More Day Two Training Camp 2013 Links
New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan pleased with unit's progress | NOLA.com
Nakia Hogan - Ryan says defenders are grasping system quickly.
Saints DC Ryan confident in himself, team’s defensive moves | wwltv.com
Handwerger - One of the biggest questions facing the Saints this season is whether the defense can return to a form that is complementary of an offense that generally is atop the league in rankings.
Rabalais: Unconventional Rob Ryan seems like right fit | The Advocate
At the back end of the property in Metairie that is now the New Orleans Saints/Pelicans combined headquarters, they’re building the basketball team a new practice gym.
Saints Notes: Brees contract already left in dust while new Graham deal not close | sportsnola.com
Brian Allee-Walsh - To no one's surprise, it's been barely a year and already New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees has been passed by three quarterbacks in the Dollar Derby.
Video - New Orleans Saints Afternoon Wrap | neworleanssaints.com
Sean Kelley and John DeShazier wrap up day two of 2013 Saints Training Camp by focusing on the new defense under Rob Ryan and QB Drew Brees.
New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram says 'sky is the limit' for his third season | NOLA.com
Katherine Terrell - Entering his third season, Ingram said he doesn't try to live up to other's expectations.
New Orleans Saints Practice Video Highlights | neworleanssaints.com
Highlights from the second practice of 2013 New Orleans Saints Training Camp presented by Verizon on Friday, July 26, 2013.
Joe Morgan, Nick Toon return from very different setbacks | The Advocate
Jimmy Graham avoids talk of the big pay raise he’ll probably get | The Advocate
Sheldon Mickles - Even though he’s going into his contract year, New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham is only thinking about one thing: football.
...remember my question about the "no purse" rule earlier this week?
Are they enforcing that whole "no purse" edict already? And if so, does it count for man-purses (satchels, European shoulder bags, etc.), too?
For training camps, teams can choose to use new bag policy | ProFootballTalk
MF - Before making that trip to an NFL training camp this year, which may or may not include getting autographs, fans should do a little homework regarding whether any Indiana Jones satchels should be left at home.
Look! Drew Brees is ranked 9th best NFL asset by Bill Barnwell on Grantland.com - LINK
From 2009 to 2011, Drew Brees completed 69.9 percent of his passes. Those three individual seasons included both the first- and second-best completion percentages in league history (and the 19th, you slacker). That's otherworldly. Last year, Brees was down to 63.0 percent, which was his lowest rate in eight years. His yards per attempt fell from 8.3 to 7.7. He led the league in interceptions, although he also threw nearly 42 passes per game, so his interception rate wasn't all that bad. Brees's value is derived from throwing all those passes; with 690 attempts on the year, he threw nearly twice as many as the likes of Russell Wilson or Robert Griffin (each at 393). Brees never gets sacked and is rarely hit because of his quick release, so when he's completing 70 percent of his passes, he's just too consistent moving the ball to really stop. When he's back at 63 percent, Brees is still good, but he's far easier to control.
Where did the catches go? Mostly, his wideouts got way worse:
Player 2011 Catch % 2012 Catch % RB 79.7% 73.2% WR 70.3% 59.9% TE 65.1% 63.2%
There's no one wideout who it affected, either, which is odd. One of two things are about to happen, though: Either Sean Payton is going to come back and restore Drew Brees to that near-70 percent level,18 and the Saints are going to be a terror to stop in 2013, or Brees won't hit that level of accuracy again, and he'll struggle to offer a return on his record-breaking contract.
The Pop Warner Offense That Confounded Sean Payton, and What It Says About Offensive Innovation in the NFL | Grantland
Chris Brown - Much of the talk this offseason has been about stopping the read-option, but in Sean Payton's year away from the NFL, he had trouble with a much different offensive attack: the single wing.
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton and players Ben Grubbs, Luke McCown, Will Smith, Curtis Lofton, Mark Ingram, Jabari Greer, Jimmy Graham, and Kenyon Coleman met with the media Saturday following the team's second morning of practice of Training Camp 2013.
