You had previously said that at the end of the offseason, you will have seen every look from Rob Ryan’s defensive unit. Did you see some of that today with some of those exotic looks?
“We’re only a couple of installs in, it’s been base and a little bit of nickel, so I think we’re just scratching the surface of what we’re going to see. But that’s the fun part, to see our defense every day get more comfortable with the stuff that’s being installed in Rob Ryan’s scheme and system, the way they’re being coached. We have some great leaders on our defense, some really smart guys that are picking it up quickly. It’s a challenge for us offensively because we’re seeing some things that we haven’t seen in a while, or ever. You always have to find ways to combat that.”
Was there an element of surprise? Such as when Curtis Lofton came up the middle (through the line), because he wasn’t used that way very much last year?
“I think we’re experimenting with a lot of stuff right now. Seeing how everyone is going to fit into the new scheme, how we can put every guy in a position to succeed according to their strengths and certainly you have to keep people off-balance and change things up quite often. But, yes, it’s interesting to see how it all plays out here.”
How important is it just being here? Coach Payton said it was the first time the team has had 100% attendance for these OTAs since he has been here. Is it making a big difference, even now?
“I’d say this, most of the time, maybe, in the past, you’d say there is a pressure on you to be here, to have 100% attendance just for the sake of saying that we had 100% attendance. But guys want to be here. Guys want to be working, whether it’s in the weight room or on the practice field. Guys want to be putting in extra time, whatever they can, to find a role on this team. I think we all realized that we have something really good going here. It’s going to take a lot of work. But everybody wants to be a part of it, everybody wants to be present. It’s part of what helps your team come together, struggling through some of the tough parts of conditioning and that kind of thing through the offseason and as we get into these kinds of practices, learning the new wrinkles on both sides of the ball.”
What is it like to have it all be just about football this year?
“It’s great. I said this last week, but this is the first normal offseason we’ve had since the 2009 offseason. We won the Super Bowl in 2009, so the 2010 offseason was crazy. We started later than normal because we played so late and we were coming off the Super Bowl championship. The next year was the lockout and the next year was all of the bounty stuff and contract stuff. Here we are, really for the first time in four years, where you feel like this is a normal offseason, where you come to work every day with no distractions other than just focusing on football and getting better.”
When somebody young that you work with goes through something like Joe (Morgan) has and is going through, how do you handle that?
“It’s tough. Unfortunately, when things like this do happen, as a team all we can do is support a guy like that. He’s got a great room that he is in, with guys like Lance Moore and Marques Colston, guys that have been around a long time. They’ve really done things the right way, they’re true pros. What you find is that leaders kind of pull him under their wing and give him the best advice they can. But, in the end, there are consequences to actions and you pay your debt and move on and hopefully you’re better for it.”
How is Ryan Griffin doing?
“He’s doing well. We call him RG4. Not RG3, RG4. I’m always impressed with a young quarterback who comes into this system and everything that the system requires. Certainly it’s a lot thrown at you in a short amount of time and he seems to be able to absorb that well. He’s really done a good job, especially I can think of an instance today where it’s a complicated play, he gets the protections all lined up and he makes a great throw to a guy on what would have been a touchdown on the seam. When all those pieces start to come together for a guy, you see the confidence build. He’s really working hard and doing a great job. He’s got other responsibilities too, not just learning the system and taking advantage of the reps that he gets, but he’s responsible for making our protein shakes after workouts. It’s very specific ingredients and there are high expectations there, there is a lot of pressure when he steps into the building to do those things correctly and he’s done a pretty good job thus far but we don’t want him to get too cocky. There is still a lot of work ahead of him in regards to being a good rookie.”
Did you get sad at all when they took down the large poster of Sean Payton in the indoor practice facility?
“I have to be honest, I didn’t even notice it was taken down. I guess when you are locked in on other things, you’re not so much worried about the surroundings. That look that was given in that poster, that piercing look, we’ve all had that look come our way a few times. It’s good to see the man in person, to have him out there. I know he is excited to be back. You can feel it, you can feel the energy. We are just getting started here.”
Rookie Terron Armstead got the first team reps at left tackle today. Talk about how he and the other rookies are developing right now.
“He looked good. There are some guys offensively, o-line, up front, especially Armstead, who has had a chance here the last couple of days to get a lot of reps with the ones. A lot of things are happening fast out there but I think he has handled himself well. He has a lot of potential. (He) has to focus on getting a little better each day. He is going to have a chance to compete here. Defensively, we have (Kenny) Vaccaro. You see him out there a lot, he is active, extremely active. You can see how he can fit in that defense in a lot of different ways. There are many others too. I’m excited to see these guys fit into the system, kind of get their feet underneath them and we’ll see how it all shakes out.”
How would you feel about a rookie protecting your blindside?
“It wouldn’t be the first time. If he earns the job, he earns the right to be there and I’ll have all the confidence in the world in him. We’re only two weeks in, but he’s been impressive thus far. Like I said, it’s not only you’re learning the scheme, but you’re learning new technique and you have a new coach. It’s the speed of the game and the speed at which we operate offensively. There is a lot to take on in a short amount of time. He doesn’t seem overwhelmed which is a good thing.”
What is different about Sean Payton this year? What have you noticed about him and his approach?
“The main difference is the guy looks like he is in pretty good shape. I don’t know if I’d want to take him on in one of his crossfit competitions right now, he might have the upper hand. You can just tell he’s gained a lot of perspective by being away. He had a lot of great ideas coming back. The man loves football, the man loves to coach, loves to teach. He is a great communicator. Everyone respects him. That goes beyond the game of football. His job, yes it’s about winning, yes it’s about helping us all become better football players and building this team, but I think he looks at it as more than that. To shape all of us as people, and he takes that job very seriously, you can tell. The fact that I’ve been around him going on our eighth season together, I feel like I know him pretty well and I’ve never seen him as excited, as ready for a season as he is right now, for obvious reasons. That’s the way he is too. He loves the game, he is passionate about it, there is an intensity level there and a focus.”
How do you feel about the idea of an 18-game regular season?
“I think there is a great contradiction in talking about player health and safety and talking about extending the season and increasing the chance for injury, especially the toll that the game takes on your body over the course of a 16-game season. I think that that’s plenty and that the system has worked very, very well with that 16-game season.”
It would be tough for anyone to get through an 18-game season without an injury…
“It would greatly increase the chances, that’s for sure, of an injury.”
For young receivers, what are the challenges of learning the things not in the playbook?
“It just takes time. It takes time. What’s good is there is definitely a textbook, blackboard way to teach something and then there is the way that happens in the game. Or the adjustment that happens in a game that you don’t even want to go there when you first install the play, but it just happens. They see it just happen when the guy is like Jimmy (Graham), Marques (Colston), Lance (Moore), (Darren) Sproles, Pierre (Thomas). That’s when it happens. We call it feel. It’s a feel thing in a lot of cases when it comes to certain plays. It just takes time.”
Is it easy to be one of the guys that knows what you want?
“It’s a challenge. But I think it excites guys because they see the repore that we all have together, the guys that have been here for a long time, and they are like ‘man, these guys are on the same page, it’s like ESP, they see it happening at the same time and they know the adjustment at the same time and I want to be a part of that.’ It’s probably frustrating in the beginning because you’re like ‘I didn’t do that, why did he do that?’ but I just tell those guys that it will come. It’s just time and repetition.”