New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton
Conference Call with New Orleans Media
Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020
With the conditioning starting this week and you want to see guys report back in the best shape, how have you found how they reported back? Were you pleased with what you're seeing?
"Yes, we're in the early parts of it, but we're basically lifting and running or in meetings. And then in the afternoon, we're having a walkthrough of the installation. So yeah, guys are moving around well. They're doing a lot of running and it's a little different than just putting them flat out through that conditioning test and then kind of coming back with an idea (of where they are). So we are trying to build up and be smart and yet I think overall the logistics of work, we're handling that well. We'll continue to do that here for the better part of this week into next week and then transition into more of the conventional practice."
How did the idea of the hotel come about and would you like other teams try and do it as well?
"I can't speak for the other teams. It was really just looking at the percentages, all right. And if there's 80 players and then another call it 90 or 95 people, coaching, training, equipment, total number of people in your first or second tier, let's call it 170. Basically, every day those 170 go home and then come back the next day. So you have 170 stories (in contact with different people and things) each day. And so you might be like we were to start, pretty much clean by our players and yet every day's a new day and then you take that and you times it by seven, then you take that and times it by four weeks in a month, and then do the season. And look, statistically speaking, you know, there are going to be (cases). So it's really about trying to reduce the possible exposures, not eliminate, because like I said, it's not mandatory. And certainly, you know, people that are staying at the hotel at some point might have a chance to see their families or kids and all of that, but you're just trying to reduce those numbers. And I think that can just help your team then. And I use this example with the with the players. I said, what do you think's going to happen to the teams that make the postseason this year? Like I would tell you, I think there'll be less positive tests during the postseason around the league because teams will at some point, say you know what? Now, this is too important at this time of the year. And so it would be hard pressed for me to see anyone test them positive before the championship weekend, to the super bowl weekend. They'll begin to quarantine themselves or find a way to be smart about that. So it's just trying to look outside or think outside the box."
Are you keeping the hotel all season then?
"No, what we are doing right now leads us all the way through training camp. Now that's a month away, before the start of the regular season, a little bit past that. But that's a long time relative to a pandemic, you know, hopefully there's more things by that time we can do (to control the virus). But this is something that that we're doing during training camp and hopefully it can help us reduce our numbers."
Was the hotel a group decision organizationally?
"Yeah, well, look, it was me and Mickey (Loomis) talking about how can we take the protocol given to us by the league and then further improve on it? Because, clearly we have a grasp now of eight days or nine days in, right, you guys would agree. We've seen the first nine days. Well, the next nine days are probably going to be similar to the past nine and the next nine, you know. In other words, you guys don't see it and so I don't know what the total headcount is, but that is kind of, I think going to be what we can expect throughout the year and then there is a little bit of luck involved there. And, we have seen a couple head coaches (contract it) and various players, and so, how do we how do we reduce our chances of being one of those people. But Mickey and I have been talking about it and really looking at ways to be a little bit better than just the norm. Because I think if we just go along with the standard, here it is, then you're going to have what you've had the last few weeks. And then there's a randomness to this because just because you're clean as a team heading into your second week, shoot, 11 guys can be the next week or the next week and there's too much at stake, especially for the players."
Did you talk with the players about being smart with their decisions?
"Look, I'm assuming. It goes without saying, you know, the bars or restaurants, I'm not even talking about that. I'm talking about 170 stories just going home. You know, you guys all have a different story going home and so maybe you live alone, maybe you live with a spouse, three kids, maybe two kids, but each day there are multipliers there, do the math. We're certainly trying to be smart and limit our outside contact. But when you're not operating in a clean bubble, like the NHL, or NBA or even in Australia, I think their rugby or Australian rules football, they're working from a bubble. When you're not in one of those bubbles then you're going to have positive tests. I don't care, all the tracing and all the social distancing and all the beepers you where or everything that we have in place in the building, you're playing tackle football, you are lockering next to each other. So you just have to understand, Hey, there's going to be a certain amount of positive tests. I think we're fooling ourselves if we think that's not the case. And so I listened to Doug Marrone (press conference) the other day. They (Jaguars) had six players test positive. The first four questions (posed) were was Doug following the protocol, was Jacksonville? Sure he was, this plan, there's a ton things that are still at large relative to what to expect. So how do we improve on that? How do we make the numbers kind of work in our favor?"