Courtesy neworleanssaints.com - LINK (includes video)
"Kenny Stills was a full go today. Kenyon Coleman was back off the flu; he practiced. Roman Harper practiced but he was limited. Jarred Fayson was out of practice. I think we'll have him back tomorrow. Marques Colston, Patrick Robinson and Victor Butler did not practice."
You'll have the pads on tomorrow. What can we expect to see?
"The first thing is when you have the pads we're able to get a little one-on-one offensive line, defensive line and pass protection drills, which is something you can't do without the pads. So that would be something that we haven't seen at all during the spring or up until now. I think the nine-on-seven run drill becomes a little bit different. It becomes a little bit more physical. Some of the other drills probably won't be noticeably as different but those will be two drills you'll notice the change in the tempo and one drill we can't do without the pads."
Coach when do you start game-planning for the Falcons?
"That's a ways away. I tell our guys there's no light at the end of the tunnel right now for training camp. That's down the road quite a while."
Is too much being made with the transition of guys like Will Smith and Junior Galette from defensive end to linebacker?
"I think those are good questions because when you change the style of defense there's a certain bit of evaluation we're doing with personnel. Do we have guys in positions they're comfortable with? So I don't think too much is being made of it. I think those are good questions. (Not) Until we get into pads and the preseason we'll be able to answer those. When guys are having to change from being down in in stance to being up, there's a transition."
Will Smith looks a little more svelte like yourself. He said that was your direction.
"To his credit he worked hard. Some players you're asking to put on weight, some you're asking to reduce weight. In his case we asked him to reduce weight. He's in good shape; It's good to see. Just by the nature of the job description of what he has to do, number one (is) rush the passer, so that doesn't change but also to do some things that he's not as familiar with. Even when it comes to rushing the passer, the weight he's at is good."
His pass coverage will mostly be running backs out of the backfield?
A lot of times it will be dropping into a zone or potentially (covering) a running back. More times than not it will be a flat, dropping into a zone."
People talk about this being a business but you and the club have shown a lot of loyalty to Will and he's shown a lot of loyalty to the club. Can you talk about that relationship?
"He's been a very consistent performer and he's been here the longest. The players understand that each year we're asking ourselves who can do it from the young players. We've got to see these young players and how they respond. And we've also got to see from the veteran players that they can still do it. That doesn't apply to just Will, that applies to a lot of guys that have been here. So there's always a lot of competition. People say that it's a young man's game but if a guy can still do the assignment and be productive (it works out), and in Will's case he's taken care of himself. He understands how challenging it is to play year in and year out, especially the position he's playing."
Coach, did Saalim Hakim walk off gingerly at the end?
"He was just getting tight. He didn't pull anything; he just was cramping and stopped wisely. He's fine."
What difference have you seen in Jimmy Graham?
"I think it's just the details and the specifics of the framework of what he's doing on each play. He's in good shape and running well. It's just details in his assignments (such as) securing the ball. We had a few more drops than we were use to a year ago, guys turning and leaving. Their heads were turning just a count before the ball actually touched their hands. It happened to him on one play out here today. He needs to secure the ball the right way."
Is it easy for him to put some pressure on himself being in the contract year?
"I don't think so. I think for him it's just playing like he's used to playing. He's had a lot more pressure in his life than a contract year. He'll get in a routine. He's in one now. We expect him to be extremely productive. It's just detailing the little things and the other things will get worked out. "
He said he never considered holding out. He wanted to be a part of you coming back and does that go back to the character background?
"I think all that stuff will get taken care of itself. A lot has been written because he's coming into this season (with his contract up after 2013), but we'll handle that."
In Mark Ingram's case, how big is year number three in this system? Do you feel that players usually grow in that third year in this system?
"I think that year three is important. I think that to his specific case he's healthier than he's been and his weight is down. We expect him to play well and have a good season. It varies. For Robert Meachem year three was a big turnaround year. Some guys it happens right away. The challenge at running back here is sometimes those snaps are being split and it's a little different from another position."
It seemed like Kenny Stills was involved in a lot of plays today. Was it the luck of the draw or is he starting to get more comfortable with the system?
