Make the jump for the transcript from Brees' (Updated: 10:00 pm EST with Vilma's portion, too. FINAL UPDATE: 11:30 pm EST with Payton's transcript) (as well as brief videos of Brees, Payton, and Vilma) of the mega-spectacular event you wish you'd be able to tell your children you were a part of...
Can you comment on the whole Reggie Bush situation?
"Obviously we had five great years here with Reggie. I think this whole offseason that this has been a big topic and I think in the end, obviously Reggie felt like maybe that the opportunity for him was elsewhere. Obviously this is an interesting time period here during this very quick free agency work where decisions had to be made very quickly on both sides. Obviously, this is something we all knew was coming, or there was a possibility of this coming, and obviously he is on his way elsewhere and we wish him the best and this doesn't change our relationship at all."
Can you talk about what he (Reggie) went through being in the league coming out being so hounded with the whole Heisman Trophy deal, how he handled it and what you saw from him?
"Still to this day I'm not sure if there is any other guy that has come into the league with more hype and expectation than Reggie Bush. That's been a lot of pressure on a young kid who came in at twenty years old. Obviously, extremely athletic, but there's a huge adjustment coming from college to this level, and I look at one of his best years as a professional back in '06 when he first came in and he had a mentor, Deuce McAllister, a veteran guy who he looked up to and learned from. They were a 1-2 punch back then. With all the controversy with all the USC stuff, I don't know if there is a guy who has been more under the microscope than Reggie. For a lot of reasons over the past five years, I think at times he handled it very well, and I think at other times it was very overwhelming. I know, we as his teammates, try to be supportive as possible. When I look at the five years with him, man, we had some great times. We had some great games, moments, and he will always be a part of what we accomplished here in his first five years, that Super Bowl victory a year ago. Maybe, I think, the expectations for a player like him, for him and the NFL and New Orleans was how you draft a guy second in the draft, he's going to be here forever, but unfortunately in this league there is a lot of turnover and for whatever reason guys see opportunities elsewhere or their contract isn't quite what you hoped for or expected and guys move on. That is just what you have to deal with at times."
Are you excited to have Lance Moore back for the next five years?
"Very excited about getting Lance. For me, I am very tight with our receiving corps, but especially Lance. When I first got here in '06, Lance was on the practice squad. I have watched this guy grow and develop and become one of the better receivers in the league. And certainly the contributions he has made to our team here over the last few years, especially, have been remarkable. So I know what a big part of this offense he is and really just what a highly respected guy he is in the locker room. The road that he has traveled to get to where he is at, guys like that deserve the best, they deserve to get compensated, and they deserve good things to happen to them. I am glad to see that happen to him."
Things are still up in the air as far as rosters, how is that going to affect tomorrow in practice?
"It doesn't change my approach other than you might have some young guys in positions that they might not have ever been there before getting significant reps. Maybe you are missing a guy or two on the offensive line. I know we are going to be missing some guys in the secondary so as you look at it you have to understand that you don't have all the pieces to the puzzle there yet, but this is...we are on the fast track to fifteen days out before our first preseason game. Obviously we understand that the main objective is to be ready to play our best football come September 8th when we have to travel to Green Bay. But between now and then I think it is a process of every day getting through all the install, getting the young guys reps that need them, that are eventually going to play significant roles on this team. Next week, once we get all the free agents in and everything else in, I think the competition really begins for a lot of guys at their position, but for now I think it's about getting a lot of young guys up to speed and being able to get out there, work through the kinks but look sharp."
Are you excited to see Jermon Bushrod back as your left tackle?
"Obviously I love Bushrod, that entire offensive line. I think continuity is so important when you look at the offensive line as a unit. As I look around the league the offenses that are really at the top of the league are the ones that consistently, year and year out, they got that group up front that they stay together and take a lot of pride in what they do and Bushrod has been a big part of that here over the past few years. It's great to have him back and he is a guy too that was drafted mid-rounds, has had to work his way into that starting role and he has absolutely made the most of it and, really plays big for us in some big moments over the last two seasons."
