Saintsinsider.com Press Pass: Sean Payton

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton spoke with reporters on Tuesday for the first time since returning from London. He talked about the game, reports of potential player suspensions, the status of C Jonathan Goodwin and more. Find out the scoop in this exclusive Q&A with saintsinsider.com.

Opening Statement: From the game looking at the tape, obviously it was an important win for us considering the prior week's game and our record coming into the bye. I think there are a number of things during this week here, this two day practice process with our players and a bonus Monday to work on, but I thought we played a pretty good team the other night. I think San Diego's a pretty good team. By the end you'll see, they'll be a factor, but there is nothing particularly new on the injury front. I'll probably have more in the next 24 hours, but I thought we were able to battle through it pretty well.

Were you happy with the overall offensive performance, yet concerned with the defense at the same time?

That's a good offense. I mean that. You're talking about a lot of firepower at the quarterback position, running back, tight end and at receiver. There's a flow that goes back and forth with games sometimes where you have to be willing to adjust. I thought the field conditions were poor. It's discouraging being that it's the second time we've gone over there playing a game with the league. We still have to figure out that part of it. That impacted and changed how you were going to play defense and offense because it made it difficult to rush the passer. It became hard to plant your foot in the ground for any play. I think to some degree that benefited the offenses without the rain. I think if it's raining, it's a different story, but it was a sloppy field and sloppy surface without any rain. I thought we felt it was going to be like that the day before. We went out there for the walk through and we knew that it was going to be a tough playing surface.

Because of the experience at the walk through, did you make some adjustments?

It's wasn't making adjustments that night. It was to state the obvious that the talk about how they felt like the field was going to be in good condition, but that both teams knew that it wasn't. Both teams knew it was going to be sloppy. We had the longest cleats possible to wear. It's just real loose and it started tearing up in the walk through, so we knew it was going to tear up in the game. You just have to understand what that does. It becomes harder for a defense to rush the passer on a slow field like that. The weather was clear, so we had a nice evening, but the footing was more advantageous to the offenses.

You talk about being able to put a win and a loss behind you. Is this how you describe this trip and would losing to San Diego have really hurt?

I think there are some real positives about the experience. Logistically, I think it's hard to bring two teams over there and play a game during the regular season like this. We can complain about it all we want, but I think the most important thing we did was concentrate on the game and the task at hand. My concerns and my issues laid with some of the logistics. The travel, transportation, those aren't club issues, those are league issues. We've been unable to figure that part of it out. When we play a game and we're in a plane that's over 30 years old a day later and we have players sitting in (small) seats and San Diego had the same thing. I had a chance to visit briefly with Norv (Turner) about it. I think they just have a lot of work to do to figure this thing out. It's hard for me to say it's a great experience and a great thing for your club. I think it was a good showing and it was good that we were able to experience that. The people were fantastic over there. I'm speaking of the people in London. They were great as well as the hotels. I thought everyone from Mr. Benson, to Mickey (Loomis) to our staff did a great job in the planning stages of it. The logistics that go into this for the equipment guy, video guy, the trainer guy and the guy that does the computers; all that stuff is a nightmare and I thought they did a great job. Those are the guys that are working 14 or 15 hour nights on a turnaround, moving it from one place to another. It's going to be like a regular game, but it isn't. It isn't for the city. It isn't for the local economy here. It's not for anyone. Call it a home game if you want or an away game. I don't know what you want to call it, but there are just a lot of things in my opinion that need to be sorted out.

Are things like the travel and logistical issues things that could have really undermined the season if you were 3-5?

The key for us is winning games. We talked about it with our team when we were over there. We spent the week in a hotel and were able to focus on our task at hand. Our players did a good job of handling the week's preparation and handling some of the distractions that come from a game like that. I think we did a good job of that and I think San Diego probably did as well. They had a tough itinerary from San Diego to Buffalo and from Buffalo to London. Those are tough trips, but both teams found a pretty good place in the countryside to practice with good logistics and fields, but there are just so many other things that come up that make you scratch your head. It is what it is, but it's certainly a lot easier to come back after that game as bad as the flight is. As bad as that specific flight was yesterday with everything from just leaving the hotel on time to just getting a piece of luggage at the airport. As bad as it is, it would certainly be a lot worse if you didn't win the game.

Are you happy to be at 4-4 with the combination of logistical challenges and injuries?