Do you have an idea how many of your players will stay at the optional hotel for training camp?
"It's been good. I think we'll have a good majority of that group of 170 and I'm sure there'll be a handful of players (or) people that won't be, and yet, that's fine. We've already improved our chances. If we can take that number 170 down to 25, then we've certainly helped ourselves."
Have your players talked about using the splash shields or anything else the league is offering?
"Yes, it is available and I think the jury is still out on some of that. When you breathe, there is still a big ventilative hole right there. So like anything else, I am a little skeptical relative to (that), not the full plastic, but when it comes to playing football and trying to breath. So look, that's an option that's available. I'm anxious to see any studies that we've been able to…or see some experts opinions on it, but it's available. Yeah, I've seen it."
Did anyone else in the organization choose to opt out? Any coaches or staff decided to opt out?
"As far as I know, yeah. Look, we don't have a union and I don't even know. That would be handled team by (the) team. But yeah, there hasn't been anybody that has decided to sit out up till this point."
Going back to the stuff that you are incorporating this year, whether it's the splash shields or the beepers, is there anything you're seeing technology wise, that you think is kind of a cool innovation or something that'll work?
"No, I can't think of any. Look, the tracers are pretty simple and yet there has been a ton of technical errors with those already. The tracers measure how long you are in someone's company (outside of certain tiers) if you're inside six feet, right? So if I am next to Player A and Player A tests positive, and they do a little history check on Player A, and it shows here with the people that were near him inside six feet for longer than 15 minutes, but we have had a number of these that Player A registers he was next to Coach Payton for 18 minutes and then mine registers I was next to him for 29 minutes. Again, there's some glitches there, but I understand the tracing and I think it's beneficial. I do think it makes people aware of where they're at, but I can't think offhand of something other than what we have learned from our Zoom meetings in the offseason and the ability to communicate and meet. I think that that does not just start with football. I think as a world, I think businesses will look at travel differently relative to the ability to meet via videoconference."
Do you feel like you guys have been able to get legitimate, good football work done for all this? Has all this been a big distraction or when you sit down to do football work, do you feel like you're getting quality football work done?
"We are in the early portion of training camp. We are in walkthroughs and meetings. Yes, we are definitely getting our installations taught. We're having that opportunity on the field to cover what we've coached, but I think to your question, which is a good question, the ability to focus for each team this year is going to be important relative to the outside, and I don't use the word noise, but the outside things that can pull your focus away from the game. It's not until next week that we really get into really more of a practice setting. I think the early week and a half here has been certainly the emphasis on protocols and what we are doing has been much different than normal. But as we, like anything else, as you continue to get used to that, I think that focus then begins to diminish a little bit and shift towards the key objective. Yeah, the mornings are different for everyone. You pull up, you head to the testing station, you get your temperature taken, you get your swab test done, you step out and you go in and you get your tracer, you put it around your wrist and after 12 hours if you're still at the building they replace it because it runs out of battery life and so some of the glitches that we're working through that I'm sure every team is working through, hopefully we can clean up and eventually you're at work."
The other day Drew Brees told us that he worked on, made it a goal I guess, to improve his arm strength this offseason. I'm interested to know is that something you all notice with him, I know he's 41 and it's probably inevitable, but is that something you all noticed on tape and how big a factor has that been for your deep passing game in the past?
"Our numbers down the field are still strong. His numbers down the field are strong. I think every year he's that type of player constantly looking for little ways to improve. He's thrown the ball with great accuracy, timing. Yeah, I'm sure he's looking at, as he looks at the season and it might be a particular three plays or five plays. But it's constantly working on an area that he sees possibly where he can improve. I don't know that there was there was this consensus coming off of one season, I think gradually where he's at, obviously you're combating that age and you're combating some of the challenges both physically and then mentally. I'm anxious to see as we get into these practices, some of the things that he's worked on. Tom (House) does a great job out in California and Drew's very committed to every detail that he can cover. But I think, numberswise, I feel like we as an offense are still getting the ball into the spots we need to down the field relative to opportunities for the receivers or tight ends and traditionally he's been someone who's been very good down the field in pass completions or yards, explosive plays that way."