"He made the play on the post route earlier in practice. I think he's really intelligent; he's smooth in his route running. I think the most important thing for younger players is to know what to do and he's picked things up well."
I think it was you that said that Mark Ingram is more versatile than he gets credit for, could you expand on that?
"I think he catches the ball well out of the backfield. I think he's someone that does a lot of things well. We're not just limited to a certain type of offense when he's in the game. Pierre brings a lot of that versatility to the game in a different way. (He has the) marks (of) someone who has some of that versatility in regards to not only being a runner but a receiver and most importantly a guy that can protect. We ask those guys to do a lot in protection."
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Ben, who handles all the checks? Does the center?
"Well, a lot of the responsibility lies on the center and the quarterback. However the more that I am getting comfortable in this system, the more I am able to communicate as well. If any of the O-linemen see something than we communicate it. The thing is, I always tell my guys is if you see something let me know."
With the possibility of having maybe a new or inexperienced left side of the line, how much is it important to make sure communication gets all the way down the line especially on that end.
"It's very important. If there is something that needs to be said on the right side and is said, then we need to relay that message to the left side. That goes the same if it is initiated on my side. Whether he is inexperienced or not communication holds value."
A minute ago, one of the players told me how the defense is coming in at all angles and is making it difficult for the offensive line with their checks. Can you talk about that?
"The defense is doing a good job. The more we practice the more we are able to get adjusted to it. Right now its bullets and they are flying everywhere. It's good to have that right now in practice, because when we get to the game its easy because we have been practicing."
Coaches can say improve the running game. Fans could say it would be nice to do it. How do you go about improving the running game especially at this time of year?
"It does not matter how many times we run the ball, (but) we need to be effective when we do it. By being effective it will take much pressure off the passing game and we will become more of a balanced offense. It starts right here, it started in OTA's (and) minicamp and this is just another step to becoming an effective running game offense."
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Is there a solidified depth chart of your position yet? Is it too early to tell? Where would you say things stand at this point?
"Well, that's not a question for me. It's always my understanding that when the roster is not set for the 53 then there is always competition and that's the only way you should look at it, because that takes you to another level when your mind is set, and your preparation, and how you approach each play on the field, and how you work out."
What is your level of comfort in this system?
"High, very high. I got a jump start on it last year when I spent some time in Atlanta. It is very familiar to me because this is the system that I grew up in. The bulk of my years and really my growth as a young quarterback took place in Tampa in the same sort of system. And so that allowed me the opportunity to come back and kind of re-familiarize myself with something like this and so my comfort level is high."
Can you talk about the first two days for yourself?
"It's been good. The first two days (are the) same as anywhere else. Getting back into the groove of what you are seeing and the defense is always tough because you're not always scheming against the defense, so you are getting some looks that maybe break some of your rules as far as for a quarterback and (with) protections (and) things of that standpoint. So you have to be able to adjust on the fly especially on the first two days. There is a lot of (scenarios where I think), ‘Okay I remember that from the spring, I remember that back from the OTA's or minicamp' and then you have to adjust from there. First two days have been good, but a lot of improvement to be done."
There are so many receivers that try to get themselves into that higher part of the rotation right now. Can you talk about the Andy Tanners and a few of the other guys that one might say are on the fringe, but what have they shown you in the first couple of days?
"Well one of the first things that I said back in April when I got back or when we started OTA's was man I can't wait to get into the preseason with guys like Chris Givens, Nick Toon, and Andy Tanner because those guys can really play. Now it is tough for them because the other guys we have here are pros. We already have those positions but it is also a great opportunity to see how it's done at a high level consistently, in practice, in the weight room, on the field and learn from those guys. So I am super excited to play with them, (and) grow with them, and the sky is the limit for each and all of the receivers that are on the roster. They can all play and they all have proven themselves to some extent through practice, minicamp, or OTA's."
Can you talk about the relationship and the camaraderie that you have had with all the quarterbacks?
