New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara
Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021
How much did you guys look at the film from last year's game against Green Bay to prepare for this week's game?
"We kind of looked at it. Personally, I don't really care about last year's game. It's a new season with new personnel. It's a new year, so, we'll look at it some gameplan wise but I'm looking at this as a new season with a new team and new energy. It's week one, so, we have to do what we need to do."
During training camp with fans, we saw more of your No. 41 jerseys than Drew Brees' No. 9 jerseys. What does it mean to you to be the face of the franchise now?
"I always see No. 41 jerseys because it is my jersey, so I am aware of that. As far as seeing the number of them, it is definitely love, and I appreciate our fans. Whether it's as the face of the franchise or whatever you want to call it, I'm just here to do my job and hopefully help us get wins. I appreciate the love from the fanbase. It definitely means a lot."
Is there a lot of responsibility or expectations that come with your ability?
"Same old. I'm going to do me. I'm not really looking into it too deep."
Do you guys feel that you've built more camaraderie by being here together in Dallas with each other's families?
"I'd rather be in New Orleans. I feel like we have a close locker room, regardless of if we're locked here in a hotel or just on our regular schedule. I don't really care for the Dallas thing with practicing at TCU and all of that. They're beautiful facilities and thankful that we can be here with the circumstances we're in, but I'm ready to go home."
Does it feel like endless training camp being here in Dallas?
"Yeah, it is what it is."
Are you able to get in a comfort zone here in Dallas?
"Yeah, it's nice and I'd rather be home, but any situation I'm in, I make it mine. It is what it is. We have to deal with it. We still have a game to play, and nobody cares (that we're in this situation)."
Do you feel New Orleans was the perfect fit for you or do you feel you would have fit anywhere?
"I'd like to think I'd be able to fit anywhere, but I've said it before, being in this system is a tremendous fit for me having Sean (Payton) and Drew (Brees) for those first couple of years. Being able to have a coach that understands and utilizes my skill set (is great)."
Was the city of New Orleans a great fit for you?
"Oh yeah. I'm from the South and it was perfect to be in the South. It's been love all around in New Orleans."
Do you feel Cesar Ruiz has grown from last year running behind him?
"Yeah. He understands the game full circle now. He'll even tell you, sometimes last year he was just sitting there winging it and just trying to figure it out as the season went on. He had his ups sometimes and his downs sometimes, but now I think he's put the mental and physical abilities together and he's making the game his. He's doing things that might not show up on paper but he understands the game now and knows what he can and can't do."
Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael
What has it been like game planning for the first time in a long time, just getting ready for a marquee team that you are going to be facing in Week 1?
"Yeah. I think like every week this is going to be a big challenge for us. Just looking at this team as a whole, it's one of the best teams in the league. And I think that we've got our work cut out for us. Obviously, we're going to look at them – I'm talking from the offensive perspective, their defense, just looking at them last year and having a chance to study their personnel and how well they played situationally and you're looking at their numbers, they're one of the top in the league."
*I'm sure you didn't have a giant binder that said 'the Jameis Winston offense' and a giant binder that said 'the Taysom Hill offense', but once the decision was made to stick with Jameis, was it a little easier to hone in on some of the things that you particularly like doing that suits his strength? *"I think that part of that is understanding what fits him. What strengths he has and really also getting feedback from him too as to particular concepts that he likes. But again, as training camp, you are going through it, the majority of what you are doing is your base offense, and then tweaks here for other players with different skill sets. But I think as you are game planning, you take into consideration all the factors of everybody at every position, and make sure you're putting your guys in the right spots to be successful."
What do you really like about Tony Jones Jr.? I know we saw some of the runs he made, but obviously, you must have developed a lot of trust in him to kind of go without him then to that backup role. Has he come along really impressively with things like pass protection and just sort of knowing the entire offense?
"I think when you talk about Tony, you're confident when he's in the game in all aspects. And that's one of the things we like about him. He's smart, he's dependable, and really had a great training camp/preseason for us. And so we're very confident in that player. Feel good about him and whatever role he might be playing. But you have confidence that he can go in and do it all."
