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Transcript: Mickey Loomis pre-draft press conference - April 22, 2020

New Orleans Saints Executive Vice President and General Manager Mickey Loomis spoke with media Wednesday

New Orleans Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis
Pre-Draft Media Availability
Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Opening statement:
"Well, good morning. I hope that everyone's safe and not going too stir crazy."

What's the draft setup for you, Sean (Payton) and Jeff (Ireland)? How are you communicating and those kinds of things and I guess what are the troubleshooting methods that you have in place?
"We're using the technology. We're using WebEx, I think most of the time, for some of these meetings we're using, I think this one here, Zoom, but look we're using the technology and we're communicating. We each have a setup in our own homes and we're ready to go for this draft."

What have been some of the biggest challenges just in, in all of this?
"I think the one challenge is that you don't have as much give and take with your entire staff, all of your scouts and coaches. There's a lot of conversations that go on, a lot of nuance when you're talking about a particular player, a particular prospect and the vision that you have for him on your team and so I think we miss some of that."

Did you guys have any glitches during your mock draft?
"Nope, we didn't. It went pretty smooth for us."

Can you walk us through what that virtual process was like and what you guys had to do for the mock draft on Monday?
"Yes, how can I best describe this? We have a communication system with the league and then we have a backup, which the backup is a conference call effectively and there's a system to setup and you basically send in your pick when you're on the clock. We have a screen showing who's on the clock, with the clock itself winding down and then when a pick is made that pick shows up on the screen and at the same time, the clock resets to the team that's now on the clock. It's in a lot of ways that's similar to what we do when we're calling our guy at the draft in New York and having them fill out a card and send in the card. Instead of that being a manual process with an individual, we're doing it over the internet, it's relatively simple. Listen, the things that you worry about is do you have a glitch with the internet, do you have a power outage or do you have something that happens that interrupts that technology. For example, I know that we're expecting a storm here tomorrow in New Orleans and so (if) does that include a power outage, how do we handle a power outage, which we've got backup systems in order to do that."

Do you feel as comfortable as you would feel in a normal draft setting?
"Yes, I think our scouts do a great job of getting the evaluations, getting the information to us. Obviously, we are missing a piece of that this year. Every team's missing a piece of that this year that comes from the pro days and the physicals that haven't been completed. We're all missing the same amount of information, but we also have a lot of information."

Do you think communication will be at a premium Saturday with the speed and four rounds of the draft?
"Well, I think it can happen at any time. Obviously, the time's compressed on the third day when you have less time per pick and less time to explore trades. I think you'd probably have to do that a little sooner than we would ordinarily do it, but I think that by then we'll have this system pretty well down. I'm not expecting a lot of issues, but I know that we'll be prepared for them."

You mentioned everybody in the National Football League sort of missing a piece throughout this process. Do you foresee that impacting the decisions you guys make over the next couple of days?
"I think that I cannot really answer that generally, I think that is more specific to a particular prospect. I'd say on the surface, no, and yet each one of these prospects is a little different. When you're missing a piece of information that might be critical for that particular guy, then obviously it would impact it."

How much of a challenge is it not having access to the medical evaluations for these rookie prospects, but even for free agents and guys like Emmanuel Sanders who you guys brought in in this offseason?
"Yes, I think first of all we have physical information on the guys that were at the combine and there was obviously some follow up on some of those players that we haven't been able to complete. There's a piece of that missing. There's the guys that weren't at the combine, that has become a challenge to get medical information on those players. I think what you said about the free agents, now look we can communicate with the teams that they were with and we have access to some of it. Obviously, if a guy's playing the previous year, then that tells you a lot too. We have some of the information. It is a challenge though, it is a challenge to complete some of these deals, particularly deals that are larger financially."

If you can't do a follow up with a prospect, how much or little does that affect your thought process going into the draft in terms of we couldn't quite get everything we wanted?
"Yes, it affects you to some degree. (It) Just depends upon your level of concern about that particular item. And so it's hard to give a general answer for that because it's a lot more, prospect specific, it has to do with the particular prospect, where you might be drafting him, what you've got invested, so there's a lot of variables and it's hard to answer that question without talking about somebody specifically."

Have you guys talked to the league about any protections with these contracts as it applies to both rookies and the free agents because of not having that access you normally would to the medicals?
"No, not really."

