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Saints Training Camp Update - Day 15

This will be the only practice of the day since Coach Payton has canceled this afternoon's practice.

Must Reads

Fox 40's offensive notes form the morning practice.

Fox 40's defensive notes from the morning practice.

New Orleans Saints official website report from the morning practice.

Times-Pic's notes from the morning practice.

Larry Holder's notes from his blog.

Here is the transcript of Coach Payton's press conference today, per the New Orleans Saints official website.

Opening Statement: The afternoon practice today is cancelled. We’ll go two tomorrow. We livened it up a little bit this morning and got some full contact work, which was good. Andy Alleman has a hip contusion; he didn’t go and I think he should be ready tomorrow. Adrian Arrington is still working with the turf toe – it’s pretty serious. Bobby McCray should be ready tomorrow – he didn’t practice. Jeremy Shockey – the same way, did not practice. Brian Young – the same. We signed long snapper Ryan Senser who we had at the beginning of camp and James Reed was placed on reserve/injured with the Achilles injury he had yesterday. Our numbers are still at 80.

Q: Is Adrian Arrington still at camp?

A: Yes. He was in the training room because of the nature of his injury. It’s pretty significant; it’s going to be a little bit here for him. It will be at least a week. We’ll see where we’re at then.

Q: What exactly is Arrington’s injury?

A: It’s a grade two turf toe, which is the ligament below the big toe. He hurt in the game the other night and he’ll have to rehab that.

Q: Terrance Copper had his leg wrapped in practice. Is he alright?

A: He’s fine.

Q: Did Reed tear his Achilles?

A: He tore his Achilles yesterday.

Q: There was a lot of emphasis on the run today in practice. Is that more for the defense?

A: It was for the offense as well. We went in with the idea that we’d back off this afternoon and we wanted to have a physical practice in the running game. You get accustomed to this “full-go up” and then when you go live, it changes things. I wanted to see the backs finish and people on the back end with their run fits, and I think we got good work. Guys stayed healthy and played hard on both sides.

Q: How has Jason David looked? Has he improved since last year?

A: He’s doing well. I think so.

Q: Will there be meetings this afternoon or are the players completely off?

A: There will be a normal meeting schedule this afternoon and evening; that’s the same. They’re just going to be off their feet and we’ll have two practices tomorrow.

Q: Do you think you need to be better in short yardage than you were last year?

A: Our short yardage numbers last year were pretty good. There were goal line situations that concerned me a little bit more that come to mind. One was against Philadelphia at the end of the season where we got stopped on three plays, and it’s definitely an emphasis. It’s hard in training camp to get all the work, but the preseason games give you an opportunity to see where you’re at. But both goal line and short yardage need to be areas that we operate efficiently in; especially the goal line. If you look at last year’s numbers, that’s an area that I think we can do better in – our goal line running game.

Q: In short yardage defense, how much of it depends on the defensive tackles getting push at the point of attack?

A: It’s a push both ways. You’re pushing offensively and defensively you’re having to fit your gap and get penetration. Part of it is the scheme you choose to do with your running game, but part of it is that 1-2 and being physical. It was good to get some of that today. Some of it came up in the script where it just happened to be third-and-one as we moved the ball. Again, getting off the field on third-and-one defensively is critical and being able to convert those downs offensively as well. Knowing that there is a good chance that you’re going to run the football and the defenses know that and still being able to get the yard-and-a-half that you need is important.

Q: Did we see Thursday night just how valuable Mark Campbell can be?

A: He’s coming off of a year without playing, so I was encouraged in that first preseason game to see him make some tough catches, take some hits and get up. I thought he did pretty well for the first preseason game. He’s done a good job.

Q: Was that your high school coach out there today?

A: No, he was here this week and left yesterday. Bill Mallory – who used to be the head coach at Indiana University came in yesterday and will be here for a few days. I think that’s who you saw out there today. Bill’s son is with us as the assistant special teams coach, Mike Mallory. He knows a few of the guys on this staff and he’s come to visit with us, which has been good.

Q: Who has been consistently getting good performance reviews in the offensive line/defensive line areas?