Yesterday Demario (Davis) was saying when he blitzes he tries to approach it like a basketball player reading the court and seeing angles. How do you see his intelligence kind of show up an aspect of his game and the ability to see the field when he's rushing the passer?
"Well, look, I think that's something he does well. Some linebackers are pressure players that have a knack for taking on a block or timing it up. Some players aren't as talented at that, but I do think it's something he does. He's got power. He has good lower body strength. And I think, obviously the experience in our defense for him, you see that improvement. We've seen it now since you've been here. For him, I'm sure the game has begun to slow down because of the consistency relative to what we're doing terminology wise and how we're doing it, but clearly, he's one of those guys that we feel like can impact the game in a positive way when he when he blitzes."
With the league being cognizant of diversity, you've had got a guy who's been with the organization a long time that got a promotion in Terry Fontenot, could you talk about him a little?
"Yeah, Terry has been with us for as long as I can remember. He's in charge of pro personnel. He's done a great job. He's someone I see daily. He and Jeff (Ireland) both, ones in pro, ones in college are constantly guys that are looking at ways to help our team. They're guys that Mickey (Loomis) and I trust very much and I think you're going to see it won't be long before he's a general manager. But he'll spend a ton of time digging on tape. And I think that it's part of the reason we've been able to bring in guys that have played well from other teams. There's a vision, we kind of go through the pros and cons of the signing a player like a Demario (Davis) or any free agent that we bring in, but we're fortunate to have him."
I don't know if this is possible to answer until you actually see it happen, but do you think there's any possibility that if they take crowds out of some of these stadiums that it changes the atmosphere, there's less pressure? Do you think that could affect performance like could it impact kickers maybe if they don't feel the pressure? Is there anything like that that you maybe foresee?
"I don't know. It's a good question. I think quickly golf is getting used to it. The other sports are getting used to it. I just think it's different and then pretty soon you're playing. I think the one area you look at a place like Seattle or Kansas City or Minnesota or New Orleans, there's a few teams that have real loud stadiums. That kind of maybe neutralizes that, but it is what it is. I don't know that. Specifically, I think your question is a good one relative to kickers, but I don't know if we'll see. Look, if you're kicking a 41-yard field goal to win a game and it's loud or it's dead silent all right, there's still that pressure felt by the kicker to win this game for his team. So I think it'll be something you just get used to. I'm sure there'll be some ambient noise that the legal want to play just to help with the network feed. But outside of that, it's a good question. I'm anxious to see how it actually (plays out). It'll be different clearly."
What have you been able to do with Jameis Winston so far you personally as far as coaching and spending time with them and what are your impressions?
"Look, he's been in what we're doing meeting wise, walkthrough wise, lifting. We're out on the field during the walkthroughs. So just like everyone else, he's in good shape, he's lost weight, he's lean. He's a guy that is not afraid to work. He's doing well, he's fit in well. Again, we're just into this thing now. All last week, we will COVID testing so he coded tested well last week too."
You've never had to obviously go through a situation like this before, but does practice present enough material to evaluate a quarterback especially somebody new like Jameis?
"Well, we've got to find a way to do that. I think you're going to see it, we've got enough padded practices, and we're going to find a way to get the reps we need and prepare our team as best we can. I think Bill (Belichick) said it the other day, it's similar to what colleges have done for years and I coached in college. You did not get scrimmages. You didn't get the luxury of playing preseason games. The overall cut down to your 53 will present challenges because, look, each year there's something that takes place in a preseason game where a guy steps up maybe and does something unique that all of a sudden gets him on a team and so there'll be a little bit more pressure on the down the line guys, the younger guys that are trying to find a spot and yet hopefully we can provide them those opportunities so that they don't go unnoticed."