How big was your smile on the middle screen to Brandin Cooks?
“That was awesome. I knew we had a big play the minute they were bringing pressure from that side and we were able to get it to him. But man, watching his explosive ability to just navigate those blocks and hit a seam – if he hits the seam, he’s gone. I think that just gives you a taste of what we have in him.”
When you hear football speed and speed, is his football speed eye-opening for you?
“Yeah you can say they’re straight-line fast but not real quick or they have long strides, or short area quickness but not long speed. This guy has it all. He’s got short area quickness, great transition ability, and phenomenal straight-line speed.”
To have a great connection on the back shoulder throw with Cooks this early on, that has to be encouraging.
“Very exciting. I think our mindset is no matter how tight the coverage, there’s always a place to throw the ball. We’ve hit a couple of those to other guys like Nick Toon throughout camp. I think what’s great is you have young players who are back there that are sitting there watching the guys who have been here for a little bit and the subtle adjustments that come within the framework of our offense. They say, ‘Ah, ok. So that’s how you get open against that coverage.’ Obviously he made a great play. This early in camp, for that to just look like it’s automatic like we’ve been doing that for five years, that’s great to see.”
Has it felt very different for you to look around and see no Darren Sproles, no Lance Moore? Is this the most transition in one offseason?
“Yeah, probably so, (the) most transition. Defensively, you talk about the guys that aren’t here – Will Smith, Jabari Greer, Roman Harper, Jonathan Vilma – that were huge parts of this team for a really long time, certainly big influences in the locker room and that kind of thing. But that just opens up opportunities for other guys. I think the thing that’s been most exciting for me is watching these young receivers develop and knowing that you’re going to get more opportunities, (and) you’re going to get more time. They’re not just sitting back watching, they’re going with the second unit. They’re getting thrust into the action here. I’m getting a lot of time with them during practice, (and) after practice. You can see the development, and that gets you excited.”
How much closely do you track your time to throw?
“My feet tell me when to throw or when to run. We call it the clock in your head, but the clock in your head comes from your feet because you know that this is a three-step drop or this is a five-step drop. One hitch there, two hitch there, and if you get to that third hitch you’re running out of time and there’s going to be guys on top of you. The offensive line appreciates it if you just get it out of your hands or take off. There’s a timing element to everything you do, but it all comes down to your feet.”
Is the screen pass to Pierre Thomas one of your favorite plays?
“Yes, he’s one of the best screen runners there is, ever. He does such a great job of timing, setting up his blocks, just hitting those seams and hitting the sidewalk. He does a phenomenal job at it. You see these young guys starting to pick up on a little bit of those traits (of Thomas’) too. (Darren) Sproles was great at it. Pierre can do everything. He’s the best all-purpose back in the league in my opinion. Run, pass, screen game, pass protection…you name it, he can do it.”
Is there a concerted effort to get the ball to Mark Ingram more in the passing game?
“I think all of our backs have the ability to do something with the ball in space. I’m not going to say more of a concerted effort. There’s definitely a concerted effort in regards to discipline with the underneath route structure when it comes to the running backs – being where we need you at the right depth, right timing, all those things. First and foremost, their responsibilities in protection, I think they all do a good job of that. They’re certainly getting better at it. Yeah, he can be a productive guy in the pass game.”
Based on the additions you have gotten in the last couple of drafts, do you think you’re on the edge of record-setting numbers again on offense?
“All I know is if you average 30 or more points per game, you’re going to win a bunch of football games. But there are other elements to that. You’ve got to do a good job taking care of the football, (and) you don’t want to be putting your defense in a lot of bad situations based upon your over-aggressiveness. We’re always going to play with great tempo, great aggressiveness, spread the ball around, but I think there’s just a lot of little things that equate to scoring points like that. Maybe you’ve got to be great on third down, you’ve got to be great in the red zone. Five or six trips to the red zone per game don’t mean anything if you’re kicking four field goals. But if you’re getting four touchdowns, that’s another story.”
Was it good to see Jairus Byrd out there in full pads today?
“Awesome. You can tell it’s just a different vibe when I look back there and see him. I just know you’ve got to be really careful with where you’re putting that ball and how long it’s in the air when he’s back there. He’s so instinctive. He’s got a great jump on the ball in many cases. He kind of knows where you’re looking and where you’re going. It just adds another element back there.”
Who’s in charge of the practice playlist?
“I don’t know. We mixed it up though. I think we had ‘Hell’s Bells’ to start the practice. That was a little different. It’s an element to just change things up. All of the sudden, there’s noise. You can’t communicate as well, so you’ve got to be even sharper. Maybe now it affects the snap count both offensively and defensively in regards to communication. I think that’s been one of the points of emphasis this offseason is, as you prepare yourself to go to hostile environments, you have to practice it.”
Who comes up with the ideas for your quarterback competitions?
“It’s a group effort, but we try to incorporate something that happened in practice that day. For example, we just had a quarterback competition out there that involved throwing on the run. We missed a couple of throws on the run today, so obviously it’s something we’ve got to work on, but we can have fun with it too so we made a competition out of it, set up some bags and throw at them. There’s going to be a winner and three losers.”
I hear you have a leader board. Who’s on top now?
