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Canal Street Chronicles: Fleur-di-Links 8.1.09

Here is this mornings dose of tweets, links, transcripts, audio and video. Check back later for today's training camp updates. Grab a snack because there is a lot here. Welcome to August.


saints83 About to pass out from 2 a days. Sorry for hitting the wrong button guys for requests to follow me, been a long day! Night

drewbrees The first real day of camp is in the books. Appreciate all the fans coming out to see us today. Keep coming. It makes for a fun atmosphere


New Orleans Saints defense shines again, wins first-day training camp battle - Times-Pic

New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams likes the work that goes with being a coordinator -Times -Pic

Saints maligned D sets feisty tone - New

"The attitude is right. We're out there really making an effort to strip the ball, we're running to the ball," Vilma said. "We feel like we can be a very good defense. We have the talent. We have a good defensive coordinator right now that's trying to build this."

-Jonathan Vilma

"It's just the first practice," Saints linebacker Scott Fujita began, "but I'm encouraged."

-Scott Fujita

Williams, defense garnering attention at Saints camp -

New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams says not to pencil in a starting lineup just yet - Times-Pic

Training Camp Day One Notes - New Orleans Saints official website

New Orleans Saints training camp news and notes - Times-Pic

Anthony Hargrove 'thankful and blessed' for opportunity with New Orleans Saints - Times-Pic

"Fourth? Fifth? I don't what chance this is for me," said the Saints' talented but troubled defensive end after the first day of training camp Friday. "I just know I have to make it work this time."

- Anthony Hargrove

"Football is the air I breathe," Hargrove said. "I love coming out here every day. I love the camaraderie, the guys, the fans that come out. I love this game so much. I'm just speechless. I'm just thankful and blessed for the opportunity (with the Saints). I've got to make it work."

- Anthony Hargrove

"That was one of my biggest problems, living in today's society and managing life outside of football," Hargrove said. "Those things started overwhelming me."

- Anthony Hargrove

"It was terrifying," Hargrove said. "All I know how to do is play football. So now I had to imagine life without football. A life without football for me is almost like dying."

- Anthony Hargrove, on being suspended

"He's had issues," Johnson said. "But the thing that impressed me about him when I talked to him was he told me how he was going to correct his life. This guy had a plan to get his life right and become a football player, and bless his heart, he has a passion for it."

- Bill Johnson

"He's got personal issues, but he's a great guy," Johnson said.

- Bill Johnson

"He is an UN-be-lievable athlete," defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said. "He's going to play, and he's going to make an impact."

- Gregg Williams

"I've just got to keep doing what I've been doing for the last 17 months, keep making good decisions, the right decisions, consistently," he said. "Everything is kind of falling into place. I'm here on a defense where there's a chance I might make the ballclub and add to this team's success. I'm part of a team that should be something special and with a coaching staff that allows me to be me."

- Anthony Hargrove

"It's kind of funny that I'm with the Saints," said Hargrove, flashing a warm smile. "There's this one scripture that says saints are sinners who fall down and get back up. For me to come here and become a Saint, after all of the sins I've done, it's like a fairy tale."

- Anthony Hargrove

New Orleans Saints' Charles Grant says he's ready to serve out suspension - Times-Pic

"I'm going to take mine (suspension) and get it over with," Grant said. "(Smith) probably feels the same way."

-Charles Grant

"I'm not aware of anything other than that they (Grant and Smith) are suspended for the first four games," Loomis said. "What I don't know is in terms of the two Williamses in Minnesota and their court case. I don't know if the result of that will have any effect on our guys or not. We're anticipating that they're going to be out for the first four games, and we've prepared for that event."

-Mickey Loomis

Unsigned rookie Malcolm Jenkins has plenty of support from New Orleans Saints teammates - Times-Pic

"We all know how this works," said Saints running back Reggie Bush, the team's top pick in 2006 who missed the first several days of training camp before his rookie season. "Everybody on the team understands this. We all know how it works. We've all been there. Nobody is mad or bitter that he's not here yet. He has to take care of business first, and this is a business."

-Reggie Bush

‘Training camp mentality’ - The Advocate

Different ‘D’? - The Advocate

Saints maligned defense sets feisty tone - Sun Herald

Kristian: STC day one / practice two - WWL

Interesting note: Several Saints players are sporting the "Mohawk" as the camp hair cut.