When you have a running back, maybe the best in the league in terms of Alvin Kamara, what excites you excites you each year, and obviously this year, in strategizing with him? How do you expand the game for somebody who is as adept as he is?
"He's such a weapon not only in the run game but also in the pass game. And the opportunities to try to find ways just to get the ball in his hands. It's exciting. And part of that goes into the game plan and some of the schemes you feel best about. But anytime you have a chance to get the ball in Alvin's hands, you have a chance for a big play"
How much work went into getting everyone up to speed on calling protections out at the line now that Drew (Brees) not here and he played such a big role in that for the last 15 years?
"I think you have your core, kind of what your protections are, and they all have rules. And it has to be communication at the line of scrimmage, so none of that ever is going to change. And just responsibilities of how that gets handled and stuff like that. But we feel good with where we're at."
How big a role has Erik McCoy played in that?
"I think that he's played a big role and in the last couple of years that he's been a big part of that role as well, regardless of who's been behind him."
You were coaching in Washington when 9/11 happened. What do you remember about being up in that part of the country when that happened? It's 20 years ago now, is it still pretty fresh in your mind?
"Yeah, I think so. I think it's something that's one of those unfortunate events that you're going to remember where you were, like being in the office at the time. And just kind of one of those unfortunate events. I remember at that time Marty Schottenheimer did a great job trying to bring the team together and being proud of our country, but obviously it was an emotional time for everybody."
Regarding Alvin Kamara, you guys have had so many versatile running backs over the years, but certainly not anyone who has had the same running and receiving prowess at the same time as him. How much has that allowed you to expand your offense and keep the same running back in and be deceptive? Has he expanded what you guys have been able to do on offense because of that duel-threat ability?
"Well, I think we've had guys over the years that we've felt good about, whether we were putting the ball in their hands running or throwing. And obviously the one thing about Alvin is he's really smart, and he understands the whole picture. So doing multiple things with him that we've done over the years is obviously something that's easy for us to do because he's smart and he knows where to line up and what we're trying to accomplish each play regardless of he doesn't just know his role, he knows the whole big picture."
Saints linebacker Demario Davis
How do you feel about how this defense is meshing heading into the start of the season?
"We have a good group. We've got a lot of good players up front, in the middle, and on the back end. We've got solid depth and a lot of guys that understand the core of the defense. That's as good of a position as you can start in heading into a season. But it's a journey. You certainly want to start fast. Everyone is getting out the blocks at the same time. We have a solid game plan and it's going to be very important for us to play well on Sunday."
You've been in this defense for a long time. How long does it take for the comfort level to settle into a new season?
"I have been fortunate to have been on a lot of defenses with great defensive coordinators. Rex Ryan, Todd Bowles, Dennis Allen, and Ray Horton. What I've seen with defensive coordinators that have been successful, it comes down to two of the same principles: the keel and the kiss. Keep it simple and stupid and keep it learnable and likable. I think when you have defenses like that it's easy to come in and pick up the concepts. Before you can play fast you have to learn what to do and what the systems are. This system in particular is one that you can pick up quickly, especially with guys coming from different organizations where the concepts are the same, but they're just called different things."
Kwon Alexander said he'll play this week. How amazing is that considering the short recovery time and significance of his injury (torn Achilles)?
"I think it speaks to his professionalism. It speaks to how seriously he takes his craft. The time and energy it took for him to get back here from that type of injury in that amount of time (is remarkable). To see him out there better than when he left from injury moving around, he looks more fluid than when he first arrived. He is definitely a difference-maker and we're very fortunate to have him on the field (with us)."
Is it cliché to say this experience away from New Orleans is making you guys closer? I remember you guys saying that a couple of years ago when you evacuated to Seattle, Washington.
"Yeah. The difference between NFL and college, is even though you spend a lot of time at work, when you leave you go on your separate ways and guys live different lifestyles. Some guys are married, and some guys are single. Different position groups do their own thing. For the most part, when you're not in the facility everyone disperses and does their own thing. When you have environments like this, it gives you more time to bond. You see people with their families and see how guys are away from the team. I don't know how much it helps bonding, but it's definitely an added element with spending more time with each other."
