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07 December 2016

Transcript: New Orleans Saints Conference Calls with Tampa Bay Media (12/7/16)

“That’s a good question. Throughout your career, college and the NFL, you tend to remember certain games, maybe you won, you came back in the end and other games that you lost in the closing minutes. The very first year that college rule changed to where the defense could score on a two-point conversion, I believe was 1991. We had an Indiana State team take a two-day bus trip to Manhattan-Kansas and we scored late in the game to go up by one and that’s going to be a huge upset. Much like the Atlanta game, we went for two with a pass-play that was intercepted in the end zone and went back 108 yards the other direction and it was the first year that rule had changed. I remember everyone, by the time that cornerback hit the 40-yard line or 50, realized what it was going to do to the score. So, jumping forward, obviously, I haven’t forgotten that. Jumping forward to this season, the Denver loss was certainly tough and gut-wrenching. Then, more compounded, the return coming from the back of the end zone ends up stepping on the sidelines, they don’t have a good angle and later, We see a good angle and it’s difficult. The way the Oakland game ended, I’ve said it before, it was a poor call on fourth-and-five, I think. With that being said, we’ve been in these close games and the team we just played for instance, Detroit’s done a good job of winning a lot of those close games. Tampa, you’re watching right now is winning a lot of them, here in the last month, month-and-a-half. So, you’ve got to find a way to make your own breaks and hopefully we can get that started this weekend.”
(On three of the last four games being within the NFC South)
“Yeah, but we can’t play all four. We’ve just got to play this one. But, I think we’re going to play Tampa twice here in three weeks, we’re going to play Atlanta and we’re going to play at Arizona. We are going to have to play well on the road because three of the four are on the road. I think when the schedule comes out, sometimes you get, it’s unique to be playing a team in your division or not have played them when you hit December and that’s the case with our two teams.”
(On whether three of the last four games being within the division are beneficial or detrimental)
“I don’t think either. I think it is what it is. We look and study schedules and mainly it’s traveling West Coast, short turnarounds. I think both teams already in the same division will have a feel for each other. At this point in the season, you have plenty of tape and video evidence to study. You play a game and turn around and play again and I’m sure there are elements to the game plan from the first time that maybe you didn’t get to execute or run that you carry over and changes maybe you’d make, but I don’t know that it’s either one.”
(On whether quarterback Drew Brees’ continued success on the field at his age is surprising)
“One of the challenges when you work with someone or you’re with an associate as you guys would know, you’re around them all the time. None of us see age in each other, we see it in our children. So, every once in a while, you run into either Drew or [Drew Bree’s wife] Brittany [Brees] or another player on your team that you’ve been with for a while and you see their children growing up or vice versa, they would see mine and you’re like, ‘Wow, where’s that time gone?’ But, he takes great care of himself, he’s got an extremely detailed work week in season and in the off season and I think couple that with someone whose an exceptional athlete and those are the exceptions. A guy like him I’d definitely say would be the exception and a lot of it is in large part to how he prepares and how he takes care of himself.”
(On the coach-quarterback dynamic between Drew Brees and himself)
“Most of it leading up to the game is discussion during the week, things that you’ve seen. We’ve got a handful of guys who have been on our staff for quite a while; [New Orleans Offensive Coordinator] Pete Carmichael for instance works directly with Drew and [Quarterbacks Coach] Joe Lombardi who is here early on, left for Detroit and is back here now. So, more than anything, I’d say there’s times you’re referencing plays that have happened in prior games. For me, you might lose track whether it was ’11 or ’13 or ’10, the year specifically, but there’s certain looks. So, that history quite often is called upon or referenced or discussed relative to plays or to thoughts. But, there is a communication that exists. There is change throughout the years with personnel, with scheme design, what you’re wanting to do and that takes place as the game evolves. But, I think from a communication standpoint, it’s always been very clear and I would say, you don’t take it for granted and it doesn’t seem like 10 or 11 years. Just being involved in it, it seems much shorter than that.”
(On whether Brees and himself get bothered with one another with how much time they spend together)
“Listen, you spend that much time with anybody, as long as we’re in the building and working and training, I’m sure 10 times over, but that would be very normal for that to take place amongst coaches and players. I think that’s part of the grind. It’s part of the uniqueness of the work environment we’re in.”
(On the uniqueness of relationship with Brees compared to other players)
“It’s unique that way because it’s a number of things. It’s the position in an area that I work with and it would be a little bit different than for instance, [tackle] Zach Strief  or [guard] Jahri Evans or some of the players that might still be on the roster that were here - [safety] Roman Harper for instance back in ’06 - and yet, there is that bound that you have with a group like that that’s been through so much and achieved success and won a lot of games. It’s something that ties you really together forever. Now, with regards to Drew, it’s just a little different because of the interaction offensively. There’s just more of it and more discussion.”
(On cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III)
“He’s smart, he’s got very good feet. We had really good grades on him coming out and he’s a son of a coach. So, you see him playing at right corner, [cornerback Brent] Grimes over at the other corner and obviously, [cornerback Alterraun] Verner is playing. There’s a handful of guys that you see on film. I think the first thing that strikes you when you watch the way their defense is playing, I think they run extremely well. They’ve done a great job of disrupting the ball. If you look at the last four weeks, six weeks, seven weeks, their takeaway numbers, their caused fumbles are at the top of the league. I mean, crazy numbers. They’re playing exceptionally well on third down, they’re getting off the field. They’re playing real good team defense. Their pass rush, I would say something you really have to deal with in those long yardage situations. They’re getting production from all of their guys in the front. Young player [defensive end] Noah Spence has had production now and so, I would agree with you.”