You haven't had a chance to be on the field with Mark Ingram yet, but can you just talk about the running backs that will be lining up now that Reggie Bush is gone.
"Well, obviously, Pierre, another guy who has traveled the long road to get to where he is at, but got his deal done before the lockout. I'm very happy to see a guy like him get taken care of and come back and is obviously going to be a huge part of what we do. Chris Ivory was a big surprise for us last year, undrafted free agent out of Tiffin, who even knows where Tiffin is? This guy comes in carrying the ball like he's on a mission, running everybody over insight. I am excited about him and the physical nature that he brings to that position in the backfield. Mark, obviously haven't had that much time with him and certainly none with pads on yet. So we haven't had the chance to get him out there and get him acclimated to our team, our offense, the tempo to which we operate, but I'm excited to see what he can bring with all the tape I've seen. Now I'm excited to get him into camp with those other two. Lynell Hamilton, lets not forget him. He is a guy who has contributed for us in prior to getting hurt last year and missing the whole season, but I'm excited to see him coming back from the injury, some of these young guys as well."
How does Lynell look?
"He has looked good through this entire offseason, he was one of the guys that jumped out to me as we were doing our workouts in May and June, just a guy who was in there every day. He has been in this offense for a while now, so most of it is second nature to him now. I think the more reps he gets the more comfortable he gets in that role and the better player he is."
Reggie didn't really excel in his traditional role as a running back, but he made a lot of match up problems with his versatility, how does that change the equation for your offense?
"It doesn't stop anything that we do offensively but I can say that whenever Reggie was split out or motioning out of the backfield, I was always looking to see who was bumping out with him to cover him because obviously he did create a matchup problem with anyone that was covering him. That element was probably one of Reggie's biggest strengths, but like I said, it still doesn't stop our ability to be very diverse with our formations and our personnel groups. We are still going to operate the same way we operate."
Talk about being proactive with the workouts at Tulane, Vilma said that he thinks it will put you above other teams in the league. Do you agree?
"I'd like to think so. I feel like we executed our plan exactly the way we wanted to and really from day one we had a plan to be there four weeks in May, take a week off and then two more weeks in June. We had phases for how we were going to phase ourselves into 7-on-7s, and installing the offense and defense respectively, and then having some competitive periods while at the same time being very conscience of keeping guys safe and making sure we weren't putting guys in jeopardy in that regards. I think we got a lot of young guys ahead of the curve during that process so that walking into camp; it's not that big of a shock to them when they get the playbook and it's that thick and they haven't had a chance to really look at it. I give Vilma a lot of credit for the job he did with that defense. I feel like it was good work for a lot of our young guys offensively. I hope it pays off but the only way it pays off is if we come out here during training camp and put ourselves in that competitive situation again and really try to get better."
You talk about the ‘fast-track', do you come into work early and leave later?
"Yeah. I mean I do that anyway. It's not like I'm changing anything I do. We are all excited to be in camp. We are all excited to get that play book, to get into the meetings, to start talking football, to start studying again, and really get down to seeing who the contributors are to our offense and where everybody is going to fit in. Camp is still a process. Camp is still a grind, it's still one day at a time. You are just trying to get a little better each day. You obviously work out those kinks throughout the preseason. We open up Thursday night, the first game of the NFL season at Green Bay, Super Bowl Champs, that's the game we are focused on, the game that's on the horizon and we have to be playing our best for."
You were a part of the CBA talks, one of the Union Leaders, you took some backlash from some guys speaking out against you. Do you feel that now that the deal is done?
"I don't think you are referring to other players, I think you are referring maybe to false media reports. The fact is, that was a contentious time for everyone. All we wanted was a fair deal and to get back on the field. That process itself, of four, five, six months of pretty intense negotiations. Obviously, both sides just trying to get something done that would enable us to put a deal in place that was fair to everybody and give us peace for a long time. So here we are, having agreed to a ten-year deal. I feel like there are great things for both sides and we are happy to get back on the field. We know the fans are excited about seeing their teams back in camp and knowing the season is uninterrupted and everything is going to go on as scheduled and teams are going to put their best players on the field and it's going to be back to good old American football.
