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Transcript: New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins training camp interview - Thursday, Aug. 20

Jenkins spoke with media about his leadership on and off the field

New Orleans Saints Safety Malcolm Jenkins
Training Camp Video Call with New Orleans Media
Thursday, August 20, 2020

You've obviously dedicated so much your time and effort to the social justice and the Players Coalition causes and for better or worse, they've taken center stage in the country so much this offseason. I know you're also serving as a contributor with CNN. I don't know if rewarding is the right word, because I know it's still a work in progress, but just how meaningful is it to you to see how much impact and how important a role you're playing after you've dedicated so much of your time to that?
"Yeah, I think where we are right now as a country, as a league and peers and players, I'm definitely proud of kind of being a part of that initial groundwork. But I'm also energized because of how many other people have obviously joined kind of this movement and fight for social justice and demanding that things change significantly and rapidly. Myself and a lot of other people sacrificed a lot to kind of lay that groundwork and it really stood on the shoulders that came before us. And I think we're at a moment right now where we can significantly push that agenda forward."

The last time we talked to you, you described yourself as a natural introvert. Is it something that you have had to try to teach yourself or encourage yourself or learn how to be an extrovert and to be such a face of this cause and be out front so much?
"A lot of it comes with just understanding my own limits, and limitations and capabilities, knowing a lot of this work takes a lot of energy and a lot of outpouring. So I've done a better job or had to learn how to really take care of myself as well. But also, any movement has multiple heads and multiple people doing different things, anybody, or any organization that's led by one person is more than likely a cult. And so I've also had the benefit of being around a lot of guys who spread that work around, so it's not all on my shoulders. We've got guys doing phenomenal work all around the country. While my face is out there a lot, I am a member of a larger team of guys that are doing some great work."

Just following up on that, with you being a natural introvert, at what point in your career did you feel comfortable taking on that vocal leadership role?
"Well, on the field, it's a lot different than in person. So it's a lot easier for me to be a leader and vocal on field, that's where a lot of my personality comes out. I've been a captain on every team that I've been on, since I've started this game. So that has not been a challenge for me, but stepping out more into the public eye and being kind of a voice in that regard definitely took a lot of preparation and really, I think courage just to fight my own battles to unlock (or) free my own mind to detach myself from the criticisms that we're just athletes and don't have anything to contribute to the conversation or that we're not the experts, we don't know enough. All of those things you hear and it took me a minute to break out of that. But once I realized that I'm just as intelligent as all these other people who are in these rooms, that I have something to offer to the public dialogue, it made a lot easier."

How comfortable are you that it seems like that leadership role has, if not overtaken, certainly caught up to the assets you provide to a football team?
"What do you mean?"

Your social justice work seems to be almost overshadowing your football career. You've had a pretty solid football career.
"Yeah, if people know me more for what I do off the field than on the field, I think that's a win for my life. I'm much more concerned on the impact I have in this world than I am with the impact I have on the field while the impact I have in the field is very important to me and it's what I love to do, I love this game and love playing it. I'm actually very okay with me being known more for my contributions to society than to the game."

The rejoin with the Saints on the field, you've been with the team on the field now for several weeks now, how has that been what you thought it would be in terms of the talents you felt like you'd play with and the role you'd play with that talent?
"Honestly, stepping back into the Saints facility, the organization's been very nostalgic for me obviously, being the place I started at, but this is probably the most talented team I've been a part of since the 2017 Eagles team and I tell everybody, when I stepped in it was very apparent very early on, like, I don't understand how you guys haven't won a Super Bowl in the last three seasons. There is just that much talent on the roster. As a leader it is just looking at it like, well, how do we not mess this up? How do we continue to keep guys engaged and motivated and constantly striving to compete and improve and grow? I think that's the largest part is how do we get over that hump? I know that's one of the roles that that I was brought here to produce. So that's really what I'm focused on now."

You were facing Drew Brees in practice now after facing him on the field on the other side of the team for a few years in Philly, but what are you seeing out of Drew's arm in practice as we go through his age 41 season here?
"He's got a lot of arm. He's obviously been, if not the most, one of the more accurate passers in this league for feels like almost a decade now and that's no different. He is still able to throw the ball down the field, he's not going to be throwing 60-yard bombs every other play, but his accuracy is his cornerstone and his ability to make smart decisions to take care of football better than almost any quarterback out there is how he's made a living in his league and I do not see any difference, even at his age right now."

