Mobile, Al. - Newly reinstated Saints head coach Sean Payton addressed the media Wednesday after Senior Bowl practice for the first extended availability since he began his suspension. The following is the full transcript of the session:
(Opening statement) Real quickly, then I'll open it up to questions. I am excited to be back and certainly getting back into a routine is a big priority right now, because there's a lot we have to do. I met with the commissioner on Monday and we met for four and a half hours. We really had a chance to cover a lot of topics…being reinstated now with all that's going on. You guys all understand that soon as the season ends there's a lot of work that begins towards the next year.
(Surprised to be back early?) I think going through the time frame and getting pass the first two weeks and trying to get a routine outside of football if you will. You just kind of temper any type of emotion when it comes to expectation. Just making sure that Goodell and Ray Anderson who I talk with directly felt that I was really dotting the I's and crossing the T's. I wanted to make sure that there was nothing going to jeopardize reinstatement. There were a few stories that I helped reporters with but they generally more about another individual. I don't know if I was surprise. I was glad that we were able to speak and set up a meeting. To accomplish that on Friday and then meet up on Monday and go four days with just he and I knowing about it I was really grateful for it.
(Difficult to watch the Saints struggle?) Well I think it's difficult you try to draw a analogy to it I found myself in a routine on game day. And of course I would get the coaches copy middle of the week I had that available you're watching from a far there's certain things you would see and naturally that became frustrating. I would say with the situation as unique and unprecedented as it was I'm thankful for the staff, for Aaron Kromer as he had to move in to that position. Thankful to Joe Vitt he has been a tremendous ally, supporter, close friend. All of the players and coaches all went through something that was different this mixed emotion you understand from a far the early struggles and you feel frustrated because the amount of time you spend with the players and fellow coaches is extraordinary and they are like your family and you want to see them do will and have success. Hardest part was not football it was so many of these people Mickey Loomis, Mr. Benson, and the players you are use to talking to on a daily bases difficult part for me was not having a personal interaction not with football but as a friend that was more difficult than football.
(On doing things differently in retrospect) Surely as commissioner and I visit with on Monday we are in the business of teaching and we ask our players all the time let's not repeat let's learn from our mistakes. There are certain things you have a chance to look back on it that I would want to differently and handle differently. That's the challenges of managing a staff and understanding how important that is. I won't go into all the specifics but absolutely.
(Missing the game of football) Quite a bit, you miss that competition that element of what it feels like when you're winning. When you have success the butterflies on Sunday morning the interaction with the people that you are closest to is what I miss most it wasn't just being away from football and I think all of us are the same way professionally our associates people that we share a related type job. We have close friends in that profession that part of it is what maybe what hit me harder as we went through time. Man I miss talking to Mickey Loomis and not necessarily about free agency or the daft and I miss talking to Joe Vitt not about linebacker play. I miss talking with a guy like Drew Brees or miss talking with Will Smith. Mr. Benson I was able to talk to Tom but that was more challenging.
(Was suspension fair?) It was more or less just something that you can't control. To dwell on it with the time that I had, you know the first week or so it was difficult you felt a lot of different emotions but a that point you have to move on from it regardless of how you felt. Knowing that there's eight more months here, we will drive ourselves crazy holding on to those thoughts of whether you thought it was fair or not. I think turning the page was important and it's no different from what we teach our players, maybe you feel that a call didn't go your way in other words your on to the next play and on a much bigger scheme of things that had to be the same approach by me and it was a topic me and the commissioner talked about. We talked about a number of things for 4 and a half hours a lot was covered and a lot of it was unrelated to the specifics of the New Orleans saints with the NFL a lot of it was about player safety, youth football, quarterback, there was a lot of things that we discussed and I was really appreciative of the meeting and especially the time.
(Did the lost second round draft pick get discussed?) No not at all and that wouldn't be something that they would discuss with me.