A: I thought Jonathan Goodwin had a good game the other night. Jon Stinchcomb has been solid. Those guys up front have been pretty solid. There are some things that we needed to clean up with the second group. Jammal Brown has had a good camp and he’s healthy. This time last year he had that injury and that kind of set him back a few weeks to the start of the season. He’s healthy now and he’s had his best offseason since we’ve been here and I think that’s carried over to how he’s playing. Defensively, we have some guys that are nicked up in Brian Young and Bobby McCray, but both ends – Will Smith and Charles Grant – are healthy. Sedrick Ellis is getting a lot of work and a lot of reps and Kendrick Clancy is doing a good job. He’s in there battling with Hollis Thomas and he’s been consistent. We have a lot of time still and a lot of practices left. We’ll have two tomorrow and then break camp and the focus then goes to Wednesday’s and Thursday’s practices with the Texans as we prepare to play them then on Saturday night.

Q: Do you see Carl Nicks as competing for a starting role?

A: He has a chance to compete. We wanted to get the 1s going and then at some point get Nicks some reps with that group because he also had to go to tackle in the later part of the game. In order to get him some work at guard, we did it a little earlier. He’s big and he’s done some good things. Mentally, there are some things that he has to work on. He had a (mental error) in the game the other night that Reggie Bush turned into a big run. As a rookie, there are some positives but there’s still a lot of work ahead of him to develop. He has size and he’s powerful.

Q: Who do you see as being the key figures in the punt and kick return game at this point?

A: There are three or four guys that we’re going to look at as punt returners: Reggie Bush, Lance Moore, Skyler Green, and then we’re going to look at Tracy Porter and Jason David. In the kick return game, you saw Pierre Thomas the other night with a big play, Aaron Stecker, Robert Meachem, Devery Henderson – all of those guys throughout this preseason are going to be called on to get work.

Q: Do you see Green and Moore competing for one spot?

A: I don’t know if it’s just those two competing for one spot. Certainly Skyler is competing for a roster spot and Lance is competing both at the receiver and the returner spot. There’s a lot of competition there and you have to take into account what these guys can do on special teams when it comes to your final 53.

Q: What would set one of the two kickers apart if they’re playing for one spot?

A: One thing about the kickers is that you can really chart every kick in practice and in scrimmages and then in the games and begin to get percentages to understand a) their accuracy when it comes to field goals and PATs, and then b) their kick hang-time and location when it comes to kickoffs. That’s unlike a lot of other positions, so there is a little bit more exactness to their performance and that’s a good thing. Over a period of time – and what’s important is time – through training camp and preseason week one, two and three, you begin to get an idea of who is batting at a higher percentage and that’s important when it comes to evaluating that position.

Q: So it’s a lot more intricate than just missed and made field goals?

A: It’s a confidence level as to what their efficiency is. When it comes to the preseason games, you don’t have the same percentages. Maybe Mehlhaff just had one kick the other night and that’s it. But every kick they kick out here in practice is charted, so I think they understand that not only is it charted but the snap-hold time is charted and you begin to know fairly soon as to who has been more consistent. That being said, I think both of them are in a strong battle. Both of them are competing and the good news is that they have three-and-a-half more weeks still with more games to play and more practices. It might be a little bit easier to evaluate that position than some others that might be a little bit more nebulous.

Q: How much patience do you have with that? It seems that Gramatica has been more consistent but does Mehlhaff being the rookie with potential carry extra weight in the decision?

A: I think it’s really important for us to play the best player. Martín has been consistent. When we brought him in last year, he came in in a tough situation and did a good job. For Taylor’s case, he has a challenge to beat out a player like that. He has to beat him out. I think both of those guys are doing a good job right now, so we’ll see.

Q: With Arrington’s injury keeping him out for a while, have you had enough of a chance to evaluate him at this point?

A: Even in the minicamps he had done a lot of things that had encouraged us and again early in this camp. He had a slight hamstring which kind of slowed him down some, but I like the prospect. He’s big and he’s smart and he knows what we’re doing. The key is just getting healthy and that’s tough.

Q: Can you discuss the contributions of Scott Fujita since you acquired him?

A: He is somebody both Gary (Gibbs) and I both had with the Cowboys and he was a free agent when we came here and we signed him. He’s played outside linebacker. He’s somebody that has really had to earn a lot. He was a walk on in college and a late draft pick in Kansas City. He’s been a guy that’s worked hard, detailed his assignments and he’s one of the veteran players on this team. Still, there are certain areas and specifics you’re looking for improvement on, but he does provide veteran leadership and is one of our core players.

Q: Can you discuss how he is so consistent?

A: He keeps himself in shape, he works hard in the offseason. He’s a good athlete who’s big and has range. There are things he’ll give you and things he’ll continue to work on and improve. He’s been a good acquisition for us.

Q: You hear a lot about Fujita, Jonathan Vilma and Mark Simoneua, what about Scott Shanle and his play?

