HEAD COACH LOVIE SMITH
"Some of the players won't play. The majority will. We have a play count that we would like to get for, as you watch the guys play. There's guys that we feel like we need to see finish plays. I'm excited about that."
What have you seen from LB Kevin Pierre-Louis this week?
"By you asking about him, we've noticed him a little bit. He's a pro. He's serious about his job. And as far as his play, he shows up every day. We have seen more action, him around the ball a little bit more. Last couple training camp practices, we took notice, but that's what we expect from him. He's played good ball in this league for a long time, and we expect that to continue."
It's been awhile since having the head coaching headset back on. How excited are you about that?
"Yeah, you're right, about a minute. I've done that a few times. They say when you ride a bike you kind of know how to ride it most of the time. But I'm excited about it, to have an opportunity to lead a franchise like this. I love our football team, so it's all good. Can't wait to get there."
As this is your second year with the team, does that make it easier for you?
"I think whenever you've done something before, you know what to expect. It's easier, yes."
Can you talk about QB Davis Mills and how many quarters he will play on Saturday?
"Did I just talk about that a second ago? There are some players that yes, we would. We have a play count that we would like to get for him. I assume you're going to be there Saturday, and you'll see it then. He will play, all right, and right after he finishes, when we talk, then we'll talk about how many plays he got then. How's that?"
What do you want to achieve from this first game and what do you want to see from your team?
"I mean, that's pretty simple. We haven't tackled full speed. We haven't put anybody down. We haven't cut blocks, we don't cut below the knee. Just finishing plays. Playing against another opponent. Just that competition. I see preseason games, it's all about the regular season, getting ready for Indy (Indianapolis Colts), and I want to see the guys in as many situations as possible and see how they react to it. Some of the players, most of the players on our team I've been with, I kind of know, but there's a lot that we don't, and things change from year to year. That's what, guys finishing plays."
Did RB B.J. Emmons join the team a bit too late in the week to play on Saturday's preseason game?
"I think there are a few positions I think where you can get them in, out there fairly quick as far as catching them up on what we like to do. Running back is one of those positions. We plan on playing B.J. (Emmons), simple as that."
Is it important to get young players out there and adjusted to an NFL season?
"Yes, it is important. It was important tonight for the routine when you've never gone through anything. Now they know exactly what we do, and we went through everything from our pregame all the way through our pregame routine to what we do at halftime. But yes, I was talking to (Jalen) Pitre earlier. The first time you do something, it's exciting, and you can't wait to see how you compare. We have quite a few young players that will be contributing with us this year, and it starts this Saturday."
Do you have any pregame rituals as a coach?
"You know, I have a routine that I go through. My routine is pretty set. I don't know if some of you out there early in the morning, I do kind of the same thing a little bit. So yes, there are things I like to do before. It has nothing to do with the outcome of the game or any of that, but that's kind of what I do."
Is the tight end position still a position that you hope to address?
"By us trying to get that trade through, kind of said, we felt like we needed a little bit more help there, because we're a little banged up at the position. We've had a couple of our tight ends that have been down. But they're getting better. Maybe. It's a maybe. Again, I hope the guys that we have here get back on the football field, and we may not have to go down that road."
OL JUSTIN MCCRAY
What do you feel like you've been working on this training camp and being prepared for anything?
"I've sort of just been working a little bit everywhere in the interior -- center, right guard, left guard. I've been feeling good at all the spots. I'm getting told where I'm going to play the day before, so I'm able to prepare and work on things I need to work on, so I'm feeling good."
You played a little bit of center last year. What do you do to keep that going?
"Really just talk to J.B. (Justin Britt) a lot and just make sure I'm always on top of my snaps, getting snaps every day, whether it's before practice or after, if I'm not actually playing center that day in practice."
What sort of mentoring goes on with you and a younger player like OL Kenyon Green that plays your position?
"A lot actually. K (Kenyon Green) sits like right in front of me in the meeting. When Hop (George Warhop) is talking to guards I'm making sure that he's hearing everything he's talking to about the guys that are playing just so he doesn't make the same mistakes when he gets back in there. K (Kenyon Green) is going to be a really good player. He learns a lot, learns fast and I think he's going to do really well."