Saints' Defensive Captain talks about the offseason, training camp
Jonathan, you tweeted earlier today when the Reggie Bush situation happened. Can you talk about the business side of this game, and how sometimes it can maybe be disappointing?
"Yeah, I mean this is the time where everyone is happy. We are excited to be playing football again. At the same time, it's tough because we know that the front office has to make tough decisions. Losing Reggie is hard. I've been with him for three years and have seen the things he's capable of and the ability that he possesses. It's tough to lose one of your guys who was not only a teammate, but also a friend off the field. Things like that, unfortunately, you just have to suck it up and understand that it's part of the business, and move forward with who we have."
Can you imagine what it was like- what you saw him go through with the Heisman Trophy, coming into the league so heralded, the ups and the downs, from your perspective?
"I think it took a man's man to be able to handle all the things that he had to handle: the injuries that he had to battle through, the scrutiny he was under, as you said a Heisman Trophy winner, the things that went on with USC, and still having to come out and perform. I think that he handled it admirably. I think that he did a great job; when it was his time, he made the most of it. You never saw an outburst; you never saw him fire back at the media or anything like that. He handled it all in stride and I think he did a great job."
"Yeah, you know, same situation. I just found out that Usama went to Cleveland and that Remi went to Minnesota. Honestly, I'm happy for them; I know they got paid well to go there and that they are going to do a great job. They did a great job for us the past three years since I've been here; I won a Super Bowl with them. So these are guys that I'm especially close to; we have been through the good times and the bad times. I'm sad to see them go, but I'm happy for them in their careers."
The Saints had a pretty heavy draft, defensively, this year. Can you talk a little bit about what you did with the rookies prior to camp opening and how difficult it's going to be for them to find their way since camp is starting so suddenly?
"Well the guys that got drafted, I was fortunate enough in that brief window to get their numbers from coach. I was able to give them a call, get them out to Tulane with us, and I don't think they are going to miss a beat. I think that we had real good work; they were there as much as they could be. I would say that we had 80% attendance from the rookies. They're really into it, excited and ready to go. The biggest thing and probably the most productive thing were the mental reps that they were getting, not only in the film room but on the field. I was available 24/7; they called me and asked me questions and I tried to quiz them every now and then. The drafted guys, although they can't come in until next week, I think they had a good base in the offseason for what we're about to do."
Being the leader of the defense, do you feel Shaun Rogers ready to roll? Is he in shape, because I know that's a big part of preparation?
"He sure looked it. We just finished our conditioning test and he was able to run the test very well. He's doing well for coming off surgery, I don't know if you guys knew that, and he looks the part. I'm telling you, he looks really good."
How is the physical aspect of this camp going to be with less padded practices? As a guy who likes contact, is that going to be a little different?
"I don't know. I think that what we have done a great job of over the years is being able to regulate what the situation calls for. If we're in pads and it's time to hit and get after it, then we will do that. If we're not in pads, we take a step back and we focus more on the mental reps. I think that it won't be much different. If coach puts us in full pads, half pads, whatever it is we are going to go until he backs us down or slows us down. Obviously, when we're not in pads, we're not going to do anything crazy. We never want to get one of our own players hurt, but at the end of the day we're going to get our work in."
This time last year, you guys were coming back from a Super Bowl and trying to defend it. Now you're in a different situation. Can you try to compare and contrast where you guys were and where you are now?
"It's kind of hard to compare and contrast because we've never been in this particular situation as far as the lockout. We get back and see about 20 or 30 new faces that I haven't seen before; I never got to see them in OTAs or mini-camp so I really don't know anything about them. So this situation is about getting acclimated to the new guys, the rookies are coming in trying to make a mark. At the same time, we are not the defending champions; we're just like 30 other teams right now. We want to take a look back to when we were on that run to the championship and really take that mentality coming in. "
What is the next step in year three of Gregg Williams and his defense?
