New Orleans Saints TE Jimmy Graham
You tried your signature dunk out at practice. When did you start doing that?
"I've been doing that ever since I've been playing. It brings a little basketball, a little fun to practice. Every time I score I have to dunk it.
How do you raise Rob Gronkowski's spikes?
"His spikes are pretty good. He has some velocity on them. I'd rather dunk it anyday."
Have you had a chance to sit down with Rob or Aaron Hernandez so far?
"No, I trained with Rob a little bit before the combine. I talked to Hernandez before the combine, but since then I've been really busy. I watch a lot of them on film and I take what I can from them and their games. Hopefully we can sit down.
What are some of the things you've been able to pick up from their games?
Gronkowski in the red zone, the way he uses his body and size, me and him are a similar size. Hernandez, the way he runs his routes. He's a technician in his routes. He really gets guys off balance with some quick false movements. Those are some things I'm trying to add to my game."
Drew Brees talked about having a better year this year than last, but maybe not putting up the same numbers from a year ago. Could you talk about that personally?
"Definitely. You measure the year on wins, so that's how you measure it in the NFL. It's not yards, touchdowns or catches. The bottom line is wins. Hopefully we can get more than last year."
Can you talk about your personal and professional and on-field relationship with Drew?
"It's steadily growing every day. He's done such a lot for me. He's hard on me. He wants me to be good. He wants me to be a lot better. I think he always tells me every day that he can see the growth in me, but he knows there is so much more room to grow, so I work every day. When you have a quarterback who has that much confidence in you, a guy who tells you each and every day that you're his guy, that instills confidence in you."
Can you talk about Rob Gronkowski? Is it a healthy competition? Talk about the relationship between the two of you?
"I really haven't had an opportunity to talk to him since we trained together at the combine. But, there's definitely a little completion there. Me and him have similar numbers, it seems like every writer and every media outlet compares us somehow, but really the competition is a friendly competition and is about getting each of our teams ready to play. That's what the focus is."
Have you talked to him?
"Not really. Maybe tomorrow. I'll put on a black jersey and play a little defensive end. Since he doesn't play special teams. I can't go on one on one."
What's a defensive player have to look like to stop one of you guys?
"I don't know. Hungry. I think that our teams exploit very well. We're very similar. (Tom) Brady and (Drew) Brees they go to us in the red zone to use our size and our bodies."
Prior to your team being punished, the team that was punished the most for allegations was New England and they won all their games, set a bunch of offensive records and went to the Super Bowl that year. Is there anything for you guys to learn from that?
"Definitely. They have a great team and they've won a lot of games. They are also a class organization who handled that situation amazingly. We can learn from that, how they handled that situation and how we'll handle it going forward."
Of course they had their coach?
"Yes, but we have coaches and we still have our leaders. Drew's (Brees) still here and a lot of guys are stepping forward and we take it one game and one practice at a time."
That 2007 Patriots team was a tough team with a lot of veterans. Is this is a similar team?
"I think that's a fair assessment. If you look at a lot of games from last year, Sean Payton wasn't on the sidelines because of his knee injury and last year Drew broke records."
Did you have a relationship with Rob Gronkowski or Aaron Hernandez before?
"Yes, Gronk I trained a little bit with before the combine. Hernandez, I talked to a little bit. I haven't been able to connect with them much these first two years. I'm excited tomorrow or at the game, we'll sit down and talk to them a little bit and pick their brains for how they feel and how last year was for them and what they're doing."
Do they use their tight ends differently than how you are used by the Saints?
"No, I think they do a great job with matchups. We exploit them the same way (Tom) Brady does. Drew knows (Darren) Sproles is coming out of the backfield. He's on a linebacker and I'm on a corner who's shorter and a little slower. We exploit those matchups just like they do. I think they use the tight ends very similar."
With the way the tight end position has evolved, do you think ten years ago, you would have made the move from basketball to football?
"Definitely. That door was open before with guys like (Antonio) Gates and (Tony) Gonzalez in Atlanta. He's been doing it forever. He was a basketball prospect. If those guys hadn't laid down that foundation, I'd be playing basketball overseas or maybe in the Olympics."