You're not in the same room as J.T. Gray, but he's really come into his own as a leader over the past few seasons. How has he grown in your eyes as he joins you as a fellow team captain this year?
"Anyone stepping into leadership roles in this game, the biggest thing is understanding your job and understanding how to do it at a high level. He is a guy that understands his role and understands how the team sees him and knows how to do his job well. He has done that for multiple seasons. He is a fellow Mississippi guy, so I am biased, but he is a true leader. He understands his role and plays it at a high level. You know what you're going to get from him every time he steps on the field, and that's why he's a captain on our team."
How do you mentor guys in a situation like this with being away from your home base in New Orleans?
"I think everybody is different. The best thing you can always do is lead by example. My biggest thing is making sure everyone's ready for week one, however that is. With some guys it's adding an element in a different location and with some guys it's the pressure of the season with taking on new roles. So, everyone's in a different place, but my job, especially on the defensive side and with my position group (LB) with a bunch of young guys, is to make sure everyone's ready to go on Sunday. That could be a number of different things given that guys are in different stages of their career and handle things differently, but I think that's the biggest thing. Just making sure that guys are ready for 60 minutes of football on Sunday and the rest will take care of itself."
Saints special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi
Last time we talked in training camp, you were waiting to see how some of your younger players embraced new positions of leadership. How do you think they have responded?
"This is a blanket statement for everybody. We lost some of those leadership guys like Thomas (Morstead), Craig (Robertson) and Justin Hardee. There's been a few guys that have stepped up. Obviously J.T. (Gray) was voted a team captain by his peers and is taking on a larger leadership role. You have other guys who have been around such as Dwayne Washington, Zack Baun, Kaden Elliss, Zach Wood have been around. It's really come down to a number of people. That to me, is really the most pleasant thing. It's really not a one-horse show. It's a number of guys that have stepped up. It's been great."
Have you decided who will replace Justin Hardee at gunner?
"We don't have a final decision yet, we have been working a number of people in that role. I think what we probably will do is probably have a rotation at the start. I think everybody knows to no surprise J.T. will be one of them. At the other spot, people between the skill players, DBs, receivers, running backs, a number of guys. We've actually developed some depth there. It will be a little situational, field position, how the game's going. It will be a rotation."
Do you find early in the season teams have more impact plays as they adjust to rotations?
"We actually discussed that in some meetings yesterday and today. A lot of times, the preseason special teams is a lot different than the regular season special teams. There were concerns last year with no preseason games. A lot of times, the protection part of it, field goal protection, ball security, returners changing directions. It's funny, I was talking to Sean (Payton) about that first week in college football, about the special teams area how there was a lot of big plays, whether it was returns or blocks and I think a part of that in the college games, so to answer your question, the short answer's yes."
When you have a punter who hasn't punted in a regular season game and a kicker who hasn't kicked for this team in a regular season game, you talked about how there is a lot of new?
"No doubt about it. I'm glad that Blake (Gillikin) was able to get a couple games under his belt last year in camp and this year. I feel good about the player, he's very, very talented. At the same time, this is his first time he's kicking in a regular season game and as you mentioned too with the kicker spot with the movement there, we're certainly emphasizing it during the week. At the same time I have a lot of confidence in our team and group. I'm really, really excited to get it started."
Are you taking advantage of a roster rule to elevate Aldrick Rosas for a couple of weeks?
"You'd have to ask Sean (Payton) more on that. There are a bunch of different options when it comes to the kicker position, the elevation and all that. That's probably been a little bit of a work in progress and you'd have to ask Sean (Payton) and Mickey (Loomis). I know that he'll be around on Sunday, I don't know exactly how the transactions will work out and all that stuff."
What do you see in some of the younger guys that you have to use now on special teams to replace some of those veterans?
"I'm really, really pleased, No. 1, with our work ethic. Coming in it was something that we stressed and we had a lot of holes to fill. I've seen a lot of progress with a lot of young guys, second-year players and to go out there and watch them do it for the first time there will be a considerable number of players seeing reps for us for the first time, so at the same time I think we have a good mix of youth and experience. There is a group of good young players that are very talented and I'm looking forward to them showing what they can do."
Have you integrated Taysom Hill back into special teams units?
