Sean Payton: Good first day at camp
This is a transcript of Saints head coach Sean Payton's Thursday press conference from the New Orleans Saints.
“Basically, (this is) the first day for us, install-wise. (It was) a non-padded practice. I thought the tempo was pretty good. We were a little bit ahead of schedule with regard to when we finish(ed). So I thought the periods moved pretty quickly.”
Good first day overall, you’d say?
“Yes, I think so. I think guys are moving around in pretty good shape. We did some conditioning afterwards. I said yesterday that I was pleased with the (players’) weights, and I think that by and large, the time where we leave in the early summer to when they get back has been good.”
What kind of things are you watching for on day 1?
“You want to see the mental errors reduced. Tempo and how guys are moving in and out of the huddle—you want to see guys that are playing fast, that know what to do. We should be further along because we’ve kind of had this installation, be it a little bit smaller window, in the spring. You’re wanting to see guys get acclimated and then handle what we’re asking them to do.”
When you don’t do a conditioning test, how do you know that guys are coming in shape?
“First off, player weights are a little bit reflective of what they’ve been doing. Look, they’re going to get in shape. On paper, I think what we were getting ready to do yesterday (volunteer work at a local park) seemed like it might be a little bit easier than the conditioning test. But I don’t know that the reality of it was. I’m sure there are a lot of sore backs. We had a couple nails. But I think, overall, just from the first impressions—the first 24 to 48 hours—it’s been positive.”
Max (Unger) said that you have been warning the team that you’re going to try and make this camp as close to 2006 as possible?
“It’s going to be within the framework of what we can operate with. These first two practices are without pads. Saturday, we’ll be in pads, and we’ll take advantage of the time.”
How do you do that within the framework?
“I think all of us—starting with myself as the head coach—every ‘t’s’ crossed, every ‘i’s’ dotted. The periods might be longer. The practices might be a little bit more demanding. Three hours is a long practice. We normally do not have a practice that long, but for us to get it the way it is supposed to look, there might be some practices where we are out here longer than normal.”
Will you still do the walkthrough on those days, when you have the longer practices?
“The walkthrough in the P.M., we are changing our schedule a little bit in regards to the installation. One of the things we are paying attention to, obviously, is the recovery and all the elements that go into that. So we are doing a little bit more installation during the afternoon. We will have some walkthroughs. They’ll be in the PM. I don’t know that I would say that everyday we have a morning practice we’re going to have an afternoon walkthrough. It’ll vary based on where we’re at with the installation.”
That’s more efficient?
“A lot of it is the evening recovery—trying to get the guys in the cold tubs, trying to get the guys really to sleep earlier. Then the schedule is even backed up. 9:30 is a little bit later of a starting time, with the idea of making sure that everyone is getting north of eight hours rest. There are certain elements to training camp that can’t and won’t change, and yet there are portions of it that we’ve got to pay attention to and help their bodies recover better.”
Is that one of the things you looked at when trying to reduce the number of injuries?
“That’s part of it. We’ve got to pay attention to all of that, like the nutrition. I’d say that’s changed in the last five years for a lot of clubs. Obviously the sleep and the recovery, and yet the practice will be demanding.”
What did you identify that led to that?
“It was just looking at the schedule every year. We never just turn the page and say, ‘This is our schedule.’ A lot of it starts with the facility we’re at. The schedule can be written, yet if it takes ten minutes to get from where they sleep to where they practices, then that has to be adjusted. So there was a certain schedule that we’ve had here. Look, it all changed when you used to have two-a-days, and then it went to single days. When do we want to give them the installation? There used to be a three-hour or three-and-a-half hour gap between practices where they were sleeping then; that’s changed now because that second practice is much different. But to your point, you’re constantly tinkering and looking at it, just spending time looking at trying to be more efficient. They’ll have time now. Obviously, they’ll lift weights, shower, and eat. They will go into meetings, we’ll put closure on this practice, and then there’ll be another segment where we get into meetings for tomorrow’s installation. The point is, they’re not leaving team meetings at 10:30 at night.”
But even more so, with the idea of tougher or longer practices, is there something you think that will lead to?
“No, it’s just trying to, with this group, establish a mentality for their team.”
Is there specific data, with regards to rest or sleep, or studies or research you came across? Or is that just something you decided on your own?
“There wasn’t one bit of information. It was probably a sum-total of what we have seen, read, and heard. We’ve got a lot more gear now—the inflatable legs, the cryotherapy machine. There are a lot of other things that we have access to that we have to take advantage of.”
What kind of opportunity does Terron (Armstead’s) injury create for some of those young linemen?
“Well, any time that happens, a guy like Andrus (Peat) can kick out there. Obviously, then the guard position moves up a tick. So it just gives younger guys more reps.”
How important is it to get Peat reps at tackle and guard?
“I think the tackle position comes easy for him. He’s played it. Yet, he’s handled the transition to guard well.”
You’ve talked about wanting him to earn a starting job and that right guard might be the best path. What’s the plan? Is there a point where you would want him to be in one position all the time?
“Yes, in a perfect world, we want these guys (to play a specific position). Yet, we do not live in one. On gameday, we have seven, maybe eight (linemen active). They need to have some position flexibility. Right now, he is working at the guard position, (and) also at the tackle position. He’s working at the left tackle position, obviously with Terron not practicing, and that will switch over when Terron is back in. So, he is smart enough where he handles that pretty well.”