How has the relationship with Drew evolved off the field? Is that something that's going to be ongoing that that continues to need to be healed or is that something you feel like you guys really hashed out and got passed already?
"I feel like me and Drew were friends long before 2020. And obviously, the dialogue that he and I had to have publicly, but also privately, I think was important for the country to do and important for us to do. And I think that even moving past that moment, it's going to be ongoing, but as far as a friendship and the willingness for both of us to engage in that dialogue has been has been cooperative and been encouraging."

Do you think that that that's a hurdle this team needs to overcome or you think the way everybody responded in the days after that was a positive that will actually kind of make this team stronger?
"Yeah, I think if anything, the team was probably closer for it because we've had to have tough conversations and oftentimes, those adversities or those intimate kind of engagements, bring people closer, and I think this is no exception."

With this being an atypical offseason and an atypical training camp, have you had a moment yet on the field where you feel like things have clicked even though you have only had three full-pads practices and some walkthroughs and stuff before that?
"Yeah, I think defensively we're really excited about the last few days that we've had. Guys have been playing very complementary, we've been getting around the ball a lot. The rush is complementing the coverage and vice versa. So I think there are some encouraging (signs), we're heading in the current direction, but obviously, a lot of time between now and week one. The goal is just getting better every day, but I do think that how far we've come so far is where we want to be."

This is your second go round with the team, as you alluded to earlier, when you were drafted back (in 2009), this was before the Super Bowl, before the organization had really kind of taken off. So you have a very unique perspective coming back into the organization. I'm just curious what your early impressions have been both on and off the field of where the Saints are at compared to where they were before you got drafted?
"I think, surprisingly, a lot of the culture that was built early on in Sean Payton's tenure here as well as Drew Brees’, a lot of the cornerstones to the culture here have remained. Dennis Allen, the D-coordinator was DB coach around that time so he's very entrenched in kind of that early culture building and so it's actually surprising to come back and see a lot of the same things being talked about, a lot of the same situations, the expectations, the way they go about practicing, all of these things lead to lead to winning, and that culture has been in place for a while and it's no surprise why this has been the winningest team in the last few years."

You know the expressions timing is everything, strike while the iron is hot and in that light, do you feel like you have been pulled towards the social justice movement more frequently this year than in the past and how do you approach that in terms of balancing with football? Is that is that difficult? Is that something you are still navigating?
"Well, it is something I have been doing now for going on for years. So I think I have gotten it down pat, but obviously with being a contributor for CNN, and just all that's happening right now in our country with the pandemic and social unrest and this election coming up, obviously there are a lot more demands for that voice. I have been a part of this and being able to balance having an impact socially and also handling my business on the field. So I have no concerns there."

How good are Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins as a tandem and could you talk about maybe, from your vantage point, what makes them special?
"Yeah, well, I think for me in, without knocking anybody I've played with, I don't think I've played with a tandem who are both as talented as Marshon and Janoris. Janoris being a veteran who can run with anybody, can change direction and cover anybody who I think is really motivated and hungry right now. To watch him just in practice against our receivers has been impressive. And then I think Marshon really can be the best corner in this league. It's just about consistency and really bringing that out of him, but he's been locked in and focused. I think he knows that everybody expects him to be the best on every single play and so being able to have that talent on the outside as a safety lends to a lot of freedom and a lot of ability to manipulate a defense and make plays so I'm very, very excited. Anytime when in time we get two corners like that as a safety and as a pass rusher, you get excited because there's more opportunity to make plays."

Who are the most competitive wide receivers you have ever faced in practice, specifically and where does Michael Thomas rank?
"In practice? I got to do a joint practice with the Baltimore Ravens once when Steve Smith was there. He's probably the most competitive receiver I've played against in general, but just the early parts of this camp, I think Michael Thomas is probably fitting that bill. He's somebody who's very, very passionate. You'd think the first rep of practice is the first rep of the Super Bowl. He wants to win everything. I think that that attitude demands it out of everybody else and kind of raises that competition level. So I think he's probably that guy on this team."

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