We always talk about playing against other quarterbacks, but are you at all intrigued about playing against Robert Griffin III?
“Yes, I think it’s exciting to see these young quarterbacks, their talent level, preparedness and just how far along they are coming into this league, compared to even when I was first coming into this league. It just seems like the style of offenses that they run in college and their coaching; there’s so much overlap between college and pro coaches and the type of systems that each are running. Typically there’s just a lot of similarities and carryover, so it just seems like with guys coming into this league, you see the numbers they put up in college and we have five rookie starters this year at quarterback, which is unbelievable. His talent and athletic ability is phenomenal. I like the guy because he’s a Texas quarterback and we stick together. I admired him afar in his college career knowing that he’s a homegrown Texas boy. I think he carries himself with a lot of confidence.”
How well do you know him personally?
“Funny enough, myself, Jimmy Graham and Tim Tebow played him and a couple of other guys in the Madden Bowl at Super Bowl last year in Indianapolis. We actually beat him on a last second touchdown to Lance Moore. We were the Saints. I can’t remember who they were, but that was fun. It was the first time I met him. I congratulated him on the Heisman. Obviously that was before the draft. We didn’t know he’d be picked up by the Redskins and we’d be opening up against him.”
You were not a full-time starter as a rookie. Are you amazed that all these rookie quarterbacks are starting from day one now?
“Right into the fire. I think their level of preparation is a little bit more than most guys just because of how far the game has come and the carryover from college to the NFL. What they see, what they do, what they’re responsible for, the type of coaching and all that stuff (are responsible). I think it’s a credit to how far the game’s come and the level of talent that comes out of that position now.”
What do you see in the Redskins defense, their front seven especially?
“They’re stout. They’re tough both against the run and getting after the passer. They have some good pressure packages. They’re a veteran group that plays hard and plays well. They’re used to playing in a physical division in the NFC East. We’ve got a little bit of a track record with these guys. In fact, every time I’ve played them it’s come down to the wire. (I’ve had) Two overtime games with them in my career. I think we know the type of team it is and the type of game it can be.”
This game will be the first game after Hurricane Isaac in New Orleans for you guys. Between that and the offseason you guys had do you think there will be a lot of energy Sunday?
“It’s kind of interesting. It’s the first time I thought about it. This will be my seventh year here. In my seven years here, in ’06, our first game in the dome against the Atlanta Falcons was the first game in the dome after Katrina. In ’08, the first game in the dome was the first game of the season after Gustav. We played Tampa. Now, here we are, first game in the dome, first game of the season after Isaac. I guess we’ve been in this situation before. It’s quite emotional and obviously a lot of people are still recovering and struggling with us as a team recognizing what it means to them for us to be out there and our motivation to play for them.”
As far as a fresh perspective check after the offseason the team has had, what is that like?
“It’s been a tumultuous offseason. It’s been a lot of struggles, a lot of adversity, but if there’s one thing I know about with this community is that there’s nothing that can keep us down. We find a way to overcome and to fight back. We do it together in so many ways. We find ways to lean on each other and help each other out and I think we’ve developed this mindset around here as a community, as a team and as a city that we will overcome, we will be successful and we will do it together.”
In touring and conducting interviews in several storm-ravaged areas some people said that if Drew Brees can get through his shoulder injury, we can get through our problems. What do you think when you hear stuff like that?
“It’s humbling to know that your story can inspire others. In the end, that’s what you love about this game. It is such a popular game and what that does is it gives you a platform to make a difference in the lives of a lot of people and affect them in a very positive way. Certainly I think about that all the time, trying to carry myself in that way, understanding it’s a sense of responsibility. There are a lot of people looking at you for inspiration and motivation. If you live your life a certain way, it’s motivating for them to do the same thing. I’m not going to pretend I know what it’s like to lose my house or be flooded out and lose everything I own or anything like that, like some people have, but then again, I know the mindset of trying to overcome a devastating loss or something devastating in my life, thinking about how you're going to overcome this. You take it one day at a time. You set short-term goals, surround yourself with good people and have a sense of belief and faith that’s unwavering. I know the people in this community have that. We have it as a team. I think the more we are able to lean on each other to do that, it’s powerful.”