"I think the past two years we have seen great progression as far as the rankings, if you're looking at stats from twenty-something to fourth. We have improved in pretty much every category statistically last year, so this year it's really about building a brand. You think of McDonald's, you think of Burger King, you know what you're going to get across the world. So we want people to think of Saints defense, you know what you're going to get: you're going to get takeaways, hitting, relentlessness, running to the ball. I think we're starting to build that brand, we are still working towards it, and one thing we won't do is take a step back."
Two years ago you had Scott Fujita and Scott Shanle next to you at the linebacker position, last year you had Shanle, this year you could potentially have neither. Is it weird, not knowing who is going to be playing alongside you with camp opening?
"I don't think it's too weird. The NFL is about turnover, so it's not for long in the NFL. What I am excited about is that I did get a chance to meet with pretty much all the linebackers in the off-season. I got a change to work with them when we were at Tulane. I pretty much know what to expect from a lot of the guys: Jonathan Casillas coming back from an injury, Jo-Lonn Dunbar signing back with us, Anthony Waters and Marvin Mitchell: I hope we can get those guys back. I got to work with Martez Wilson and Nate Bussey, so I feel like we're going to have a good group of guys. I'm pretty excited, I think we might get Shanle back, and if we do that will be a bonus for us.
Saints Coach discusses camp, free agency and Reggie Bush
Opening Statement: Let me start by trying to bring everyone up to speed with the transactions to date. The following players cannot be signed to their contracts until tomorrow at 5 P.M., but the following Saints' unrestricted free agents who have agreed to terms are: Lance Moore, Jermon Bushrod, Scott Shanle, Leigh Torrence, Chris Reis and Jo-Lonn Dunbar.
We traded Running back Reggie Bush to Miami for Safety Jonathon Amaya and then a swap of undisclosed draft picks. There are two players off of last year's team, they have not signed yet with their new teams, but have agreed to terms with new clubs: Usama Young and Remi Ayodele. Of the 2011 draft picks, the following players have agreed to deals and are present: Cornerback Johnny Patrick, Defensive End Greg Romeus, and Linebacker Nate Bussey. That leaves Cameron Jordan, Mark Ingram and Martez Wilson yet to be signed.
I don't think I need to go through the whole list, you have covered all of the undrafted rookie free agents. Obviously, it's been a busy week. A little bit unprecedented. Mickey (Loomis), Rick (Reiprish), Ryan (Pace), and Khai (Harley) really haven't gotten a lot of sleep. We have taken a pretty good workload and efficiently managing it as rapidly as we can. Today's schedule, as a reporting day, was a team meeting, which was an operational meeting, at 2 P.M. and then we had our conditioning test. Tonight, we will meet on football.
The players have gotten their physicals. They have kind of gone through and gotten their equipment and then tomorrow we will be in to a practice schedule. These first two days will be non-pads. A little bit about the challenge, it isn't until next week, and we don't know specifically which day, that the unrestricted free agents can join us on the practice field. We know that they can be involved in meetings once they sign tomorrow at 5 P.M. but they can't be on the practice field, for any reason, until next week when there is ratification. That may or may not be around 15 players. I don't know if that number is dead on.
The challenge that brings you a little bit of is, how do you practice? How do you begin practice? What we are trying to do, beginning tomorrow, is start with our install on Friday and Saturday. We get to Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and then depending on when the rest of the players join our team, go back and pick it up and start that part again. I heard Drew (Brees) briefly at the end, I think more importantly than ever, we need to do a great job managing our time and our snaps at practice.
We have to do a good job early on at managing potential injuries. I think it is imperative that we don't try to hurry to install everything we have offensively, defensively, or in the kicking game with the idea that we lose several talented players down the road that can't pick it up and then aren't able to make the team because they don't know what to do. I think the challenge for us as coaches in the short time frame is to slow down the pace a little bit. I thought they ran better than expected at the conditioning test.