“Well, we’ve got a couple of competitions going. We have kind of like a quarterback challenge element that will involve other things than just stuff on the field, and then we’ve got the QB comps. QB comps is just football-related after practice. I think Luke McCown has four victories, the young buck Logan Kilgore has four victories, Ryan Griffin and I both have three, and I don’t think there’s a coach that has one yet.”
Are you going to chase them down and grab the lead?
“That’s what I’m saying. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s back and forth, but all that matters is who’s on top in two weeks.”
When you look back at all the struggles on the road, what do you think was the difference on the road and at home?
“That is why we crank up the music at certain times during practice. You kind of do things unexpectedly to just change the vibe, change the momentum, throw another variable into it that makes things more difficult, the music, the noise, adds the element of okay, no longer can we necessarily communicate verbally, now here come the signals, and yet we don’t want to lose tempo. We don’t want to lose the rhythm we’ve created throughout the rest of practice or throughout the rest of the game. That is what we are trying to simulate because if you practice it then you hope that translate to the game”
Do you have to make any type of adjustments with having a new center?
“Each guy is slightly different. I think you have to know who is in there. You just kind of know just because of stance and how low they get, just different things. I have just as much confidence taking a snap from (Jonathan) Goodwin or Tim Lelito.”
How much more comfortable does Nick Toon seem to you?
“He is playing with a lot of confidence right now and he is healthy. I think now going into his third year in this offense, I think he has a chance to see a lot of things, absorb a lot of things, a lot of things are becoming more natural for him, less thinking so he is able to play fast. A lot of these subtle adjustments he has down now. He has watched (Marques) Colston enough times and Lance (Moore) and those guys. I think that has been a big thing for him. More opportunities he gets, the better he will become”
How difficult is it for a team to have three good safeties?
“It is tough and we have three really good ones. Rafael Bush is playing great. He is playing with a lot of confidence. He has a lot of swagger to him. I love seeing that. We do so many things from a personnel standpoint on defense that you have times where we have kinds of different guys on the field. You just never know what to expect. All of those guys can play. They are all smart players, aggressive players, play with a lot of confidence and just play well together and I think they will all feed off of each other. Jairus (Byrd), I am looking forward to him getting out there at full go to see how much that changes our defense.”
Can you talk about your tweet of how the NFL randomly drug tested you? Was it because they thought you were crazy or that you were on something?
“Obviously I was having fun with that one. We get random drug tested throughout the year. We always joke around. It is always after a real good game that you get drug tested.”
Did you say it seriously that you can play until you are 45?
“I’m serious. I am not delusional. I know that that’s something that would be extremely difficult to do. Not many have done that, George Blanda, he was plenty past 45. I’ve played with a couple of kickers, (John) Carney, John Casey, of course Morten Anderson played past 45. Vinnie Testaverde was 44. It can be done. A lot of things would have to fall into place. I think throughout your career you hit certain milestones. I came in this league as a second round pick to the San Diego Chargers. They signed Doug Flutie in free agency so I knew I was coming into a backup position for Doug Flutie. At that point your goal becomes you know what I just want to become a starter in this league and earn a starting role, (as) a starter in the NFL. So then the minute you kind of get that then (you say) okay, what is the next step? I want to be a really good player. I want to be a Pro Bowl player in this league. Then you accomplish that, now it’s my fourth year, I think I can make it to double digits. I can play 10 years in this league. Then you hit that, then you are like okay, I want to play until I’m 35. Now I’m 35, so what is the next thing? That is where my head is that. I know it’s one year at a time and it is what have you done for me lately. You have to come out each and every year, prove it, be consistent and all of those things. Why not push the envelope a little bit. Crazier things have happened. (It is) Certainly not going to be easy, but I try to play this game like I am a kid and have fun like I did when I was playing it (as a youth) tossing the ball down the street with my brother, buddies from school or whatever. I still have that playful mentality when it comes to it so you enjoy coming to work every day. This is a serious business. They don’t keep you around if you aren’t playing well. You still have to play at a high level. You have to find a way to take care of your body and make good decisions in regards to that. I believe I can do that.”
How has taking care of your body changed over the years?
“Bobby (Hebert) can probably speak to this, you feel like you can go out there and play at the same level and yet, you’re playing like you are 25 years old and the next day you feel like you’re 10 years older than you really are. It’s the recovery aspect of it that I really think probably changes the most dramatically for guys, your ability to recover and then be in a position the next Sunday to put forth that same type of consistent play. Has my training changed from when I first came into this league? Absolutely, I focus solely on the things that will help translate to what I do on the field. I call it cross specific training. If I’m not doing something in the weight room or on the field in preparation for the game, it’s not directly related to what I’m doing on the field, it’s wasting (my) time. I have to do more to take care of my body after a game. It takes a little bit longer. It takes more time I have to devote to those things. That’s probably going to increase, my rest, diet, sleep habits, all those things become that much more important. But listen, if you care about it enough and you are going to be disciplined with it then you are going to find a way.”
Are you gluten free?
How do you feel going into the off day tomorrow?
“Good. I am just going to hang out with the fellas, do a few things to enjoy what we have here and then probably watch a little film and get ready for some more football on Thursday.”