(On whether Head Coach Dirk Koetter and Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith on film is “Atlanta South”)
“No, look I don’t think so. Certainly, there’s elements to what they’re wanting to do offensively and yet, I think Dirk’s done a fantastic job of building a system around the players he’s got. With Mike, there’s some things that you see and then there’s some things that have evolved I’m sure. It’s hard to reference ‘Atlanta South.’ You reference looks maybe you’ve gotten or things that you’ve seen. This is our offense looking at their defense and then conversely, I’m sure there were things that their offense is doing differently than Dirk would’ve done in Atlanta. I think it’s just no different than really looking at us relative to what we looked like in ’10 or ’11. I think as the personal has changed and as the game has changed to some degree, there’s been a style of play that might be a little different and built around who you’re doing it with.”
(On whether three of the last four games being indoors is beneficial)
“I wasn’t even paying attention to that. I think we’ve played well outside. Early in the year, we’ve been outside at Kansas City and had opportunities in that game and San Diego. I think that our setup here practice wise, our climate I would say would be, I don’t want to say similar, but fairly close. We were outside today, we will be outside tomorrow on a similar field, that’s assuming the roof is closed in Arizona I guess. Shoot, then it’s back here and then Atlanta. I hadn’t even really thought about it.”
(On the Buccaneers getting takeaways in the last four games)
“Well, they’ve been really opportunistic, being at the right place at the right time, guys flying around, guys making plays on the ball both interceptions on the pass game. And then also with ball carriers and you see they look like they are well-trained and just punching the ball out and just making those types of plays. It’s been, obviously, a big part of their success. They’re also, I think the last four games, I think holding teams to a low point total. So, when you force turnovers and hold teams to 13 points or less, which I think they’ve done for the most part, that’s championship-type football.”
(On his relationship with Head Coach Sean Payton)
“We’ve been around each other for a long time. We’ve spent 11 years together, so I feel like our preparation, our process throughout the week is really good. There’s a lot of communication between the two of us, so by the time game day rolls around, I feel like I know what he’s going to call, when he’s going to call it and we’re just very much on the same page.”
(On his thoughts on quarterback Jameis Winston as a young quarterback)
“I’ve only been around him on one occasion. That was before he got drafted. I was impressed with his football knowledge. I was impressed with his desire to want to be a great player. He had a lot of questions for me, like he was very prepared for the conversation, so, I was impressed by that. Obviously, I’ve had a chance to see a lot of film on him because he’s in the division, so as you’re studying opponents, inevitably and you see him and their offense. I think he’s played extremely well this year and really gotten better and better from last year to this year. He’s a great competitor. You can see that on film, he’s a great competitor. He looks like he loves the game of football, loves to compete and is at a high level right now.”
(On where he met Winston)
“I met him in San Diego actually at a church event, at the Rock Church in San Diego.”
(On the up and down narrative of the season including the game last week
“Early on, if you watch the game, our first two possessions, we got to third-and-one and we didn’t convert either of them and next thing you know, it’s mid-second quarter and we’re just getting the ball back. So, we need to - if we convert those third downs and sustain the drive, maybe we get points and maybe the momentum changes a little bit differently in our favor. But, we got behind early and we just kind of had to abandon the game plan and we were in catch-up mode, so we became a bit more one dimensional. Listen, we just didn’t play well. It wasn’t very good execution. When we had a chance to make some plays, we didn’t make them. There is a lot of improvement we can make from that.”
(On his thoughts on shootings of former NFL players, Will Smith and Joe McKnight)
“You know what, listen, it’s a tragedy, it’s an absolute tragedy. You hate to see that and obviously, these are two high-profile cases because these are two former NFL guys. This kind of stuff happens every day in a lot of places, it’s not just New Orleans. The crime rate in New Orleans is down quite a bit over the last four years and yet, obviously, when something like this happens and it becomes a high-profile case, then it makes it look like it’s happening all the time. The bottom line is, it’s something that is really tragic, honestly. They opened up Will’s case yesterday, so opening arguments were yesterday and the District Attorney was beginning to call witnesses to the stand. So, my wife, Brittany and I went to support Racquel Smith whose Will’s wife and her family. I can’t image what she’s going through and what this process must be like for her having to relive this again because as you know, she was there and she was shot twice in that deal. To face the person that shot her, that’s just a horrible experience. I’m not sure how long the trials going to take, but our thoughts and prayers are with her and the whole family. It’s been a tough deal ever since April 9th when all that happened.”
(On the struggle of staying focused on football when he is worrying about outside distractions such as the shootings)
“Well that’s why, yesterday was Tuesday, so there were a lot of guys who played with Will had a chance to go there and be with his family and just be with them and try to give them some strength during that time. Wednesday rolls around and unfortunately for us, it’s back to working and preparing for the next game and that’s kind of the way it is during season. But, we’re constantly checking in with what’s happening and obviously, trying to support her and her family as much as we can during this time, but it’s tough.”

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