I know OL Kenyon Green is having to work his way into NFL shape. What was it like for you, sort of the physical adjustment becoming a pro?
"I think just mainly taking care of your body more, just like in college really you're just getting in the ice tub, go about your business, go to class and stuff, but I think in the NFL there's a lot more ways. They give you a lot more resources to actually help your body: ice tub, stem, needling, all kinds of things that help you stay on the field and just getting adjusted to that and making time for that."
Do you pride yourself as a run blocker?
"I definitely do. In high school when I first started playing ball, my dad was my coach, and we ran power right, power left until we couldn't anymore. I'm used to that, and I take a lot of pride in my run blocking, all my blocking, but I like running the ball a lot."
What are some changes you've noticed with George Warhop coming in?
"I think Hop (George Warhop) has a way of coaching he wants you to do things his way, and his way works 99-percent of the time, so I think he's very strong on his techniques and using them and putting us in the best position to make plays and make good blocks. I'm soaking all that up, and I think it's working for me."
Having a guy like OL A.J. Cann, does that help you set the tone of what George Warhop is looking for?
"100-percent. I've known A.J. (Cann) a while, too, but being able to talk to A.J. and see what exactly he wants from practice to games to different kind of blocks and different techniques and things like that, it's great having A.J. here, too."
You've gone through maybe nine or ten different offensive line combinations last year. How do you feel like the offensive line has regrouped and started playing together?
"I mean, there was a lot of guys playing last year, and I think it honestly just brought our group closer, a lot of different guys playing next to different people. I think we have a really good room, really close room, all of the guys get along well together, and I think it's going to help us when we have to go out there together and battle."
What stands out to you about the running back room?
"I mean, everybody can run. Everybody is dynamic. We have a lot of good runners. I feel like a lot of teams have guys that are just good at one thing and they have another back for another thing. I feel like all our backs are good at everything."
Preseason games don't mean a lot for your record, but as a veteran, are you excited to get to play against another opponent?
"Absolutely. We get a chance to go hit somebody else, rather than we've been hitting each other for three weeks and get to see all the things we've been working on in practice come out on the field."
WR CHRIS CONLEY
With so many changes to the team from a year ago, how are you feeling?
"I'm extremely excited. I can't wait to get back out there, obviously new team, new offense, a lot of moving parts. But we've put in a lot of work, and hopefully had a lot of positive change, and we're ready to see what that looks like on the field against another opponent."
Is there a little balance between all those new things you mentioned? You do have a lot of guys back, especially in the wide receiver room that will help.
"Yeah, I think that having the same guys that you're working with providing that kind of consistency, we have good chemistry. The guys get along really well. We know how to push each other, and we also know how to work with each other on the field. I think that the Xs and Os changing is a positive for us, but continuing to have that consistency and knowing how to communicate with each other, how to communicate what we're seeing on the field and what adjustments need to be made, I think that having that for another year is a really good thing for us."
What do you like most about the scheme change?
"You know, a lot of things are different. Terminology is different. Our mentality of how we're going about attacking defenses is a little bit different. I'm all for the fresh take. I think Pep (Hamilton) has really revived a lot of guys' minds and the way that they're looking at the game and the way that we can affect defenses, the way that we can score points. Then really just getting back to the point that show us what you can do in camp, everybody has an opportunity to go out there and prove that they can play, and that's refreshing for guys."
How do you build in the off-season working with a new coordinator? How do you see him being able to use that with you particularly?
"You know, a lot of the stuff that Pep (Hamilton) has been working on is kind of more in the West Coast (offense) tree of what I learned when I first came in the league, so there's a lot of crossover there. But then also playing inside and outside, it's knowing how the defensive triangle, your safety, your backer or your nickel and your corner and just being able to read it from a different perspective and knowing how to affect say a backer instead of a corner when you're getting off the line. So there's a little bit of nuance to that, but it's not necessarily my first time doing that. I've kind of played inside and out everywhere I've been. So it's just been another iteration of that and still continuing to try to get better, just do whatever they need me to do."
Thinking of how it affects the defense, can you also sense how you might affect your teammate out there?
