NEW ORLEANS -- Saints Head Coach Sean Payton spoke with reporters Saturday, May 13, after the second day of rookie mini camp. The following is a complete transcript of that press conference.
Why have you had success with a lot of undrafted players?
“I think when it comes to the draft and then the moment it’s over every team’s on the phone for an hour, two hours really working hard at trying to sign players they may have had draft grades on. We certainly try to prioritize. It would be very normal in the later rounds to begin organizing the board and trying to create a priority because when the draft ends and you are making all these calls (and) there is an order in which you want to sign players. It is not just try to get everyone that you can. I think it starts with the evaluation and then it is easy for us to put other players that have made it that way and I think the agents are pretty smart at looking at the roster depth. I think there are a number of factors. Hopefully, we can find a few here during this process.”
What have you seen from Marshon Lattimore and Ryan Ramczyk?
“Listen he (Marshon) is doing well like the rest of these guys. He’s going out there and getting the calls. They’re getting a lot installed right now, but he’s a quick study and he’s picked it up. (Ryan) He’s receiving a lot of work, but he’s not receiving the team work. He probably is three to four weeks out with his labrum, but he’s picking things up very quickly. He’s in good shape and much further along than really we anticipated even with his surgery. It’s been good, been a good exposure.”
What happened with Max Unger?
“Here is what happened with Max. At the end of the season on the x-ray he had a little bit of a space there where you would call a Lis Franc (injury) and you can make one of two decisions. Dr. (Robert) Anderson, who we think is one of the best foot guys in football felt like hey let’s rest it, no need for a procedure and when we got back (and) started in the offseason program it had increased a little bit and he felt like putting a screw it in now is going to allow him plenty of time to rehab. We anticipate early August. I see him being able to possibly get into preseason. Our goal would be week three (of the preseason). That is where he is at and it wasn’t anything new and yet we were hoping the rest would help it out and we’re getting ahead of it.”
Week three of the preseason?
“Yes, I know it was reported five months and don’t get me started.”
What is it about Arthur Maulet that you liked after the draft and what have you seen so far from him?
“Two things. There’s a vision for him. He’s built well and we see him being the smart player he is. We see him being a nickel candidate, someone that can play in the inside. He’s strong, he has real good ball skills. It’s easy when the draft ends and you have some draftable graded players still on the board. You certainly are going to prioritize those players when the draft ends and he was one of those players. He’s picking things up real well and we’ll just keep giving him more and more.”
Is the approach at linebacker that all positions up for grabs?
“It’s no different than any other position. We’ve got good depth, but yes absolutely. Going into the season we’re going to have competition. There won’t be any assumed starting positions. There will be very few of those. We’ve signed players this offseason, we’ve drafted players to those positions this offseason and we’ll try to get the best combination of players out there.”
What it the vision for Alex Anzalone?
“He is someone and one of the few players that we feel like has that flexibility to play Will, to play Mike and even Sam. He’s getting work here at Will this camp, but he’s a player that a lot like (A.J.) Klein and some of these other guys that we think have some position flex(ibility).”
Will you have guys rotate at signal caller?
“We’ll see how that goes. We haven’t mapped it out yet. We’ll keep you posted. There will be more than one player taking reps at that positon.”
Do you anticipate anyone missing time because of the quarter system at some colleges?
“I don’t think we have any yellow for grades and typically a yellow (grade) would be someone from Stanford or one of those schools. As far as I know we are clean that way. We have a few of those guys that are still recovering from an injury last season that we’re aware of, but I don’t think we have any in regards to quarter system.”
Do you see any comparisons of Pierre Thomas in Alvin Kamara?
“He’s a player that we are very familiar with, having had a chance to work him out at Tennessee on a private workout. He’s built differently than Reggie (Bush) and (Darren) Sproles. We think he got versatility as a runner as well as a receiver. We try to do the things that these guys do best and I think his skillset is that of a running back, but it is also someone that can catch it well. I see him having versatility and that’s one of the things that attracted us to drafting him.”
Any similarities to Pierre Thomas at all?
“Yes, there are some similarities and yet I would say (we look at) our vision a little differently (than we did for Pierre). Pierre played a lot in the third down, played a lot in our base and (Alvin) he’s got those abilities as well, but I also think there are some things he can do a little differently in the passing game.”
