(WVUE) - The last week of the Saints' offseason program started Tuesday with the first day of minicamp practice.
Afterward, Sean Payton addressed the team's progress with reporters. The following is a copy of that availability, as transcribed by the New Orleans Saints:
"We were able to get out of the rain, fortunately, in time. Today's schedule is a little bit different from the OTAs. The practice format's somewhat similar, but the meeting times are longer. Again, there was an emphasis on the two-minute end-of-half or end-of-game situations and some other different game situations, (including) heavy personnel."
Is Robert Meachem here on a tryout, or have you re-signed him?
"No, we've got seven or eight guys here on tryout. Robert is one of them. We worked him out a couple of weeks ago, and we wanted to see how he does here in this three-day period."
There are no pads and (only) light contact. What can you learn about the guys at this point?
"We are through the OTAs, so we are into a lot of installation (such as) alignment assignment—how quickly they are picking it up. And there are certain elements that you have trouble replicating until you get to training camp. There are others that force you to think, and we get a lot out of it. Hopefully this installation pattern will be the exact same when we get back to training camp. We are kind of into our sixth install, if you will. But, I think enabling the player to know what to do, him understanding the situation, him understanding the defense or the assignment that's asked of him—how he is getting the line and is he doing what we are coaching to do—(are things we can learn under these circumstances)."
Has Kenny Vacarro's role changed much in this defense from previous years?
"I think with Kenny, it's twofold. We know he's a strong safety, and he also has the ability to play over at slot (corner) in a nickel role. Those are the two main things that we've worked with him on. Today, we saw him in some nickel situations, and earlier in practice we saw him working predominately at strong safety. Those would be the two facets that I think (he has). He has some versatility."
How has Obum Gwacham come along since last season?
"He's doing well. His weight's up. We got him as a young player in his first year. He's had a good offseason. He is close to about 270 pounds now. He, too, is receiving a lot of work at that weakside end position."
Tim Hightower was targeted about four times during the two-minute drill. Is that just Drew (Brees) picking out the best matchup?
"Two things. We will rotate the backs through. In this type of situation during today's practice, Tim was receiving some work. Obviously, Mark (Ingram) would receive some work in those situations. Whatever the back that's up in the script, (Brees targets the best matchup). Now, that being said, Drew is smart enough to see certain coverage looks, and he was receiving a matchup in man-to-man, and that was favoring the route or what he wanted to do with the route. So, I'm quite sure—if it was Cadet or (any) back in there—when he saw that matchup that he wanted, you'll see some pros on that tape. There's a linebacker in coverage and he's looking for a quick strike—just a matchup he likes."
How has Kaleb Eulls transitioned over to the offense?
"Kaleb's doing well. I said this before; I think one of the reasons that he has a chance there is that he is smart. I think, obviously, there are some nuances to making a switch like that (defensive line to offensive line). I think he' progressed. It's a little bit more difficult for the linemen without (wearing) pads, but I know his and our vision's certainly for the long-haul and an opportunity to compete to play (on the) inside and make the team (on the) inside."
With Mark Ingram, C.J. Spiller, and Tim Hightower all healthy, is that going to make it difficult for you to game plan?
"No. I think we've been pretty good. We will try to identify what we want to do with the backs, with the rotation and also play types. Obviously, it's a long season. It's a tough position to play and stay healthy at. We will sort through that once we get to that spot in the schedule. Part of it now is giving ourselves a chance to look at all of these guys. You're seeing the younger guys receiving the two-minute (snaps). Some of the backs may not be in that situation because we don't feel like they can either pick up the pressure or identify the pressure. But right now, this is the time of the year where you're getting a chance to see everyone in those situations. But when the regular season starts, I think the plan or the vision for each game will be pretty clear."
How much improvement has P.J. Williams shown you so far?
"I'd say in this offseason, he's done some really good things. He's playing some nickel; he's playing outside. I think he's in good shape. He's healthy. So I think we've seen some good things from him."
For you and Drew (Brees), this is your 11th year together and so many faces have changed. How does that feel for you?
"I think it's a year-to-year thing. You look around, and all of a sudden, there are (just) three or four guys from when we were here in 2006. I think that is pretty normal. It is not like this year you come out and realize that it is different. I think it happens year-to-year over a period of time."
Is there anything you can say on (Hau'oli) Kikaha, and is there any chance of him coming back this year?
"What he has done is he has gone and visited two to three different specialists to confirm and make a decision on the injury. So, I don't want to get ahead of myself, but I'm quite sure here that in the next week, we'll have a better feel for if there's a surgery needed. I would anticipate there will be. Secondly, who is going to do (the surgery)? I think, to his credit, he makes sure that he receives three sets of eyes on it. All are reputable doctors. I would say in the first two visits, they've had the same diagnoses and looked at it the same way, and the repair would be the same way based on the two he's seen. I think, in a week, we will know more."
Is there any optimism that it might not be season-ending?
"There hasn't been yet. It appears to be an ACL, and it's really now just the question of the repair."
Is this more difficult for him since his first (ACL) repair did not take? Is that why he is double and triple checking it out?
"It is about what you use (part) to repair the old ACL with. In other words, are you taking part of the hamstring? There are two or three different options, but to his credit, he's been unbelievable in regards to his mindset. You think you might get someone who is extremely disappointed, and I'm sure that was the case. Yet, the night he received his first diagnosis, he sent me a three-page long text, just about how this has just motivated him more. He is a pretty tough cookie. Obviously, you're the exception if you can come back after the third ACL (injury) and play, but I wouldn't bet against Hau'oli. He has that mindset, and that's encouraging.
