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Quotes (9/28): Shurmur, Apple, Shepard, Johnson

Head Coach Pat Shurmur

(Opening remarks)

A: I'll give you some of the outs. (CB Eli) Apple is out, (TE Evan) Engram is out, (WR Cody) Latimer is out, (RB Jonathan) Stewart is out, and (LB Olivier) Vernon will be out. Those are the ones I know of. Some of the guys that we've been talking about have made good progress, just not quite ready.

Q: Did Olivier Vernon practice today?

A: He wasn't out here today, no.

Q: Is there a setback with him? (Vernon)

A: No, no setback.

Q: How much does it hurt to not have Apple and Vernon in a game against such a good offense?

A: I think the guys that we had in playing last week did a good job against a good offense. They'll just go out and do the same thing.

Q: You said that there is no setback with him in practice.

A: There's no setback, but this was a fast practice with preparation for New Orleans. There's no setback. He's made great progress this week, and he's close, but just wasn't quite ready.

Q: Are you surprised he's been out this long?

A: Nothing surprises me.

Q: What sticks out about (Saints DE) Cameron Jordan?

A: We've got another great challenge. He's a marquee pass rusher. For the most part, he'll be lining up on the right side. So, we got do a good job of blocking him. He's good against the run. He's good against the pass. You've got to be aware of him, no matter what play you call, because he's a guy that can really disrupt the game.

Q: (RT) Chad Wheeler gave up three sacks last game. Was it enough to say that it wasn't a good performance?

A: No, I thought Chad did a good job in his first performance against a really good player, and he did a good job in the run game. On a lot of those pass plays, he blocked really well. The one thing about Chad is he cares and he competes. When you care and you compete and you work at it, then as you play more and more, you will improve, and I think that's what we're looking for, but he helped us win the game last week.

Q: With Cody Latimer out, do you expect more special teams reps from (RB) Saquon (Barkley) and (WR) Odell (Beckham Jr.)?

A: There's a potential. We'll just have to see. Typically, that might be for the return portion of it, but we have other guys that can do it.

Q: Is (WR) Stacey Coley your first option in the return game?

A: We've got a couple of other options, but Coley will be ready to go, and we'll just have to see.

Q: Is there a little more energy amongst the team coming off a win, as opposed to the previous weeks?

A: I think the preparation – first of all, cleaning up the game is just as important as after a loss. There's a little bit more of, hey, we won the game, these are the mistakes you got to correct, and then we'll play even better. Then obviously, the anticipation for another game having won one is good. The work is the same. I think there's the same urgency, but when you win a game, the water tastes sweeter, the air breathes cleaner. When you win, those are just the general feelings that you have, but I think that's a part of being a professional is you first clean up the last game – win, lose or draw – and then you put the same effort into every preparation no matter who you play.

Q: With Latimer out, is (WR) Russell Shepard your #3 receiver?

A: Yeah.

Q: What are your thoughts about the opportunity for him?

A: It'll be great. He's been in there already. He'll just have to take more of a load.

Q: Russell only played one snap on offense last week. What does Latimer do better than him?

A: Latimer is our starting X. He's a good receiver, he just unfortunately won't be there, but I've also got a lot of history with Shep. He was with us in Philadelphia before he went to Tampa, and then he's done a lot of good stuff here on the field. He's a pro, and he's ready to go.

Q: Would you say this is a different type of test than you've faced so far this season in that they prefer to throw the ball?

A: That's the way they appear, but quite frankly, they are a running team, and they've got some core runs that they'll run throughout the game. They do that so that all their play-actions are meaningful. They're a good team, and we've got to pass rush them and we've got to defend them. Beyond that, we've got a game plan. We're going to go play. That's really the way it works.

Q: Are they much different than they were in years past with (Saints RB) Mark Ingram? Without him, does that change what they do offensively?

A: I think we all try to do this, we try to use the talents of the players that we have. You've seen where (Saints RB Alvin) Kamara is targeted quite a bit as a receiver, because that's part of his skillset. Then certainly, they are other players that kind of get their catches in around that, and that's smart.

Q: Do you need another tailback now that Stewart is out?

A: We'll see, we'll see.

CB Eli Apple

Q: Your reaction of being out this week? Obviously, probably disappointed.

A: Definitely disappointed, but I know it's the best thing right now for me and the team, so just go about it and be the best teammate I can be on game day.

*Q: How close do you think you are? *

A: I'm really close, but just going to keep prepping and get ready for next week.

*Q: What do you think you need to prove to them? *

A: Just got to run faster, got to get back to my normal speed.

