New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Media conference call | Monday, Aug. 30, 2021
What is your message to New Orleans and the state of Louisiana today?
"Well, obviously, it's prayers, it's safety, it's all the things that that we want for our neighbors, our residents. The first is you're paying attention closely to the state and local authorities, seeing a lot of the news, seen a lot of reports from there the day after now, and obviously, there's a lot more light on the city. Literally, where we can, those people that are there to help can begin to assess what kind of condition neighborhoods are in and, you the message that I've heard are a number of occasions now in the last 12 hours has been, stay put in shelter until they're ready (authorities) to come and then communicate further. It sounds like, obviously, we are without power and I am sure there are a lot of pretty dangerous areas relative to electric lines, gas, etc. So we've seen it all from just seven hours away here in Dallas."
Do you have any information of the condition of the Ochsner Sports Performance Center and/or the Caesars Superdome?
"Not that I'm aware of. We have a handful of people that are back into the facility that feel like at least the initial report is overall pretty well (things held up). I'm not as clued into the Superdome."
How tough is it to all of a sudden relocate an operation and for everyone to have a focus on football given the situation?
"Yeah, I'd say this, I think, when we made the decision to find a place to practice, we look for a number of places…We have been to Indy before, Oxnard (and) Greenbrier. There's a number of places that we've been to. This seemed fairly quick and made a lot of sense. I think the initial plan is through Wednesday, and then we're going through a ton of contingency plans. I think, from a timing standpoint, we do have that extra week, which is helpful. In light of everything else that is going on. Roster decisions we are going to be making here in the next 24 hours, that's going to impact a lot of players and their families. And so I think the safety of everyone involved in being able to get to a location ahead of the storm, and ahead of landfall was critical for us. And then at that point, today, tomorrow and Wednesday, we'll have practices, and then kind of assess from there."
How difficult is to focus on football? And how do you balance your duties as a head football coach, preparing your team and also recognizing the human element with your players and coaches?
"That's a great question. I think you try to communicate, be open. This would be obviously a lot more challenging or difficult if families were split up, and I'm sure (to) some degree, some are, but nonetheless, being able to include them in our travel plans and bring them with us (is a plus). I think left behind are obviously apartments, condominiums, homes. Those are all physical things. Nonetheless, they're still home for so many people. I think that the communication is important. We had the team meeting this morning, kind of hit on some topics. And then I think to some degree going out and being able to practice today is going to be good for everyone. Because from afar, there's only so much you can do we get updated, we get updates daily. And then we try to communicate that to our players."
How is your family personally?
"No, they're good. My daughter was scheduled to do the sideline (duties) for Fox (8 broadcast of preseason finale). But she began her new job this week. She's in training. She's here in Dallas in (a) different location, but and my son's in school (TCU). So that is all relatively good. My wife is is evacuated. We were all able to get out."
Are you aware of any players who sustained damage to their homes?
"Man, that's a great question. I think every one of us is kind of like, man, we'd love a picture of what it looks like outside of our home or apartment. And I'm sure there's going to be sort of there's going to be damage to roof damage to windows and the external portions of homes. I think a lot of it'll be dependent on where they live and the type of structure they live in. All of that can get taken care of in time with insurance, but most importantly, it was getting to a safe spot. I'm unaware of though of any type of specific damage to these players' homes."
Have you guys made any changes to how you would have treated this week as far as which days you're practicing and when you're going to make player cuts?
"The only change we made initially I think we had Sunday listed as a as a practice, Monday players off, we just flipped that. We traveled Saturday, Saturday evening, Sunday was changed through players, they often will practice today. Monday, we'll practice tomorrow, Tuesday, and we'll practice Wednesday and then kind of assess from there."
How did the mechanics change for this week and how did it change some for the coming week in preparation for Green Bay?
Yeah, my plan was, first off the CBA the collective bargaining agreement required X number of days off so My plan was to give them some time. This is well prior to this, the initial calendar was going to be the break and then back to work on Monday for a bonus day (of work). We're going to kind of stick with a similar schedule, obviously, there'll be important time for everyone to kind of assess where they're at. And there's a good chance when we start up Monday, talking about a week from today, that's there's a good chance that's going to be somewhere other than Metairie."
I work for the ABC affiliate here in Dallas and appreciate your time today. You have a handful of players who went to schools here in Texas, just curious if any of them have kind of stepped up during these difficult times and contributed?
"Yeah, I think what's the first thing is, the Cowboy family and Stephen and Jerry Jones and all of them (showing our appreciation), I know we looked at the schedule relative to stadium use and we're able to find a hotel here and then of course we do have a number of players when you relocate somewhere there's a good chance that depending on where you go there's a handful of players that are from that area and then this is certainly one of those places so I think on their day off a number of these guys were able to go see their families here maybe bring some teammates with them. I think it just varied depending on you know who the player was. I think just from what I saw there were there were a lot of evacuations heading call it east towards the Florida beaches and then the other ones heading due West either to Houston Dallas, that area so (we have) kind of been on a tight schedule. Players are in meetings right now. The stadium is wide open here for the next three days. There was a game last night (Dallas-Jacksonville). But from a logistic standpoint, it should work out pretty well."
Can you discuss how it makes evaluation tougher for you and the football staff as well as the loss of opportunity for certain players in terms of the final preseason game being cancelled?
"You're disappointed because it's I think for a handful of players, it was an important part of the evaluation process. They were still going to see (play in and evaluate) those games and someone says this is this is important, because a handful of positions are still up in the air. That truly is the case. And so we've got to find our best way (to make the right evaluation decisions) and obviously, we can't get that game back. But it's one less game or opportunity where you have to evaluate players."