Do you get an unbelievable sense of support from the fans here as well, as if they are family?
“Absolutely. It always amazes me just how much support we get and how much people care about us and the Saints, not just as players, but as people. There are more people that ask me how my kids are doing; ‘How are the boys? How’s Brittany after giving birth?’ They care about you more than (asking) how many yards you are going to throw for this weekend or what I’m going to do for their fantasy team. The people in this community care about you and love the fact that you’re living uptown in the middle of the city. They see you in Audubon Park and they see you buying a snowball standing in line. I think that’s what’s special and unique about this city in that they care about you as a person and not just as a football player.”
With five running backs on the roster. We know you’re used to the more the merrier mentality on offense. What’s it like having those guys. Do you have intentions when you get on the field to incorporate all of them plus the wideouts?
“We love weapons and obviously we have some weapons at running back. It’s a numbers game when you get to gameday. All of them can’t be active. According to the game plan, injury situations and everything else, you have the guys that are playing, you know how you want to use them. The great thing we have at the running back position is that they’re so versatile. Each one of them can are great at certain things, but they really can do so many things. You plug any of them in in a lot of different situations and you know what you’re going to get out of them. You know you can count on them and I think they push one another as a competitive group. You add that with the receiver position, the tight end position and it’s a pick your poison.”
Scott Shanle has said that Joe Vitt is the “speech” guy. How is it going to be different on gameday with Aaron Kromer?
“We’ll adjust, just like we did with Sean’s (Payton) absence. Obviously we’re used to having Sean address us at the beginning of each day, post-practice, everything else. That kind of changed hands to coach Vitt. Now that coach Vitt’s gone, you take those things that coach Vitt had taken over in addition to the stuff that was coach Vitt stuff like the night before the game (speeches), pregame, that stuff and it’s somebody else’s opportunity, next man up to take that over. I think that’s what’s fun about it. You give guys opportunities to step up, fulfill that role. Can we replace Sean Payton? No. Can we replace coach Vitt? No. But we also know that we have the mentality here that it’s next man up. All it is is an opportunity for somebody else to step up, fill a void and fill a role.”
Aaron Kromer has that opportunity now. Have you seen any change or progression in his process and decision-making dating back from week three or four of the preseason?
“Yes, absolutely. Granted this is just the first game of the season and he has six games with us, but I think like anything, when you step into a role, you gradually gain more comfort in that role. Now, coach Kromer has the responsibility of addressing the team at that 8 a.m. team meeting before the day starts. To hear his voice at the beginning of the day. In his message, it’s the same message, different voice, but it’s him getting into the flow of doing that before practice, after practice and the things that come up during practice that he feels is a coaching point that needs to be addressed and it’s a learning thing for us. (There might be) something where he feels he needs to impart wisdom on the guys, because of something he saw in practice. He’s been a coach in this league a long time. He has a lot of experience. He knows our team. He knows our personnel. He knows the way we do things, yet each guy has a little different personality, so they lead within the personality. But we all respect coach Kromer a great deal. He’s a fiery coach who can give it to us when we deserve it, but also point out the things that kind of cut through all the stuff to get to what’s most important, which is one of the great things that Sean (Payton) has (done).”
How does Adrian Arrington look in practice?
“Yes. A lot of it in similar to (Darren) Sproles, a guy gets dinged in the preseason. It’s not worth the risk, even when he’s healthy of bringing him back for the third or fourth game, when you have the whole season that you’re trying to prepare for. All those guys look good. (Robert) Meachem’s departure left open an opportunity for guys like Adrian Arrington, Joe Morgan and others to kind of jump into the role and fill it a little bit. Still each guy has his own set of strengths, so within the gameplan, we work to those guys’ strengths to try to put them in the position to succeed.”
