Payton’s flat tire: What does Saints rookie cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste have to do with changing a flat tire? Well, coach Sean Payton brought the two together when he broke into a lengthy anecdote to help illustrate why young players need to focus on earning their keep in any role they're asked to do:
“We talked about it the very first team meeting. No one is going to be given a role for the (entire) season, but by the time you get to the opening game, there’s going to be a role for each player. The willingness and the ability for everyone to accept and then really buy into their role for that game, I think that is important,” Payton said. “I used this analogy a few years back. I was on a trip up to Snowshoe Mountain (in West Virginia), and if you go out of the airport to the right, you lose cell phone service pretty quickly. So I lost cell phone service, got a flat tire and was finally able to get someone on the phone to come out. This big ol’ boy came from a shop and he had his truck and asked me to back the car up, and then I backed up the wrong way and he yelled at me. Then he said he wanted me to hold the light here ... no, no, over here. And so for the next 20 minutes my role was to help him fix this flat tire so I could get up the hill.
“It wasn’t a permanent role, it was just for that 20 minutes. I think the same thing exists a little bit for players in this league. It is not a yearly role. It is a week-to-week role of what we need to do to win that game. With regards to a rookie corner, that might mean special teams, that might mean playing (the) dime. But that hasn’t been established yet, that hasn’t been determined yet. We are trying to get every opportunity to see where these guys can fit, and then the end game is to win that week. And the end game was to get to the top of the hill with a fixed tire.”
As for his individual assessment of Jean-Baptiste, Payton said he is "big, long-levered and plays bump-and-run well" and that he is still learning the defense and the nuances of playing cornerback, like most young players.
Millsaps memories: It’s been funny to hear veteran Saints players compare their training-camp experience here in the cool mountain air of West Virginia and the posh Greenbrier resort setting to their days at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, from 2006-2008. Center Jonathan Goodwin described the two experiences as complete opposites, “one end of the spectrum to the other.”
Offensive tackle Zach Strief compared the rooms at Millsaps with bare white walls and no TVs to solitary confinement. And worse yet, some of the young guys were stuck in a dorm with a broken air conditioner that couldn’t be shut off. And he hadn’t yet learned at that time to bring his own sheets and blankets. Now, Saints players are staying at a resort that includes a “pillow menu, for goodness sakes,” Strief said. The Greenbrier rooms do have some quirks -- including floral patterns on the walls and chandeliers in the ballrooms that don’t necessarily match with a football team. But Strief said it’s kind of cool, like a “time warp.”
And obviously players enjoy the benefits on the field, since it was brutally hot in Jackson. Strief estimated that he received at least 15 IVs to rehydrate during a typical Millsaps camp. Players had to wait in line for them. Here, he hasn’t had one yet. Strief said those tough camps were beneficial for the team at the time, especially the first one, when the team was changing its culture and trying to evaluate an entire roster full of players. And he said this current camp only works if you have good veteran leadership. But he said a camp like this truly can extend the careers of veteran players -- not to mention have them much fresher by the start of Week 1 and deep into the season.
Silver lining: Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton wasn’t happy with the defense’s performance in Saturday’s scrimmage, in which they missed too many tackles and allowed too many big plays. But he did admit that the defense will probably be better off for it when they return to work on Monday.
"I'm disappointed we didn't go out and dominate, but at the same time I'm kind of glad," Lofton said. "As a defensive player if you're out here and think you've made it, something is wrong. So, boom, you get knocked back down and that makes everyone refocus and come together."