Q: Is it neat to scrimmage against these guys since you grew up watching the Saints?
It’s neat scrimmaging against them just because of the simple fact of what they accomplished last year as a football team and an organization. As far as the competition level, they are the best in the business right now, so to compare your team and compete against the best in the business, that’s one thing you want to do.
Q: What is the most challenging part about practicing with another team during training camp?
I would say figuring out the right tempo. You want to get good work in but you don’t want to get anybody hurt for the simple fact that everyone wants to play the regular season and be injury free.
Q: Did you take some hits out there today?
You take hits every day. They are professionals and we are professionals, we know how to get the job done.
WIDE RECEIVER WES WELKER
(on practicing with the Saints)
It’s a great experience. Obviously they’re a great football team. We can come out here and get a lot of work with them and see some different people out here than you’re going against every single day.
(On practicing against players that don’t care about his injury)
I think we’re all pros out here and we know this is practice and we need to take care of each other. At the same time, you don’t know these guys, so you don’t know if they’re going to try to thud you or if they’re clumsy or what’s going to happen. But I wasn’t too worried about it.
TIGHT END ROB GRONKOWSKI
Q: Did any of the veterans tell you anything about what to expect from the preseason in terms of game speed?
Basically, if we work hard in practice on defense and offense we should be ready – if we go 100 percent in practice.
(On his relationship with Aaron Hernandez)
We help each other out. We always talk to each other. It’s great to have another rookie tight end in there, too. He knows a lot about the offense. We are always just trying to help each other out and learn a lot.
Q: Does it seem like you and Aaron Hernandez are kind of developing different roles? Even though you are both tight ends it seems like he is a little more of a slot guy.
I just know he is working hard and I am working hard. Whatever two roles we get, or whatever he gets and whatever I get, we’re both going to accept it.
(On practicing with the Saints)
It was fun getting out here hitting a new opponent. We’ve been going against the same guys every day on our own team, so it was fun going out there and going against a great team and a great opponent.
Q: What was it like going against a team that doesn’t know your plays in training camp?
That’s why it’s always more fun going against a [different] opponent because defense during practice, they kind of pick it up. But going against a new opponent and [them] not knowing what you are going to do is fun. That’s what the game is played for – going out there and competing and playing hard.
QUARTERBACKS COACH BILL O’BRIEN
Q: Overall impressions on the practice session.
They’ve been hitting each other for 20 practices. Now we just had another team in here, so we have to go in and watch the film. But, I thought the tempo was good, and I thought we had a very productive practice. I think we got out of it what we wanted to get out of it.
Q: Did the vast majority of plays look like they were run correctly?
I have to go look at the film. You really have to study that film. Out on the field, it’s kind of hard at ground level to see a lot of things going on during practice. But, we’ll go in and look at the film. I’m sure there were some things we can correct. Overall, you saw some good execution in the passing game. You saw some good execution in the running game, and now we just have to work to correct the things that were not executed well and come out this afternoon and try to improve on those.
Q: Part of the goal for this practice is to make mistakes and correct them. Were there enough adjustments during the course of the practice?
I think what’s pretty neat about this deal is that you’re not really sure what they’re going to do. It’s preseason. They’re not really sure what we’re going to do. So, it gives us coaches [on both sides] a good chance to go back in and say, ‘OK, here’s what they did to take advantage of this.’ And come back out this afternoon and make some adjustments. So we’ll have to see what the film looked like.
RUNNING BACKS COACH IVAN FEARS
Q: Overall impressions of the running back group so far.
I’m excited. We have a great group of guys. I don’t have to push these guys at all. They are getting it done, they’re working at it.
Q: What have you seen from Fred Taylor so far?
Have you watched him? He’s still got the bounce, doesn’t he? He still has the speed, and, he’s coming off that injury from last year. I think he’s recovered pretty well. He looks pretty good to me right now. As long as he can keep those fresh legs…Fred’s a smart guy. He knows how to take care of himself off the field. So, I don’t worry about that with him. I think old pops still has it.
LINEBACKERS COACH MATT PATRICIA
Q: What do you like about practicing against another team?
It’s always good for the guys to get out here and have a chance to compete against somebody that’s not our own team. After a while, you want to hit somebody else. So, I think it’s good to be able to have that evaluation and have that process. So, we’re looking forward to it. It’s good.
