Jonathan, you tweeted earlier today when the Reggie Bush situation happened. Can you talk about the business side of this game, and how sometimes it can maybe be disappointing?
"Yeah, I mean this is the time where everyone is happy. We are excited to be playing football again. At the same time, it's tough because we know that the front office has to make tough decisions. Losing Reggie is hard. I've been with him for three years and have seen the things he's capable of and the ability that he possesses. It's tough to lose one of your guys who was not only a teammate, but also a friend off the field. Things like that, unfortunately, you just have to suck it up and understand that it's part of the business, and move forward with who we have."
Can you imagine what it was like- what you saw him go through with the Heisman Trophy, coming into the league so heralded, the ups and the downs, from your perspective?
"I think it took a man's man to be able to handle all the things that he had to handle: the injuries that he had to battle through, the scrutiny he was under, as you said a Heisman Trophy winner, the things that went on with USC, and still having to come out and perform. I think that he handled it admirably. I think that he did a great job; when it was his time, he made the most of it. You never saw an outburst; you never saw him fire back at the media or anything like that. He handled it all in stride and I think he did a great job."
You lose two of your teammates on defense, Remi Ayodele and Usama Young. Can you talk a little about that?
"Yeah, you know, same situation. I just found out that Usama went to Cleveland and that Remi went to Minnesota. Honestly, I'm happy for them; I know they got paid well to go there and that they are going to do a great job. They did a great job for us the past three years since I've been here; I won a Super Bowl with them. So these are guys that I'm especially close to; we have been through the good times and the bad times. I'm sad to see them go, but I'm happy for them in their careers."
The Saints had a pretty heavy draft, defensively, this year. Can you talk a little bit about what you did with the rookies prior to camp opening and how difficult it's going to be for them to find their way since camp is starting so suddenly?
"Well the guys that got drafted, I was fortunate enough in that brief window to get their numbers from coach. I was able to give them a call, get them out to Tulane with us, and I don't think they are going to miss a beat. I think that we had real good work; they were there as much as they could be. I would say that we had 80% attendance from the rookies. They're really into it, excited and ready to go. The biggest thing and probably the most productive thing were the mental reps that they were getting, not only in the film room but on the field. I was available 24/7; they called me and asked me questions and I tried to quiz them every now and then. The drafted guys, although they can't come in until next week, I think they had a good base in the offseason for what we're about to do."
Being the leader of the defense, do you feel Shaun Rogers ready to roll? Is he in shape, because I know that's a big part of preparation?
"He sure looked it. We just finished our conditioning test and he was able to run the test very well. He's doing well for coming off surgery, I don't know if you guys knew that, and he looks the part. I'm telling you, he looks really good."
How is the physical aspect of this camp going to be with less padded practices? As a guy who likes contact, is that going to be a little different?
"I don't know. I think that what we have done a great job of over the years is being able to regulate what the situation calls for. If we're in pads and it's time to hit and get after it, then we will do that. If we're not in pads, we take a step back and we focus more on the mental reps. I think that it won't be much different. If coach puts us in full pads, half pads, whatever it is we are going to go until he backs us down or slows us down. Obviously, when we're not in pads, we're not going to do anything crazy. We never want to get one of our own players hurt, but at the end of the day we're going to get our work in."
This time last year, you guys were coming back from a Super Bowl and trying to defend it. Now you're in a different situation. Can you try to compare and contrast where you guys were and where you are now?
"It's kind of hard to compare and contrast because we've never been in this particular situation as far as the lockout. We get back and see about 20 or 30 new faces that I haven't seen before; I never got to see them in OTAs or mini-camp so I really don't know anything about them. So this situation is about getting acclimated to the new guys, the rookies are coming in trying to make a mark. At the same time, we are not the defending champions; we're just like 30 other teams right now. We want to take a look back to when we were on that run to the championship and really take that mentality coming in. "
What is the next step in year three of Gregg Williams and his defense?
"I think the past two years we have seen great progression as far as the rankings, if you're looking at stats from twenty-something to fourth. We have improved in pretty much every category statistically last year, so this year it's really about building a brand. You think of McDonald's, you think of Burger King, you know what you're going to get across the world. So we want people to think of Saints defense, you know what you're going to get: you're going to get takeaways, hitting, relentlessness, running to the ball. I think we're starting to build that brand, we are still working towards it, and one thing we won't do is take a step back."
Two years ago you had Scott Fujita and Scott Shanle next to you at the linebacker position, last year you had Shanle, this year you could potentially have neither. Is it weird, not knowing who is going to be playing alongside you with camp opening?
"I don't think it's too weird. The NFL is about turnover, so it's not for long in the NFL. What I am excited about is that I did get a chance to meet with pretty much all the linebackers in the off-season. I got a change to work with them when we were at Tulane. I pretty much know what to expect from a lot of the guys: Jonathan Casillas coming back from an injury, Jo-Lonn Dunbar signing back with us, Anthony Waters and Marvin Mitchell: I hope we can get those guys back. I got to work with Martez Wilson and Nate Bussey, so I feel like we're going to have a good group of guys. I'm pretty excited, I think we might get Shanle back, and if we do that will be a bonus for us.