"Absolutely, it's a great group. It really is, when you have the point man or the ace like Drew, it makes it easy in the classroom because you can bounce anything off of him. He has seen every situation and obviously it's his eighth year in this system and so nothing surprises him anymore. He knows it like the backside of his hand. So for a guy like myself, Seneca (Wallace), or Ryan (Griffin), we come in and we might have a question or two for him, there is no hesitation, no, ‘well I'm not really sure' he always has an answer for us. That sets a tone for us and we look out for each other, push each other, we compete in the weight room, we have throwing drills every day that we compete at; and so that just makes a close bond between you, to know that you are looking out for each other and that you want each other to succeed."
You have had a lot of time in this system, both in Tampa Bay and last year in training camp. Are you still learning or does that come naturally to you?
"It's certainly more natural than it was this time last year obviously. I consider myself a quick study. So having some familiarity with it, my background in the west coast (offense), and then my experience with it this time last year; like I said earlier, it affords me that comfort level as I come back re-familiarize myself with stuff that I already know and just kind of engrave it deeper in the natural player that you want to be as one that reacts and doesn't have to think."
How do you not look over your shoulder?
"Well, because it's been 10 years. It's the same thing every year. It's a mind-set that you have to have. It's a mindset that you take in the conditioning test, in the weight room, in the film room, practice, and you have to understand that you are competing no matter what. Until that day is set where they say this is it or that's that, you're competing and that's the only mindset you should have because that's what's going to allow you to be the best you can be."
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What has been the hardest thing about making a transition in positions?
"It really hasn't been that hard of a transition. I would say the hardest part is probably the individual part with Joe Vitt, it's him working us, (and) working the LB's (as opposed to working with Bill Johnson, a defensive line coach), but overall I would look at the position as just an extension from defensive end. Guys drop, (and have other) responsibilities, but most of the time I'm doing the same thing I've always done."
When you have a responsibility, is that mostly a tight end or running back?
"It all depends on the defensive call, but typically I'm not going to be covering the X or D receiver so I'm going to stick with mostly the tight ends and the running backs."
Will, I know you've been kind of playing both sides the first couple of days. Is that something you anticipate playing either side of outside linebacker?
"We rotate back and forth so based upon the defense call, depends on where I go on that particular play, but as position wise, I play both positions and that's what they teach all of us. They want us to know every position as a linebacker just in case someone goes down, we have someone else to step in for them."
You also lost some weight a little bit?
"I had to lose about ten pounds so I'm looking, a little, a lot sleeker, back to my rookie weight."
What is that rookie weight?
"What is that weight? About 268, 270."
Is that something that you felt that you wanted to do to be able to be a linebacker?
"That was something that the coaches had asked me to do. I would have preferred to stay at the weight I was, but they wanted me to lose some weight and it's paying off. We had the hard conditioning test (in) which that helped me. Losing all of that weight (helped me to) to have a great time on doing that and just (in) doing a lot of running that we're doing in practice, a lot of different stuff that we haven't (done before) that I'm not particularly used to. I think losing the weight helped me a lot."
Even if you were still defensive end, would you have lost the 10 pounds?
"No. We do a lot of different things. You know, I have to handle coverages, I have to do linebacker drills, I do a little of specialty so I do a lot different things than what I was doing the previous nine years."
Was the transition harder mentally or physically?
"I would say neither. Football is always hard. They're trying (to) get the (competition at) camp no matter if you're a rookie or a 10-year vet. It's always going to be hard, there's always going to be obstacles so it's always going to be a challenge here so I would (not) say overwhelmingly hard or overwhelmingly easy."
How is Rob Ryan compared to other defensive coordinators you've played with?
"He is a great coach. His record speaks for itself. Our goal is to go out this year and be a lot better than we were last year so I'm not into comparing and contrasting these coaches, but we know he is a great coach and we know we can take great things from him."
What kind of diet did you have this offseason?
"It was just conditioning and eating well."
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Is everything good with your health?
"100 percent. You know I feel great. Just ready to go, excited about you know, being back out here with the guys and I'm feeling really good."
With a good start for you guys, there seems to be a renewed energy on the defensive side of the ball?
"It's awesome that a lot of guys retain the stuff we learn in OTA's and so right how it's kind of like, oh we want to put that? We feel good, (and have) been confident. Just able to go out there and execute the game plan and we're going against one of the best offenses in this league and so they're those challenges in that (is big) and it will make us better as a defense."