"There hasn't been a final call on that. We know the jobs that Taysom can do, but we have a number of guys working on PP, starting on our team. Jeff Heath is a guy that has played punt protection his whole career for both Dallas and the Raiders. Chris Hogan's a guy that played PP. We have a lot of options there and I don't think the role's been completely defined yet for Taysom, obviously we know what he can do and he's always a guy we can use if we need to."
Being in New Haven at the time and from New Jersey, can you talk about your memories of 9/11?
"That's a great question. I could talk a long time about that one. I'm from northern New Jersey. Unfortunately I knew a lot of people that were in the buildings that day. I got the chills when you asked me. That was a crazy experience for me. I lost two high school teammates in the towers and a number…Myself and Phil Galiano were working at the University of New Haven at the time. Obviously it's not that far from New York City. My mom called me, she wanted to check on me. She said hey did you hear there was a plane that hit the towers. I put the TV on. We saw the second plane hit. My brother called me, he was working on top of a hotel in New Jersey across the river. He watched the second plane hit live and called me and we were like everybody else in the world, we were kind of shocked. Players on our team that day, that had (losses), a tight end who lost his mother in the building. We had a player who lost his uncle in the towers as a firefighter. His dad had to drive up from Staten Island to tell the player he lost his uncle. A coach who coached at New Haven with me, lost his brother, who was a firefighter, so unfortunately that hits very close to home to me. It doesn't seem like 20 years ago, it seems much shorter ago, but like I said, I lost some friends, lost teammates and people that were close to me. We ended up cancelling our game that week. We cancelled practice that day, IUP was supposed to drive up and play us in New Haven. We got back together Wednesday trying to decide whether to play the game. They called back Thursday to tell us they weren't comfortable driving across the George Washington bridge to come play us. The game's cancelled because they didn't want to make the bus trip from Pennsylvania. A lot of memories."
Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen
Now that the team officially acquired Bradley Roby can you tell us what you like about him?
"I like the fact that he comes from a really good pedigree. We've had success with Ohio State corners that we've brought into our program. I like his size, length, speed, athleticism. He's really smart and I think that he is going to fit in much like Jackrabbit (Janoris Jenkins) fit in when we brought him in here and when you team him up with "Marshon) Lattimore as well as some of these other guys, (Desmond) Trufant and (Paulson) Adebo, we just added another piece to the puzzle which I think you can never have enough good corners. They're hard to find in this league. When you look at his statistics, you can see that he stacks up pretty well in our league."
I know you can't detail who is going to be playing at cornerback, but can you discuss your confidence in Paulson Adebo if Aaron Rodgers decides to go after the rookie a few times?
"I'd say this, let's make sure we all understand that no matter who you are, the best cornerbacks in our league, going up against Aaron Rodgers is no easy task, so certainly that's a challenge. We've seen him perform at a really high level throughout training camp and so this isn't something where he's out there, where we're doing this by default. He's played really well and every opportunity that he's had, two in the preseason, I thought he performed really well. Hopefully if he's called on out there to play he'll do his job and we feel confident that he will be able to do that."
How long does it take to get a feel for a what a player new to a team adapts to a system, what he does well and how to integrate him into what you want to do?
"It's a process. It doesn't happen overnight and so, it's really kind of hard to tell exactly how long that process takes, but generally there's a little bit of a feeling out process through the first month of the season. You're trying to figure out exactly who you are and what you are. I think kind of once you get through the first month of the season, you have a pretty good idea of what you have and what type of team you're going to be and build your scheme around what you have. So, sometimes you figure it out quicker, sometimes it takes a little bit longer, but I think once you get past the first quarter you have a pretty good idea of what you have and what you don't"
We talked to you a lot about Marcus Davenport but after he's seemed to do well in the games and practice and put together a complete, healthy preseason together that you feel you are optimistic about seeing him at his best point right now?
"I am. I think he's in a great spot from a mental standpoint, probably in as good a spot as he's ever been. He's worked extremely hard. This is the first offseason that he's been able to participate in everything. I think that's been really good and now he gets to go out there and play. I'm excited and anxious about watching him go out and play. I think he'll perform well for us."