And then try to get a feel for where we are at. To get a sense of which guys we need to bring up to speed on a conditioning standpoint. We've got a good chunk of time, and we just have to manage it, maybe a little bit differently than we have in years past. It's a unique year. I know this, it's good to have those guys back in the building. Its good have these guys back on the practice field. We are all, as coaches, as everyone in the organization is, excited that this has been resolved and excited to get back to football. I think I have covered as much as I can on the transactions, but if you have a question, feel free to ask. I will open it up to questions now.
Can unrestricted free agents lift weights at the facility?
No, the rule of thumb with those players is no physical activity. It would just be meetings. It wouldn't be anything that could possibly put them in jeopardy. Those guys are in good shape. We are going to have them beginning tomorrow. We are going to have them in the meetings. They can watch practice but they can't, by any means, get involved in any of the drills.
What went into the decision to trade Reggie Bush?
Number one, you start with the salary number. That was the obvious challenge. Really, he and I spent some time in the last week, where we had a gap where we could talk to players. The challenge is that we went a long period of time without being able to talk to our players. We spoke a lot yesterday. We had several conversations.
The first thing, can we begin the process to find a way to bring you back here? He and I probably talked three different times. I think there was a point where we felt, Mickey and I, that the likelihood of that possibly happening was slim. We began the direction of talking with Miami. Tony and I talked a handful of times. Jeff Ireland and Mickey spoke a handful of times. Then, we began putting together a plan.
We're excited that he got that opportunity. I know at some point, somebody is going to ask this question about him. He is a dynamic player. Hopefully when you select players, we do this all the time in the draft, you hope they can impact your offense, your defense or your kicking game. You hope that they can become difference makers and you hope that they can help lead you to a championship and he was able to do all of those things.
I think the challenge for him with his arrival in New Orleans, and I think a lot of you were here in 2006 when he was selected, it was going to be difficult for him ever to live up to some people's expectations. I do know this though, in the league and around the league, he is a player that is dangerous, feared, and respected. We spoke again last night, after we felt that this was the direction it was heading. We spent probably two hours on this with Miami.
To Mickey and Jeff's credit, to Reggie's credit, to Joel Segal, all of the above parties really spent a lot of time in making this happen and making this happen in a short period of time. The process might have started at three in the afternoon and then we talked again at five. This went on for about eight hours or so and then finally somewhere around midnight, we were able to reach a deal. That being said, we wish him well. He is someone that will walk forever with the 2009 team.
He is a Super Bowl winner here. His arrival here was uniquely different to any draft picks in any city. You guys that were here can remember it. We were looking for momentum pieces back in 2006. Whether it was the signing of Drew Brees, the signing of Scott Fujita, all of these were important steps. From a momentum standpoint, when we selected him, he was very important for this city. His efforts are very appreciated. Regardless of how things ended, I know he has a ton of respect for the people in this building. We have a great relationship. I know one of the things that were pulling at him last night was leaving the fans here and the unique opportunity that he got to share with the fans here. That was something that tugged at him, and we move on.
Are you looking to add a running back with Reggie's skill set such as Darren Sproles?
The skill set that Reggie had was certainly unique. Darren may have a comparable skill set. That would be a pretty good comparison. I don't know if that was something that we targeted initially. We have had a chance to speak to, in three days, more players than we ever have in short period of time on the phone. What's unique is that this is something that normally would take place in a month's time frame with dinners and visits. With the wives and tours.
Now, it's like a heated sales room in there, just talking to every one of these players. Mickey, Khai (Harley), and Ryan (Pace) going through the numbers, it was very unique to say the least. Darren is certainly a player that we evaluate just like all of these other free agents.
I don't necessarily think that we turned around and targeted a different player that would be like Reggie. I think we feel good about our depth at running back. We have plenty of them on the roster. We are always looking to find and sign players that we feel like fit the model of who we are. I think there is still work to be done. The challenge is, which is very different, it's an ongoing process as practice begins. Mickey periodically leaves a meeting, he will leave the practice field tomorrow, and he will be on the phone. There is a lot that has taken place. I think that will continue not just until Friday at five. I think there is a wave. You guys are used to the free agency period in the winter time and you know there has been a second wave.