(on NFL Guidelines during suspension)I think there were some specifics, there weren't any guidelines media related in other words there were any restrictions that way. I think more or less it was using your common sense. Ray used a pretty good description as of treating it much like the lockout. When you go through this.. I found myself twice a week talking with Ray, potentially bumping into somebody or maybe a text came or someone called about a recommendation. So there were a lot of questions and Ray was helpful and I appreciate the amount of time he was able to provide for me and his guidance. So if it was even close any question at all I would call him and say hey give me a suggestion here it came up with Cortez Kennedy going into the Hall of Fame and I'm appreciative to have had the opportunity to be there and take my son there, but there for Cortez and that was something that the league approved.
(reaction to player suspensions being vacated) Well we were kind of removed from that, I wasn't involved in the appeals process It was more player oriented now coaches were interviewed by Commissioner Tagliabue I was not and Mickey was not so my reaction was just for your own players excitement.. the passion that they have is something that you want the passion that these guys have is something that we are always looking for and being away from it and many of you were getting this news way before me, but I followed the process but I wasn't really privy to how those appeals went and how the meetings went and the specifics went and still not.
(Was your suspension too long factoring in vacated player suspensions?) No, clearly there are two different things taking place and what I mean by that is there the players and the players union, separate from that myself being the head coach and I've shared this and spoken to commissioner Goodell about it and I said this in my statement as the Head Coach it all falls under your umbrella and Mickey and I talk about it all the time… as much time and energy that we spend in the draft and the free agency and I'm probably speaking more to the local than national people here but creating the right culture in the locker room and getting the right guys has been a huge part of our success and really a big part of our mission statement of how we are going to win in New Orleans and that dates back to 2006 it's really something that I think we have done a good job with and that same challenge exist to us even when we are hiring asset. coaches…finding the right people that fit that job description …I was so far into a routine that I wasn't going to try to get emotionally invested or uninvested, too disappointed or upset, just be patient enough to keep turning and keep waiting and making sure that I did everything in the right way.
(Was there a bounty system in place with the Saints?) Look one of the primary purposes of the meeting that Commissioner and I had was to just move forward and I appreciate the question…both of us agreed that the specifics were not going to be what we met on and certainly the specifics were not going to be what I visit with everyone on right now.. we are at a point where it's time for closure it's time for us as a team, as a league to take this next step forward. I know we are excited especially in New Orleans that we are getting ready to host the super bowl, certainly disappointed that we aren't playing in it but two great teams are..that's how ill answer that.
(How much did you entertain the thought of coaching elsewhere?) There was no way I was going to another team, the issue was a minor technicality, there was a clause in there that wasn't approved…what became more challenging really was being out of the building and then trying to work through the specifics to get the contract done, I'll elaborate… in the prior contracts that we have agreed upon with Mr. Benson and Mickey Loomis, I have always had that two, three week period where Mickey and I would visit and then at some point it would get to all the agents and attorneys but at that point it would be easy. This time that didn't exist and so that became more complicated..I appreciate and understand the speculation with various teams…every year a third of this league is turning over approximately 7 or 8… it seems to be new news and then next year it'll be 7 or 8 and the year after that and that's the business …the reason I feel that way and the reason I feel like I have the best job is the relationship that I have with our GM and ownership Tom Benson is fantastic…that's what makes the job special that in our industry doesn't exist with the other teams we are talking about. There's a clear vision and we understand clearly what we're looking to do and how we're looking to do it. There's great respect in the friendship between Mickey and I that I don't take for granted at all. At times there's various reports and word coming out…there was no attempt to leverage with that …I couldn't be involved with specifics it had to go through an agent and back to me and normally Mickey and I maybe in two dinners do what it took maybe a month to do.
