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Transcript: Saints Coach Sean Payton joins Mike Greenberg on ESPN's Get Up - March 31, 2020

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Interview with Mike Greenberg on ESPN's Get Up
Tuesday, March 31, 2020

I think I speak for everyone, football fans and beyond who say it is delightful to see Sean Payton who joins us now live looking so well and hearing that he's feeling so well. So Sean, first and foremost, thank you for doing this. And how are you feeling?
"Good, Mike. I appreciate you having me on. I'm feeling well. Fortunately I was one of the, I guess you'd say majority that had it and yet didn't have any of the respiratory maybe symptoms that we're seeing so often with this virus. For me, it was just the chills. I had one day of a fever. It was that first day that I went ahead and got tested. It took a while to get the results back. I think it was four days later, but I would say very shortly after that Thursday when I got the results back, I was asymptomatic and began to feel just tired but pretty much like I had recovered and it's been two weeks now, so a little bit over two weeks. And still like everyone else still staying inside and distancing ourselves from our neighbor per say. It's quite a difficult period of time. And I say that obviously, for so many different regions and so many different people in our country."

No question and look your health is a private matter, but you're such a famous person. This is a matter of such interest. So we really are grateful to you for being willing to share that much. Let's talk about some football here because we're delighted to have a chance to do that. So looking at your team, Drew Brees signs a two-year deal. Taysom Hill is coming back. Teddy Bridgewater is in Carolina. So a very busy offseason in the quarterback room and we've been talking a lot about it here. What role do you envision Taysom Hill playing for your team this year?
"Yeah, I think the role is pretty clear. First and foremost, we still view him as a quarterback and we spent a lot of time in this offseason discussing our vision for him this season at quarterback, but then also at the F position. What I mean by that, Mike, it's that slash tight end, receiver. He's a tremendous blocker. He's physical. I don't think people realize how fast he is. He's probably one of the three or four fastest guys on our team, so he'll play that F position. He'll certainly be involved in the kicking game. That's one of the things that he takes pride in and is very good at. Then the unique situation with our team and with our quarterback, Drew Brees, is he's announced he's coming back for his final season. I think Taysom sees himself as being a starting quarterback in this league and we do too. Now because of what we choose to do with him on game day, we have to carry a third quarterback just based on the nature of the amount of plays he's playing at any given time. If something were to happen to his throwing hand, then all of a sudden you're really down to do your starting quarterback. So we'll have a third quarterback that'll be up each game."

The two words that get used a lot in the NBA and generally never get used in the NFL are load management. But we've raised them here a little. And the notion that Brees who of course at his advanced age, perhaps a week or two here or there scheduled in advance might be something that benefited him enormously. And you have the unique luxury of having a guy like Taysom Hill. So when I say the words load management in football, what is your reaction?
"No, we practice load management. It's a term that we use and I would say it applies a lot for us during training camp when we're stacking practices. Let's say six, seven days in a row before a break. We discuss it during the week preparation for each game. So there's certainly veteran players that we feel like are players with injury history that we're going to be smart with. And then when you deal with Drew Brees, typically his Wednesday schedule now, which is the first day in our league to practice. It's Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. He's not going to throw and he's going to be really a judicious as to what he does on Wednesday and then ramp things up that Thursday. So Taysom, a lot of our players especially the more and more we've been able to research just the length of a season."

So you're talking about time during practice. I guess what we'd be talking about here is the notion of actually having a week off during the season. NBA players will take games off, this is clearly not something that happens in the NFL generally. What did you think about just the very notion of it as being something that could happen as we see these older quarterbacks like (Tom) Brady and yours?
"Listen, it's a great question because we're getting into these waters that no one's been before. When you're looking at what Tom's getting ready to do now and he's moving to Tampa Bay and where Drew's at, I mean, these guys are in their 40s. And so I think, look, last season Drew missed five weeks because of a thumb injury, that certainly wasn't planned and we would've liked and I'm sure he would've liked to have stayed healthy. But I do think the topic that you're discussing relative to players like Drew or players like a Tom Brady is something that I think has a lot of merit to talking about. And then there's a few others that occasionally you'll come across, a veteran player that you're just trying to take a game off of them a week off of them. I understand completely the question and I think that's something that we've not had as much experience with."

Candidly, you seem more open to it than most of my analysts who yell at me every time I bring it up. So that I think went better than I was expecting it to.
"No, I think that Mike, listen, the end game is to win as many games as possible and we feel like we're competitive and we feel like we've got talented players and we've seen experienced coaches do this and we've seen the NBA, find the experienced team, I think San Antonio was one of the first teams we started seeing that happen with when they had a certain road stretch. They were trying to figure out how to win most of the games as opposed to naively going into every one of them, and then maybe down the road not being better for it."