They are all trying to gauge their interest and measure who truly is most interested. There are a handful of players that I am sure we are discussing and talking with their agents this minute. You always feel that when you are away from the phones that something may be happening and it's a little bit uneasy. I think he (Sproles) is an exceptional talent. He is very versatile and dynamic.
Did the Saints allow Reggie and Joel Segal to gauge interest in his services with other clubs?
Miami was a team that Joel and Reggie felt very comfortable with. I know Tony (Sparano) very well, having been with him in Dallas. He is a very close friend. Tony and I spoke and then Jeff Ireland and Mickey. Then we began looking at the logistics.
I can't speak for Miami. I think when they felt that they realized that Miami was a place where Reggie and Joel felt comfortable, this can allow them to deal specifically with the player. I can't tell you what time permission was given to Jeff to speak with Joel specifically. Obviously, this was a trade that couldn't happen if they couldn't agree to numbers. That had to take place. They had to feel like they were close enough and on the same page. This went on through the night. It went that way.
When did you speak with Reggie?
Just on the phone. With him, we could have talked in person but he was out west and I was in the office.
Would Reggie have been released if the trade hadn't occurred?
If he was not traded and did not want to re-negotiate his contract than it would have been hard for us to keep him on at that number.
Would Reggie have agreed to re-negotiate?
I don't want to speak for Reggie, but I think this was a decision not as much about money but about an opportunity for more involvement. This is a team, Miami, which is thin at that position. I am sure that he felt that there were a lot of players at that position here.
I think it was about becoming a player that could get more touches per game and I respect and understand that completely. We talked about it. We had real good discussions. I think it was more that than a half-million dollars here or there or where the club is. I bet he would say the same thing tomorrow, or whenever he addresses the media.
Have any players under contract been released?
We will probably have an announcement tomorrow, but nothing right now.
Can you talk about your pursuit of Will Herring?
I gave you the Saints unrestricted. I think tomorrow at 5, we can do that.
Did you have more off time in the offseason based on the work stoppage?
"Two more weeks. Here is what we did from a schedule standpoint. The concern when June began was that this (work stoppage) could potentially end in mid-July. I sent the coaches on vacation the early part of June with the good news/bad news deal. If no deal is reached, than I need to see you back a week before training camp but if a deal is reached than you need to be within range to get back here within a short notice.
I would say yes to some degree. We had a lot of time to work in the spring and in the early part of the summer on whether it was future opponents or research. In a situation like this, there are some aspects, from a coaching standpoint, that you really can't control. I am sure for all the other coaches, myself included, it felt like a longer period of time.
Do you think the player organized workouts at Tulane will be of benefit tomorrow?
There are a couple aspects of why we condition and practice in the offseason. Starting with conditioning, I thought they ran well today. I think that aspect is important. You get nervous when you are away from your team for such a long time. You get nervous for a handful of the players that may have to battle their weight. I also think there is a schematic advantage with veteran players that know what to do.
I've said this before, I can't envision this happening in 2006. With all the work that we needed to have done. Going to Millsaps and everything that we have done there. That would have been difficult to go through. Certainly, the practices at Millsaps would have been different. We have real good leadership in this locker room and it was a specific time for them to take on that role. It appears that it was well thought out, well organized. Lastly, I think there is an aspect of ownership that our team has with being together. Going through some tough work together is always beneficial for a locker room.
How did Shaun Rogers do on the conditioning test?
I thought he did well.
Can the drop-off in the team's productivity running the ball last season be attributed to injuries?
I think it would be easy for me to say that if we were healthy, we would have run the ball better. We try to be our own worst critics when we look at those cut-ups. We are going to have to deal with more injuries this year. That being said, I think there are a handful of things that we can improve on from a technique standpoint.