Actually, I think that was big last year too. Nothing new here.

New Orleans Saints fans come from near - and Kentucky - to watch first training camp practice - Times-Pic

Saints Fan Video July 31, 2009

Gregg Williams

From the New Orleans Saints official website

I didn't get a chance to talk with you during all spring long and I have lost my voice. I even wrote it on my practice schedule to protect my voice but I haven't done a very good job of that. My voice has to get in shape just like they have to get in shape because coaches usually use our voice more than our bodies.

What are your impressions of the talent you have on this defense?

"I think right now we're learning how to play good defense. I think these players are a lot better than all of you gave them credit for last year.

"I've been a lot of places where we've had the opportunity to develop young players too and people ask me what kind of players I like to coach, and I say I like to coach good players. They have done a good job here. There is a good culture here; there's a good nucleus of guys here. I'm still in the learning curve of learning about them. We had a really, really good offseason, but all that did was make us even. We've just gotten even as far as the language and the vocabulary to where we can start at ground zero from the start of training camp and be even with the rest of the teams in the league as far as the learning curve. I think our guys here really want to be good and their dedication in the offseason was the first time that I've been involved with a football team defensively that was 100% in the offseason. They didn't miss a day. There was a little bit about that they might get cut if they missed, but they cooperated and I'm very happy with what I've seen so far. We're still in the infancy stages of trying to figure out what we have. As you guys are going to ask a lot of questions about this training camp like who's starting, there are no starters. Sean (Payton) has made that evident, I've made that evident, now everybody is interviewing and everybody is looking for their positions. We're going to play a lot of different people; we're going to play a lot of packages of defense and the guys that play the most for us are going to be the guys that produce. In practice and in meetings, there's still a learning curve going on there."

What is the importance of having good feet as a cornerback?

"In this league, I think the best athletes right now are at the wide receiver position so the corner matchups are very critical and you have to have the ability to run if you're going to get out there on the Autobahn to play those guys. So they have to have great speed, they have to have great change of direction; we'd like for them to have good size because as you see with our receivers here and you have to be able to match up with tall, long, lengthy cornerbacks. I've had some really good corners that have not had much size but they've equalized the ballgame by turning those big receivers over; they cut their legs out from underneath them, they play very physical and they understand how to play safety help. Right now, we have to do a better job of playing the ball when it's in the air. Those are the things in the secondary that we have to do. And it's not just to say it's the secondary. If you guys want to put the blame on the secondary, it's not that. We have to do a better job of rushing, we have to do a better job of tackling, we have to do a better job of coaching, we have to do a better job all the way around to play better defense here and right now it's a good time to get started. I'm really looking forward to getting started with these guys."

Where are you in terms of finding potential replacements for the two defensive ends that are likely to be suspended?

"The big thing there is that we have 80 guys in camp and we have guys that are competing for spots. Those guys are competing for spots too and what we're going to end up doing is that when the final cuts are made, we're going to have enough defensive ends. You're going to see people all training camp long in practices and in games play more than one position. I'm one of those guys that like guys that are versatile players. Corners have to play safety, safeties have to play corner, linebackers have to play defensive end, defensive ends have to play linebacker - you'll see defensive tackles move out and defensive ends move inside. We're going to have enough guys to show up and play on opening day against the Lions; we're going to have enough guys."

You said earlier that you when you got here you liked what you saw in the guys. Did you come here thinking that maybe it was going to be more of a dire situation?

"I did my homework and I knew that Mickey (Loomis) and Sean (Payton) had done a great job of establishing a culture here and that locker room is really strong. It's a really good locker room. I get way to much credit for Xs and Os. I specialize in dealing with difficult people - so you guys and I ought to get along - and I specialize in dealing with changing culture. The culture has changed here and Sean has been brought up in a family of coaches that understands how important culture in the locker room is. This is a team game; an individual won't win a championship. We have to have a team that plays as a team, that likes playing with each other, so the culture is good. I just have to figure out and have a chance to see them compete under stress and understand what we have athletically. Those are the things that right now training camp is important for me for."

Were you happy with what you saw at first glance today?

"You guys haven't had a chance to see them as much as I have and we're going to practice that way all the time. I'm never going to be happy; never. There are a lot of plays that we have to improve on, but our effort, our intensity, our communication - those kinds of things are pretty good for day one."