We had set high goals. Fortunately for us we have a lot of football left, but we're going to have to play more consistently. I think anyone would see that. We're not going to be able to win one week and lose the next week. If we do that, we're on pace to be right at 8-8. We're going to have to play better football the second half of the season and in all areas. Not just on defense ore the kicking game, but on offense too. There were in this first half of the season, opportunities that I look back on offense and we have to be real critical of ourselves with a lot of specifics, four minute offense and being able to close out a game. Even the other night we had a chance to get one first down and take a knee. That's something that we're going to spend some more time on and get better with, but fortunately we're at a halfway point and not at the three quarter pole. We're at the final stretch right now.

It is tough right now dealing with the media report on Friday and how potentially reported suspensions would affect the team and it's depth?

The only thing I can control is our roster and our team right now. I don't deal with it as being in limbo. I mean that week by week we look at our roster and we prepare to win a game with who's up and who's potentially inactive. All of the other things will take care of themselves. I said this the other day and I mean it that I'd like to be able to give you guys more info, but it really is a league policy and league sensitive deal that I can't comment on. We'll let the process take it's course and see where that goes. I'll keep you as much up to date as I can, but there's nothing for me to be able to comment on beyond what you guys already know.

What was your reaction to the media report?

Disappointment. Probably the same reaction a fan would have or that you guys would have, just a little bit of surprise. Right now, what you want to have happen is make sure all the correct facts are out and I think we'll wait and see as the weeks go by what happens.

How soon before a game do you know if a player will be suspended for that game?

They usually let you know a week in advance. They don't give it to you on Wednesday or Thursday of a game that week.

Do you think you will know by Monday if there are any suspensions?

I think we're beyond that right now. Without commenting on dates or specifics, I'm sure at some point there will be a hearing and there will be a decision made by the league and we'll go from there.

How much harder would it be to compete without the services of the three players listed in the report?

Anytime you lose a starter that's something you have to deal with. We've lost a few to injury so far. Anytime you lose a guy that's been in your lineup on a regular basis, it's going to be a challenge. I don't want to speculate in that specific case with those three players, but obviously it's becomes harder than if they were active. It's like having a rash of injuries all at the same time for four weeks. That would be the equivalent. I'm trying to think of what it's like. That would be the closest thing I could describe it to.

Do you think you might be more prepared than other coaches because of the rash of injuries you have dealt with and kept the team above water with so far?

We understand that in this league that nobody really cares. I say that not in a negative way, but nobody wants to hear about your pains. I think our players know that. What we can control each week is how we prepare for a game. I thought last week with all the other things going on in regards to the trip we took, we had really good focus as a team. I thought we were good the night before and the day before the game and I felt confident that they were prepared to play a good game against a good team and myself and my staff need to find a better way of getting that team that focused and prepared mentally and physically each week in the next eight weeks and not look past the next game, which for us is Atlanta, keeping the focus on the very short term basis and then count them up down the road. It's getting to the point with injuries and other potential losses, we have to be able to handle that stuff and not let it negatively affect our team.

Did you see issues of inconsistency in that game despite the point output?

Yes. We had our opportunities, but the bottom line is that we didn't get the plays we needed at Washington we needed to win. We weren't able to finish the game at Denver. We weren't able to finish the game at home here against Minnesota. That's what it is. I think the worst thing we can do is bury our heads in the sand and say that everything's going to be alright in the second half of the season. I think we need to work on improving and work on tomorrow's practice having an opportunity to improve in a lot of little areas and think about how we can best do that as coaches.

Did you have a limited number of injuries in the game and when you come back Monday, do you expect everybody back except for Reggie Bush?

Yes. There will be a couple guys probably that we won't practice tomorrow or the next day. Obviously Reggie won't. We'll be mindful of where Mike McKenzie is and mindful of where Brian Young is. We'll find more about Charles' (Grant) triceps. He came out of the game and went back in in the second half. There will be a few of those injuries that we have to be smart about but, next week will be treated like the first week of the season in that we'll have a bonus day on Monday, our normal players day off and preparation will begin on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday again.

How many times will you practice this week?

We'll go tomorrow and Thursday.

What is Jonathan Goodwin's knee injury?

He has a subluxed kneecap. He's been battling a groin injury from another game. His kneecap wasn't dislocated but it kind of came off to the side and went back in. We're still looking at it on a week-by-week basis with him. We didn't practice him since he really wasn't going to be in a position to play this past weekend, but he feels better today. It's something that we tried to rest and kept him out of practice all last week.

When Randall Gay came out of the game was it just cramps or something more significant?