Q: Do you step back and say, ‘We are about where I thought we were?’
I’m sure once we go back and watch everything on film and try to work through some stuff, we’ll take an evaluation at that point. But, we’re really just trying to get better; work on our fundamentals and get a chance to compete…take a look at where we think we are.
Q: How do you feel Brandon Spikes looked running with the first group?
I think Brandon [Spikes] has a lot of work to do. He comes out and works hard every day to try to get better, but he’s a long way off and he’s got to keep working. So, that’s all we’re hoping that he does.
Q: Is this another good check point for [Devin] McCourty that he’s going up against Randy Moss and Wes Welker?
I think it’s a good check point for everybody to go out there and be able to compete. That’s beneficial to everyone that can be out here and compete against somebody else. I think that’s a good thing for us.
DEFENSIVE LINE COACH PEPPER JOHNSON
Q: Talk about the coaching preparation standpoint.
Coach [Bill] Belichick does a great job of preparing the guys and talking to the guys ahead of time about what to expect and how to practice on the stuff that’s involved. It’s something that the guys enjoy doing and have been doing for a while.
Q: Does practicing against another team give you a different gauge to see your group go against another team?
Yeah, especially over there with coach [Bill] Belichick, we are always evaluating and for the guys to get the opportunity to practice against some different players and different plays, it’s always going to be a plus. So, we’re going to take a look at everything thoroughly and see where we are. It’s not really going to change our goal and our objective of where we want to be before Cincinnati.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
WIDE RECEIVER LANCE MOORE
(On practicing against the Patriots)
It feels good to get out here and get a different look. We’ve been kind of beating each other up the last 10 or so days and just to get out here with some different guys and play some different defenses is definitely good for our offense.
(On if he was impressed by anything today)
Just how good it feels out here. It’s hot in New Orleans and it feels good to come up here and get some good northern air. It definitely felt good to get out here. Like I said, it’s good to get out here and have a different look from a bunch of guys that are definitely a competitive team.
(On if it’s his best camp)
It could be, but I’m not worried about that. I’m just worried about getting better every day. If that happens, then it will be my best camp.
CORNERBACK RANDALL GAY
(On what it’s like to be back in New England)
It feels great. The No. 1 thing is that the weather feels excellent. I forgot how it was to come out to training camp and have a cool breeze and it’s not 120 degrees. As soon as you walk out to stretch, your pants are usually soaking wet but it feels good to come out here with the guys. Just seeing all these guys again that I haven’t seen in awhile (is great).
(On if it’s strange)
It’s not strange at all. I’ve been to more practices with this team than the Saints. It’s a comfortable feeling to walk up these steps again and get on to this practice field.
(On playing against a new offense rather than the Saints)
We’ve been going against our offense for a couple months with OTAs and now we get to practice with someone else who has a great offense too so that we can get better; go against someone different and get a couple different looks. You start cheating a little bit when your offense is running the same play and you’re thinking, “oh I know this one, I’m going to jump it.” It makes us get back level and honest.
Q: You still close with them? Is there a lot of chatter?
Yes. It was killing me at the end. All I hear is my name. It’s fun to be back with the guys.
Q: How about Wes Welker? Does it look like he’s all the way back to you?
It doesn’t look like he ever hurt his knee, I’ll tell you that. He hasn’t lost his quickness at all. That’s impressive that somebody could come back from an injury like that that quickly. It looked like to me, covering him, that he was back.
Q: Does Randy Moss remind you of anyone on the Saints?
You are talking about one of the greatest receivers ever. You can’t really compare him to a young receiving group that we have. We don’t have anyone with that much experience, so I think that it’s not fair to compare our receivers to him because he’s one of the greatest ever. We have some great receivers on our team, but it’s hard to compare a guy like Randy Moss to a young group of receivers.
Q: Did any of the guys on the other side of the line give you any grief?
Every time I lined up over there, somebody was saying something to me. But it was all in fun. They line up on me, I’m going to tell them something too. But that’s what it’s all about. At one time they were my family. Just like the Saints are my family now, these guys were my family once and I still consider them like family. But right now, we are competing against each other, trying to make each other better.