What's the best way to describe how you have set the tone for that defense? It almost seems like they're trying to win at practice. Is that something you've instilled?

"Do you know why they keep score in a game? They want to know who won. We do want to know who won on every single play and we grade the practice on who won on every single play. When I walk up in the meeting tonight, there's going to be a grade sheet and these kids are just like you want to give them little stickers and little candy bars - they're going to get their candy bars tonight when they see that grade sheet from the practice. They won't talk about it with you guys, but it's important and it's amazing. This is not a real complicated game. Guys who play hard, guys who do what you ask them to do all the time are going to have a chance if they're smart and tough. So far, I've seen good toughness on day one and pretty good smarts all spring long. But yes, it's important for us who won every single play in practice."

Who won this morning's practice - defense or offense? Do you break it down that way?

"You're asking a defensive coach who won? An honest answer is that it's not even close who won either practice."

So Brees beat you again, huh?

"No. In fact, you saw who stayed after practice to do extra after practice. He's a joy to be around. Even on every single play, there's a won and lost after the play, you can watch him and he'll glance over at me. He'll glance and if they won the play, he just wants to get affirmation and say ‘I got you on that one.' There are a lot more where I'm glancing at him right now. He'll catch up. Usually defensively you're a little ahead of the offense on timing, but he's special. He's truly a special competitor."

You have head coaching experience, but what's a facet of being a defensive coordinator that you relish in the coordinator role?

"Being hands-on with the coaches and hands-on with the players. A lot of times as a head coach you're off doing all kinds of things and sometimes you don't spend enough time doing what you were pretty good at before you sat in that chair. I really, really like being with the players every single day and being with the coaching staff every single day. I'm not going to be a person that's going to back away from hands-on teaching every single day. That's what I love. I love the competition of practice, the hard work that you have to have during the week and I wouldn't trade those three hours on gameday for anything."

Could you talk about the competition at the cornerback position?

"It's good competition. We have eight guys that are competing and even the young guys - the corner position from an ability standpoint is very challenging. From a mental standpoint, it's cover that cat. How are you going to cover that cat? There are a few tricks that we try to teach them to help them do that, but we have good competition there and all those guys are going to get a chance to play. It'll be a healthy battle at every position - not just corner. There are going to be some shocks and surprises all training camp long. But the guys who play are going to be here every single day. You have to be accountable and you have to be available every day. If you want to be a professional athlete, you have to be accountable and available every day. If you're not practicing and you're not playing, it's hard to do that."

How hard is it to coach an effective secondary when it seems like the pass interference call is becoming more and more prevalent?

"What we try to do is defensively we try to stay one step ahead of the offenses. We have to adapt and we have to improvise. If you guys have followed my track record, I've done that everywhere I've gone. I don't pigeon-hole these guys into a system. We have a versatile enough package of things that we're going to do defensively that athletically we're going to decide who the best athletes here are and play the things that they're best at playing. With all that being said, there's going to be healthy competition at every single position - you're going to see that. You're going to see our linebackers be able to do some things that maybe they haven't had a chance to do before in the past because they're to be better rushers. We need for them to be better rushers. We're also going to try to find ways to get the fastest group of human beings on the field at one time. We have a lot of different packages and a lot of different ways to play the same old defense. We're just going to try to do it with different people and when the situation warrants that we can play with smaller and faster people, we will."

Can you talk about how we hear you yelling about loose balls even when it's an incomplete pass?

"We treat every single ball on the ground as a fumble. That has to be an instinctive reaction that we're looking to pick the ball up and scoop it and score. We don't want to be surprised in a ballgame when the ball gets popped out. What we do is that when the ball is on the ground, you're going to see us treat it as a fumble. The only time when we're hesitant when the ball is on the ground is when #9 (Drew Brees) fumbles a snap, I want them to stay away from #9's hands and feet. But poor old Mark (Brunell) and Joey (Harrington) might get the brunt of it."

What are your thoughts on how the spotlight has been shined on you since you were hired here?

"That's all you guys, that's not me at all. I've been trying to get an opportunity to coach with Joe Vitt for I don't know how many years. Our contracts haven't worked out to do that. He's been in this league longer than I have. And I've tried to hire Bill Johnson at two other staffs and we finally timed it up to where I could do that. I'm just a piece of the puzzle; I really am. I'll be a better coach when these guys play better. How we're going to get them to play better is to play hard. That's what we're promising; we're promising to play hard. I can't affect very much what mom and dad gave them in the gene pool; the coaches don't change that. Mom and dad need the blame more than blaming the coaches. But playing hard and hopefully trying to play smart, that's what we're trying to help them to do - to play a little bit smarter, play a little bit harder, and these guys have bought into that pretty good."