I assume he’s one of the guys that you’re happy with his weight?
Are you showing more individual stuff this year? Like, more and more teaching than you’ve ever done, maybe because of the youth of the team?
“Because of the schedule change in the last couple of years, this one practice, you’re going to make sure that you have at least your 10 or 15 minute individual (session) slated. So, I don’t know if we’re doing more. Obviously, we’re paying attention to making sure the fundamentals and all of those things are getting coached. I can’t point to, ‘There’s 10 more minutes here.’ Ultimately, the periods are set on minutes, but they’re really not. They’re set on when I turn to (equipment manager John Baumgartner) and say ‘Blow the horn.’ So that can vary a little bit. That’s why were 25 minutes ahead of schedule today. If they were just set on every five minutes, you’d pretty much know exactly when you are in. So there is a little bit of a spontaneous flow to a practice. When do you take a water break? Well, today was a little bit stickier, so we’re going to take three or four. I think with some of the youth of this team and some of the younger players playing, I think that the technique and the fundamentals for us are going to be important, especially with the pads. There are certain elements you just cannot replicate until you’re into full pads”
That had to be encouraging back in OTAs and minicamps where you’re getting passes defended and interceptions. That has to help the defense’s confidence, right?
“Absolutely. They have their hands on a handful of balls. One of the Dixons almost had one. Of course, Vonn (Bell) and (Craig) Robertson, those guys. Those opportunities, you don’t get two of those at one position in a game. You might get one every three weeks. So, it’s not just the offense working on the jugs. Everyone’s got to develop their ball skills and be able to take advantage of maybe a late throw or a location error. We certainly pay attention to the defenses—who can catch and who can’t. That’s a big deal to the quarterback. If we find out someone has poor ball skills, then there’s not a lot that scares you when you throw that way.”
You’ve talked about the younger guys. What does an experienced guy like Darryl Tapp add to your defense?
“When you sign a player, you have a vision. He is a guy that we think can play in the nickel situation and can rush the passer. I think it is important to him still. I think that is a key component. The other thing is the veteran players that play a long time in this league, generally, they know who they are. The one’s that don’t can never adjust or assume or take on a different role. That’s one of the things that he does.”
It’s Max Unger’s second year here. What are you expecting from him this year?
“He’s a good leader. He’s athletic. He can do a good job with his feet, getting off to the second level. He’s smart. There’s toughness with him. Those are all good traits for a center.”
We aren’t going to talk to Vonn (Bell) today, but what do you think it’s like for a rookie to intercept Drew Brees on his first day of training camp?
“I think, honestly, the player is excited to make a play on the ball. It is not like he is thinking about who threw it. He played the position; he played deep in his third (of the field). He really stayed home. From the moment it was thrown, he had his eyes on it. You could see that he was behind it and was going to make a play going forward. It was good to see him make a play. Then obviously, he took off. Everyone was blocking over here, and he took off over there.”
How much do you look forward to the start of training camp?
“A lot. I think there’s a feeling of (anxiety). There’s a lot going on and you want to make sure the fields are in good shape. There is a checklist of things that run through your mind. But it’s good to be up here. You get to that point where you’re ready. That really begins the last week you’re away.”
What did Nick Fairley do to earn starter reps today?
“He played a lot of snaps in St. Louis. Whether he runs out of the tunnel with the starting unit, he played in the nickel, and he played in the base. He was in a rotation. That’s the same thing he’ll do for us. You’ve got to have some fresh guys there if you’re going to try to improve and rush the passer well. He’s someone that’s athletic and quick. We’ll see a role where he’s in. Whether he’s playing on the first play of the game, certainly he’ll be competing to be in a rotation.”
A lot of the players have talked about how it feels different (this year) up here. Do you feel that as well?
“Well it’s early in training camp, but coming off the spring, there’s a focus that you recognize in these guys. They want to do the right things; they want to learn. They want to be coached. That is a good thing.”
Looking at (Coby) Fleener this morning, he was very active. What is your vision for him?
“Once we get the pads on him, we’ll get a better feel. We certainly understand what Josh (Hill’s) strengths and weaknesses are and what he’s doing. It’s the same way with Michael (Hoomanawanui), and with Coby it’s the same way. He made some plays out there today, and yet he had a couple of drops and mental errors. But, clearly by the time we get to the start of the season, we’ll have a vision as to what we want to do when he’s on the field. Hopefully, we do that with each player. We’re trying to highlight the things they do well and give them opportunities at those type of tasks.”
When you were in the community yesterday, how did the people feel compared to the New Orleans area when you came in about a year or so after Katrina hit?
“I think there are some similarities with regards to the response. There were several opportunities in New Orleans. Whether it was post-Katrina, rebuilding a youth club center, helping out in Hollygrove with some homes, then later on, being down after the BP oil spill. Anytime you’re there to help and really work, it transcends regions and states. There’s an element of the human spirit that’s consistent, whether you’re in Louisiana, West Virginia, the Midwest, or out west. When people go through some horrific and very difficult tragedies, there’s the same response and feeling when you’re helping. That’s one of the things that draws volunteers to what they do and maybe draws us to what we do.”