Are you or Rob Gronkowski better?
"I don't know. People will compare us the next ten years of our lives and of our careers, where there will be a better assessment. I think we'll be in competition for the next ten years, because of the type of players we are."
Do you think that the tight end position has sort of replaced the fullback, especially with spread offenses?
"There are guys who do a lot of fullback. It is going both ways. Really now fullbacks are tight ends."
It seems like tight ends also go away with spread offenses. How will your position still be around?
"I think we match up well. When we play in the middle, not only can you block, you can be at the point of attack. You can stretch a defense and they have to respect the middle of the field."
New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees
Can you talk about the atmosphere today?**
"It was a great atmosphere today. Obviously a ton of fans came out to watch practice. For us, it's great to break up the monotony of training camp, always by yourself and that kind of thing and come up for the opportunity to scrimmage against somebody other than yourself and really a great team. There's not a team that's won more games than the New England Patriots over the last decade. To have a chance to be around them, watch how they work, compete against new personnel and a new scheme is good for both sides."
Do you sense because of what's happened, that there is an us against the world sentiment?
"I didn't know if I'd say it like that it's us against the world, but were going to have a chip on our shoulder anyways. But, there's no shortage of motivation to go out and play well this year."
Do you admire how the Patriots played in 2007 when they were in a similar situation although not without a head coach?
"No they didn't, but they played well that year. They went out and almost won every game and obviously we hope we can put together the same type of result. Certainly it's something we can look at where maybe this is something similar we are going through. You try to take a negative and turn it into a positive.
Are they the one team that can relate to what you have at tight end?
"It's great to have a weapon like Jimmy (Graham). It's kind of ironic that him and (Rob) Gronkowski came out the same year. I think Gronk is a second and Jimmy a third round pick. Those guys have established themselves as two of the best tight ends in the league. Both players continue to get better and better. It's fun to get them on the same field to go at it even though it's not on both sides of the ball from the perspective of what great athletes and great players both are."
What does it take to cover them?
"You have to be very big, fast and athletic to cover these guys. The only guys that can cover them are each other."
How much did the teams get out of this?
"Obviously both teams are fresh because we're just in camps. We just played in the Hall of Fame game, but really it's the first preseason game for everyone here on Thursday night. To get out here and see the personnel they have, I love being able to compete against them, because that's a tightly run ship. Coach (Bill) Belichick has done a phenomenal job since he's been here obviously. They know how to work and win. It's great to have a chance to compete against them."
Did you have a chance to visit with Tom Brady?
"Yes, I've known Tom since college. We played against him when he was a senior at Michigan and I was a junior at Purdue. Really since then we've crossed paths a few times playing each other, a few times in the offseason. We both spend some of the offseason in Southern California as well. I actually saw him this offseason. We worked out together one day. I have a great relationship with Tom, not only professionally, but personally. Certainly he's one of the best if not the best of all time.cc
New Orleans Saints Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo
Is it pretty obvious why this is a good thing for both teams?
"Yes, the fans here are terrific. Of course I have a little bit of place for them because I'm from this area. It was great to see the turnout. My family's here which is terrific. I think the two organizations from my standpoint of being new in New Orleans and having grown up with this one (Patriots) are two great organizations getting together helping each other and I think the players were terrific too."
Can you tell us about the opportunity to go to Philadelphia and your opportunity to pay your respects to the Reid family?
"Yes, actually the teams were getting together to have a prayer for Andy and his family. I'm very, very fortunate to work for an organization whose owner allowed us to take the team plane with Mr. Benson allowing myself, Mickey Loomis, Joe Vitt, Ken Flajole and with Coach (Bill) Belichick coming along with us. That was special. I know that Andy and his family and his wife Tammy really appreciated it. There was tremendous support down there. This family, you talk about this NFL football family and it is a family. There were coaches from everywhere, coaches that had worked for Andy in John Harbaugh, Pat Shurmur, Brad Childress and Mike Holmgren and Ron Wolf. Commissioner Goodell was there. What you are saying is that Andy Reid is so respected in this league that when a tragedy like that hits anybody we have to be out there to support him. Our prayers go out to him. It was a terrific service. I think they did a great justice to everything. I look forward to talking to Andy down the road."
