league and really could start on the majority of teams in this league, but he is a backup for us and comes in and I think he has got just as much ball production as any of the corners we have. So that helps us obviously, when we're trying to, and especially with the defense we have, we play a lot of man and man (looks). We need guys that can go up and cover and so when we lose somebody, having backups like that, that can come in and not lose a step is key to what we do."
What have you seen from Marcus Williams over these past couple of weeks?
"Well, I think he's always been a rangy player on the back end who can make plays on the football, gets interceptions. I think the most, or the knock kind of coming into him or the rhetoric around him was that he wasn't a great tackler, he was not very physical. And I think what we've seen over the last month, really, and really throughout the year, is he's been a more devastating tackler, he's making big hits, he's taking great angles to the football. And he's really been eliminating some of those explosive runs that might get to the second level and I think that's what you want to see out of your deep safeties. Somebody who can tackle well, be physical. And I think him adding that portion to his game is really making him a solid player on the back end, and obviously playing a lot of good football for us."
You've been a part of two different Super Bowl winning teams in two different cities. I was just curious how this current 2020 Saints locker room compares to some of those other winning teams you've been a part of in the past?
"It's different. I think obviously everybody's been talented. Every team has been talented, every team has kind of had a story. But this one, to me, has the most potential. Obviously, the two teams that I was on made it and won. And we still got a lot of football in front of us before I can make before I can make a comparison between those two. But obviously, we have a great team, at this point in season we've put ourselves in a great position with a lot still in front of us. But there's still a lot to accomplish before I can really weigh this team against those two that actually got the job done."
I know that the goal remains the same every week, but how does the methodology change when you're facing a quarterback who's making his first NFL start? He's a rookie, obviously hasn't seen as much as you guys might be able to throw at him.
"I mean, it's twofold, right? He hasn't seen all the looks as a rookie. And so you see a little bit of vulnerability or chance to make plays, but at the same time, we haven't seen it as well, we haven't gotten much tape on him. So we don't know how much the offense is going to change, are we going to see a lot more quarterback runs? Or are there going to be changes to the passing game? We're going to have to have a little bit of kind of an open ended plan, knowing that we're going to make adjustments throughout the game to see what's going on. It's give or take."
I was wondering if you could take us back just a little bit to exactly how the Saints sort of re-recruited you from Philly. And then just the main factors that made this the right decision for you. I'm sure they were a good team, but if it's also personalities, familiarity and things like that?
"I mean, for me, I got cut by the Eagles and as a free agent, there weren't really many places I wanted to go. At this point in my career, I wanted to play for a team that I can contend with that has a good locker room and a good culture. And obviously no better team than that than the Saints in my book. Somewhere that's very familiar. I know the staff, I know the city, and a lot of people that are here I know what they're about. And so if I wasn't going to finish off in Philadelphia then the Saints were obviously my best option and a decision that I'm glad happened."
Did you really feel like Philly had no interest in bringing you back or just not at the old contract?
"For me, I gave everything I had to that that city, to the team, I did everything that the coaches asked me to do, I did everything to make the players around me better, tried to put my best football out there. And it just wasn't valued that much by those who made the decision. So for me, it was just more of a principle about respect. I really didn't care what the money was, but I wanted to see what that respect factor was and it wasn't valued at what I thought. So decisions are made and I end up at a place that values what I bring that's really had history with me and obviously it's worked out."
Malcolm Jim Schwartz said yesterday that you're the smartest football player he's ever coached. What does it just mean up here something like that?
"Man, I mean, that's respect at the highest level. That's a coach that is not only respected by me, but respected around this league. He knows about football, has coached a lot of great players. And so to hear that from a coach that you played for, that's why you play the game, you play the game for the respect of your opponents, your peers, and those you play for. So I didn't take that lightly. That meant a lot to me. Somebody like I said, who kind of pours his soul on what he does. To have that recognized by a coach of his stature is a big deal."
Just with the amount of experience you have having played for a couple teams that won it, how hard is it in the NFL to just maintain that year in, year out, clinching a playoff berth early, competing for the number one seed, all that stuff?
"It's tough. In a league that's uber competitive, a lot of turnaround in teams, you lose a lot of players every year. It's hard to maintain the culture and that starts not with just the players in the locker room, that goes up to the coaching staff and front office of how do you maintain that longevity, and there's not many teams in the league that can do that. There are a few select organizations. You see teams pop up, and they're good for maybe one or two years and then it falls apart when they lose players to free agency. So organizations like the Saints, to be able to maintain what has gone on here over the years is impressive. And obviously, the credit goes to kind of everybody from the players all the way up to ownership."
You've seen just about everything there is to see and yet 2020 is different than anything anybody's ever seen. Can you just talk about how this team has handled everything that's come his way this season? Whether it be six starters missing a game or some guys missing some games with COVID or missing your quarterback for at least three games, just how this team has handled all that?
"We talked about it at the very onset of the season. No excuses. There's going to be excuses for every single team as to why this isn't the year, but for us we've been so close for so many years in a row we want to make this opportunity our year so there's going to be no excuses. We're not going to use COVID, injuries or any of those things to make excuses as to why we can't accomplish our goals and with that being really the crux of our culture, then it's really no surprise of how we work, about our business, our demeanor in these games and how we've arrived to the point we are now."
Over these last five games, you guys have given up nine points a game defensively, what is special about this group as you continue to get better and better and better? And you mentioned (Jalen) Hurts not knowing much about him. What has stood out given the limited tape you've seen and maybe a couple keys against him?
"Yeah, I think the one thing that is helping us as a defense really get better and better each week is our preparation throughout the week, and just our maturation and how we play off each other. I think we're starting to learn, every week we learn better and better how to communicate with one another, how to see the game the same way, how to play off one another and that's allowing us to improve week after week and we keep the process the same. As far as this week and the quarterback, the one thing I have seen is obviously he's a mobile quarterback, he's a strong one runner, there's a lot of zone read stuff, but also has a really big arm so can stretch the field. This isn't one of those times where you can just load up the box and dare him to throw. He's a more than capable passer, but obviously movement and being on the run is a situation and something that we've got to obviously address."
The time you spent in Philly winning a Super Bowl, and all the things you've done in a community, how much did the city of Philadelphia and the people, how much did it mean to you? And what's it going to be like to actually play at the Linc again on Sunday?
"Yeah, it meant the world to me, like I said, I gave six years of everything I had. Not just on the field, but into the locker room, into the community. Philly was me, synonymous at one point in time. And so it's going to be very nostalgic and I've definitely been looking forward to this game all year, to be able to get back into the Link. Unfortunately, I don't think there'll be any fans there and won't be able to see friends or family but (this) still is definitely a game I'm looking forward to get kind of back into the city. I've missed a lot of those people this year. But I'm looking forward (to the) opportunity."