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Transcript: Saints special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi conference call - December 6, 2019

Special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi speaks to media prior to a Week 14 matchup against San Francisco

New Orleans Saints Special Teams Coordinator Darren Rizzi
Conference Call with New Orleans Media
Friday, December 6, 2019

What did you know about Taysom Hill before you got here and what have you learned working with him?
"Yeah, certainly. I definitely knew the player 100% knew the player, as a special teams coach (and) I think I've mentioned to you guys before, we kind keep track of the rest of the league and watch it through and cross over tape and watch big plays from around league and every week we put together like a big play tape that we show the players at the end of the week. And he was a guy when I was in Miami that seemed to always show up on that tape, in one way, shape or form, whether it was blocking a punt or kick cover or kickoff return or he just showed up on a fake punt. Whatever it would be, he was a guy (we looked at) so I certainly knew the player and was extremely excited to work with him when I first got the job just because of all the different things that I had seen him do. What I didn't know was the person, I didn't know him at all and just getting to know his football IQ and his passion for the game and all those different things has been a pleasure. He's a guy that really works at it. I mean, certainly he's got the ability, the talent that shows up every time you see him on the field, on offense or special teams. But, to just watch his work ethic, always talking to him about new things, new ideas, new schemes, all that kind of stuff. And just getting to know him as a person it's been a real pleasure."

Is Taysom Hill on every unit?
"You know what, in some way, shape or form he has been involved in every unit. Yes. He's been (a part) whether it's a specialty unit, obviously the core teams that you know he's on and then, he's been on our field goal block team. He's been on our field goal team. He has been on all different things. And, he certainly a little bit of a Swiss army knife. There's no doubt about that. He's got a little bit everything to him."

Anybody who plays quarterback has to have leadership skills and some intangibles are there ways that those traits show up on special teams?
"Oh, no doubt. Obviously, he's kind of the guy that runs off punt team and PP we call him the PP, personal protector and that's a leadership position. But even more than that, you really see him as some of the other phases also directing traffic if. That's kind of what he's used to doing and so whether it's we're out there on a kickoff cover or out there on a kickoff return, and then if there's a call to be made or an adjustment to be had, whatever it may be, he's a guy that certainly takes (the lead and) goes front and center and is not afraid to be vocal. That's kind of what he is. He (was) definitely born with some of those leadership skills and (those) are innate. I think he's one of those guys who's kind of a natural born leader to go along with his ability, which is certainly rare and fun to coach and certainly fun to watch."

I'm kind of curious since it happens so rarely, how do you teach a player to be good at blocking a punt?
"Yeah, that's a great question. That's something that goes back to, this is my 26th year of coaching special teams, 15 at the college level and 11 at the NFL level. It's something that goes back to the college days when you first started. When you want to teach a guy how to block it, how do you do it without getting injured? How do you do it without injuring the kicker, the punter. I'll be honest with you. We've done it a handful of different ways throughout the years. It's kind of been something that we've kind of tried to more perfect as we go and we do during OTAs. I don't know if you guys noticed but during training camp we do punt block drills. It's certainly a learned skill. It's certainly something that, I've seen when guys get back to that punter, whether they're a free rusher or by scheme or they beat a guy, whatever. I've seen a lot of different things over the years to be honest with you, a lot of different crazy things. And so to teach the proper angles, to teach the proper way to block a punt and blocking a field are two completely different things. And so we kind of take, right from the training camp or right for OTA's, we kind of take a beginner's mentality approach every year and kind of reteach it from square one. There's a lot of different things that go along with that. We roughed the punter earlier in the year and certain angles through the block spot if you missed and you don't want to hit the punter, to your hand placement, to where your hands should be, to not leaving your feet and all those different little things and nuances that go into it. But certainly you're right. And then week to week is there a right footed punter or is it a left footed punter. I had a funny story from college one year we had a guy come free and he went to block the punt off the punters incorrect foot. He thought the punter was a righty and the punter was a lefty and he was going to block off the right. So I've seen some wild things and week to week just hammering those things home, those little coaching points, but definitely it's not an easy thing because it's not something you want to do live for sure."

When you look at those final three onside kicks against the Falcons, what's your honest assessment of that?
"Yeah, you guys think that's what we talked about this week? The interesting thing about onside kicks is this, and then I'll talk about this, no two plays are ever rarely the same. They're all unique experiences and it's still different from the Chicago game earlier in the year and the Atlanta game. You try in practice, obviously to see as many possible situations, scenarios that you can and you try to do the same thing on the film and in the classroom and teaching these guys. And so when you look back last week, one of them was an alignment mistake and then it comes to decisions and I know coach (Sean Payton) talked about the football IQ thing and being able to make a high speed decision, a split second decision, whether am I going to the ball, am I going to block my man and then what I should do. And so it's really something, no different than anything else that you try to rep as much as you can, but those three plays last week are, all unique kind of plays. The first one the ball travels a little bit further. The second one, it does not travel as far. The third one we probably should've blocked around and try to field the ball up front and they're all (different), it wasn't one thing. I'd love to sit here and tell you it was one thing and we're going to get that. But, it's a couple of different things because it's never the same type of play. Listen, obviously you, you guys know our feeling here, we have to get it cleaned up, we have to get it fixed. And fortunately for us it didn't cost us in the long run (of that game), but we all know certainly that it can and we've been working diligently on it in the classroom and on the field at getting this fixed."

When you have Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas on the hands unit, do you tell them not to get hurt or what?
"Well, it is an interesting point. It is very good question. I think the general mindset of that unit is when you're taking the field, this play is to win the football game, more or less and usually a high percentage usually when you recover that onside kick most of the time when your hands teams out there, it is to kind of solidify and seal the game. A lot of times you might be taken a knee afterwards, things like that. A lot of times it could be the final play and if it is not the final play it is darn near close to it and it is going to kind of seal the game. I think at that point personnel wise you're looking at your best 11 best 11 or right 11 I should say. The best 11 is probably the wrong way to say it, but the right 11 and whether there are guys that are catch guys or blockers or decision makers and a lot goes into each position and a lot of thought process goes into which guys are in each position. But I think it's a very valid question. If you look throughout, in fact we've been, watching some throughout the league. If you look around the league you're going to see a similar personnel out there on the other teams as well."

It looked like Alvin Kamara shyed away from the second onside kick, I didn't know if that's a conscious decisions by the coaches?
"No it really wasn't. It's again, at those split second decisions that you're making and quite frankly to take it off Alvin as well, we weren't lined up the way that we should have been and we really should've been blocking a different player in there and all that. Like I said, it wasn't just one thing, but no, I don't think that was the case with Alvin (Kamara)."

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