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Transcript of Coach Sean Payton's Saturday press conference

Payton talks about the team's first padded practice

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Training Camp Presented By Verizon Media Availability
Saturday, July 30, 2016

Opening Statement:

"Obviously, it was a chance to get our first practice in with pads on. We will have a chance to look at the tape. I am sure there are a number of things that we are going to want to clean up. Overall, I thought we handled the periods well. There are just a handful of things though that, from a pad-level standpoint which oftentimes is the case on your first day out with pads, we've got to be better at."

Was it nice to see Jairus Byrd out here, playing and moving well?

"He's rehabbed really diligently. His experience at that safety position, and I know just from talking with him, he's feeling a lot better."

Would you say he's 100 percent at this point?

"I don't want to put a number on it. He feels healthy. I'm sure there's some rust to being back on the field, but he's passed the physical, and he's practicing. We'll be smart here. A handful of these guys will back off some of the reps tomorrow."

How much more did you learn about your lines today?

"It was really the first day where they could begin to practice the essence of their jobs. So, I thought we had a lot of good periods, (such as) the nine-on-seven (drill) early in practice, and the team run. There's a lot of tape for us to look at."

Looking at the different drills, when you have a player that's established like Cameron Jordan that's wanting to be a leader, when you watch the film, is he leading by example to the other players?

"I think that the subject of leadership, it comes in a lot of personalities. Typically the one common denominator is that that player has some role. Some guys are more vocal; some guys are more by example. Yet, when they speak, their message carries a lot of clout. He's someone that's been very durable and has been able to play a lot of snaps at the same level. He's got some really good stamina, and I'm sure there were some good things that he did today. I'm sure there were some things that we're going to look at that we'll want to clean up and correct."

We saw (Nick) Fairley and Erik Harris leave today. Any updates?

"No updates. I'll get (with) you on injuries when we get started with the regular season."

Is it too early to determine if any schedule adjustments have had the desired effects?

"Yes, it's too early. I think that they adjustments are subtle ones with regards to meetings. At the end of the day, you have a three-hour window to practice, and then you have a one-hour window to have a walk-through. You have a lot of meetings, treatments, and meals. So, we kind of plug those pieces in, but you're still looking at one good padded practice and then a walk-through. Then it's just a matter of when you want to install. So, we've changed that a little bit. Hopefully, we're receiving the rest that we want. We're out of meetings in the evenings a little earlier."

When you look at the kickers on kickoffs, is there a strategy yet or is it evolving as far as not wanting to give up touchbacks to the 25-yard line?

"There'll be two thoughts, obviously, depending on the game. I think — this is me — the rule change is actually going to work in the opposite manner of the intention. We are going to have more kickoff returns, because most teams feel like you can cover a kick inside 25 yards. I just don't think it's going to turn out the way it was intended to, and I think there are other ways to make that play safer. I think that, ourselves, we're working on hangtime kicks that puts it right down at the two, three, four, or five yard line. We feel like we're going to be able to cover inside the 25. So, conceding a touchback to the 25 is a little different than the 20, and I think that—I guarantee you—we're not the only team working on that."

What are some things you would like to see (the league) do (on kickoffs)?

"Well, the first thing you would say is, 'Let's not give anyone a running start.' In other words, to lineup on the kickoff line, and that's a pretty easy one."

You talked about Willie Snead the other day, having some good experience despite not having been in the league a long time. Why was he able to adjust so quickly despite being an undrafted player?

"I think one of the traits he has that others like him have had—I'll use Lance Moore; that's just one of many—he's extremely smart. So, not only pre-snap but also after the ball has been snapped, he's got good football awareness—man or zone. Rarely does a player like him surprise the quarterback with what he's doing. That's not always the case with some perimeter people. They've got to develop. But with him, he's got really good route awareness and savvy, and I think that has helped him transition quicker."

Have you talked to him about that comparison at all, because obviously, they both grew up in the Midwest and went to MAC schools?

