“Our players reported today and we just completed the conditioning test. We will have meetings this evening back at the hotel and we will prepare for what are the first two days tomorrow, Friday, and then Saturday of non-padded practices. That really involved just helmets and jerseys and then Sunday will be the first day we get into pads and we will go from there. I was going to hit on a few of these injuries just to fill you guys in on the start. More than likely our PUP list tomorrow will look like (it will have) Victor Butler. Marques Colston has a foot that we are just being cautious on and trying to rest for what I think to be a few days or up to a week. Patrick Robinson, who had a knee scope in the spring, his progress has been outstanding. We will keep monitoring him on a more week by week basis and then go from there. Roman Harper will be limited but I think we will have him. Kenny Stills is battling a wrist but nothing serious. He will be limited and I think we will have him. If I were you and starting off this training camp, those would be the five names that appear and that will be something I will be able to keep you up to speed with as we go.”
What’s Harper’s situation?
“Just an abdomen or sports hernia that he has recovered from. He will be ready to go but we are just making sure that we progress each day in the right manner. There are a couple of guys that will make up the conditioning test but (in) our estimation would be that he would not be on the list starting tomorrow.”
Have you felt like you have immersed yourself more into this being back and throughout this offseason and just being back into it? How much have you really thrown yourself into it?
“You get into what you know as your offseason or minicamp/OTA mode and, more than anything else, becoming more familiar with players that are new to your eye. That was and still is one of the key things for me. There are a handful of players that as you look at your team are different then what you remember. The goal this year is to find the right 53. That’s the number one thing and us as coaches need to have the proper teaching installation that allows guys to be up to speed, that we can evaluate and that we can make the best decisions concerning the roster.”
Given the fact of your long relationship with Drew Brees, your friendship and your association that you guys have built up over these many years, what does it mean for you to come back and be with him again and to be the old normal coach?
“You don't take anything for granted with regards to your team. I was looking out there today at the conditioning test and you start to count the players that were here in 2006, counting players that were here in 2009, and each year there seems to be changes not only on the team but on the coaching staff. To come back and obviously when your quarterback is someone who has had experience in our system and you’re around guys like Will Smith and Marques Colston. Our first draft class is in year eight now and that’s pretty interesting and it just seems like it’s gone by pretty quickly. Certainly in Drew’s (Brees) case, that experience and leadership is important to our team, locker room, and organization. Those are the things during the course of last year that, more than the football, you miss most.”
Speaking of Drew (Brees), what do you think weighed on him the most and what do you think he wants to change the most from last season?
“The team finished 7-9 and we obviously didn't play well enough on defense. There were a number of things offensively that we didn't do well. When you factor in a handful of those things, that position or job description changes and becomes more difficult. As I’ve said before, we look for that balance offensively, look for those takeaways defensively, and are going to have to improve in a number of areas to improve our team and have a better season. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but fortunately it’s just starting. I thought this spring we got off to a good start. I know Dan Dalrymple and his staff, Charles Byrd, Rob Wenning, and those guys in the weight room were outstanding this year. It was one of our points of emphasis heading into the offseason, as we got ready for the 2013 season, is being better in that area and I think just based on not only the conditioning test but the progress that our players have made in the weight room is going to serve us well going into the season and it’s something that will continue to be a point of emphasis but with regards to your question about Drew (Brees), I think there were a number of things on film that he was exceptional at and I think it’s hard when you are playing from behind or you are chasing points or you are throwing more then you want to be throwing then I think it becomes hard to be efficient at that position.”
His motivation has always been that special thing about him right?
“A 7-9 record doesn't sit well with any of us. There’s an expectation level that we have, we have developed, and have worked hard to create that. He is used to and plans on winning. He had won in 2011, in 2010, and in 2009 a lot of games. More than most anybody else in the league, when you get hit with a season like that, the competitive player you have, whether it’s a quarterback or anyone on your roster, it doesn't sit well with them.”
Speaking of Drew (Brees), how are you feeling at left tackle and what do you need to see out of those contenders to choose who will start?