How tough is for the tryout guys to catch your eye?
“It is difficult, the first day we meet Thursday night and we go through the list. There are 50 tryout guys here, five veteran tryouts here, 18-signed free agents, there’s seven draft picks and yet every year we can find Jake Lampman. We can find Khiry Robinson, we can find Billy Miller, we can find these players that were tryout players, but certainly with the way you’re practicing it’s a little bit harder to do and I think we’ll go in after this practice as a staff and watch the tape with the scouts and look at every drill trying to make sure we’re properly evaluating every one of these guys. Not just the guys that are under contract, but the 55 players that are here for a three-day workout.”
Do you expect something different for the veteran tryout guys compared to the rookies?
“Yes, it’s different. Those guys generally have a lot of snaps played in the league. That experience obviously serves them well in a camp like this. When you take Bryce Harris for instance and he breaks the huddle with the first group and our rookie right end Al’s (-Quadin Muhammad’s) over there and all of a sudden he’s receiving a look from a guy that’s played in the league four or five years, but we have had success with that type of player that’s been in the league and I referenced a few different guys. We’re looking closely at those guys that have been in the league.”
How has it been having Mike Nolan be a part of the staff?
“Over the years it seems like (we’ve crossed paths). Back when I was in New York he was at Washington, of course in Atlanta and San Francisco. I’ve known Mike for a long time. He is a veteran coach, he’s coordinated and been a head coach and has coached linebackers so his experience and his ability to teach those are the things that stood out in the interview process.”
What have you seen in Ryan Nielsen?
“Ryan’s someone (that) obviously (I) was less or unfamiliar with until the process began. We spent a lot of time looking for the right defensive line coach and we heard a number of good things about him and we brought him through like we did the rest of the coaches we interviewed and there was something unique about him. I think he is an outstanding teacher, very confident. He’s had a real good bloodline of defenses he’s been with even as far back as his playing (days), who was coaching him. He’s been a good addition.”
What happened with Collin Buchanan?
“We didn’t practice Thursday night (as a team). We met Friday, he came in and spent some time in my office and he felt pretty confident he didn’t want to play anymore. That happens from time to time and look I told him this and it’s the truth really. It’s not for everyone and he was just one of those players that felt like he was ready to get on with his life’s next job.”
Did you guys look into Ryan Ramczyk’s brief absence from football?
“Yeah absolutely. We haven’t sensed (that) and that hasn’t been a question at all with that player and when you do the homework on him and you talk to the coaches and you watch the film he is anything but that. That’s the encouraging thing, a guy like him who is graded as high as we had him graded we’re excited about.”
What is the biggest adjustment for these rookies?
“I think it is challenging for them because number one, it is challenging for us because however many players here there are varied degrees of the type of condition and shape they are in. Some guys are in real good shape, others have been (under) a lot of stress from their schedule. Whether it has been training for the combine and their workouts and then traveling. It just varies from player to player so I think (they are) getting acclimated and they are behind right now mentally and physically. We just finished talking about it. Closing that gap by the time we start training camp gives them the best opportunity to make the team. There is no triple-A, double-A or single-A and there’s one team and I think that’s the challenge the mental part of it, getting up to speed and then the physical conditioning levels, weights. They are behind in those areas.”
What are your thoughts on the combine process?
“There’s always been ideas in regards to the calendar. I think the combine’s extremely important and necessary. Remember the initial reason we have a combine was to combine medical information, instead of one by one teams operated separately. We’re able to get together in an organized fashion and kind of combine the medical and while they’re there we begin to interview and certainly these guys are more prepared to train for what they’re going to do at the combine. I understand that and I think the key is from the time they arrive here to training camp (is) how do we best utilize that time and getting them into football shape?”
Is the historical data from the combine important from over the years?
“It takes like two years to get a rule changed, so good luck.”
Are you surprised that Colin Kaepernick hasn’t signed anywhere?
“I was asked that question. I think he’s going to be in a camp. It is a little surprising that he is still available and I don’t think he will be available too long and I think the key is the fit and the vision for a club offensively but I think there will be a team that has that vision and has an offense that builds around some of the things he does well.”
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