What is it like going against the Patriots offense while you are still trying to install a defense?
"I'm not sure we're ready to go against this offense from where we are right here. The one thing about Tom Brady and Josh McDaniels, they find ways to attack a weakness. You can only take away so many things when you present something defensively. Tom's so good at it; it's why we like competing against each other. It's like a chess game out there. Certainly not as much as in a setting that you would have in a game. I think our players gain a great appreciation for a quality quarterback. We go against one every day in practice, but then you get somebody with different calls a different view. I'm looking forward to doing it against tomorrow."
Are you worried about your cornerback situation?
"Yes, we're kind of getting dinged up there now and I went through that last year unfortunately losing a lot of corners and don't want to do it again. I'd rather have it happened now, get them to bounce back and get them back from the regular season."
What makes Tom Brady and Drew Brees so unique from facing them?
"They run the whole show. Not every quarterback can process everything going on in their mind. I have videotape of both of them with the TV cameras looking at them as they call out the signals, their eyes on the clock. They're looking at what the secondary is doing, they find out what the front is and get them in the right place and if you're one of the ten guys playing with those guys on offense, you know your chance for success on every play goes up."
What do you think of controlling these types of tight ends out there?
"You have to challenge. It's funny what you're saying because it's not one there in New England. It's two and they're both really good. We had trouble covering (Aaron) Hernandez out there today. We only have 11 and they have 11. You can only double so many guys. You pick your spots, pick and choose. I'm sure when Tom sees a double somewhere, he goes to the other guy and has a guy that can beat a one-on-one, you have Wes Welker in there, Brandon Lloyd. They have teams that are going to play them. I'm hoping to play them, in a real game, because it would only be one to play them. I'm not so sure as I want to do that (kidding).
Is there an evolution to the tight end position?
"Yes, you see it all around the league. Especially when you can block and get those two guys in there with the formations to run the football and throw it. It's a challenge."
How are you putting your stamp on the defense?
I have a great deal of help, because the defensive coaches and coaching staff was still intact. I was lucky enough to bring two guys with me, but they've been great and when the players see the coaches embrace it they do too. We have some great leaders on defense, so it's a process right now and we have a long way to go. It's going to take a long way for us to get to where we want to be. Practicing against another opponent helps."
Is the intensity level higher in joint practices?
"I don't know. We're trying to have a great deal of respect for each other. Both head coaches talk about that. Let that level get too high, all you do is spend time bumping chests and getting in fights. We don't want to do that. It looked to me like there was a good element of respect and we got a lot of work done."
New Orleans Saints Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers Joe Vitt
"It was emotional this morning. Andy Reid is strong and his family is strong and everybody knows our thoughts and wishes are with him. It's always great when we practice against a class franchise like this franchise. We got a lot of good work done today. We got some first and second down, we got some situational third down stuff and then we got a two-minute drill. We got good work today. We've got a few nicks and bruises, but we're okay and we're looking forward to coming out tomorrow."
A lot of attention is going to be about your new defense going against a really good offense, but that's what you want, right?
"Yeah I mean I said at the start of practice today, if you're putting in a new defense, who better to go against than Drew Brees and then all of a sudden you're going against Tom Brady. Both those guys do a tremendous job of looking people off and getting you off your spot and fitting the ball in there. The tempo is great. The chemistry between him and (Wes) Welker is unbelievable, so you've got to have you're A game. This is going to do nothing but make us better."
Was the planning between these joint practices easier since you did this two years ago?
"Yes, I think so. I think there's a lot of trust involved. We know what we want to get out of each day. I think the biggest thing is the players trust one another. They know that we work tempo, angles to the ball without just beating each other up. Whenever you have that trust between two teams, I think it makes it a lot more compatible."
Is there anything you can learn from the experience the Patriots had and the season they had with going 17-0 after Spygate?