(Things to do upon return) There's obviously a check list that rounds through my mind right now and I kind of always have these yellow pads of paper…that would be different then what I would say is the norm. I would also say this that the norm for us hasn't been necessarily us being at the senior bowl if you are in the NFC championship game it's hard to get down here we typically have not come. If you're deep into the playoffs sometimes we will get the film and we won't come. So the schedule in the next two to three weeks will be a little bit different than it normally has been… I think as time passes all of us are creatures of habit we will get into a routine I think that will happen
(Advantage of being reinstated now) I think the big thing really is the decisions not so much on free agency with other peoples players not so much on the draft but decisions on your own team and the evaluations on your own team that I could be involved in these meetings and then each year there's coaching changes that are taking places and we got a assistant already well two assistants that have gotten jobs so there's been movement… I always say that that's a good thing it means there's interest in people like Aaron Kromer and Mike Mallory there in your program as oppose to never getting a call about any of your assistants then you got to worry.
(On changes to current team) I haven't even sat down with Mickey yet to begin to discuss the specifics of it..what are the orders of business 1 and 2 it would be our players, coaching staff, contracts and all the things we would do when the season ends.
(On physicality of future teams) I think this it was one of the discussions that Commissioner Goodell and I had.. I think that we have grown accustomed to…we the coaches, the players what expectations are in regards to hits above the head, in regards to contact on the QB…there's a period time it might two years or three years but I think that we've gotten there and then periodically there's a play that's reviewed or you make look at..those are challenging calls for officials because everyone is looking for that leverage and what I mean by that is as we teach getting low the ball carrier and the tackler. I think the players in our league now or more educated and are more use to the rule changes, I think the coaches certainly are…you're always wanting to be a physical team…want to make sure you're teaching the right thing..none of us want 15 yard penalties and certainly we don't want people getting hurt.
(Blaming issues of 2012 on bounty scandal) I think it's a great question…when you play the way we play defensively it's going to be hard to win, when you struggle running the football like we did at the first half of the season it's going to be hard to win . We struggled sometimes at special teams against the Giants…I don't know how many yards they had in return yardage… these things that keep you from winning games…are consistent whether or not someone is in the building or out of the building…someone who I spoke with a quite a bit of this time Coach Parcell's said to me you got to make sure that this mindset that your back and all of a sudden you're back to winning 11, 12,13 games doesn't exist because you very well could win 5 the next year..he's right we got a lot of things we need to correct to get to where we want to go..that's just the truth..there's a lot that goes into winning and a lot that goes into losing
(On outpouring of support from community) I felt it was important in my statement to include that …I am grateful and certainly humbled by it..the region has been unbelievable and honestly as I've traveled people around the country have been great.. it's helped me a lot…at times when I was back in New Orleans for functions..that was just something that was overwhelming…this was clearly the team I was returning to…this was uniquely different, when we started in 06' post Katrina it felt a little bit like a business start up…there were a lot of things that were different, the team had been relocated, we were getting back to Metairie and there was just too much invested in the people in the building and once again when you start trying to not just in our industry but in any industry when you start trying to identify what makes a job good and I think it pertains to everyone here is if you're working with the right people and that separates the jobs where you're not working with the right people…with our fan base I'm forever grateful ..it was something that at times were even embarrassing ..certainly humbling.
(Will city be able to move on from Commissioner's punishments?) I think they will…the one thing this city does better than any they know how to entertain and feed you and there's no better city in the world than to host the super bowl I think they'll do a great job with that…the most important element here is closure and us moving forward…It's back to what commissioner Goodell and I visited with and this closure, this next step, I think is important…we have so many other challenges that I think us in our personal lives, in our professional lives to move on and we get on to the next challenge..we got a lot.
(How aggressively will you make changes on defense?) We are going to have to look closely… it starts with our personnel and how we use them ..most importantly are we asking the players to do what they do best…the thing we try do as coaches is take players like Jimmy Graham, take a player like Roman Harper, take any player…what does he do well, does he do it consistently…at that point you know what you're going to get on game day..specifically on defense that's the one thing that keeps me up at night right now… in other words getting back here visiting with the staff today we are going to read defensive evaluations later on after the second practice, we are going to go through personnel, scouts, coaches…I'm anxious to hear how everyone felt..generally when you have great success because you got the right players, you got very good players , and you got coaches doing a very good job and you got the right scheme and when it goes to the other end of the spectrum as far as it did with us this year in generally…you're not doing as well with players and coaches..that blame, that accountability is always spread it's not just one thing…it's not just we need to be better on defense and get better players…the trick in that is really evaluating what we're doing , who's doing it and moving forward.