What was your opinion of Darren Sharper when you were evaluating him and then what have you seen so far?

"Darren has been a friend of mine, an acquaintance of mine in the league as he has as different times of the year flipped over into your job. He and I have stayed close after some of the interviews that I have done with him and he has always from afar liked what we've done defensively. We use our safeties and give them a chance to make plays. He's in the books at being able to make plays on the ball and that's why he's here - to help us make plays on the ball. I have to help keep him fresh, but the instincts and the ability to make plays on the ball - that's Darren Sharper, that's not us, that's not me."

You're talking about things you can't teach people. Does he still have something at age 33 now that other guys just don't have?

"Yes. I like those guys. Young guys drive me nuts. Once the season gets started, once we start with our 53-man roster, there are no longer old guys and there are no longer young guys, they're our guys. That's the ones we have to do it with. It doesn't matter how young you are - you're old enough to play in the National Football League. It doesn't mean that you're too old - you're young enough to play in the National Football League. You have to play - they're our guys."

Does he have the role of being the quarterback of the defense?

"He's one of the quarterbacks, yes. He's doing a good job so far."

When you were doing your homework on this job, how big a factor was being able to come to a team with the number-one rated offense?

"It was huge. I wanted to draft Drew Brees when I was the head coach of the Bills. One of the reasons I'm here is that we didn't draft Drew Brees with the Bills. I will say this - I have a pretty good background of speaking across the country and doing success seminars and interviews and all that kind of stuff, but in all the years that I've been at the Combine, of the about 2,000 men that I've interviewed, Drew Brees has to be in the top five. When I was the head coach of the Bills when he was coming out, I fell in love with him in the interview. Everyone was questioning his size, as if that matters, and his arm strength, as if that matters. We're looking for what is "it". I can't define "it" but he's got "it". You can't believe when you're around him how every single thing that he does is a competition - every single second of the day is a competition. In our conditioning test the other day, he had to win the last one of his group. It was important for him. Why? Because that's how he's made up. He understands how important it is to compete. In order to win in this league, once you get to the playoffs you have to have a field general that can navigate through some unbelievably stressful situations. He was a big part of me going ahead and making the final decision to come here, yes."

Do you look at a player that's holding out any differently as a coordinator than you would as a head coach?

"When I first started, you had two three-day minicamps so if a guy wasn't there, you really couldn't do a lot of installation back in the old days. Now, you have a lot of OTAs and (Malcolm Jenkins) was able to make a healthy number of the OTAs. He has a good, firm grasp of what we're doing. Obviously I want him here as soon as he can but that's just a part of this business. I really don't worry about that. I worry about the guys that are here getting coached. Once he gets here, he's going to have to compete and interview just like them and get ready to go. He's a good young man, though. He's real sharp. He has a good level head on his shoulders and now he just has to go through this process like all first-rounders do and once he gets here we'll indoctrinate him pretty quick. It'll be brutal at first when he first gets here, but that's just what the first-round choices go through."

Did Sean Payton call you every day during the interview process?

"Yes. He drove me nuts. He's ADD. He called a lot and texted a lot and what I was trying to do was to get all my family together and make some family decisions. One of the things it came down to also was that I have a beautiful daughter in college. She said, ‘Dad, do you expect me to visit you somewhere in the winter?' I said yes. She said then I had better not take the Green Bay job. I'm just kidding. She didn't want to go someplace where it was cold. Mike McCarthy and I go way back, we're real good friends and they have a real good young, team up there too, but this was the place that was the best fit for us to come."

It seems like most daughters would like to spend their spring break in New Orleans in their college years?

"She came down for a weekend. Fortunately it didn't fall during Mardi Gras, which was good."

It doesn't seem like you feel a lot of pressure?