Not just within one position group. All of us, coaches included, are going to make a well thought out effort to improve those numbers. Having that time to study the cut-ups, you can make your notes and now we can begin to apply them as we install these plays. Aaron Kromer, who will install the run game beginning tonight, can point to specific things a year ago that we didn't do as well. That will go to the tight ends, the fullbacks, and the running backs. That consistency that you are alluding to from 2009 to 2010. Injuries certainly can impact that, but it would be too easy to say that was the only reason.
Can you discuss the health of the backfield heading into training camp?
We feel pretty good. We are monitoring Chris Ivory from the screw and the rehab he has gone through. He is doing well. He won't be ready to go tomorrow, but Id guessing if I tried to put a time frame on it. I think he's got at least a couple weeks here. He's getting better and his rehab has gone well. Pierre Thomas passed a physical and ran the test today. We just have to monitor his early snaps and take a look at him. Overall, I'm excited about the group.
Are you concerned with players returning from injuries that weren't able to work with club trainers this offseason?
I think that's a good question. Your concern is the weight and the health. There is a list, and you go through it with the trainers. I think we will know more tomorrow and the next day when we actually see them moving around. I thought they handled the running test well today.
That's an important part of getting them back in the building and being more hands on or at least knowing where they're at. It was more of an update and then trying to get them up to speed. I know this, I know when I sit down tomorrow after practice, I am going to be able to hit these injuries specifically in regards to who didn't practice and I think cover them pretty well. I think it will be a handful of players. I think there will be a few players that failed a physical and we feel like will get healthy here sooner than later.
How did Tracy Porter look in conditioning?
He ran separate. Chris Ivory ran separate. Those were a couple players that we wouldn't see tomorrow. His rehab is going well. It's on pace. He is kind of running full speed ahead right now but we will monitor where he is at.
Did every player report and were there any holdouts?
Everyone that was supposed to be here, that was signed and able to be here, was here. The drafted rookies that are unsigned and the UFA's were not.
What did you do with your time off?
Kind of the same as we always do. You spend more time with your family. I was back in the office a few times to catch up with Mickey. Staying on top of what this free agent list was going to look like whenever the process began that we were back in business.
There was some question as to who was going to be the group of free agents. There is a difference here with a few of these players. Really, just spending time with family and staying in touch with Mickey, pretty much like we always do.
Can you talk about excitement to see fans tomorrow?
Absolutely. It's been a while. I think the great news is that when you come off an off-season and there is so much written and talked for basically all the way up to the last few days, at least what was waiting was a ten year deal. That's pretty strong. That's a credit to the players and the league office. That is good news for everyone. All of us will be excited to be here and to see them.
Hopefully we can practice outside. It has rained, it seems, for the past five or six days. Our plans are to be outside in the mornings as we can. If something does happen, we will try to let the fans know that practice has been cancelled and we would have to go inside. We are looking forward to it.
Do you have some priorities in free agency?
Let's talk about the kicking game. The player that was involved in the trade we made last night, Jonathon Amaya, is a relatively unknown player to a lot of people if you weren't paying attention to Miami Dolphins football but he was a first year player last year, undrafted out of Nevada and a guy that excelled in the kicking game. Finding speed and finding guys that we think can impact us in the kicking game and really help us. Even in going through this process of free agents, how valuable they are in the kicking game, and the same with the rookie class.
We start by really paying attention to the personnel that we believe can help us in that aspect. We have to pay attention to the rule changes. I think kick coverage units will be a little bit different and the return units will with the ball going to the 35. We think we will see more touchbacks. So, then we pay more attention and more reps to certain aspects of the game. That being said, it's no different than the run game study that I talked about earlier. It's the notes, the coaching changes, the personnel changes, and the player changes. It's really about trying to look at it objectively, these are things that we need to do better.
Can you talk about Adrian Arrington?
There was a point last year where he really had an opportunity to go sign with another team and he stayed with us on the practice squad. We were able to get him up on the active roster. I would certainly say that if you asked him that question, he would say he is ready to step up and I think he is too.