(On city hosting Super Bowl) I think it should be that the same way our city has hosted the previous 9…I think it should be outstanding, gracious I think there's responsibility because we still are the number one destination for this game. We're not getting in town cars and riving to a venue…you're right down the street from the finest hotels and the finest restaurants.. the hospitality in our city is open to everyone.
(on discussing Gregg Williams with Goodell) I never talk to him about Gregg nor do I know anything about Gregg's status
(Would you want to talk to Gregg Williams at some point?) No I have no interest in talking to Gregg
(On player's vindictiveness toward league) I'll be able to handle that.. real quickly we are going to understand where we are as a team… it's going to be…the unique thing is that we got a gap here before we see the players.. we've got a ton of challenges right now, ton of work…this meeting we're going to have this afternoon is going to be painful as we go through…we've got a lot of tough meetings coming ahead…it is what it is and that's what 7 and 9 is…those are our big challenges.
(Blessing in disguise to have time away from football?) Certainly had more time and had some opportunities that I wouldn't have normally had..having a chance to coach my son's team that ended up being something…Tuesday's and Thursday's were practices we played on Saturday's got to the Super bowl but we lost that game… I needed those players on that team probably more than they needed me…something that was a completely different perspective on sports… that was another thing me and the commissioner had a chance to visit with…about how parents and people look at the game in regards to all safety with young kids playing how are the numbers..what did I experience coaching… I had some really good moments having the chance to do that.
(Characterizing relationship with Roger Goodell) I think it's very good it's changed in that we've had a chance to visit a lot..I think it's very good, it's positive…for me to have a opportunity to sit down for 4 and a half hours on a MLK Jr. weekend, Monday…talk about a number of things openly with him and vice versa it was important that he saw from me…the things that I was able to reflect on and make him feel comfortable with reinstatement all of those things were positive…I would describe the relationship as very good.
(On talking to Drew Brees since reinstatement) I got a text I knew he was heading Hawaii, he was excited, I told him stay healthy over there…he's going to be spending some time here before heading back to California..when he gets back from the Pro Bowl.. I'm sure he'll come by when he's working out and we'll have a chance to visit so I look forward to that.
(Did Brees' holdout affect 2012 season negatively?) No..if we went back really remember the off season before when we had the lockout…no one was in the building and offensive numbers throughout the league were strong. Certainly his numbers…the way we were playing strong…I don't think so ..the things that take place and aren't unique…if you're not playing good defense..if you're playing poorly on defense and not running the football then I'm going to show you a QB that might struggle. And if you are running the football with some success and playing pretty good on defense… there's a chance that QB is going to be able to play well…you really look back in our history in 06' we ran the ball effectively in 09' we were a top 10 rushing team, we were opportunistic on defense..these things aren't new..it's easy to say hey this is just a fact and this is what took place while the head coach wasn't there…we've got to do a lot of things better or else will be at the senior bowl early again.
(On poster of him hanging in practice facility) I've just seen pictures of it..the one good thing about that mural from a foundation stand point..we held an event when new Orleans played an away game and it was over at Manning's restaurant. It was just an opportunity for people who paid x-amount of dollars to watch the game with me I think there might have been 100 people there, a bunch of auction items…one auction item was that same mural and I signed it and two other people wanted it I think we made just about $100,000 on that mural…if there's anything that came of it, it went towards a good cause…I'm very appreciative for the challenges our staff had, Mickey Loomis and Tom Benson, and all of the things that all of sudden changed their job description I'm very appreciative of…when I look at a team pica and a seat that's left open and the visors on…all of that..it's not a month not 2 it's a long time..just when you might be having a bad day something like that can take place…just a remind that you're thought highly of and you're missed and that feeling is mutual two topics business element of us getting better as a football team. A relationship element of seeing people that you care about not have the success that you want them to…wanting to help not being able to..missing your interaction to them.