"Yeah, I think that we have a good group of vets, guys who understand a lot of times what the defense is doing sometimes even before they reveal what coverage they're playing. I think that we try to make each other better. When it's a play and we see a coverage that might not necessarily be good for the route that we're running but we know we can affect it to make someone else get open, I think that that's kind of the level that we're at now. Guys working with each other to not necessarily just get the ball themselves but to help the offense as a whole."
What's the biggest areas that you've seen QB Davis Mills' game grow here in the early part of year two?
"I have seen quite a few things, actually. But one of the things that really caught my eye when we came out, I noticed it in OTAs and then even more our first week of training camp is he was really zipping the ball with confidence. He wasn't really laying the ball up there. I know a lot of you have been out there at practices, and he's hit a lot of seam routes, he's hit some go routes and like a cover two hole where you can't really lay the ball up, where you have to be confident, you have to kind of drive it on a line, and you can't really hitch or guess. That's been impressive to me, the conviction that he's been able to go out there and kind of -- even in a new scheme, command the offense."
Have you had a chance to reach out to WR John Metchie III. What he's going through in this situation?
"Yeah, I have, and the cool thing about Metch (John Metchie III) is he is an extremely positive person, as well, and he has a big personality. I think that's one of the things that in the receiver room we got a chance to get to know about him. He might be a person who publicly is very quiet, but he has a very big heart and a big personality, and I reached out to him and told him that we'll be walking with him and praying for him, and he sent me back a really funny photo of a really out of shape guy who was flexing, and he said, 'oh, you know, fam, we got this.' His head and his heart are definitely in the right place, and we're here for him."
When you add a guy like WR Phillip Dorsett late in the season last year, how is he helping the offense?
"You're adding another veteran to the mix, but also you're adding a veteran who can run 23 miles per hour, not everybody can do that. We have speed in our room with Brandin (Cooks) and him, but adding another guy like that is good. Phillip (Dorsett) has been around. He's played a lot of ball. Those comments that I made about guys being able to see and affect the defense to communicate effectively, Phillip falls right into that. But you can't teach speed. The fact that we have guys who can really stretch a defense like that, it really helps us."
What's stood out to you about playing against DB Derek Stingley Jr. and DB Jalen Pitre in camp?
"You know, I think their confidence is one thing. When you come in as a rookie there's a lot of questions. A lot of things are flying at you. But they've been able to take the little information that they have and go out there and play confidently, like the role that they're in has been their role, like they own it. Like for (Jalen) Pitre when he got out there, he played like he's been the starting safety here for years, and that confidence is something that's caught our eye, and he flies around and he's been making a lot of plays. The same goes for (Derek) Stingley. He's played with a lot of confidence. He's very, very athletically gifted, but he's also inquisitive. He asks a lot of questions, and you can tell when he gets an answer and he picks something up, he's on it. So he's been playing extremely well. Going up against him every day, he's going to be something special."
Can you talk about what you're seeing out of the secondary as a whole, compared to what you went up against last year in practice?
"Yeah, I see a lot of guys who are gifted like the young guys like (Jalen) Pitre and (Derek) Stingley. I see a veteran in Steven Nelson who is savvy, a very savvy vet. I played with Steve (Nelson) a long time ago, played against him a number of times, and he's a guy that you can't give any tells, any indicators because he'll run the route for you. Having guys who have that kind of sixth sense on the outside and that play making ability, it makes us better. Then the safeties have been able to affect the game in the run and the pass. I'm excited to see them play."
Does DB Derek Stingley Jr. ask you questions or is it what you observe of him?
"No, I think that he's not afraid to ask questions. He's asked me a number of questions after practice. He's pulled me to the side and asked me what was going through my head. He's done the same thing with Brandin Cooks, pretty sure he's done it with Davis (Mills), because he wants as much information as he can get, and when you take someone who's willing to learn like that and then you add the athletic ability that I'm sure everyone in this room knows he has, that could be a dangerous combination, and we're excited to see it."
DB TERRENCE BROOKS
What's your comfort level like with Head Coach Lovie Smith's defense?
"It's really good. He tries to simplify it for us as much as he can, just so we can play fast and have great communication. The chemistry has gotten a lot better with a lot of guys who had been here last year, and bringing in the new guys as well. It's been awesome. I feel very comfortable, am able to play fast and make a lot of plays. It's been good."
With one year in Lovie Smith's defense under your belt, where have you seen that benefit you during training camp?
"Just getting a feel for what he (Lovie Smith) wants, what he's looking for in his safeties. Pretty much all across the board. We got a good gist of just what he's looking for, how he expects us to play. For the most part for me, it's slowed down a lot more. I'm able to play faster in it and make a lot of plays."
Where have you seen DB Jonathan Owens improve?
"For the most part I've been focusing on myself, but as for JO, he's working hard each and every day. He comes to work just like all of us, and we hold each other to a high standard in that safety room. He's making strides, as we all are."
Has Head Coach Lovie Smith changed at all since last season?
"No, same guy. He's a player's coach. He expects a lot out of us, and we all gravitate to him. He really hones in on just working hard and being accountable, making sure that we're carrying ourselves the right way on and off the field. He hasn't changed a bit, and that's what we like about him."
Is there a goal for the defense to generate turnovers? There seems like there's a collective aggressiveness.
"Oh, for sure. Every time we step on the field, we're trying to get that ball out. For the most part, that's what we harp on each and every day. It's just turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. We've all bought into it and it's been going really good."
Have you had individual conversations with Head Coach Lovie Smith to get a sense of his depth of knowledge?
"We all get a little chit chat here and there with him, but for the most part we all know what he expects out of us, so we just carry ourselves with that each and every day."
Can you talk about the impact DB Steven Nelson has had on the secondary?
"He's a ball-hawk. He comes to work each and every day, and a lot of young guys gravitate towards him as well. He's definitely a leader on the team, and having him is great. It helps our defense and we're able to do some more things with him, but I couldn't say enough good things about the guy."
There was a lot of talk between the offense and defense the last few days of camp. Is that just the point the team is at in camp?
"We've been going against each other for a while now, and it's just going to be good to go out there and have another opponent. But for the most part, that is our competition each and every day, and it gets pretty chippy. But we like it, that's how it's supposed to be. It shows what type of guys we have on the team, we like to get after it and get to work. It's been good."
How can a cornerback of DB Derek Stingley Jr.'s caliber help the defense?
"It kind of takes away a piece of the field. You can trust that guy to go and lock down whatever task he's given that week. He's still young, he still has a lot to learn as well, but with the veterans we have, Steven (Nelson) and all those guys, they're bringing him along well. He's learning a lot and each and every day, he's getting better."
Head Coach Lovie Smith spoke about how much he puts on the linebackers and safeties in this defense. How much important is the mental aspect of playing safety?
"Like I said, he tries to simplify it for us. There's not much we have to do out there except have good eyes and read our keys, just do what he tells you. He puts us all in the right position to make plays, and the rest is really up to you. You got to be disciplined in yourself, you got to have the right mindset, you got to study, you got to carry yourself like a pro. All he can do is put us in the right position and give us the play. We got to go do the rest."
When you look at the film from last season, how much of an emphasis has been placed on preventing big plays?
"I feel like that's always going to be the standard. You never want to give up big plays in this league. It definitely doesn't put you in a good position, and that's for our offense as well. All we can do is improve. We can look at our mistakes and go back and correct them, try to do better the next time. But for the most part, last year is last year. We got a whole new team, new coach. We got some new players as well. It's a whole different mindset, you can feel that energy out there at practice. We just got to start with game one, and that's the one we have next."
With Head Coach Lovie Smith still serving as the defensive coordinator, how does that make it easier for you to build off of last season?
"I know speaking for me, I feel like it's good to have a familiar face. It's not a brand new coach coming in where you have to learn a lot of different things. As for being on defense with him last year, you get a gist of what he wants and what he needs. I honestly love it, just because he took that same mentality from defense that we're familiar with, and brought it to the whole team. Everybody has gravitated to him, he's a player's coach, he puts us in the right position to make plays and be successful. Like I said, the rest is up to us."
With one month to go until kickoff against the Indianapolis Colts, do you feel like you're where you want to be?
"I mean, you've never made it. We're ready for this preseason game, that's what we're focusing on right now. The Colts will come when the Colts come, and we'll focus on that when that time comes. For right now, you've got to handle business with what's next. What's next is the next day of preparation and getting ready for the Saints. That's where our focus is right now, we're not getting too far ahead."