"I have never walked up to him and said (that he reminds me of Moore). I think that he is playing in a similar manner—he is playing in the slot, he is playing in the Z position. For a long time here, Lance (Moore) made a lot of plays. I think that as defenses would adjust or something would happen, there are some players that just have that unique ability to not ever surprise you with what they do on the field. Lance certainly was one of those guys. There was never anything after the snap was made that surprised you. When you're the quarterback, there's a comfort level or confidence with that player being on the same page as you right from the beginning."

Willie (Snead) is starting to show those signs?

"Yes. We saw those a year ago."

Talking to the players, they all say that communication is big in this defensive system under Dennis Allen. Over the first couple of days, how have you seen the defense—are they communicating better?

"Yeah, there's a lot being installed now. Yet, half the battle is getting the defense called and getting up and playing—eleven guys understanding what the call is and eleven guys being on the field. There are some simple things that are fundamental in having a chance to play good defense."

Are you able to make adjustments faster though?

"Yeah, you have to have X amount of defense in. You have got to be able to handle it when it's two-back (offense) or one-back. You have got to be able to handle slot and pro. That communication and that ability to get the call and get eleven guys playing on the same page is one of the first components of having a chance to play good defense."

When you drafted Michael Thomas, you talked about how you loved his strong hands and his ability to catch the ball in traffic. I imagine you're not really surprised by how good of a camp he's having so far, no?

"Each day, it seems like he's making a play or two. He's got that passion that you're looking for. You get the sense he really enjoys being out here and competing. It's what you saw on college tape, his practice tape and his game tape. So, it's good to see because with every one of these guys that you draft, you see something that you really like, and you're hoping that you begin to see it early. Certainly with him, he's made some plays. He's got a lot of work to do still, but he's eager to please, and he has been encouraging when you see him in traffic. He's got really good hands away from his body. So, he's not someone that lets the ball get in on his chest. He's confident enough with his thumbs together to pluck the ball. That will give him a chance to have a little bit more run after the catch ability. That's something you also saw at Ohio State."

What is it about receivers? You guys have an incredible track record of finding these guys and identifying players that can perform at this level.

"That first year we had (Robert) Meachem you would not have said that, it took him a while (to receive playing time). We tend to value size, we tend to value intelligence, we think that's important. History has told us they don't always come in the first round, they come as free agents, they come from other teams. We think of the opportunities offensively, especially with the way Drew (Brees) is playing, I thought he had a really good practice. There's a lot of pluses. They've got to have a trait that you see in them that you can envision a role for. If they're not as big then they have to be able to run. We try to develop them and we work hard at that."

When you say Mike Thomas has things to work on, what specifically do you mean by that?

"The nuances of the speed of blocking, bump and run. Guys in this league are going to get up and play a lot more press coverage and he's not going to see three good corners during the course of the year, he's going to see 16 weeks of good corners and so what is your release plan at the line of scrimmage, those type of things. Coming out of the huddle with the play quickly, Drew (Brees) changes the play, I mean there is a lot that takes place for a wide receiver and I know he'll work hard at it but, we've been encouraged with how he's playing though. You guys have seen it, you wouldn't know he was a first year player if you just came to practice. You would just think he's one of the receivers out here making a lot of plays."

Who is your best blocking receiver right now?

"We'll see. We've had guys like Devery (Henderson) and (Robert) Meachem and those guys were really good blocking receivers. We aren't ready to give out that award yet."

Is that something that Hakeem Nicks has done and could do?

"Yeah, absolutely. That's one of those things that he's going to have to be able to do but I think all of these guys are going to be willing. In order for you to have success running the football, you have to block the perimeter well and we'll get a chance to work on that here the next few weeks with the pads on."

How did (Hakeem Nicks) handle himself today?

"Good. Really good and he's in good shape, smart. We'll see the tape but I've been pleased with him."

Willie Snead said he was very flattered when you called him personally and told him he made the team. His journey, and you've seen a lot of stories like this sense you've been here, is that a statement you're proud of sense you've taken over that's it's kind of an even playing field for a lot of these guys no matter if they're draft picks or free agents?