Why is your defensive coordinator such a magnet for attention? I don't know if you see the crowd around him all the time. What do you think it is about him?
"You know, I think... It's those blue eyes and that long gray hair. I think that draws a lot of people, but no I'm joking. I think it's more so his personality If you're around him more than 30 seconds, you know that you know, he's got a big personality. He's a great defensive coordinator and everyone just loves him."
How do you and Jonathan Vilma share leadership responsibilities and the calling of defensive signals?
"I think the situation with the defense is, you got two great guys capable of leading this defense and J.V is going to take the helmet communicator (device) and we have a sign, he handles the secondary, I handle the front. Me and J.V, it started back last year...just getting a feel for each other, working together. He doesn't have ego, I don't have ego. Our main focus and goal is to put this team (on a good foot), lead this team and put us in the best situation. It's been great working with him."
Talking about Ryan's personality, but beyond that...what's been the impact he's made in terms of football?
"I think, someone said earlier, he just gave us a renewed energy you know. He's just a positive force. He gives us confidence and just (with the) defense alone, it's an attacking defense and something similar to what the guys had before I got here and that they're used to and he's very knowledgeable and gives a great understanding for the game and also, he gives us the key and lets us drive the car and that's most importantly as a player that's what you want."
Some coordinators are rigid as far as how their system should go and he might be more flexible in what he does?
"When I say the keys to the car, you know, he gives all of the tools and everything and it's your job to decide which works best for you. I mean nothing is set in stone. If you like something, he puts it in or if we need to change it, he changes it. It's more player-driven than anything."
Beyond the defense, what's the difference with you from a year ago with Sean Payton back? How is this going into camp as compared to last year?
"This is what I expected. Last year, I really didn't have an understanding (when) everyone kept saying it's not the same without coach Payton. It's just different and having him back this year and getting to know him, it's a big difference. It's night and day. Everyone is just excited to get back to work. There haven't been any distractions and all you want to do is concentrate on football and how to get better and that's what we've been doing."
You talked about Jonathan Vilma and how you'll be sharing and different ways and who's going to be calling, the fact that both of you guys can do this kind of seems like it can help? It's not all on one person?
"It's not just one guy has to do everything and I think sometimes, and even last year for me... I was just that one guy. It was tough because there are so many checks and audible, you forget stuff and having another guy there to have a safety net to back you up and if you get confused on something you can make a call. We both have our strengths and weaknesses and we just feed off of each other and work well together."
It kind of seems like a theme so far with this defense. It's seems like a lot of the defensive players are saying that this defense is based on what you guys do best and put you all specifically, individually using your skills sets into position so you can succeed.
"Yes. Definitely working to everyone's strengths and it just puts everyone into positions to make plays. Now I put you in position, so it's on you as a player to accept the challenge and make the play and you know everyone is looking forward to doing that."
You came in last year to a system you had to adjust to now you have a new system you have to adjust. How difficult is that having to change.
"That's the NFL. When you don't do things great the next year, you come back, there is going to be change, there are going to be corrections. We got corrected, we got Rob Ryan in here and that's what OTA's and minicamp and all that stuff is for, to get an understanding (along with) what you're doing. Training camp, you're still learning but at the same time, you have to go out and do it because you'll be playing games soon."
When you talk about Sean Payton being back being night and day, can you share the things you expected?
I'm not saying that the coaches of anyone did a bad job last year, it's just a difference. He holds everyone accountable. It's a tight ship. He challenges everyone and is a competitor. I think that's what we kind of somewhat missed last year. It's great to have him back this year.
Can you go over that catch Jimmy Graham made at the end of practice?
"Well, I was in perfect coverage. That's just Drew Brees right there...that's why he is one of the best. He threw a back shoulder fade and there is now way of stopping that especially with Jimmy. Great hands, big tall guy... He just caught it. I was kind of disappointed but I asked coach what could I have done better and he said ... Maybe had a different quarterback (throw it)."
What stands out about Jimmy that makes it difficult to cover him?