“It’s been talked about a lot and for good reason. I am looking forward to seeing the competition between those three guys. They are all a little different in regards to how they got here and I think, most importantly, we have to pay attention and go by what we see. I think each player has certain strengths and I think we need the full pads. It’s hard when you go through the offseason with the limitations you have, with regards to uniform, to get a true measure of a pass rush but when we get to the padded practices and the preseason games we will have an opportunity to better evaluate those guys in a competitive environment and I think that’s one of the challenges that Bret (Ingalls) and our offensive coaches will have is just monitoring the reps at positions like that where there is a lot of competition. There is no exact science to doing it but I am anxious to see how those guys play.”
After missing OTAs and minicamps, how is Benjamin Watson? Is he ready to go?
“He is Healthy. He is 100 percent healthy. I think most importantly because he has missed that time, we have to be smart in the early week or week and a half so that all of a sudden he doesn't try to do too much not having had that time.”
Did (Terron) Armstead pick up a lot of ground during OTAs?
“It’s hard for those guys, in the spring, to make up ground. I think the key for the young players is to learn and know what to do so when the competition and the live bullets come in the fall, they give themselves the best chance but it’s hard to do in the spring when everything is none contact.”
How did the players receive Rob Ryan?
“I think he has brought that enthusiasm. It’s contagious to that room. I think they have responded very well. I think the coaches on defense have worked very hard at just teaching the scheme and making sure the players understand what goes along with good defense and the points of emphasis such as tackling and blocking. some of those things are hard to do without the pads but pursuit, effort, and energy, all of those things that accompany a good defense, we saw glimpses of.”
You talk about balance on offense. You invested a lot in Mark Ingram. What are your expectations for him this year?
“I know we have high expectations for Mark and he has high expectations for himself. He is in great shape right now. I know he is anxious, being healthy, and probably I would say going into his third year as healthy and as good of shape as he has been (since being here). I expect him to be a big part of what we do running the football. We have veterans like Pierre (Thomas) and Darren Sproles. We have a young player like (Travaris) Cadet but I think Mark (Ingram) is looking forward to this season. I think it will be an important year for him.”
What will your feeling be when you step onto the field for the first day of training camp?
“We kind of went through that in minicamp. I think this time of the year people are excited because the season is getting ready to start and there is some uniqueness to it because our whole team is intact including the coaching staff. It’s good to be back though. I know I’m excited and our staff is. Our players are in good shape and I was pleased with how the worked out today.”
Now that Chris Ivory has been traded to the Jets and since you have had four running backs for so long, how much do you feel like that helps you as a play-caller having three backs?
“Four presents challenges but four is still better than three. I only say that meaning that there are some challenges with how you activate and how you play those guys and in today’s game it’s tough when you look at your overall salary with the roster and with Chris one year from becoming a free agent that you have to find ways to improve your team and it might come from a position where you have some depth. That being said I do think that it’s a little easier to visualize a game with three backs up and possibly a fourth on special teams but it’s also a position where, most likely, you go through a season and there are going to be some nicks and guys are not ready to go so hopefully we can remain healthy. I think the experience in that room is important, the versatility is important, and I think they are anxious to improve on last year’s numbers with regards to the running game.”
After Victor Butler’s injury, you didn't bring in another veteran linebacker. Did you look hard and consider that or were you happy with the guys you have?
“We looked closely at it but we weren't just going to sign someone just to sign someone. Noone special is going to come flying through the doors here from here on out so we are going to develop the young players that we have, some of the new players that we have, and some of the veteran players. We have a few guys that have some versatility that can go outside and play inside and the disappointing thing that I’m sure for Victor as well as us was that he had come in here and knew the system and quickly had adapted and adjusted to it. I’m proud of his rehab. He is doing very well with the injury he had and as disappointing and as frustrating as that can be I know he is looking forward to being healthy. We haven't made any decisions with regards to him this year. He will be in the PUP list and I'm really pleased with where he is from a rehab standpoint.”
Based on the fact that you have said you need to play better defense and you have to run the ball better, will there be more contact in this camp as opposed to one of your normal camps?
“I don't know that I would say that. We have had a lot of contact. With regards to how the rules are set up now, I don't think that’s ever going to happen.”
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