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Transcript - Sheldon Rankins Conference Call 1/18/21 | NFC Divisional Round 2020

New Orleans Saints defensive tackle praises teammate Drew Brees and talks about the city of New Orleans after the divisional matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, January 17, 2021.

New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins
Conference call with local media
Monday, Jan. 18, 2021

I'm just curious now that it's in the rear view, what was this season like from just strictly playing football during the midst of a pandemic standpoint? And did the actual act of like doing that, was it nice to just focus on something and not worry about that kind of craziness going around the world?
"Yeah, in a way, it was an escape, kind of allowed guys to come in here, focus on our teammates, focus on what we've got to go out there and accomplish on Sundays. Limiting people around you and different things like that. So in a way it limits a lot of distractions, obviously you can't avoid Covid and its essence, but just being able to come in here and just play ball and focus on your teammates, focus on what we've got to go out there and accomplish. In a way, it was a bit easier to just kind of do that with all the rules in place and making sure you're doing everything to stay away from people. It's definitely something for the ages. I'll definitely say that."

How would you just kind of grade the team's navigating and handling it?
"They did a superb job I think, from testing every day and then making sure if somebody is a close contact or they test positive how they went about handling those types of situations and making sure it wasn't able to spread too much and then take out a whole side of the ball or different things like that. For that we're grateful. We were still able to go out there and play our games and be able to compete at a high level and just even when guys were missing, just shows the level of talent we have when we were able to go out there and not miss a beat."

I know you've been here five years with Drew (Brees) and obviously have an appreciation of the sport and have been good with us in the media here. Do you have any thoughts on if that was the last time he walked off the field, did you get emotional seeing it? Has it been emotional thinking about number nine potentially not being there any longer with the organization or even in the NFL?
"Yeah, I mean it's crazy to think about, he's been doing it at such a high level for so long, almost in an Ironman kind of way, Superman kind of way. Just being able to go out there and sling it around and breathe life into not only the organization but the city. So to think about him not being out there, it's kind of crazy to think about that. It hasn't really sunk in yet with me just because I know he can still go out and compete and be one of the best in the league so that hasn't truly sunk in. If that was the case then I am just glad I was able to share the field with arguably one of the best to ever take a snap from under center."

We talked to Erik (McCoy) just now and he mentioned that he just couldn't stomach watching the film from yesterday. Did you kind of have that same feeling? Do you think that was a feeling most of the guys in the locker room had?
"Yeah, I think so. I think we hold ourselves to such a high standard. When we went out there and competed this year and been dominant at times has been refreshing and has been fun to be a part of and then for us to go out there and allow them to run the ball the way they did and not come up with stops when we needed them, that's going to leave a bitter taste in our mouths. It's just not something we're happy with and obviously we knew the stipulations going into it, win or go home. At the end of the say, we just didn't do enough to win the game and we've got to live with that."

I know all playoff losses are tough, but how's this one kind of compare to the previous three?
"It's kind of tough to rank them or think about it like that. They all really hurt. I think each loss has its own individual sting as to how it may have happened or what you feel like you could have done better and different things like that, like any game, but obviously playoff magnitude is different. It's just all the games are different. And for us, this game was just about we just didn't feel like we did enough to make them as one-dimensional as possible, and that's something we pride ourselves on doing that we just weren't able to do."

You're a free agent this offseason. Have you given much thought to your future? And how much has this team and this city meant to you over the past five years?
"Yeah, it's crazy to think, one that I've been here five years. That's crazy to think about. And two that I'm free agent going into the offseason. I haven't really thought too much about it. I've just kind of been focused on this team and trying to make this run at everything, but this city has been amazing to me. I think from the day I got here, they took me and they embraced me. You guys know I don't say too much. I kind of just go about my business and I work my (butt) off and let the results handle themselves. And the city has embraced that and loved me for it and embraced my celebration and different things like that. So I mean, it's, my struggles, and they've been with me every step of the way. So I'll forever be indebted to this city. It's a place where I've done nothing but grown as a man and as a football player."

Kind of related to that, was their sense it all on the team this year that, like, how much potential there was for stuff to change next year, and maybe this was like, a really good shot for you in 2020?
"Yeah, I think, look, guys are aware of things like that. If they say they're not, they're probably lying to you, but guys are aware of how contracts and everything like that works and who will be leaving and everything like that. So, we definitely felt like with the combination of talent, I mean, our two deep was pretty much all starters across the board when you look at it. So for us, we definitely felt like this was the year with the talent we have, and the guys we could throw at people that that this is a year where we've really got to capitalize and be able to make that run and obviously we weren't able to do it, came up short. But it's definitely something that we thought about."

I know that there's some uncertainty surrounding the roster. Could you first just give us your thoughts on the core of the team about which most guys are reasonably certain are returning. And then, on top of that, just your desire to try to rejoin that and be a part of that going forward?
"Yeah, I think the foundation that which the organization has put together is great. I think it starts with guys (like) Drew's and Alvin's and Mike Thomas, Cam (Jordan), Demario (Davis), Marshon (Lattimore), guys like that who have been mainstays since they've been here, Terron (Armstead), (Ryan) Ramczyk, those guys. So the foundation they've put in place is beautiful, something that anybody would want to be around. And I think it bodes well going forward, you've got guys like that, leaders like that. They know how to lead a locker room and push guys in the right direction. I think that does nothing but bode well. And obviously, I've been a part of this, it's like family. I think there's a lot of guys in that locker room that I truly feel like our brothers so to be able to go to war with them again and go to battle with them again is something that I would love to do."

Are you optimistic that something can get done here?
"Oh, listen, that's something that I haven't even begun to talk about or we haven't even begun to get there. Now obviously, like I said, it's like a family to me, so being able to be a part of this organization, being able to be part of the city has been a beautiful thing for me and if it can happen that would be amazing. Being able to be a part of this culture again and rep this city and go out there and continue to work to get back to playing the style of football that the city has grown accustomed to me playing and this defense has accustomed to me playing. So if it can happen, God willing I'll be back here and playing for this team, but it's too early to tell. That'll take care of itself when it does."

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