(On "Free Sean Payton" shirts) I followed it a little bit…again its just one of those things our fan base is unique I think you can draw a similarity to green bay people travel from further distance to come to your games..it's not just New Orleans it's Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, into Florida…I kid Jerry Jones we are heading into East Texas. Our fan base is unique and their great, and their loyal and their passionate and their all the things that you would want as a player or coach or a owner of a team is that they care…I'm anxious to be back and experience that because that's another element that you miss.
(How long will it take you to get up to speed?) We are in January now …the changes in the off season scheduling it use to be worried about are you doing enough with OTA ‘s more individuals I think hopefully getting up to speed by the combine…certainly before free agency we got to have a clear understanding of who we are as regards of our players. Then that time is spent working towards the draft …our own coaches have gotten a chance to start working on the cut-up's I think…looking at defense looking at offense. Today's meeting that were having later on is going to be on personnel defensively…yesterday they met up offensive personnel ..Mickey and I are going to spend some time together and he'll bring me up to speed on what I've missed.
(Names in mind for Offensive Line coach?) None that I want to share right now..that's something that will happen fairly soon
(Difficulty of replacing Kromer) I think the world of Aaron we had a chance to work together at Miami when I first met him… I've tried to hire him a number of times..it's a little challenging in our league because the way contracts work and I was finally able to hire him out of Tampa initially as a RB's coach and then move him into that position of OL coach and run game coordinator…those are tough losses…Mr. Benson the other day when he just agreed on a contract we were at the Hornets game after the game we were visiting…he mention to me there was going to be some more interest in some of our coaches…I assured him that that's a good thing it's when no one's calling about any of your coaches is when you need to worry…I'm proud and excited for Doug Marrone who's now the head coach of the buffalo bills certainly excited for Dennis Allen, Curtis Johnson, and I want to see all of these guys have success…Aaron Kromer having the opportunity to be the he Offensive Coordinator for the Bears now…coach the OL …it goes on Pete Carmichael has been interviewed has been offered a number of jobs and has stayed. Joe Lombardi Mike Mallory…is taken a job Jacksonville..those are good signs that you're looking at the right people…being in this thing for a short period of time as a head coach…those guys were on our original Katrina staff…there were a lot of sacrifices in that first year that are hard to explain with families coming in while most were leaving…there's a appreciation I have for their sacrifices and to see them have the success their having and those opportunities that they get are pleasing.
(On run-threat quarterbacks in league this year) My first reaction is I don't know enough about it so that bothers me defending it..obviously is a problem… you watch some of these teams… with the QB's that have come into the league …I think 2 or 3 good QB's came into our league this year. Their talented, professional, their good passers, they can run..go on and on about the Luck's, RGIII's , and Wilson…it's impressive and you see enough college football and I saw more of it than normal and to see what Oregon's doing and Chip Kelly, I'm glad he's in a different division…those are trends and things you have to pay attention to and when you're looking at college talent you can only take and draft what they give you…you see more of it at the high school level as well..you're seeing the spread set's as these players develop the challenges become not an evaluating…the left tackle that you get to see pass more…the challenges are finding the line backer that you use to easily find but now is playing in space…you have to project…it's just changed a little bit.
(On offensive makeup of Super Bowl teams) With all due respect with some of the things we're seeing with the creative offensives…you're seeing good defensives and teams that have balance…a great example last week I thought …some of the adjustments you saw with Baltimore…Flacco throwing the ball more in the second half… being able to win if you have to throw the ball or if you have to run the ball…you can only do one period…I find you become more handicapped… Baltimore made some changes and Joe played outstanding in that second half…made a lot of plays… New England struggled rushing the passer and he had time…we are looking for that balance…it's been a formula we've valued and it's worked for us.
(In the record book, who should be listed as head coach in 2012?) Joe Vitt and you might put a parenthesis next to Aaron…Joe was appointed as the coach…it's a good question
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