Do you think that Arrington’s opportunity to play in the postseason last year gave him confidence?
“Definitely, what’s interesting is that every opportunity Adrian has gotten, he just goes out there and looks like an old pro. I recall 2010, we brought him up from the practice squad for the last regular season game against Tampa Bay, I think he had around seven catches for seventy something (79) yards. Me throwing to him, from an outsider’s perspective, people can wonder who I’m throwing to, how we can look on the same page. It’s because he’s been around. He’s been one of the guys here for a long time. He’s just never really received that opportunity. When he steps in there, he makes it look like it’s old hat. He belongs there. I think his mentality is that he thinks he’s a competitive guy. He’s prideful. It shows in the way he plays. He’s extremely smart and tough. He can play all the receiver positions and makes it look pretty easy.”
Do you feel this is the most talented team you have been a part of?
“I feel like we have the potential to be. Just as you watch it, I would agree this was one of the harder teams to make since we’ve been here with talent across the board. It was so competitive at so many different positions with guys vying for a spot on this team and it’s a reason why we took five running backs. This guy (Travaris Cadet) can play. How do we find a way to keep this guy, even though it’s a little bit unusual. We know this, the 53 guys that made it deserve to be here. They worked their tails off to have this opportunity. We’re going to need everybody down the stretch. That’s for sure.”
How important do you feel this game is even though it’s one of 16?
“It’s very important. It’s your home opener. We take a lot of pride in the way we play at home. (It involves) the circumstances following Hurricane Isaac, where we understand that going out and playing well and giving some hope and inspiration to our fan base is important. (With) everything that happened this offseason, you want to come out and put your best foot forward and make sure people know that we’re unfazed and we’re business as usual. We have a lot of high expectations for this season. Every win counts a lot.”
Do you expect to see a Pete Carmichael stamp on this offense at all or will it remain pretty much what we’ve seen the last six years?
“Every play-caller has his own stamp. I just think over time that evolves. That progresses. As good as Pete was last year with his opportunities to call plays when Sean (Payton) got hurt, I think it’s only prepared him to continue to evolve and elevate as he goes on here. There is a system. There is a way that we do things around here. I think Pete’s experience with Sean (Payton) having been here with him for six years and having worked with Sean Payton and having learned from Sean Payton, just like I have mentors for me that have played the quarterback position like Doug Flutie and Mark Brunell with things I’ve picked up from them along the way with coaches as well. There are things I’ve learned from them. There are things Pete’s going to do based on the things he’s learned from Sean. There are also things you are going to do because it’s within your personality or the things you’ve done from experience. But, yes, we have a system. We have a way we do things and certainly there will be a lot of Sean Payton in what Pete does, but Pete’s Pete.”
What impresses you most about Darren Sproles? You talk about receivers with the ability to stretch the field. Doesn’t Darren have that same ability?
“Yes. He’s one of the most complete football players I’ve ever played with. He has the ability to do so many things. He’s extremely dangerous when you get him in space and get him out of the backfield. You talk to any defensive player in the league and they (say) they don’t want to cover that guy. Because like you said, he can go a lot of places and get there very quickly and if you’re trying to track him across the field, good luck to you. That allows him to be quite a weapon.”
Does his durability impress you?
“Yes. I think that’s what makes him such a complete football player as well. You look at his size and stature, but pound for pound he’s one of the toughest guys in the league and strongest. If you watch him practice, you see why. The guy’s full speed all the time. He takes so much pride in what he does, no matter if it’s the run game, pass game, protections. He loves football. He wants to be great and he also more so than anything wants to be reliable and dependable. He’s going to fight through (injuries). If you play the running back position in this league, you’re going to take shots and you’re going to get dinged up. Your ability to be on the field and be present for the guys is extremely important and he’s been able to do that. That’s another thing that makes him special.”Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun