New Orleans Saints LB Jonathan Vilma met with the media following the first practice of training camp. In his session posted below, he talked about his outlook for 2010, some of his preparations for Super Bowl XLIV as well as his own personal experience from trying to repeat as champions when he was only a few yards short of winning two straight BCS titles as a student-athlete at the University of Miami (Fla.).
How did it feel to get out here?"It felt great. It was a real good practice getting out here being around the fans, being in the sun, and really getting after it. It was the first time we put on pads and I thought it was a good day. It was competitive, not past that point, no fights or anything like that, but it was good work."
What about the heat compared to years past?"When is there ever a good day with the heat in New Orleans? So you just get used to it and that's just something we're going to have to battle and we'll be a better team for it in the long run."
Drew Brees was saying that in the summer, he thought there were more fights. I have a hard time believing that after watching the change in culture out here last year. Do you feel that's accurate?"Definitely. This spring and summer were very intense. You know what, I'm pretty sure we are going to have the same thing once we get ourselves acclimated to the heat and being in pads again, but you can always try and out match yourself as far as the level from the year before so that's always a plus. I think that's what we are trying to do, be as competitive and intense as we can."
What about the defensive picture? Last year, obviously you guys, so much has changed, going through loose balls, and really getting after it. How do you reach out to that kind of play?"Keep doing it. You know we have decided it more, if you see it in practice today, you're going to have that one time where a coach or a player had to remind the guys on the field, hey go get the ball. Guys are just doing it. It becomes second nature. As long as we keep doing that, and running to the ball and getting the ball out more, that's going to be good for us."
What is yours and Gregg Williams' relationship like?"We have a real, real, real good relationship. The thing I'm so fortunate for is to be a part of this, having a defensive coordinator who lets me understand him and lets me go out there and play. He understands my capabilities and I'm trying to be that extension of him on the field. I always want to hear his thoughts on why he's calling a certain play. He always gives me the freedom to check out a play if I see something. But he never questions me if I see something or if I check out a play, and it may not be the right thing to do. He never questions that. I really appreciate that he lets me go out there and be like him on the field."
Do you understand you checked more than half of the defensive stats during the Super Bowl? How hard was it?"Yes. That was a little more than usual because of Manning, but yeah I probably checked about 60%. Thank god we had two weeks to get ready for them. It was a lot of hours of film. You know what, to be honest with you, I wasn't right every time, but fortunately the ten guys around me worked hard and made up for it. It was just a matter of going and once you get a feel for it, you're in the game and you get a rhythm. It's just like a quarterback, once they get a rhythm it's hard to stop them."
Did you check off on Tracy Porter's interception return for a touchdown?"No I didn't check off on that. But once you get into a rhythm and you get a feel for a guy and what he's doing, it comes naturally."
*You need a window of time to do that, don't you? *"Yeah. Fortunately, like I said, I watched so much film that being on the field, it slows down. That little bit of time turns into that much time when I know what I'm talking and I know what I'm checking to and I know what I see."
*Did it help going against a guy like Drew Brees in practice? *"Oh we've been doing that. Me and Brees have been doing that since, probably since I got here, that following that spring. That's always been something that's going to be on going, and you're right, it does help when you go against good quarterbacks. We try not to make it personal, but sometimes it carries over and carries off the field, but you have to love a competitive quarterback."
What's a players responsibility to keep the team from being tired?"It's up to the core guys. Guys like myself, Drew, Will Smith. It's up to us to keep pushing and pushing and strive for better. We can't allow ourselves to get tired because that's going to allow, now, the rookies to come in and say, 'well that's what they are doing, so I can do the same thing.' We can't afford that ourselves so we have to apply that pressure on our teammates."
Do you want to have another season like the one in Miami after the championship season?"Yeah, the championship year was my sophomore year, the one we got right after my junior year. We should have won it, but hey we got a terrible record."
Did you guys recapture that thunder?"We celebrated and when we got into our offseason workouts we had our strength coach basically calm us down and show us where we were at. Where we were at was losing guys like Ed Reed to the NFL, so we had to regroup again to find guys to fill these rolls. We were able to humble ourselves and get after it. We had a good spring and summer, and we just kept playing."
Did you ever try and steal Will Smith's championship ring from the 2002 National Championship game from him?"No, if I steal it, I'll burn it."