Payton and Williams Address the Media Before Heading West

New Orleans Saints head coach, Sean Payton and defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams both addressed the media following the team’s final practice before heading to San Francisco for the Monday night matchup against the 49ers.

In a final update of Saints injuries, Coach Payton had this to say:

“. . . Jonathan Vilma (groin) was full today and he’s probable status-wise. Jon Stinchcomb did not practice. It was not an injury; he had a death in the family. He’ll be probable. Anthony Waters (hamstring) did not practice; he’s out for this game. Zach Strief (knee) did not practice; he’s out for this game. Chris Ivory (knee) did not practice; he’s out for this game. So it’s the same list, with the addition of Stinchcomb.”

When asked about the progression of safety, Malcolm Jenkins and rookie corner, Patrick Robinson, his reply was:

“We’ll start with Malcolm. He’s a year farther along and starting at free safety, so he has made a ton of progress and the reps that he’s getting at a position that’s relatively new for him, he has done very well with. He has a real good football I.Q. He’s smart, he has real good range on the back end and he’s a physical player. He’s doing extremely well.”

“Patrick is in his rookie season now and he’s getting work on special teams. He has a role defensively and the key for him right now are the snaps he gets on special teams and his contributions in that he’s ready to come in and play in the nickel if we need him.”

He also said of Jenkins:

“He’s an instinctive player and I think that serves him real well, especially at that position.”

When asked if he’d ever had the communications problems that the 49ers were rumored to have had last week in getting the calls in to the quarterback through his helmet, he said:

“Last week, ourselves, I was late. What happens sometimes is that you push down on this little button and you can talk to the quarterback but at the 15-second mark it’s cut off. We had a big gain – I can’t recall the play – and all of a sudden, I’m pushing at 17, 16, 15 and now it’s blank so it just forces you very quickly to get in tune to the mechanism. Certainly it has happened to us and you just hope it doesn’t happen too frequently and that the quarterback has a play in the event that it does. With Drew (Brees), he usually if it’s south of 15 will get us to a play out of that personnel group that’s on the field.”

Gregg Williams was asked about his viewpoint of the 49ers ProBowl LB Patrick Willis and replied:

“I loved him coming out. I had him scouted coming out. To be quite honest, when I looked at him, I thought he was the perfect example of how you want that position to play. He has to be fun to play for and fun for the head coach to coach him out there, because Mike Singletary played the position the same way that Patrick plays it. One of the things truthfully I was wondering of how long a career he could have because he was so physical in college. He battled injuries in college because he played so hard that his body parts would break down. It’s been fun in the crossover film where we’re scouting someone else’s offense and all of a sudden San Francisco is playing that opponent…I find myself studying him at times, because I would have liked him coming out and having the opportunity to draft him.”

Williams also made on-the-field comparisons of Willis to Jonathan Vilma, London Fletcher, Takeo Spikes, and Nate Clements.

He also had very good things to say about the play of Roman Harper, who has been asked to assume a bigger leadership role on the field in the absence of Darren Sharper. According to Williams, Harper “right now has been playing lights out for us.”

Then, very vocal in his pleasure about his defense’s tackling against Minnesota in the season opener, he said this:

“It was the best tackling since I’ve been here. It’s not the best since I’ve been coaching, but it was awful good. Statistically we had to search and kind of be a jerk about it and find one paly that had seven yards YAC, which is seven yards after contact and we had one.”

And in a final take on his defense and their upcoming opponents, Williams said:

“They tackled very, very well. I get way too much credit dealing with x’s and o’s. Dealing with difficult people, that aspect wherever I’ve been, we’ve played hard. Those kinds of things are coaching and the gene pool. What I can affect in the gene pool is very, very slight. Playing hard, I’m very proud of them. They’ve done a very good job.. We have our work cut out this week for us on some of the matchups we have to do. It’s going to be a very physical game. I’ve admired Frank Gore for a long time. He’s an excellent back. Brian Westbrook, we’ve had all those battles in the NFC East when he was in Philadelphia. I think he’s special and their tight ends, they have some pretty good tight ends. Their receivers have been explosive. They’ve brought this quarterback along very well. I’ve seen a tremendous improvement. ”

As for his opinion of 49ers head coach, Mike Singletary, he said:

“I saw his response this week and you can see there’s a defensive head coach there. I thought he attacks problems head on. He doesn’t back off. He doesn’t make excuses. I think he’s done a good job in a short amount of time there. I really do.”

Both coaches gave very gracious comments when speaking about the 49ers.  That let me know one thing–the Saints are not taking this game for granted at all.  They know that this game, which many are calling a trap, is going to be hard-fought and physical.  It’s clear that there is genuine respect for this 49er team and what they are capable of when clicking on all cylinders.  I do believe that the Saints will be ready for battle with their formidable foe come game time.

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