Looking at doing situational football and two-minute, how frustrating is it for you when you are almost trying to give the defense a heads up? Drew (Brees) was inaccurate on two passes, the one to (Brandon) Coleman and the one (Brandin) Cooks that was slightly out of bounds. You told the defense you have to go to the end zone and still you had a couple plays where guys were wide open.
"Yes and listen that's why we are sitting here in early June doing it and it's basically the second day of the two minute. We'll get on the tape. It'll be a lot more frustrating if we're in August training camp and the same thing is happening so we have a lot of good tape to watch. There's a handful of things. We've got receivers moving, not on the line, or one is covering another one up. There's got to be some urgency and yet some poise in that drill. So a lot is going on with a lot of different players and yet it's good tape for us to coach off of."
As Drew gets older, how closely do you work with him on the amount of reps he needs or is that not part of the conversation?
"It's not necessarily conversation but he's mindful of it and that's something that probably for the last year and a half we have been smart with. Probably the last two years. So there will be a practice (at) training camp, or an afternoon where he might not throw. I can't give you a specific pitch count but I know that probably for the first seven or eight years there wasn't as much thought given to it as it is now."
You guys didn't sign a defensive end in free agency or draft one was part of that based on liking what you have in house, the depth you have in house or (Hau'oli) Kikaha's specific growth?
"We feel like we have some good young developmental players at that position, obviously Hau'oli (Kikaha) is one of them. (Kasim) Edibali is one of them and he'll be healthy come the start of training camp, (Davis) Tull. We have a handful of options, I think there's that initial knee jerk of 'well you have to go sign someone'. You have to be careful that the vision's clear. Right now we're going to work on the guys that are here and obviously pay attention to any type of player that might be able to help us that isn't signed."
Does losing him (Hau'oli Kikaha) change the vision for the defense?
"I don't know that it does. I think if you ask me his strengths, I'd say he's a situational pass rusher, a guy that can play on the early downs, I think he plays with a really good motor but it doesn't change what we are wanting to do."
I know tonight is the red carpet premier of the Steve Gleason movie, have you seen it yet or are you going tonight?
"I am. I haven't seen it yet. Most all of us will be there and I would say most all of us are really excited to see it and happy that it's making its debut here. We made an announcement the other day. I would say the whole team will be there. Just from talking with Scott Fujita, I know there's been a number of people putting this together, Steve (Gleason) and his foundation and family. We're anxious to be there and support it."
I've heard it's very emotional are you expecting it be such?
"Yes. Especially for those of us who know him so well but what he has been able to do since the time of diagnosis to today has been amazing. I am going in with the idea that there is a little celebration here yet I am sure there will be some tough moments to it."
Is anything locked down with joint practices? Houston is saying they have dates with you guys?
"Yes, we play Houston on a Saturday. Bill (O'Brien) and I have talked. We'll have the schedule at some point but we'll probably have a couple days of practice with them prior to that game and anything else we'll announce."
What do you expect out of Delvin Breaux in year two?
"I expect him to start at corner (and) play well. He's doing well in practice, he's in great shape. I think in his second year to your question, and it's a good question, I think you're going to get a player now who has a much different ceiling for where he believes he play to and I think he sees himself as one of the better corners in this league."
With regards to (Hau'oli) Kikaha, is it the same injury he had in college? Same knee?
"Same knee yes. That's why these visits have been so important in regards to not only here's the repair but how are we going to do this repair. So far, I'm quite sure all three of four doctors are going to recommend the same type of repair."
I know this is hard to foresee but could this potentially be a career-ending kind of injury?
"No, I don't think so. The good news on the scans is everything else is healthy with the knee and I say that meaning there aren't a handful of things, we're looking at an ACL and we're looking at a clean picture that I think would be repaired as if it was his first ACL and so that's the good news."
Is the minicamp something kind of to give back to the fans because they don't get to see you practice as often?
"Yes, I think so. It's a great opportunity, I think you practice better and certainly our training camp time is cut in half because the first half of it is spent on the road and the second half of it is at home. I'm glad we were able to get at least half the practice in before the rain."
You've talked about the vision for a player. Has Coby Fleener met that vision?
"Yes, from early on. We see him in a lot of the wide receiver sets. 11 personnel, 12. He's a quick study, so he has a pretty good feeling for what we are doing."
Do you expect anything to be done with Drew (Brees' contract) before camp?
"You can't put a timeline on it like that. I think time will tell. I know those guys are working at it."
Will that be a distraction?
"I think it's part of what we do. No, I think with certain players it might be, but Drew's been in this situation before. I think the one thing that we have is a good understanding. On Drew's side and with the Saints, the relationship has been outstanding. So, I don't envision it to be a distraction."
Are you surprised at how fast Craig Robertson has come along?
"He's played (well) now. So, when we saw him on film (from his time) in Cleveland—this is a guy who is really smart. He picks things up right away. He has good football instincts. He's a guy that's been on the field in special teams, but he's also played quite a bit on defense. So, I'm glad we signed him. He's a good addition for us."
What drew you to Dennis Allen, and what has been his impact so far?
"We were together for however many years in the beginning. Then, we lost him to Denver as a (defensive) coordinator, and then, obviously, he went on to Oakland (as head coach). We had a chance to hire him back, and were able to. He's extremely organized and detailed. I think he has exceptional teaching skills, and I think he's going to do fantastic."