"The thing about jimmy is, I mean, his size, speed, and hands and drew can put the ball anywhere. You can be in perfect coverage, but with Drew, there is no perfect coverage so he is going to put the ball to where only Jimmy can get it and that's what's most difficult."
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Coach (Sean Payton) said he expected big things from you this year. I would imagine the feeling is mutual?
"Definitely. I'm going into year three. I have finally had a healthy offseason, go through OTAs and mini-camps, and train on my own coming into camp. The feeling is definitely mutual."
Has it been frustrating since you have been in the league knowing that you're not at your best when you aren't healthy?
"Not frustrating. I know every time I go out there, I put my best effort on the line and do whatever I can to help the team win. My rookie year I missed some games. Last year and (last) offseason, I was just recovering from some offseason surgeries but I played all sixteen games and I finished strong. I'm not frustrated. I can defiantly improve in different aspects and things like that, but I am trying to get better, taking it one step at a time, and trying to take advantage of my opportunities."
Coach (Sean Payton) said you are more versatile than people think. Are you encouraged to show that a little bit this year?
"I can do everything. I can run inside, outside, pass block, catch the ball, and be an explosive player. That's what I try to show them every time they put me out there in practice. I want to be able to execute and show that I can do whatever they ask me to do. I definitely want to show that I am more versatile."
As much success as you had at Alabama, is it not hard to put that much pressure on yourself to try to equal that in the NFL?
"College was college. I had a lot of success in college but I'm moving on to a different stage now. We are in the NFL now and you just have to start over. It's kind of like when you are in high school and you were the man in high school then you move on to college and you have to start over. Just because you were the man in college doesn't mean you are going to be the man in the pros, so you have to establish your identity and earn the respect of your teammates and people around the league. I think that's the priority of most guys coming into the league."
Has the road to getting to this point been a little bit more challenging then you thought it would be?
"Not necessarily. We have a lot of great backs in our backfield. The past two years we had me, Chris (Ivory), Pierre (Thomas), Darren (Sproles), and (Travaris) Cadet. We have had lots of great backs and we have been spreading the ball around. You just go with the flow and try to find your hitch within the offense. I'm just ready to prove myself."
As a Heisman winner, I would think it could be a little tricky managing the expectations, the popularity, and the demands while you are trying to make the transition isn't it?
"Everyone has expectations all the time. It's not about living up to what other people expect you to do. It's about being a great teammate, improving every day, and being the best football player you can be to help your team win games and ultimately win a championship. Of course, I have high expectations for myself as far as individual things, but my number one thing is just coming out here and showing that I can do anything that is asked of me every single time I set foot on that field and be an explosive player for this offense, be an explosive player for this team, and do whatever I can to help us win games. That's my number one priority."
Did you change any of your offseason training or is it the same?
"I was just able to train. I didn't have to worry about rehabbing offseason injuries. Just the fact that I could go out there and train and be in real great shape coming into camp makes a difference, not having to worry about a swollen knee or trying to get your toe back right. Just the fact that I didn't have to worry about offseason injuries and worry about rehabbing during the offseason, I had a chance to focus on the things I wanted to get better at, getting in better shape, and being in tip top shape coming into training camp."
You have had a couple of seasons in the league now and the backfield was more crowded than it is now. Do you have a sense for what you think you can accomplish?
"When I'm healthy, I feel like the sky is the limit. I can do everything. I can do anything that's asked of me. Pass blocking, I can catch the ball, I can run inside, I can run outside, I can contribute in any way that's asked of me. That's what I have been doing ever since I started playing football. I'm not just a power runner or a category runner that people try and put running backs into a category. I'm a three-down running back. I can do anything. I can stay on the field for three downs and do whatever is asked of me. That's what I am trying to prove out here during training camp and during this season."
It had to be a good feeling to get the sense that they want to use you as more of a featured back?
"It's a good feeling that they have faith in me and are going to make an effort to let me to showcase my talents more. It's defiantly encouraging and like I said, that's what I am trying to do. Confirm their faith in me out here during camp, into the preseason, and going into the season."