"My playing days are over. I don't play. I look forward to looking at these guys. There's no more competition or pressure than I put on myself. I look forward to going out there with these guys and finding the final 53. That's the most important decision we can make as a coaching staff and Sean has done a great job of it. We're going to pick the right 53 out of the 80 that are here and out of the 80 that are on other teams too. There are some guys that might come in late off of other teams as well, because our pro personnel department does a great job of keeping track of those too. We have to get the right guys and they've done a good job. Gary Gibbs is a very good football coach. They've done a great job of building a foundation. There's a really solid foundation of defensive football here and they played a lot better than a few big plays here and there would warrant. These guys want to play good, they want to play better and hopefully we can help them a little bit."

Can you talk about Jason David?

"Jason David has had a very good spring, all of those guys have. Usama (Young) has moved to another position and he'll be able to play both positions, because he's had a corner background and is now a safety. All of those guys have had good springs and I know our scouts are saying some really good things about how they're moving around on the back end. We really have to keep our fingers crossed and I really believe this if you watch teams that make runs at the end of the year is health. We have to keep these guys healthy."

You say that everybody is in an interview process. What do you look for in that?

"Every single day, I'm looking at their intelligence. I'm looking at their toughness. I'm looking at their ability every single day. Every comment, there's no such thing as a stray comment. Where we've done a very good job is that I'm a pretty good communicator and we're trying to get everybody to communicate and do a good job of communicating on the field and I think you guys who covered the team in the past, you can see how loud they are and how much they talk. When they keep secrets, bad things happen. I want to make sure that they're communicating through verbal, non-verbal - you see all the hand signals out there. You also see, which a great competition now is, you'll see Drew Brees listening to what we're saying because he wants to get an edge. Now we're giving him dummy calls. All that right now is kind of a fun chess match. They are interviewed on their toughness and intelligence every single day."

Drew Brees Q&A

From the New Orleans Saints official website

Is this more of a conservative, football haircut for you?

"I had to cut it. It was getting pretty long and the wife recommended that I trim it so I went ahead and trimmed it."

What was your first take on this first practice?

"It's an exciting time. Being in our home facility and being able to make it easy on our fans - we had a great turnout today - plus we have a great facility. We have two great grass fields that we'll be able to utilize plus all of the technology that we have centered here and having our own weight room and not having to move anything. The hotel is fine and the meeting rooms are great, the food is great; this is where we want to be right now."

Can being at home really simulate training camp?

"That's the only thing about being at the home facility, but it's not like you're going home at night. We're staying at the hotel, we get up early and we're not done with meetings until past 10:00, so it's very much a camp mentality. Your days are full and it's all about football and how we can get ourselves to a championship level."

As a quarterback, how excited are you to have all of your offensive weapons healthy at the same time?

"Definitely. Even now, Lance isn't quite cleared but he looks great. With all of them together, I feel like we have so many weapons and so many threats for a defense to have to be concerned with going into a game. If we can keep all these guys healthy, along with Devery (Henderson) and (Robert) Meachem, we have a pretty formidable group of skill players."

How does it help the offense knowing you have a group on the defensive side that is eager to impress the new coordinator in this new system?

"They're doing some good things and they're mixing it up quite a bit. They're bringing a lot of pressure and playing with a very aggressive mentality. That's definitely making us better as an offense. We feel like we're going to be able to throw enough at them that hopefully it will make them better as well. This is going to be a competitive camp, I can tell you that right now."

Who had the edge in that first practice - offense or defense?

"Whenever you throw the pads on for the first time - you can do as much running and conditioning as you want during the month of July - but until you actually get the pads on and start this type of work, it's always kind of a shock to the body, just getting used to carrying the pads and obviously the heat and everything else. There were periods where I felt like we had the upper hand and then there were periods where I felt like they definitely had the upper hand. I think the competitiveness and the jawing back and forth is healthy for us right now."

It seems like the defense is really going after any loose ball. What are your thoughts on that?

"That's just forming good habits. Even if it's just an incompletion, any ball that's on the ground, they're picking it up and running with it just to get used to that mentality. In a game, you see a ball on the ground and you snatch it up and run with it. I think that's a very opportunistic type of mentality."

You would welcome a few more short fields to work with, wouldn't you?

"Absolutely. Turnovers create so much momentum for us as an offense and also for the team. You get that short field and you just know you're going to score. That momentum swing is huge throughout the course of a game, especially when you feel like you're very evenly matched with a team. That is a stat that typically makes the difference, the turnover ratio. As an offense, the better we can take care of the ball and the more the defense can present us with those opportunities, the better off we're going to be."

