Metairie, La. - The Saints held their first training camp practice indoors Thursday and Sean Payton was pleased with the tempo of his team.
The following is the coach's media session after practice, as transcribed by the New Orleans Saints:
Opening Statement: "With regards to the injuries, I'm not going to hit on the guys that haven't been practicing. We rested (Mark) Ingram today and he'll practice again tomorrow. We installed red zone. We came inside and I thought the tempo was pretty good. It was pretty good to get out of the heat. I thought we had some of our better work."
What about any of the rule changes? What are you most concerned about with the new rule changes?
"Every year we have the officials come in and we spend three days with them. I don't know specifically if there's anything that would be drastically different. I know there's been a lot of attention to the running backs. That's a unique play where the running back is head on with the defender. It doesn't come up that often but well be sure to cover it. The officials will be in the meetings today with our players, really watching the practice tape and if there are any questions well get them answered. They'll be here in practice tomorrow and of course for Saturday's scrimmage. So they'll have a presentation tonight with us and go through a handful of changes that we've seen but I don't know that there's any that are going to be significant."
Speaking of the refs, there's the two female line judges out there today. Can you just speak about that?
"Well one's a line judge the others an umpire. I'm familiar with Sarah (Thomas) only because she's had a chance to participate in our camps since I got here. In '06 '07 and '08 she's been part of a crew that's worked out training camp every year. She's done a great job. You really don't notice or pay attention to it. Maybe the first time you see a female official (you notice). I think our players have gotten real used to seeing her out at practice. I know she's a line judge."
After a year away, how was your communication on the field with Drew Brees? What was that like when you first got back?
"I think it was pretty normal. I said this before, a few months ago, the biggest challenge was being away and having that interaction outside of football (based on) the idea that you can't communicate with anybody in the NFL, any player or any coach. That was the biggest change. But from a football stand point more than anything was getting up to speed with some of the nuances and changes. The other thing that was different or a little bit more different than I expected (is that) your roster changes 15, 16, 18 percent a year. So you come back to two (draft) classes, (and) two free agent classes. Overall the interaction you have with people you work with every day and not having that was unusual and a little difficult."
Drew said you came back with a lot of fresh ideas.
"Listen, you come back with a lot of energy. You get a chance to watch from afar and you have a lot of thoughts. I think it's still about some fundamentals and wins and losses. I think that's going to be important for us. We got to play better defense and be more opportunistic. There's a number of areas we've got to improve on if we're going to have any success this season."
What is your opinion on college football getting ready to kick off their training camps? Do you think they are going to follow suit as far as how practices are structured, not having two a days and move more like the NFL is doing?
"I don't know. I don't know the format in which they govern. I don't know how they set that up. I know they've paid a lot of attention to some of the same issues that we've had to, but I don't know how they would decide on that."
You talk about how you want to improve the offense and maybe run the ball more. Did you see anything from last year that maybe you want to change for this year?
"Those things go hand in hand. You want to have balance and yet it's hard to do if you're behind. You want to control the clock and time of possession and yet you're giving up big plays and not playing well on defense. All those things lead to more challenging snaps, more third downs and less opportunities to run. They kind of fit hand in hand. I've said this a number of times, we have to play better complementary football. Each week understanding what it takes to win that game, defensively and offensively and in the kicking game. That can vary based on your opponent, it can change based on the how the game's unfolding. I do think that opportunity to or that ability to control the game in the second half involves a run game. It's just harder to do when you're behind."
How hard is it as a play caller to say you want to commit to the run but now its second and nine in down and distance?
"I agree. It's happened to me a number of times, you have a mindset going in and then you find yourself in a game when you really got to be able to midstream adjust. I think Pete (Carmichael) has got a great rhythm. He's someone that knows what we're doing more than anyone. It just becomes more challenging if you're giving up the big plays and you're surrendering yards and all of the sudden you're down 11 instead of six. You know it's coming and you hate to get in that hurry up. You're down two scores and you know the rest of the game is going to be pass or draw. Part of having that balance is being confident in what you're doing, being efficient in what you're doing and having that same confidence in defending your opponent. They all get tied together."
What's the lineup for Saturday?
"Our start time is the same. It will be very similar to what you have seen us do in the past. I know last year they played in the Hall of Fame game. It will be a series of eight to 12 plays. We'll put the ones versus the twos, the ones versus the ones. We'll put some special teams in there. It's going to be outside, weather permitting. It's kind of a controlled scrimmage. We'll stay off the quarterbacks and stay away from cutting, blocking below the waist. We'll try to stay healthy and pretty much what we've done before."
Can you give me your thoughts on the journey of Elliot Mealer, his path to the NFL and everything he's been through?
"Obviously, with a tragedy like that, he's someone who has battled through a tough situation and has gotten the opportunity. It says a lot about him. He's adjusted pretty well to what we're doing. He's pretty smart. Just not really knowing all the specifics, there's a special person inside that's been able to handle that and still try to chase his dream."
Can you give me your thoughts on Rob Ryan's philosophy when it comes to soliciting players' opinions?
"I think as teachers and coaches we always want to have feedback. We kind of measure how it comes and if it's fitting into what we want to do. That would be our philosophy. You see that dialogue a lot with position coaches and even the coordinator and special teams is the same way. I think one of Rob's strengths is his ability to communicate with a player and make them feel good about what they're doing. I think that's a good asset."
Has anyone for the third or fourth receiver position stood out?
"No, not yet."
What has Drew Brees communicated to you on what he wants to get better at?
"He's so competitive. He's used to playing in games that matter towards the end of the season. That hasn't been one specific thing that we've said we need to do differently. Everywhere he's been he's won. We got a lot of guys on our team that are like that; they're competitive and they're use to winning football games. I think more than anything else I think leading his team to victory and winning football games, those are all more important to him than statistics."
You talked about Mark Ingram and how important he is going to be to the running game. How about Pierre Thomas?
"Absolutely. We're going on the seventh year for Pierre. He's been one of those running backs that finishes forward for positive yards. He's durable, smart, (and) he can do a lot of things well. Both of those guys are going to factor in what we do in the running game. Really because of a little bit of that depth we were able to trade Chris (Ivory), otherwise we would not have. Pierre is someone that knows this system, runs with good pad level and has real good balance."
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