"I don't know. I think it's important for that to be the case, to have credibility in the locker room. I think players are smart enough, all of a sudden the draft picks are always making it and free agents... Look we hope the draft pick is the right selection and if Pierre Thomas is playing better than a guy we selected in the fourth round, you can look at it two ways, I choose to look at it like we've found a good football player and I just think that's critical for the locker room. Understanding how we get a player is one thing, that in itself is a strategy if you will, how you decided who and when to draft but, once they're here that has to be in the background. How they stay here is another process and I think you have to go by what you see. We're not always correct, obviously, I remind ourselves of that all the time, I bring up a guy like Rob Ninkovich who was here twice, we drafted him. There was a correct vision for him eventually and it worked out fantastic, we didn't have a good enough vision. That comes up. You just hope there are less of them."

Has that history helped you with some of these free agents?

I think it has. Typically when the draft ends, the agents do a good job of looking at the depth chart. This year we didn't draft an offensive lineman and we were making our calls right after the draft, bang we hit on the first three or four guys that we wanted, now had we drafted a guard, there's a chance you might only get one of those guys. A lot of it is what happened that day and those two to three days but I think the agents feel like their client is going to have a good opportunity, I do feel that. History has told them that."

How much of a jump do you need to see from (Garrett) Grayson here?

"I don't want to measure what we need to see from him, obviously it's an important camp for him. He's going to receive a lot of work and get a lot of playing time. I don't know that we've sat and said that we need to make this progress but we need to see it. There is an old saying from these young players we need to see it and from these veteran players, we may not need to see it every day but we still need to see that they have it. That applies to the oldest player of the team. It may not be everyday but at some point we need to see it and with the younger players there's that sense of urgency and certainly with Garrett (Grayson) I would call him a younger player."

Do you worry about maybe a drop in confidence if it's not going right?

"That's part of handling that position, that toughness, that grit, that mentality of overcoming adversity because there's going to be a lot of that so we have to find out."

Did you guys ever get close to signing a fourth quarter back?

"Well we did and if all of a sudden we want to bring in a fourth guy we have done that. We discussed it we actually at one point in the spring had a four and then just went back to three. The magnets aren't set to three it's really about is there a player available that all of a sudden... We put a claim on the quarterback Cleveland waived (Conner Shaw) during the summer and he was awarded to Chicago I believe."

What do you think of the way (Darryl) Tapp is always yelling trying to fire guys up on the sideline?

"I'm good with all of that and I think it carries weight if the guy is playing well and if the guy isn't playing well then it becomes a nuisance."

How do you feel like the intensity has been over the first few days?

"I think good. I told them after practice we've got a lot of things to work on but, you can feel it in meetings, they're wanting to improve and they're wanting to get coached and that's all you can ask for if you're a coach. The key is now improving technique and getting everybody smarter situationally with what we're doing."

With all the centers you've coached, Max Unger is he about as good as it gets and where would you rank him?

That first year (Jeff) Faine was really athletic where he could get off on a snap and could get off to the second level. Max (Unger) has some of those traits where in a zone scheme up to the linebacker you wouldn't think he'd able to get to, he can actually get to and pass or almost overshoot it. So he's very athletic, in his second year we're receiving some of the leadership that comes with him, he's passionate about the game, he's a great teammate, I know he's well respected in that locker room. That's a really good player for us to have and of course I could go on with (Johnathan) Goodwin and how good he was. "Goodie" was good example of somebody that was a backup player for a team and then all of a sudden found his niche and he was strong, real strong, and putting him inside of Jahri (Evans) and (Carl) Nicks and that was a pretty good trio and then he went on to play (some) good years in San Francisco. So we have had some good players, (Brian) De Le Puente is a guy that was a backup that started for us and we won a lot of games with. Once again, much like the receiver discussion, they may not all do the same thing equally well but that have to have a trait, they need to have something. I think the one thing when we are discussing four guys like this is that they are all smart with what we are doing. They're smart guys that are high football makeup guys, that would (mean) something. Their body types are different and their style of play is different and yet those traits were probably common with all four of them."

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