Is being back in pads something that will take a few days to be adjusted to?

"There's that initial soreness that sets in and then you kind of hit those dog days which will be sometime early next week when there's no light at the end of the tunnel, as Coach Payton likes to say. He said to not even look for it, there's no light at the end of the tunnel right now. It's just one day at a time and to just think about the next play, doing your responsibility. Don't worry about how many plays we're running today; just worry about the next play and trying to get better each time."

As a veteran of many NFL camps, do you still look forward to these things?

"Absolutely. This is when you are really starting to prepare for the season. This is when you're putting one foot in front of the other and stacking the blocks and building something. This is exciting. For anyone who loves to compete, that's what we're doing right now. We're game-planning for our defense and they're game-planning for us and every time we get out here we're trying to beat each other. Six weeks from now, we're going to be trying to beat up on somebody else and we're going to be a team and we're going to be rooting for them and they're going to be rooting for us, but for right now we're fighting each other because in the end, we know it's going to make us both better."

Gregg Williams said that he gets excited going up against you every day in practice. Do you feel the same thing because of his defensive reputation?

"100%. In my mind, I know that he is one of the best and if I feel like I can handle what he's throwing at me, then I can handle what anybody will throw at me throughout the league. That gives me a great sense of a challenge each and every day. It's a challenge going up against him and obviously the guys that we have on the defensive side."

Have you seen anything exotic or different from his defense so far?

"He threw all kinds of different things at us in the OTAs. Granted, that was just a lot of what's in the package and trying to find out what we're good at and what we like. I'm sure in camp we're going to get the same install and gradually they'll fine-tune it, just like offensively we're going to throw a lot of stuff in there that might end up sticking and might not. Right now it's a little bit experimental. You're teaching the base, core things and you're also trying out some new things and seeing what they look like with pads on, and then after that you just fine-tune and narrow down what you're good at."

Aside from all the swarming in practice, are you seeing a better defense in general?

"That's hard to say because it's still so early, but I can definitely tell you that the mentality and the work ethic and their ability to pick up what's being thrown at them, I've been impressed with that."

What do you expect from Robert Meachem this year?

"(I expect) big things from "Meach". Going into his third season, he's one of just a few guys that I can literally say that every day he gets better. It's a tribute to him and his commitment to really trying to find a place in this offense and find a key role where he's contributing a lot. When you have some of the guys that we have like Marques and Lance and Shockey and Reggie, you're just kind of trying to find your role and your contribution to the offense. I feel like he can do some very big things. We formation people to death. In other words, we throw a lot of formations at a lot of different personnel groups and Meachem is involved in a lot of those things. He's somewhat of our big play guy, but then again, I feel that he's starting to move towards more of an every-down guy. He can do whatever we ask him to do, whether it be blocking in the run game or running the intermediate routes, the short routes and the deep routes. He's getting to the point where he's a complete receiver."

How will getting more balance in the offensive attack be accomplished this year?

"It's finding runs that you're good at - that's the first thing. Then it's making sure that everyone understands that no matter what defensive look that they give us, we should be able to get four or five yards with this run play. That's a confidence level with the offensive line, with the fullback, with the running back and obviously with the receivers understanding who they're blocking down the field. And then it's just a mentality. We're going to get in those situations in a game just like we did last year where it's third-and-one and we have to get the first down to keep it moving or to run out the clock and win the game or third-and-one on the goal line where we have to score to take the lead, that becomes just a will to get in the end zone or to get that first down and that's all that is."

Is there a part of you that feels like you throwing for 5,000 yards was because the team was in an unfavorable position too often?

"There were a few occasions where we were throwing a lot at the end of a game - at Atlanta and then Carolina at our place - but other than that, we just threw the ball when necessary. There were a few games where we didn't throw a pass in the fourth quarter. In the end, we're going to do what works. We want to be balanced, we want to be able to run the ball effectively, we want to have those core group of runs that we can really lean on. I'd love to come out of games where we rush for 200 yards and threw for a buck-eighty and are walking away with a big victory. But in the end, we're going to do what works. There are a lot of things that we can do in the passing game that help set up the run as well."

How crucial is this year for you and this team?