FULLBACK HEATH EVANS
(On trying to repeat as champions)
Drew (Brees), every former champion that he could find, he interviewed and asked questions. I called (Tom) Brady, Kevin (Faulk) and (Tedy) Bruschi, all these guys that battled through trying to repeat. We tried to dissect the Steelers, the Patriots and the Dallas Cowboys and Sean (Payton) will tell you that as a head coach, this was an organization that tried to build its organization around some key points. What do they have? What didn’t they have? What did they do? What didn’t they do? There is no shame in saying that these guys did it well for so long and we are trying to learn from their success as well as their mistakes.
(On if he will chat with Patriots players)
I think the offseason was ample time to get that done. We’ll come out here and practice and you can see the mannerisms between the two teams so there is a lot of respect and a lot of competitive nature going on this morning. At the same time, we are here for business and we aren’t going to open our playbook to them and they aren’t going to open their playbook for us.
(On practicing against another team)
You know, I think it just breaks up the monotony. We get to see a base 3-4 front, which is good for us as a team that doesn’t see it a lot. They’ll see some different motions and shifts. But I think it’s two good organizations that know how to practice and know how to get better day-to-day. It breaks up camp and really kind of refreshes you.
(On choosing to join the Saints)
You get that taste of winning. I learned a lot from coach Belichick. And that free agency process last year really taught me how to look for the winning components. I wasn’t going to leave a winning tradition to go back to losing. I had tasted enough of that. And I’d like to say I knew what I was doing. Did I know we were going to win the Super Bowl? No. But I knew that we had a chance.
LINEBACKER JONATHAN VILMA
(On what it means to practice with the Patriots)
It means a lot to us. We feel the respect from them for letting us come up here and practice with them and knowing that they were the team of the decade when they won all those Super Bowls and we are trying to get to where they’re at as an organization and a team. For us to come up here is great to have the good work and the competition. It’s even better to come out here and a have good competition.”
(On if he has more ‘swagger’ as the defending champions)
It’s only swagger when you make it that way. You don’t want to come out here and say ‘bow down to us, we are Super Bowl champs,’ it doesn’t work that way. We practice hard and we really get after it and if we do our assignments then that will build the swagger.
(On talking with Coach Belichick)
I was just thanking him because he said a few nice comments about me after the game we played on Monday night and I respect the coaches especially one that beat me a good number of times when I was in New York so it was good to just talk to him not on a game day or game level mode but really just player to coach.
(On reflecting from the Monday night game against the Patriots)
It was a good performance. It wasn’t really about Xs and Os at that point. We had a couple cornerbacks down at that time and I remember us just getting after it and it was really just about going out there and playing hard. We definitely didn’t do everything right but we played hard.
TIGHT END DAVID THOMAS
Q: How is it to come back to your old practice field?
It was a little different going into the visitors’ locker room. It was fun to get back out here and go against a different team. [It’s a] good change up for training camp. When you come up here you know you’ll be going against a well-coached team and good players. It’s been a lot of fun for us.
Q: How is it playing for Sean Payton and how similar is he to Bill Belichick?
[They’re] very similar. They both expect a lot out of their players. They expect you to work hard and do your job well. They have high expectations for everyone, so it has been a lot of fun playing for both of them. They are both very good coaches.
Q: Did you get a chance to talk any trash to your former teammates out there?
Not too much. I’ve got a lot of respect for the guys out here. I really enjoyed my time in New England and have a lot of really good friends that still play here, so it’s good to catch up with them.
Q: I saw you and coach Belichick chat briefly. What was that conversation about?
He was just saying congratulations on winning the Super Bowl. He was just really nice and it’s good to catch up with him a little bit. Some things never change; he still runs a good program and it has been a lot of fun going against him.
Q: Was it a nostalgic feeling walking around the building and coming up the stairs?
Definitely. It was a kind of weird coming out of the visitors’ locker room, but I kind of knew my way around so that was good and it’s nice to be back up here. It’s great weather and [there are] good fans up here and [it was a] good practice.
Q: Were you, Heath Evans and Randall Gay like the tour guides?
A little bit. Everyone was asking, ‘Where’s this? Where’s that?’ We don’t know our way around the visitors’ locker room too well, but it’s good to be back.
Q: What are some similarities or differences between the two programs?
Similarities are just that you’ve got really high expectations. Every player is expected to work really hard and to do their job well. I’d say with both head coaches, you always know where you stand. Really as a football player, that’s all you can ask for is to know what they want out of you. And it’s your job to get it done.