Say there is a storm and your computer freezes or whatever. Would you have to call the league yourself on maybe your cell phone and say, hey, can we stop the draft or do you call Sean (Payton) and he calls?
"I can speak to my house. At my setup, I've got a generator, so if there's a power outage, hopefully the generator comes on and I'm operating normally. If not (and) the internet's interrupted, we have cell phones. I can communicate by cell phone to Jeff (Ireland), to Sean (Payton), to any of our staff people as well as we've got an open conference call line on a separate phone with the league. We've got backup systems, we'll be able to communicate. Certainly, if we have a glitch, we have something that happens, we'll notify the league and if it delays our decision then they've got procedures in place to handle that."

How much has your plan maybe for undrafted rookies changed with this? I am assuming you guys have a strategy, but how much has the strategy changed given everything that's going on right now?
"Yes, we're still talking about that. That's a little bit of chaos that happens after the draft, when you are all together in a room and you've got a lot of conversations going on at one time. At the end of the draft, you've got scouts and coaches and all of us involved in that process and the main thing here is we have to just be keeping track of what those conversations are and what the commitments are that have been made so that we fill the roster out and we don't overcommit ourselves. We're still discussing that and how that's going to operate. But I think we have a pretty good handle on it."

Are you seeing teams talk about deals and trades earlier this week because of potential communication issues on Thursday night?
"Yes, I feel like so far it (process) has just been pretty normal. I think it has been about the normal amount."

Do you think that what you did in free agency has given you a lot of flexibility throughout the draft?
"That's always the goal, is to fill as many of the our needs and musts as we can in free agency so that we can pretty much have free reign during the draft and not be tied to a particular position. I wouldn't say we accomplished everything we wanted to accomplish in free agency, but I feel pretty good about where we're at as a roster. I think that we'll approach this just like we've approached prior years."

Do you try and workout who realistically might be available at pick No. 24 and do you use that process before trying to move up to trade for somebody?
"Yeah, absolutely. We talk pretty extensively about who, what are the group of players that might be available at 24. What are the group players that that might be right in front of us, five, six picks and then what potentially is available at the top of the next round. We spend a lot of time discussing that and discussing is there a particular player that we might want to explore trading up for? Yes, so we spend a lot of time doing that. That's the bulk of this week actually."

I'm assuming that's just so if a scenario arises, you already have kind of have plan A, B and C kind of worked out for how you'd want to approach them?
"Yes, absolutely."

With the willingness to trade up because you guys have historically throughout the years, is that a strategy you look to implement or is that just more belief in a prospect and you're scouting and the perfect vision for the player?
"Yes, I think it's a combination of all those things. I think it's a conviction on a particular prospect, particular player and a conviction with our coaching staff. They have a vision for that particular player fitting into our system and helping us win games so that's exactly right."

One GM said the virtual meetings were more beneficial than the traditional visits. What did you think of having those prospects in a virtual room in their own setting, as opposed to you hosting them?
"Yes, I think it was a good experience. I don't know that I'd say it was better or worse really for that matter. I think it was a good experience and was a good supplement to some of the work that we had already done on a lot of these guys. We were able to get guys a second time and delve a little deeper into some areas that maybe we had some questions about. I thought it was a really good process and I think we've gotten a lot out of it. I probably would agree with whoever that GM was, look it was valuable."

How many 30 visits did you guys actually get in the building before the lockdown related to the pandemic?
"I think that would be zero. As I recall."

What are you going to miss about drafting in your own home alone, compared to usually being with the entire staff?
"Yes, well since we haven't done it in our house, I don't know what I'm going to miss, but I do know that I love the draft. I love the process that we have, we're a team that has a lot of people in our draft room and there's a lot of conversation, a lot of give and take, a lot of opinions being given and I like that. I think there's an aspect of that that draws your staff closer I like."

Everyone talks about the draft, but no one's really talked about the undrafted free agent process after the draft, which is always described as complete chaos in the room with yourself, Coach Payton, assistant coaches and scouts. So does that majorly change when you're going to have to talk to your staff over the phones and everything's happening very quickly?
"It'll definitely be different. Look, there'll be a premium on communications because there'll be a lot of conversations going on independently without that ability to be in the next room or be right next to each other and keeping track of the commitments that are being made and the players in the positions that you're losing. So it's definitely going to be different. We've talked a lot about it. I feel good about how we're going to handle that and yet it'll be different, that's for sure."

How much can you share on the team's quarterback philosophy? I know you're not going to say what, who you want to draft or whether you want to drop them, but what has your approach been in recent years to the need versus not overreacting and forcing yourselves to take one?
"Yes, I think that that any time you have a chance to get a quality quarterback prospect, regardless of your quarterback situation, you would like to take advantage of that. For us it hasn't come. There has not been the match where we're picking (in the area) with the prospect that we really like. So I think our approach is exactly the same this year. Look, if there's someone there that we really like and have a vision for at the time we're picking then we're not afraid to pull that trigger."

You're probably not qualified to answer this question because of your lack of drafting quarterbacks (laughter), but is that a position where if you've got a bunch of guys graded 85, 85, 85 on your board, the quarterback with a grade of 78 comes into that conversation or something like (that)? Does quarterback have to be judged on almost a different scale?
"That's a good question. Look again, I think that gets back to, hey, do you have a clear vision for a prospect. How does he fit with your team, with your roster? Look, it's hard to answer in a general way because look, when we develop a cloud, a group of players that we're looking at a particular spot in the draft, those grades are pretty similar regardless of position. So it's hard for me to say, hey, we're going to elevate someone just because of the position."

How much did what happened in the Vikings playoff game influence your thinking in the offseason? How did you look at that? How did you perceive that moving forward as to how much it influenced your offseason plan in total?
"I don't think that any one particular game or any one particular play for that matter influences you. The thing that I think we've had a lot of success doing, I think we're good at is, is removing the emotion and evaluating our team and our roster. I think our coaches do a great job of that. Our personnel department does a great job of that and then we move forward based upon those evaluations. I think it would be a mistake if we let one game or one event influence us too much. Look, you've got to take that emotion out of it. That's why some of these decisions and some of these items that we want to get completed in the offseason, we take our time. We don't rush into, into a plan. We let that develop."

How much does Christian McCaffrey's contract influence the way you look at Alvin Kamara's contract going forward?
"That's a good question. I haven't really thought about that yet. Clearly you pay attention to the market, you pay attention to what guys are getting paid around the league. It is never just about one contract or one guy. It's about a whole group of them. We'll follow the same process we've always followed."

How much information would you say has been lost on the non-combine guys with the height, weight, speed measurements, and being able to do your prototypes and how do you fill in those gaps if you can't get a time or something?
"Well, you can't fill in the gaps. If you can't get the information, you can't fill in the gaps. You're basically trusting what you see what, what our scouts and what our coaches see when they evaluate the tape. There's been a lot of good decisions made based upon that over the years. I trust the ability of our people to evaluate."

The financial donation you made to the Draft-A-Thon, why was that important?
"First of all, I can't take too much credit for that because I think that was Howie Roseman's idea in Philadelphia and he brought it to the (general managers) group that, hey, this would be a good idea if we each contributed. It's going to raise a pretty good amount of money. I think he was able to get Doug Pederson to challenge the coaches. So hopefully we'll end up with a half a million or so that we can contribute. That won't be the only thing that we do, but look, I think it was a good program and I'm excited to be part of it."

Back to Nick (Underhill's) first question, some of those guys have been doing virtual pro days. How much stock do you put into the times that some of them were running or some of the measurements?
"Yes, we gather the information. We look at the video, not the tapes (since now they are computer video). We look at the video of those workouts and they're good to have. It is good to see guys doing things. It's good to see if a guy has a shoulder issue for example, and you see him bench press, that's valuable information. It gives you confidence that if he had a shoulder injury for example, that he's recovering from that enough to do the bench press or even pushups for that matter. It's hard to say that you're putting a lot of stock in that information, but you're just gathering these bits and pieces to put together a big picture."

*Along those lines, do you know if your scouting department requested any workouts specifically from any prospect? *"Yes, we'll request guys to do certain things. Yes, we do."

Is there a position that jumps out in terms of depth in this year's class?
"I think the most obvious thing is that there's a lot of receivers at the top of this draft that are really good players and so that's probably more than most years. I think that's the thing that jumps out at you the most."

I saw where Dianna Russini just reported that Sean (Payton) had a meeting with the players and told them there'll be no offseason, show up in the best shape of your life in July, ready for training camp. Could you just maybe elaborate on that and the thought process and how you all are handling all that?
"I do not know what Sean said exactly, but we're going to have communication with our players during this time. We're going to have some things we talk to them about. I think his reference is more about, look, pay attention to your family, pay attention to keeping yourself and your family safe. Abide by the orders of each of the states that you're in. We'll handle the rest of it, get yourself in shape and then when we're able to get together, we'll move on and we'll have a great training camp and a great season. I think his message is more about guys paying attention to their families and themselves and we're not going to have any physical activity that we do virtually."

How much easier is it to do that given that some teams have an entirely new coaching staff? I would imagine with having Drew Brees there and for the most part a lot of the same pieces, it's a little bit easier to pump the brakes on OTA's when typically you're installing a lot of the same stuff at training camp anyways.
"I think it is a bit of an advantage if you have the same coaching staff, you haven't had a lot of changes on your coaching staff, you have a core group of players that are the same and a system that we have had here for 14 years. I think that does make it easier. I'd equate it back to, what was it, 2011 when we didn't have an offseason. We were able to hit the ground running at the end of that period (labor deal negotiation). I probably would feel a little differently if we did have a lot of changes on our roster and in our coaching staff, but we're fortunate that we don't."

I just wanted to clarify the last question. Is there going to be no formal offseason, like the communication is just like you would have, I guess, is it more casual is what you were saying as far as the virtual program goes?
"Yeah, we'll have some stuff that our guys will participate in. Look, I've been so focused on the draft to be honest with you, I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about that offseason program that as we're going to go forward. We're not going to be doing virtual workouts and things like that. So again, we want to make sure guys are focused on their families and safety and look, we have a lot of guys that we have great faith and trust in terms of being in shape when we do get going for training camp."

What is the hope for a July training camp right now? Does that fall under complete unknown or does that fall under what you're working toward unless you hear differently?
"That's a good question. Listen, you guys know as much as I do really. We don't know what the future holds. We're going to plan as if we're going to have a normal training camp, but we don't know. Those decisions will be made above above my pay grade."

I'm sure we've asked you about this before, but what impact has Jeff Ireland had these last couple of drafts with you guys? What does he bring to the table that's allowed you to be successful in the draft?
"Jeff's tremendous. It's not just Jeff, it's him and his entire college personnel department. I love the talent we have on our college personnel staff. They're great evaluators. They're conscientious. They're really hardworking as a group. And the best thing I think we've got going is that we have a great level of communication between our coaching staff and our scouts. Our coaches, Sean (Payton) and his staff do a great job of communicating exactly what they need and what they are looking for at each and every position. I think that's led to the success we've had in the last few drafts and look, Jeff's a huge part of that."

Do you think you guys have done enough in this offseason that when you go for that first pick in the first round that it will be a best player available as opposed to needing to fill a specific need?
"Well, listen, I think I've said this before. Look, that's always our goal and I think we've been able to stick to that philosophy over the years. I feel like it served us well and we'll do that again this year, but at the same time, look again, oftentimes it comes down to a choice between three or four guys all graded in the same vicinity. Then you look to, hey, how does this guy fit our roster and what we need right now? It's always a combination of the two, but obviously we lean toward the highest grade player."

Is there anything that in this process you think you or teams in general would be less likely to draft whether that's somebody that, I think Sean (Payton) mentioned if there's character or injury concerns that you didn't have a chance to investigate or maybe a raw developmental player or a quarterback since you don't have an offseason to work with them, has that changed any of your draft philosophies with any of those categories?
"Yeah, I don't know that I can say it would change philosophies. I do think we've had discussions about guys that are a little bit more developmental and the fact that we're not going to have as much time with them this offseason and so it's going to be harder for them to contribute in year one than it would ordinarily. But look, it comes down to, hey, what's your long-term vision for these guys? It's not going to prevent us from taking someone that we have a long-term vision for, but we recognize that we may not get as much in year one as you would otherwise. I think that's generally true. If we don't have an offseason with these guys then it's going to be harder for them, for any player, to contribute in year one than it would ordinarily."

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