You mentioned Tom Brady, he's in your division now. What was your reaction to that?
"I don't know that it was that surprising. A lot of times you're kind of behind the scenes in the know relative to where a player like him is going. He's someone that we've got great respect for and obviously he's going to change the bar there. That's the one thing, it's the one player that travels somewhere and it's not, man, we've got to face this really talented player. And that's something that you have to obviously deal with. The thing that is most troubling is you just know he's going to raise the bar relative to how that team then performs. We were on a text not too long ago and I finished my text back to him with hashtag keep the canons quiet. He kind of chuckled and I think that's the one thing he'll bring in such a unique way is his competitive fire. All those things that'll elevate the play of the whole organization."

I want to ask you about a conversation we just had with Adam Schefter who had the medical expert from the NFLPA on his podcast yesterday. The idea being that even optimistically speaking, it seems the first time that there's any real chance you will have your players on the field would be training camp. All of the OTAs and things like that that typically happen in the spring will almost certainly not happen. So let's say that is when you are able to get on the field late July for the first time as a coach, what impact do you expect that to have on your players and on your team?
"All right, so two-fold, Mike. I think we experienced that in 2011. In 2011, if you recall, was the lockout season where we had our draft, we sent the paperwork out, players had the playbook, but it wasn't until training camp that we got started. Look, I think universally for 32 teams, obviously that impacts each team a little differently. I think it's more difficult for the teams with new coaches. I think it's more difficult for the teams that have had a greater amount of player turnover. I think to some degree can benefit a team like ourselves that's experienced, same coaching staff, a lot of the roster intact. It puts a little bit more stress on the new programs, and yet right now and that question has been raised, it seems like just as we follow news daily, which is so hard to do now because it's dramatically changing each day. For me and for us to kind of project where we're at come July and August, it seems like that's two years from now, but I would agree with what you just said. I think that that's a realistic, at least for today, a realistic goal. That might involve teams being able to send playbooks to their players and a handful of other things, training material, workout schedules, all of that. But I think realistically and optimistically really, that would be a goal."

One last thing, Sean, I so appreciate this time and at the risk of being overly dramatic, your team has been knocked out of the playoffs in heartbreaking fashion three straight years. And I just wonder, has this experience that you've been through and that we're all going through change your perspective in any way on what all of that means?
"Yeah, absolutely. Man, Mike you've been around long enough. I was with the Giants, we had just played Monday Night Football at Denver. It was the opening of Denver's brand new stadium. That was September 10th. We flew back during the night, landed in the morning at Newark. Our plane pulled up right next to the plane that was going to go down to Pittsburgh later that morning. And I remember being at Giant Stadium when the planes went into the twin towers and experiencing 9/11 as a league, as a team though two miles away maybe as the crow flies across the Hudson River and immediately just wanting to be with your family, make sure everyone's safe. That was a time, and again, I'm not making a comparison, but every once in a while a moment like that that really kind of allows you to step back and say, Hey, what we do and, for a living it pales in comparison to human life and what we're experiencing globally right now. So yeah, and yet, I think those tough defeats in the postseason also develop a little of toughness and grit. I like the team we have because look, each of those seasons following, the tough loss in Minnesota, that was a great play toward the end of the game they make. There was a lot said, how are they going to recover the next year and bounce back? And then sure enough, we're right there a minute and a half left in the game, getting ready to go to a Super Bowl and we experienced a difficult, obviously a poor call. Nonetheless, that's going to be the game that's going to really be the backbreaker for this team. How are they going to recover from that? And then last year we're were back in the postseason and certainly didn't play our best game and yet we're in a position to win. There is a toughness element to this team. I like this team a lot. I like the competitive nature of this team and when the time is right, we'll look forward to being back in competing. And yet, right now I was on Twitter the other day and we were putting some plays up and I think it was an Atlanta Falcon fan who made a comment and I just tweeted back to him. We seem to as a country and we do this very well, understand and come together very quickly and put things like a rivalry game or some of the smaller things aside and really focus on what's important right now. And still we're focusing on, man, slowing this down and understanding what it means to really even out the lump because our healthcare workers, our doctors and nurses, everyone right now those people are on the front lines and then having to go home to their loved ones. That's something very challenging. Our team doctor lost his father yesterday. This is something that's touching everyone."

I can't tell you how much I appreciate you doing this. And again, I speak for football fans and beyond when I say we are delighted to see you well and we look forward to seeing you again. Thanks very much for this today.
"Thank you Mike. Appreciate what you do."

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