Coach (Sean) Payton said you lost weight during the offseason. Is that something he wanted you to do or is that something you wanted to do for yourself?
"It's just something that I wanted to do for myself. I like staying a little bit lighter. I feel like I am a lot more explosive and a lot quicker. Sometimes when I get on the heavier end it can slow me down a little bit. I just wanted to trim down, lose a little, get faster and more explosive just to give myself the best chance out there."
How much weight did you lose?
"I really didn't lose a lot of weight, I just wanted to (be) trimmed down and toned it up a little bit. Probably about three or four pounds. I just toned it up but nothing crazy."
Where did you want to be when you play or what made you the most comfortable?
"Somewhere between 215 and 218. I'm happy with anywhere in that teen range. I just don't like to be over 220."
You can't get healthy and motivated and not have a touchdown dance planned for this season right?
"It just depends on how I feel when I get in the end zone. I might have something predetermined or it might just be a spur of the moment kind of thing. Hopefully I will be in there a lot so I can do something."
If you did a Heisman pose you would have credibility right?
"I've seen Charles Woodson do it few times in the pros so I might bust it out one time."
How has that been for you when over the past three years when you go back to Tuscaloosa being a Heisman guy? Has that influenced the way you carry yourself as a pro and as an alumni?
"Every time you back to Alabama, they show love. I think it was the best place to play college football. Anytime you were an Alabama football player and you come back to campus, they show you a tremendous amount of love and just the fact that I won the Heisman, it means that much more. I appreciate Alabama and I have lots of love for Alabama. My sister goes there and she is about to become a junior there so the Crimson Tide is running strong in our blood right now. I just appreciate the University of Alabama."
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LINK to player transcripts page - also courtesy neworleanssaints.com, as are the transcripts below.
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Can you talk about the first two days of camp?
"The first two days have gone well. Obviously, getting back into football, there is an adjustment. We have been really installing the last couple of days and getting back to the speed of the game. We are really excited about being back, being with the guys, establishing this foundation for what we have in our future, and for this season, and really looking forward to it."
How important is it to get success early on for this defense?
"It's great to start out, getting your hands on some balls, and really flying around and creating an identity on defense. I think, ultimately, this game we realize that it's a marathon and it's great to start out, but it's about sustaining through the course of the day, the game, the season, so once you can do that you can capitalize and never relax. I think that you can ultimately be successful."
If you are making plays on defense you are reacting instead of thinking, correct?
"Any time that you can react on defense without too much hesitation it just makes it that much faster. A lot of hesitation on defense causes a delay process and a slower product. That is one thing coach Rob Ryan is great at, he is great at giving us tools, putting tools in our tool box and allowing us to go out there and play. So, we are fortunate to have a coach that embodies that, that allows that, that aggression, that fun in playing football, not giving us too much, just allowing us to go out there and play football and really enjoy what we do."
Can you talk about how hesitation can be the difference in a play?
"A half a step, a half a second too late can be the outcome of a play and that play could be the outcome of the game, that game could be the outcome of the season. I was actually talking to one of my friends that does another professional job and that their season has 150 performances in a season and we only have 16, so every one counts so significantly that one play can really determine your season. I know a lot of people whose career has been derailed or (has been) demoted from one play. So anytime you can stop and isolate the indecision, anytime that you can promote fast decision, it goes better for yourself personally and yourself professionally and for your team."
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It was interesting watching coach Payton pull you aside after you dropped one of the balls. It's a constant reminder to do the little things as you grow in this game right?
"Definitely. It's day two and some of us are still out here knocking the rust off. It feels good to have Sean (Payton) back. Nothing goes unnoticed even through the walkthrough. It kind of reminded me of my rookie year when he was pulling me off to the side and consulting me if it's good or bad. It's great to have that."
What has it been like for you going up against the defensive secondary?
"They are flying around. They are doing some different things. They are giving us some different looks and they are disguising things. It's all good. Its making me better and its making us better but I'm excited to see how they are going to mix it up and confuse some quarterbacks."
Players love to receive a long-term contract and obviously you are hoping for that in your contract, as you try your best. Is there any added pressure to continue to be better because of what lies ahead?