That kind of depth and that competition is important. Today, in the conditioning run, all of the newly signed players wore jerseys because it's hard to get all of the names down. They did well, but in the receiver group, you are going to see some young free agents, as well, that can run. Adrian has certainly worked hard at his craft and is a very smart player. I've said that before. I'm anxious to see him and to see his progress.
What are the alternatives to not having as many two-a-days?
It's teaching time. You know that you are going to have the one padded practice and then the afternoon, whether its weight lifting, class room meeting, teaching walk-through, it just changes. You wrestle with how you want to use your allotted time.
There are some specifics between length of, an hour between, and those are those things that you try to map out and see if that passes the test. We have looked at it and tried to apply some of what we have done and yet we made some changes to the schedule.
Are all of the practices open as a result of the lockout?
Typically, it has been (that) outside (practice) is open and inside is closed. Obviously, not closed to the media. It is just logistically hard that if we go inside to try to bring certain fans there.
I think we figured that the morning was the time to get the practice in. We wrestled with the idea of having the meeting or whatever else we do in the A.M. but for a handful of reasons, we feel more comfortable practicing in the morning.
How would you describe the last couple days of free agency?
It's a first. The last few days would be similar, maybe, to the last few days for the national letter signing in college. A player can agree to a deal here and tomorrow at 5 P.M. sign with someone else. If you walk down the hallway, you would say that it reminds you of being in college, maybe the first day recruiting began and you're on the phone. The difference is that they weren't actually on their visits. It was done on the phone. Then you begin to utilize all of the resources that you have.
Who might know this player? How might we separate ourselves? Just like a recruiter would do. It may be a good comparison with the specific players that you target. What separates you from the rest or who is on the couch with his agent. The difference is that usually the contract does. How do you win the jump balls when it's even? It's how you separate yourself. Mickey (Loomis), Khai (Harley), and Ryan (Pace) have really gone into overdrive here. They have had some late nights. Those guys have been here for a long time now. The minute they arrive the in building, they are back on the phone with agents. Coaches are calling a player. You are trying to work the triangle of trying to secure a player or this player's commitment. That would be a good analogy. The national letter.
What is the difference in the feeling between this year and last?
I don't know. I think by the time we got to this point last year, we had turned the page. There were a few things. Certainly, the opening game. Here we are playing in that same type of game this season. I said this a year ago, there is a progression of turning the page. It's not just one afternoon or one week. It happens over a period of time. I think we handled that. We stumbled early and then we got on a run.
We just didn't play well enough in the end, in the post-season. Certainly, that leaves a taste in everyone's mouths. We hope that can build on. We certainly have an expectation level of wanting to win championships and recognizing the challenges that go into that. How do we get better? How do we run the ball better? How do we cover kicks better? Defend the deep pass better? Things that we can look at specifically and say, this is what caused us to not have the same success we had a year ago. You can look at some of them really came up with them against Seattle.
Is the defensive line a priority in free agency?
I think, for a lot of teams, it's one of the harder positions to find. Once a handful of these players sign, that's a position of need for a lot of people. Certainly we are paying attention to that. We feel really good about the group of players that we have.
Can you discuss what you think of the 90-man roster?
What is interesting is the dynamic of 90 with fewer snaps. In other words, the roster limit has expanded but the practices have changed some. I don't know if we will stay at 90 very long. We might be at 80 or 70 soon. We really have to pay attention to these early weeks and be ready to adjust. If the schedule changes, then we will announce it and all of a sudden we need to tinker with that. We just have to be flexible enough because this is uniquely different. It gives you a chance to evaluate, early on, ten more people.
It gives you a chance to get a fourth quarterback. At 80, do you want a backup kicker, a backup punter, a fourth quarterback or do we want to put those spots at the running positions like receiver or corner. Typically, there is always a hotspot position that gets hit with injuries and you have to bring guys in. I think 90 can help you in that regard. We have to make sure that we have something for the 90 to do.
Here's a short video of Vilma talking about post-lockout life...
Drew Brees on Reggie Bush...
...and Sean Payton on Reggie Bush