How has Mickey Loomis' and the organization's experience in having to evacuate and make contingency plans for these situations helped make this smoother?
"Yeah, I think. I think any time you have experienced something like that, it's helpful. I think we've been through this, I've had a chance with Mickey to go through this a number of times and it's, it's something we're comfortable with. You kind of know what you need from on the ground standpoint, wherever you go relative to your video, your meeting rooms, your field, your hotel, that kind of thing. You've obviously learned through experience. We turn around (and) look at it right away. And it's not looking at it from a challenge standpoint, it's looking at what we need. This is where we (need), this is what we're looking for (in terms of) what's available, and you start searching. Indianapolis has a Guns n Roses, concert, that's out. There's a number of places that that work and then it's just finding the right place."
What has it been like to interact with coaches and players with so much uncertainty on an emotional level?
"Yeah, I think it's been good. You see everyone, periodically, it's the lunches or the breakfast, or the dinners, it's a big hotel, guys are spread out, (and) families are spread out. I think there's a little sense of relief relative to being removed from the dangers of something like that. I think that that's something that I think, I'm sure was a comfort to not only just the players, but their families as well. I'm going to say probably we had, our normal football setup, which would be who we would take to away games, called football operations. Tier One, tier two, (there has) been an additional 120 people that represented family members. And so yeah, I think it was organized as well thought out, we got here, and we kind of go from here."
Regarding potential location of the opener if the city can't host a game so quickly, you previously said you don't see it in Green Bay, as well as practice locations?
"No, I don't I don't see that happening. We haven't heard relative to the thoughts and plans obviously. Our ownership Mrs. Benson and Mickey, myself will be looking closely at our status relative to New Orleans and then surely will have a backup plan
I wanted to clarify, but I was wondering who ultimately made the decision to go to Dallas, and how long you guys had to coordinate that move?
"Yeah, Mickey (Loomis) and I were sitting there, you guys asked me about the storm (after practice on Thursday). At the end of one of the practices, I hadn't heard of it yet. I came upstairs, we started looking at it and then by the next day, here we go wheels were in place, when we started discussing various cities. We'd get through that first night (Thursday night) to get a greater idea as to the direction of the of the storm and it started with here are some options. And then eventually, All right, here's where we're going (to). Let's go."
Your first inkling of a hurricane coming toward or tropical storm at that point coming towards New Orleans is what Thursday?
"You guys (New Orleans reporters) asked me (post-practice Thursday). And it wasn't even a tropical storm. So Thursday after practice, some one of you guys asked me the question. And I really hadn't heard of anything at that point when the question was asked, and then obviously, when I came inside, I then asked the same question, hey, what's, what's going on? And so that Thursday, panicking, I started looking at the deal. We have to reassess this in the morning (Friday). We are going to know a lot more Friday morning. In the meantime, that Thursday evening, we began to look at options. So pretty quickly because Friday, we're meeting with the players and then some point, Friday, we're telling them, hey, here's the plan, the game has been cancelled, that happens middle of the day, Friday. And by the time we got to the hotel downtown (Friday evening at typical night before game team hotel), we all need to plan for (evacuation) Saturday."
How is a remote operation with everything such as training rooms and weight rooms set up so quickly?
"We've done it and there's something about the challenge that I think I kind of like…I don't like being displaced and I don't like when players are away from their homes or any of those things...But you focus on the things you can control. Just in a short period of time here, there's a weight room in the hotel, it's, it's, it's modest, at best, and yet we have opportunity at SMU (when) we want the Olympic lifts. We have a fantastic stadium that we'll practice in the next three days, that's going to be indoors. We're going to obviously be in a controlled environment, the meeting room space here, we get the whole ballroom set up at the hotel we're at with more than enough space and meeting rooms (available). A few of these ballrooms, we can play a game and if we needed to (they are so big). Yeah, so once you've done this a few times this there are some things that we expect in the training room area, we're used to this is what we expect for the meal. This is what we expect for (everything) and everyone goes about doing their jobs. And then you do get I think a little bit more focused when something like this happens as opposed to less."
So you don't anticipate the team will return to Metairie for practice next week?
"I don't think so and I think that would be unrealistic. And so I think what's more realistic, is once this roster gets reduced, I kind of see these guys Wednesday (after practice), taking some time away, a lot of these guys will have back to where they're from originally, maybe and then me on Wednesday, telling them, 'hey, I'll see you guys Sunday night and here's where we are going to be and we are going to start practicing on Monday. We just have to fill in that last point. But I don't see that realistically (practicing in Metairie)."
Was that installed in the team meeting too and then transferred out to the field?
"Yes. We install it in the team meetings and the coaches all have the script. We'll go through that thoroughly with everyone, so they understand. Defensively, we'll go through how we can score. Offensively, there's situations, for example, like getting an unsportsmanlike penalty at the end of the game. Now you're kicking from the 30-yard line. God forbid, you have to go for two, now you're attempting it from the 17-yard line. It's just explaining to them the potential ramifications for certain situations."
Discuss the challenge of having to reduce and reset the roster in this type of logistical situation?
"I don't like it. Look, I think it's one of the things that brought it up to the team meeting this morning I talked about how I'm proud of how we've handled this, it's great that you guys are here with your families. There's a number of positives, that that we can take from this, that we were able to get safely out of harm's way. And I love seeing certain players and you meet their wife or their children, you normally maybe wouldn't have otherwise (with) a lot of new players on this team. But I don't like the environment relative to within the next 24 hours reducing the roster. With all the families here, I think that's challenging. I brought it up this morning. And we talked about it as a team and I just said hey, we just have to understand that there's a lot of good about us being here. But, but there are challenges when it comes to your jobs that are on the line and we're going to do our best to take care of everyone."