"Not really. I don't really think about that. I have a lot of pride in the way I play. I have a lot of pride on every down in the game. It doesn't really matter what's ahead of me. I focus on today and the next day and trying to make special plays to help this team win."
Does it feel good to be healthy again?
"Yes. It's been an offseason of constant work and constant work. I feel great, I feel 100 percent, and I'm ready to go."
When you see Aaron Hernandez, before he got in trouble, and he received the reward that he got , does that make you feel like why haven't I gotten the same thing?
"No. I'm a humble kid from very humble beginnings and I feel blessed to be in the situation that I am in. All I'm going to do is go out here and play football. I know that's what I'm best at and I know the rest will just take care of itself."
I know it's early but what do you see out of the defense so far and your enthusiasm so far under Rob Ryan?
"They are really running to (the) ball. It seems like on every catch, every catch is contested. There are truly no open guys and that's been great to see. Even inside when we go to the blitz packages and the dog packages. They have really done some things to try and mess around with some of our protections. I know if they can do that to us then I know they will be able to confuse a lot of guys . It's been exciting to see our defense mold and grow as well as our offense."
Has a guy like Benjamin Watson helped in the tight end room? He has been around for a while and has played with some pretty decent quarterbacks himself. Has he given you some tips and pointers?
"I think this is his tenth year. He is an older guy but he looks like he is eighteen. He shreds it up and just his wisdom bringing that to the room (is valuable). He is a hard worker. Just (seeing) him in the weight room and me following (after) him and just trying to be like him (is something I try to do)."
He was (Tom) Brady's go to guy for a while, sort of like you have worked with Drew here?
"He has been with some great quarterbacks and he has played for some great teams. I think him and I are going to do some special things this year."
How would you describe your season last year?
"I think it speaks for itself with 7-9 (record). That's behind us. For me, I'm just trying to win that first one."
Do you feel like it was a step back or that you kind of plateaued personally?
"This is going to be my fourth year playing football ever so I still think I'm learning. Even last year, I can take the positives and that learning experience and apply it to this year. When we start winning and getting back to Saints football, it's going to be even sweeter."
You said in 2011 that you only want to play where (Drew) Brees plays. Are you still feeling that way two years later?
"Of course. That's my guy. He has helped mold me. I have never caught a pass from another quarterback and I don't intend to.
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How does it feel to be back on the field?
"Oh it feels great man, we had a nice little break and everything looks good. The guys are prepared; everybody worked hard to get ready for the long haul so we are pushing forward."
This team wants to generate pass rushers. What has it been like so far and what have you learned from guys that you are going to be sharing time up front with?
"The thing about this team is there is a lot of young good talent, a lot of guys. You have Cameron Jordan, Junior Galette, so we have a lot of talent. The thing that we have to establish though is if you stop the run, it gives you an opportunity to rush the passer."
Talk about your relationship with Rob Ryan. Do you feel like you have added responsibility to almost be like another coach now that Victor Butler is hurt and you have been with Rob Ryan before?
"The thing about this game is you are going to be who you are and I feel like the reason why Rob Ryan and I have such a great relationship is because he knows what is going to get out of me, he knows the sense of consistency. For me I don't try and strive and reach, I just (try to) be the person I know that I am. Obviously Rob has got accustomed to that and obviously that is why I am here."
Can you talk about Will Smith?
"He is a great player. He has great tools. I feel like in this system, the thing about this system is, you don't have your hand down and you are not hitting constantly or what not. For him, I think it is going to give him more of an opportunity to show the skills that he has as a pass rusher."
Are you comfortable in a 3-4 and a 4-3?
"I got drafted as a 4-3 defensive end and obviously I know where I fit as far as I'm concerned. Whether it's a 4-3 or 3-4, I have a skillset that I do and I just stay with that."
How do your responsibilities change from a 4-3 to a 3-4?
"Obviously I feel like there are a lot of ways to skin a cat, that's the way I look at it. I don't really switch up my technique, somebody else may do it, but for me I'm going to be the same guy whether I am in a three technique, whether I am in a nine or in a one. I play with power and that's kind of my thing."