"It's very crucial. To have a big year in '06 where we went to the NFC Championship and really made a run at it, to two disappointing seasons where we missed the playoffs that were obviously not where our expectation level was at. We want to be one of those teams that is one of those perennial playoff teams that every year, we're looked at as a contender as opposed to an inconsistent team that can be really, really good one week and then play poorly the next week and you never know what Saints team you're going to get. That's not who we want to be."

Do you think you're looked at as a contender this year?

"I think we are, but if you look at the past two years, what we are right now is a team that made a push and now we're not there yet. We're fighting to get there; we're striving to get there. There are very few teams that can call themselves contenders every year; very few. But we want to be one of those teams and that's what we're fighting for."

Reggie Bush

From the New Orleans Saints official website

Q: How does your knee feel after the first day of practice?

A: I wouldn't say I'm 100 percent. I would say strength wise 100 percent, health wise at about 99.5 percent, which is expected on the first real day back. I'm still staying on top of it like it was the first day being injured.

Q: If you play a complete year like the first several games of last year, would you be happy with that?

A: I guess so. I would kind of have to see at the end of the season where it's at and where I'm at, but I felt like the first eight games I played last year were pretty solid and I felt like I was pretty productive. I guess yes in a sense, but you never know. It really depends on how the season pans out. The most important part is to try to win a championship and at least get to the playoffs.

Q: Was last year the most comfortable you had felt when healthy?

A: Yes, I would say so. I was pretty comfortable and confident the first eight games of last year.

Q: Does it feel like training camp is here already?

A: Not really, because the last three years we've been in Jackson, Mississippi and I felt like here we have a little bit more luxuries than we had in Jackson. It is better for us. People are happy it's here. I'm happy it's here. I do like the fact that we have more luxuries here. We just feel more comfortable.

Q: Do you have a certain number of touches a game you think you need to be at your peak effectiveness?

A: No, I don't really have a number in my mind. I just like to have my hands on the ball. Whenever that comes...The first five touches can be passes. I just like to get the ball in my hands and get into the flow of the game, just being in there. The game's going to me naturally. I'm just going to take it and use it.

Q: What is your attitude after having missed some time the last couple years?

A: You can't take every snap for granted because you could be injured at any point and you just really have to go all out and give 110 percent every time you step on the field. It's a physical game and that's the way it's played, but at the same time you have to enjoy it, have fun and take it for what it's worth.

Q: What are your early impressions of the defense?

A: I love it that Gregg's (Williams) here and I'm optimistic about what the defense is going to do this year. They're going to be great. They're very physical in nature right now the way they're playing. I'm excited he's one our team.

Q: It seems like there is an emphasis defensively on stripping the ball. Is that going to keep the offense on its toes in terms of ball security?

A: That's only going to help us in being aware of holding onto the ball tighter and knowing that fumbles are going to cost us games, turnovers are going to cost us games and you can never benefit from turnovers. That's only going to help us. I love what Gregg Williams is doing right now with our defense. That's probably the thing I'm looking forward to the most, watching our defense play.

Q: In your first year in Jackson it was considered a very tough camp. Do you consider this easier?

A: No. Training camp is tough regardless wherever you have it. I think the conditions are more comfortable from the beds we're sleeping in to the phones, so I think this can only help us being here. It's not easier on the field. We're still working hard in the heat. We're not really dodging too much other than the fact that we're here at home.

Q: Did you feel you missed a lot on and off the field during your holdout as a rookie?

A: I didn't really think I missed that much, just because once I got here, they threw me right in here. I had a playbook to keep on top of things. There were other things they brought me up to speed on, so everybody on the team understands it. We know how it works. We've all been there. Nobody is mad or kind of bitter about the fact that he's not here yet. He has to take care of his business first and that's kind of the part of this league that is a business. I think that's something that gets lost with the football fans. I don't think they understand is much as you guys do and we do. When he gets here he'll be here. They'll throw him right into the fire and he'll be fine. We have a good group of veterans.

Q: Can you talk about your summer trip to Africa?

A: It was a great experience. To be able to go to Africa, it was exciting to be able to take my mom there, because she's always dreamed of going there. It was a great experience. It was really humbling and to see...We went to a Feed the Children type center and to see kids who were happy to see two slices of bread and a glass of milk for lunch, it really gives you perspective of what live really means and to be grateful for what you have. It was tough seeing those types of things, but I'm glad I had the chance to go over there and see a different part of the world. It really made me appreciate where I come from and what I have.


Below are some clips from WWL's Sports Talk, live from training camp.