It was just cramps; he'll be alright. Charles (Grant) is the triceps. Gay went back in; he bruised his back on that play on the sideline and he was cramping, but he should be fine. (Jeremy) Shockey is getting healthier and felt better last week and certainly felt better after the game. He didn't play as many snaps, but he's getting close. I think this bye will come at a good time for a few of those guys. He being one of them and a few of these other players as well.

Was David Patten inactive due to his groin injury or was he the odd man out?

He's close to 100%. I don't want to say the odd man out, but Robert (Meachem) has done a pretty good job and we felt like if we were only go to go with four receivers, it was going to affect David. That being said, he's another player that we feel is going to benefit from this time off.

Looking at the first half of the season, would you say that Drew Brees and Jonathan Vilma would be the offensive and defensive team MVPs?

Those guys have played well but I think it's better to talk about that kind of stuff at the end of the year rather than in midstream. Hopefully we can get ourselves back in this thing and be more consistent. That's where we're at really.

Will you have to play better defense to be able to put a winning streak together?

It would be easy just to say that the defense has to play better but in some of those losses that we had in the first half of the season, I felt that they played real well and we came up short on offense. I mentioned the Washington game and even in the Denver game, down the stretch we came up with a turnover and had a chance to really put the game away. Collectively we have to play better as a team and I think we have to play better in the kicking game as well for us to put a string together. That being said, part of that is defense, but part of it is on us offensively being able to close some games out and help complement each other. One of the things that we have to do a good job with and it starts with me and our coaching staff is constantly looking at our gameplan as to how we're going to complement each other each week. I think that we have to be better as a team, rather than just in one area. That's important to emphasize.

Would having longer, more time-consuming drives on offense help out?

Any time you're possessing the ball, you're helping your defense because that's time that they're off the field and that's time that the opponent's offense is off the field, so I think that's accurate. Sometimes conditions with the way that the game is unfolding change that. The other day was a game where I thought both offenses had some success in the running game, but soon into that game you realized that 21 points wasn't going to be enough for either team in regards to the final score. The surface was such that we felt there was going to be an advantage in throwing the football. Nonetheless, we still managed to give Stecker and Deuce and Pierre some carries – enough carries to where we felt like we had better balance.

Did you ever re-think giving up the safety at the end of the game?

No, I like the decision. You have to go through it and think through it all. In my mind, it was all about managing time at that point. When we got the ball back with 1:09 left, you start right away at that chart that says you have to run a play and run the ball. Obviously, you're hoping to get a first down and be able to take a knee, but you're wanting to use the time in that four-minute offense and are not wanting to throw the football. On the first carry, Deuce had a pretty good five-yard gain and then I think it was two yards and then no gain. But the time that expired in those three runs with San Diego using their timeouts and then we were going to take the last down all the way to one second and use a timeout left us with 13. I was hoping we would be closer to five or six seconds where we could have really used a last play deal where we could have really finished the game. But then it becomes an issue of how you want to use your time. There are a lot of things that can happen bad when you're punting, especially with a new punter, be it a) a return or a blocked punt, and I felt comfortable with putting the ball in Drew's hands there to buy us a little time and take the safety and then really make it a one-play game in a kickoff situation. I thought our guys handled that pretty well. I thought they handled the logistics of that pretty well and really forced a last play because there was a second left on the clock.

Were you on the outside edge of the time range for using that strategy?

No. If we punt it, a decent punt puts them right at that spot where they were with more time on the clock. If you punt it out of bounds, which is a good thought and the clock stops, but again, punting it with distance out of bounds is a challenge and then there would be more time on the clock. For us, it was just about getting half of the time off the clock. How could we eliminate two plays in the game? And I think we were eliminate two plays with Drew.

So you weren't just trying to confuse British fans who didn't know what that was?

No. A lot of us were confused. Part of the decision was how we were going to take the safety – with the offense or the punt unit. I chose the offense because I was concerned that with the new punter that it wasn't something that we had worked on a lot of. Drew did a good job of taking five or six seconds off and then we were able to cover a kick and that was it.

Were there footing problems on Taylor Mehlhaff's missed extra point?

I don't know. With an extra point I don't think so, I think we just missed one. Obviously the footing would have made it hard to drive a long field goal and plant, but on an extra point, I didn't see it as being that much of an issue.

Commissioner Goodell mentioned the possibility of putting a team in London. It doesn't sound like you would want to coach that team, right?

Like I said, the people were great over there. But before we put a team over there, we just have to figure out how to fly a team over there in the right way.

What time did you leave London yesterday?

We got out of there mid-morning and then took a charter from Gatwick to New Orleans. Like I said, there were a lot of things logistically that were different and weren't quite up to snuff as to what you would expect.


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