"Let me just say this, number one - I made this statement yesterday and Sean (Payton) has made this statement – that this franchise that we're going against is the Microsoft of our industry with what they've done. Number two – in my era as a coach, Bill Belichick is the coach of my era. He's the Don Shula, the Bill Walsh of my era. So they've had some adversity and have done a great job of handling it. I've had conversations with Bill. We know that our players are strong. We've been through adversity before, but there's really no comparisons as you're getting out to these practices. We're trying to get better, both teams every day."
Would you take one of these tight ends from either squad over the other?
"Hey listen, we like our guys and they guys they have keep me up at night trying to defend them. They're a good group."
Can you talk about how these tight ends are kind of the new era of tight ends?
"They can run, they can catch, they can run routes, they can block, they can get to the edge and kill you, they can catch the deep ball, they can catch outside of the framework of their body, they're all good dancers, they're good cooks and they love kids."
Has the intensity level changes in these joint practices as opposed to when you're practicing against your own team?
"The intensity of practice is the same for both sides. We're trying to get better, but we're trying to get better being smart – staying up off the ground, making sure we have good fits and taking proper angles to the ball. These are two teams that have won a lot of games over the last couple of years so that hasn't changed."
What's been your approach about how you lead the team?
"Our program is set. I am doing what Sean (Payton) has established since '06. Our schedule is intact, the way we evaluate personnel is intact, the way we install is intact, our teaching progression is intact and our players don't talk about it nearly as much as everybody here does to try to sell papers. We're trying to get better and trying to get prepared for the season."
Do you have a sense of how much talent is out on the field at these practices?
"I think there are a lot of Hall of Famers out there right now. I think the two guys pulling the trigger out there are going to have a bust someday in Canton."
How important is Pete Carmichael to getting you guys through this?
"Did you see us play last year? Pete Carmichael was the play-caller."
New Orleans Saints Offensive Coordinator Pete Carmichael
What are some differences between Tom Brady and Drew Brees?
"The biggest difference would be the size and height. Obviously, they're both great quarterbacks. They've both had great success in the NFL. Today was a great opportunity to watch them both go out here and compete and get better."
Is it as simple as our team going against their team to see how we match up offensively and defensively?
"We're two days coming off the game, so for us today was just how was the tempo going to be and get out here and hit again. The nice thing is it's seeing different defenses than what we've been seeing in training camp. We're still practicing our base stuff. There's not game planning going on. I think both clubs made it a priority to come out here and get better."
Why has this relationship between the Patriots and the Saints worked so well?
"I would say the relationship between Sean (Payton) and Bill (Belichick) back to a couple of years ago was great when they set this thing up. We had a meeting with the coaches last night from the Patriots staff and just kind of talked about what we want to get out of this week. We're not looking to come out here and fight and do all that. We're out here to compete."
How much are we going to see out of the first team offense on Thursday?
"We won't meet about that as a staff until tomorrow afternoon. That'll be led by Joe Vitt as far as how we're going to play the guys."
The offense looked a little shot-handed without Devery Henderson and Mark Ingram out there. Was that by design?
"I think just getting those guys some rest. We're just two days off the game. We felt good. It wasn't a ton of reps coming out here, so it was smooth."
So it was just giving them the day off?
"Yes. If there's anything to talk about, Joe Vitt would talk about that."
Can you talk about the Saints having an us against the world mentality?
"I think it was a tough offseason for the team, but we stuck together. We know what we have in our locker room and who we are. The teamness of our group is second to none."
Does it feel good to get on the field and get reps against another team?
"Yeah, I think we're treating this training camp just like any other training camp. We're coming out here to get some reps against another opponent and see what we have with some of the younger guys in some of these preseason games and see where we stand."
With all the fans out here and the types of players and celebrities coming out, it doesn't feel like an ordinary week of training camp.
"It's exciting. It's fun to be out here. For me, it's a little personal because I come out here and there's family up here for me so I enjoy that aspect. I think this atmosphere is perfect for football. You wouldn't want it any other way. This is perfect."