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Saints ready to open preseason in Baltimore

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Tuesday marked the Saints' final day of preparation in West Virginia before heading to Baltimore for their preseason opener Thursday against the Ravens.

The following are Sean Payton's comments to the media after the team's morning practice, as transcribed by the New Orleans Saints:

Opening Statement: “We were able to get a pretty good practice in.  We were in helmets and shoulder pads but the tempo was good.  We covered a lot, a lot of red zone, two minute situational football with regards to special teams.  I think the field dried up pretty well.  We may be up on this upper field if it is dry enough for the walk thru.  But I thought overall it was pretty good."

Do you have a card and basket ready for Steve Smith Sr. to retire after this season?

“It will be coming.  He has been an amazing player, so competitive.  There is something that is present when he is playing for a team.  It is hard to replace or replicate.”

From a defensive standpoint, this morning in the red zone period and two minute you have to be pleased with the number of passes defended.

“Yes there is going to be a ton of stuff on film, good and bad both ways.  In the early red zone work there are some real good things.  We had a coverage missed or two and then offensively the same way. I don’t know how many snaps we had but our intent coming in was to have a little bit of a move the ball period which is more like a real game, more like the scrimmage.  And then have that opportunity in the kicking game. There were a handful of things I thought that we got done and I am sure when we put the tape on we will see some real good things and then some things we have to clean up because there were a handful of those as well.”

Are you ready to play the first preseason game or do you wish you had more time?

“I think when we play this first preseason game it fits with the time we are here.  Everything doesn’t have to be in, there are certain situations you cover in the event but it is important with two minutes in with your back up players because more than likely in the first game at the end of the half or the end of the game it is going to be this second group or the third group. So they have to get comfortable with about five calls offensively and a few coverages that we could play.  But I think it comes at the right time.”

Are you surprised at all about the number of fullbacks or the number of teams that don’t use a fullback and how do you think the position has evolved?

“I think two things, one of the challenges first is the acquisition of players from the college game.  At some point you get what they give you and so there are less and less teams in college using a fullback and yet there are a handful that do.  And then there are less teams playing with a tight end.  It is a position we believe in and it is a part of what we do and yet I think teams have been really good at finding tight ends that can do both and then focusing more on the Y or that F position.  And we have done that.  In 2009 when Heath (Evans) went down in that first game against Miami, David Thomas really from that game on played that F position and a lot of times that was a fullback alignment and then there were times where it was a tight end alignment.  I think it is just a matter of finding the right fit there.  When we read a tight end coming out of college we read him as a Y and we also read can he play F, do we think yes or no?  In other words, is that an option yes or no?  Generally the full back who has been just a fullback isn’t someone that can go to Y because his stature.  So having that versatility I think is important especially for the tight ends.”

It seems like you aren’t spending much time game planning for the first preseason game, is it more about what you guys are doing than what the other team is doing?

“Yes, think the fundamentals for us are paramount.  The focus will begin to shift now.  We had time last night with video work on Baltimore. We will have time today, tonight and all day tomorrow.  We don’t play till Thursday night and because we are not asking players to play 60 snaps, there is still time and important time when it comes to the opponent.”

Are you a fan of four preseason games or two preseason games?

“I kind of like where we are at right now with four.  I can think of so many players that made rosters during my time as a coach in week three or four.  I just can think of kick returns and punt returns and blocked punts and a quarterback that comes in.  I just think that four is perfect.  That’s me.”

So two would make it tougher on the coaches?

“Well, I think it is not just the coaches.  I am a free agent out of Illinois and I am Pierre Thomas and I have two games and not four to make an impression and then how are we splitting the reps in these two games? Look, the most important thing we have to do in this camp is find the right 53 and I think it becomes more challenging to find the right 53 with two game exposures.”

Where are you at with your install?  Do you have everything in yet?

“No, I would say we are probably two thirds of the way.  There are still some elements, goal line, short yardage.  There will be some additional red zone and third down, but I would say probably around 70 percent, 75 percent of what we are installing.  And some of that is more situational too.  There will be some situations, we will come back next week with New England and make sure the installs continue and have a chance to work with them on that.”

Will you get it all done before the New England game?

“Close, I would say close.  We play New England week two, typically it is in before that third preseason game.  We would hit install 10 if you will.”

What do you hope to get out of the first preseason game?

“I think, number one, in order to get a good evaluation, players alignment, assignment, the right guys on the field, all those things so we can properly evaluate as opposed to something that breaks a play down either way and then on that snap you really don’t get a good measure of what the runner had a chance to do or not or someone went the wrong way.  You are wanting it to be clean, not specifically each play because you know there is going to be a ton to coach off of but you really want to make sure stuff that we are doing they all know well and then we can see how they do it.  That would be the first thing I think of.”

What would be the key element of the game that you can’t simulate in practice?

“I think trying to, on a regular basis, simulate game situations is at a premium.  It is important because if we just run plays chances are when the game starts we are going to see a similar behavior. So today was a little bit more competitive and I said to them after practice, this is how it feels when you get into a two minute and you are tired at the end of a game or when you get into a red zone and you need one stop and it is fourth down and you are off the field in a game.  So I think creating those situations in practice that are most like a game is critical.”

Do you want to put the kickers in a situation?

“I would love to.  It would be perfect.”

Can you control that as a coach?

“You control it out here to some degree.  It’s a little bit harder maybe in a preseason game.  We’ll probably go in and give them each a half. We can certainly control if they kickoff but it’s a little easier to control at practice and yet truly that confidence that we’re searching for, it really does not show itself until they do it in a game.  They can think about it and they can feel like they are and think they are and yet until it is done then all of a sudden you get something.  You guys saw the preseason game the other night, a couple of guys flashed and all of a sudden they feel like they belong.  That is where it is born.”

Do you see a difference in players under the lights?

“I think it has to be shown at some point on the field in the game.  I think so at some point.”

Can you talk about the competition at receiver, specifically Josh Morgan?

“Specifically with Josh (Morgan), he’s a veteran player.  I would say he’s extremely smart. He is physical.  He is a guy that can really help both in the running game and the underneath game.  He has strong hands in traffic.  He has played in this league for a while so he has come in and has done some good things.  Can he help in the kicking game?  That will be important.  I think we have a handful of young guys.  It is a position I would say there is a lot of competition at.  Marques (Colston) being the older veteran player, outside of that the rest of those guys are fairly young.  Josh obviously has played for a while.  I think the competition has been good.  I am anxious to see how they do Thursday.”

How important is it for guys that won’t play a lot of snaps to stay focused on the game?

“Listen, we talk about it all the time.  Typically for us the pads stay on, we are all focused on the game.  I don’t like the in game interviews.  We don’t do that.  There are a lot of things that can pull from your sideline if you let them.  I think it is important that the veteran player that is no longer in the game is paying attention and watching and helping the guys that are in there.  That is just how we handle it.  I think it is important.”

Looking at the game Thursday, will you address the substitution issue on defense?

“Yes, absolutely, what you hate is, we come back after that scrimmage and I think it has been real good.  But I’ve said this, all of a sudden if that is your focus than maybe you are not focusing on takeaways.  In other words we have to get that part of it handled.  I think it has been a lot better.  It happens quick and the plays we are trying to put them through, this is the tempo.  We are going to see teams up-tempo us at the line of scrimmage and then change personnel.  You have to be ready for all of that.”

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