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Transcript: Margus Hunt video conference call - Monday, May 4

Saints defensive tackle speaks to media after signing with New Orleans

New Orleans Saints Defensive Tackle Margus Hunt
Local Media Zoom Availability
Monday, May 4, 2020

What made the Saints the right destination for you to sign?
"I think it's a combination of where my career was heading and the possibility of playing for such a great organization, team and being a part of this great locker room and just trying to improve even more at this stage of my career."

You're going to be the fourth Southern Methodist University guy on this roster. What does that mean to you that there's a little bit of a similar connection there in some of your former college teammates?
"Oh yeah, absolutely. The first thing I did was reached out to Zach Line. He played fullback last year (for the Saints) and just retired. I have a great relationship with him and he told me so many positive things about the organization and the locker room and everything. He told me basically if this is serious, by all means take it because you don't want to miss out on this opportunity."

You're coming off a career-high in sacks in 2018. I know that can be a somewhat overrated stat for defensive linemen, but do you feel like you're kind of hitting your groove as a professional?
"Yes, statistically last year wasn't my greatest. I feel like I left a lot of plays out there. Just always one step or just one second behind, but always in the mix. My biggest thing right now is just trying to make sure I keep finishing plays, keep trying to get the ball and hustling and doing all the right things to be able to be in the picture of being the in the play, being a key factor and part of it, stoppage if you will. (I am) Just trying to improve every year."

You said you spoke to Zach Line? What specifically did Zach tell you where the pluses of the organization that that would make it a team you want to play with?
"Well, for me right now too, with being married with two kids, he just said from that point of view it's very family-oriented (organization). They do a huge deal about family and kids and everything. That was one of the reasons (for my decision). Another one was obviously the locker room. Great guys, all pros, they do the right things. They work hard, practice hard. They teach each other hard and they work every day to get to that title. That was one of the big things."

I know you've been asked this a million times. You're 6-8, man. What are you doing playing football?
"There are a lot of tall guys out there. It's fun. It is not bad actually. It is just sometimes when the offensive line does get underneath the pads, it can get a little dicey. But other than that it's fun out there."

How hard have you had to work or learn to maintain your leverage because, as you said, it can get difficult if guys get under your pads?
"Every play damn near. You don't want to get into that situation where they have the upper hand. So every single play I'm out there that's one of the biggest things I need to focus on to make sure my pads are lower than theirs and I have the advantage. If that happens, I usually have the upper hand."

Did they discuss the potential role that they might want you to kind of fall into here if and when football gets started again?
"Somewhat, not very much in detail. I got reached out to by Ryan Nielsen, the defensive line coach. We spoke briefly about the defense, the system, where he sees me being able to contribute. I was very excited hearing all of that. So I'm very interested and very excited to get to work and start learning this defense."

Any chance you'll play any special teams at all?
"I don't know yet. We'll see."

Do you still have a family back in Estonia?
"Yes. Everybody's actually over there. So my mom, my sister, I'm the only one here (in the United States)."

Just out of curiosity, what's this Coronavirus pandemic been like for you, just knowing that your family is so far away and you don't know what the situation is like over there? How has it been just dealing with that?
"Well, they were pretty quick on the trigger, especially when Italy started kind of like showing symptoms and started having a huge spike, a huge majority of the European countries started to shut down immediately after that. Fortunately for Estonia, the population is only over a million and most of the country's work has been digitized for decades now. So for them it wasn't really that big of deal. It was just my mom because she has some issues, so she just kind of stayed home and stayed away. But they were able to kind of ride out the wave pretty smoothly as far as I've talked to her."

Going back to your days at SMU, would you even be playing football and if they kept the track program?
"Probably not to be honest because I went there for track. So if they would've had the track program, I would have stuck around and did that."

Where are you at these days?

Every place is dealing with this, but what has it been like for you, cooped up at home with your kids, trying to work out, trying to find a new team as a free agent, all that type of stuff?
"It actually hasn't been that bad because when all (of) this happened, it was offseason as usual. The biggest part was obviously when we took the kids out of preschool, something like that, whatever it is called (in America), to obviously not go there anymore, but I was able to work out here. I have a gym in my garage. I have a beautiful yard, full everything. So there's plenty of stuff for them to do and run around and they're getting to that age where they kind of start entertaining themselves now. So that's very exciting to see and be part of, especially now too because right now would be the OTA period and everything so it would be kind of hard to be away."

In 2018 you started almost every game and then last season your role kind of shifted a little bit. What was that like for you going from several years of being a guy who would come in and play different roles and then going into that starting role for one spot and then coming off of that again?
"It's just the nature of the business. I didn't have the most successful start last year to be honest and they decided to make some different moves and put me in a better position of making plays. So they took me out of that interior, nose tackle position and put me back at three technique, which was better spot for me anyway in my opinion as well. I understand their process behind it. So I didn't have anything to really argue at that point with the decision because my stats weren't that good. I couldn't help the team in my position that I was in. So they were able to put me in a better position to obviously help the defensive line and help the team. It did help a little bit. It's just then I was in a backup role so my reps were limited for every game."

Do you feel comfortable switching back over to nose or lining up at end or wherever they really want you to be?
"Oh, yeah, absolutely. I like being able to play anywhere on the defensive line. That way you never know what you're going to get and they never know what they're going to get. I actually enjoyed it a lot. It's just last year, like I said, it wasn't the best start to the year. It just picked up a little bit later on."

I came in a little bit late, so I don't know if anyone asked you about special teams early in the call today. I was just reading your bio, I noticed you had been very successful in special teams in college. I wasn't sure how that translated to the NFL or if there's any talk about not really so much kick coverage, but just on field goal team really on defense. Is that something that you still think about or wonder if you can contribute in any way?
"Oh, yeah. I mean, that was one of my, like you said, stronger suits in college. It did die down a little bit in the league because the regulations and rules and everything on the field goal, all the guys are obviously way bigger. The gaps are a little bit tighter. It was a little bit more challenging. But I feel like I've been able to create pressure in the kickers' faces, and if not me, somebody else will have the opportunity to make a play. I wouldn't say that it hasn't been completely unsuccessful, but it's hard and especially on those plays, you never know. I always go 100 percent on those players because somebody will take a play off. That might be one of those plays where we got through."

Your height helps obviously in some areas. I know basketball is pretty popular where you grew up. Did you play much of that?
"A little bit. We played a lot when we were kids in the summertime between school years. Either that or soccer, (I) just never really decided to do anything with it."

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