A: He had a good game the other night and he’s playing well. He has good foot speed, he runs well, is athletic and gives you good nickel snaps. He’s had a good camp, he’s stayed healthy, so that’s been encouraging.

Q: Is the kicking competition close and would you consider keeping both on the roster?

A: I think you consider that. But until you get to those final cuts until you look at the comparison at that point you are comparing the second kicker to someone else who will get a certain number of snaps. Right now the competition’s close. That’s something that down the road will become one of the tough decisions we will have to make. Right now, it is a competition that is very close that you potentially weigh in. The challenge isn’t keeping two on the 53 (man roster). The challenging is keeping two active when you go from 53 to 46. That’s the trick, because now when you get to that 46, if you’re taking two kickers, which we’ve done before, now you’re taking one less tight end or one less cornerback. That’s the trick.

Q: Is it impossible to now stash guys on injured reserve due to rules changes?

A: You have your practice squad and you have your active roster. Your practice squad doesn’t secure a player. A player on the practice squad can be claimed by any team. The key is the player receiving enough reps and us receiving enough looks to make the proper evaluation. The thing that keeps you up at night right now is knowing you have some decisions to make and wanting to make the right one.

Q: Dallas gave the kicking job to a rookie last year and other teams like New England have done so in the past. As a head coach, knowing that you play only 16 games and the magnitude of each game, are you a little concerned about going with a rookie?

A: I’m not concerned with giving any job to a rookie if we’ve seen enough, like we did with Marques Colston. You can’t completely compare a receiver to a kicker, but we saw enough from Colston to feel like he was playing better than the starter playing ahead of him. It’s the moment of truth where you make the decision and you that what you have gotten is what you will receive during the season. At some point, and I’m not talking about Taylor (Mehlhaff), these kickers started somewhere. Somebody had to say that he’s going to kick for our team whether they were rookies or maybe they didn’t kick their first year. At some point, a coach said that one of these guys was going to be his kicker and then you go from there. We’re going to try to keep the one who’s most consistent and not factor in that one’s been a draft pick and one hasn’t. That’s been our approach. Those two guys both know that. The key for us is to make the right decision based on what we’ve seen.

Q: Don’t you leave yourself open to second guessing if you keep one and make the wrong decision?

A: Not just with kickers. We signed (Olindo) Mare last year and we had success the year before with (John) Carney and it didn’t work out. There’s reason to criticize and ask if we had done it over again would we have done the same thing? Probably not. You try to make the best decision based on your evaluation and what you think will help the team with these cuts coming.

Q: Do you think about that decision a lot?

A: Yes, everyday. I think about these decisions everyday. That decision is one of these decisions. I think about how the running back position will shape up. I think about how the corners will shape up and how it will sort out at tight end. Within each group, you begin to look at how you see this roster taking place without trying to pre-evaluate and really go by what you see. Fortunately we still have a long way to go here in the preseason. Hopefully the decisions will become clearer.

Q: What is the injury that has kept Jeremy Shockey off the field for much of camp?

A: It’s still his lower leg/ankle. It’s the injury he had in New York. He’s battling through it and just getting himself to where he feels 100 percent. Today we had contact, he’s part of the walk throughs. I think we’re getting to where we’ll have him full go. I don’t know that we’ll have him for the Houston game, but I think after that for those last two preseason games you see him with no limit at all. That’s kind of been the goal with him. He’s doing fine. He’s picking things up and he’s going to give us a boost when he gets in there.

Q: How did Usama Young grade out in the last game?

A: Pretty well.

Q: Is he getting a look because he’s an unknown commodity?

A: He played some nickel for us last year, so he’s in the mix there with those guys. He’s big, he’s physical and he’s in his second year now.

Q: Can you discuss the large number of snaps on defense and special teams he received?

A: He received a lot and when you take out (Mike) McKenzie and (Tracy) Porter out and all of a sudden you look at those numbers. (Jason) Craft received a lot of reps. Aaron Glenn received a lot of reps. There are players injured behind them, like at receiver. Terrance Copper was in the 30’s (reps). That’s a lot for a guy like him. With guys that are injured at some of these positions, it just forces you to play some players maybe more than you normally would.

Q: Is Mike McKenzie still progressing along the lines of where you want him to?

A: Yes, he was full go in the drills today. I don’t know if he made any tackles, but he was in the drills. He’s getting there.

Q: Is he fluid and are you satisfied with his progress?

A: Yes, he’s getting there. I don’t know if he’s 100 percent yet, but he’s getting there.