Q: Who do you have to work with now to help fill your spot? B.W. (Webb) goes outside, you've got to work with some of the other corners to make sure they're where you were?

A: Yeah, it's going to be a collective type of effort. Everybody's going to definitely have to step up. We're going against a good offense, so we're all going to definitely step the game up and do our best.

Q: What did you do today at practice? A lot? Did you do more than you did yesterday?

A: No. I did a lot yesterday and then today, kind of just tapered it back a little bit. The field was a little wet, so we didn't want to do too much.

Q: Did you realize where it was heading coming into today or was the decision made after this?

A: Yeah, the decision was just made and we're going with it. Just taking the necessary precautions and get ready for next week.

Q: How did you feel or how'd you bounce back after yesterday's load at practice?

A: I feel good. I feel fine. It's just about getting ready for next week now.

Q: Confident whenever you do get back you can get right back to where you were playing the first three games?

A: Definitely. Yes.

WR Russell Shepard

Q: Looking forward for this opportunity?

A: Definitely. Last time I played with Odell Beckham, we were like 20, 21 so extremely excited to get to go out there and make plays for this team, help put this team in great position going down this big run.

Q: You have some familiarity going against the Saints. That was your division for the last couple of years.

A: Yeah I probably played the Saints more than anybody in this locker room. I was in Tampa for four years, played them twice a year. Then in Carolina last year they beat us three times so I understand what they're capable of. I understand their personnel, the guys. I played with Kurt Coleman and I've seen some of their young guys in the secondary kind of grow up throughout the years so definitely feel like my experience with them I can help and I can do some things.

Q: See opportunities to stretch the field?

A: Definitely. You see that on film the first few games. Tampa did a great job of it, obviously with the speed and the guys they have on the perimeter and even the Browns did a good job of it, taking big shots so the shots will be there, we just have to capitalize and kind of do what's expected of us, catch the football. Simple as that.

Q: With (Evan) Engram down, do you expect maybe – one of the reasons you don't have a lot of 3-4 receivers is that because you do so much two tight end. Do you expect to give the Saints a bit of a different look this week? Maybe more one tight end, three receiver kind of stuff?

A: I don't think that's going to affect how we do and how we play football here because the guys that are behind, guys like Engram and stuff, the coaching staff and the front office trust these guys so it's definitely going to probably open up more doors for other guys with just spreading the touches that he got, but it'll be there.

Q: Last time you shared a field with Odell, did you have any idea he'd be what he's become?

A: I knew he would be really good, but I don't think he can even say he knew he would be in this position four years from now. Sometimes things fall into place. It's kind of freaky to see how people become who they are, but between that catch and being in this big market and his personality, the young generation loves him so I don't think – the thing that is special with Odell is there's another side of him outside of football, he's a celebrity. You recognize him when you go to gas station or the store. Lot of times a lot of great football players can squeak and hide underneath the door. I don't think nobody knew who he'd become today so it's pretty cool.

Q: That shirt was new the last time you played with Odell.

A: Yeah man, he was a freshman.

Q: It's held up pretty well, that shirt.

A: I know, right? Dudes, they get the most kick out of everybody is 13-0. We lost to Alabama though.

Q: Shouldn't have even been playing Alabama.

A: We should've been playing Oklahoma State. We'd be 14-0.

Running Backs Coach Craig Johnson

Q: How do you evaluate Saquon (Barkley) through three games?

A: For a young player, he's really had a good starting experience. He has done a good job in all three phases – he's done a good job running the ball, he's done a good job in the pass protection, he's done a good job obviously in catching the ball. Like all young players, he's got some room to grow, but a very good start for him. He and I are never satisfied, so we will keep working to get better.

Q: (Saquon) was always saying in the offseason leading up to training camp that he was going to be very critical of himself. Through three games, have you seen him (be) and do you kind of have to pull him back a little bit and say, maybe you're being a little too critical of yourself here? Or do you like that?

A: I like that in a player. I don't want it to get to a point where it takes away or he gets disappointed or discouraged in this play. Sometimes a young player if they have a problem, they'll hang on to it too long, so from that standpoint I want him to always (look) to keep getting better; but regardless, good play, bad play, the last play is always over. Move on to the next play. That's what young players need to do.

*Q: Do you feel like you were onto something last week when you moved (Saquon) outside, put him in at wide receiver and got that match-up against a linebacker? Is that something you want to build on? *

A: We really didn't do anything at all in the preseason since he's been here and are experimenting to see what he can do, and then last week was an opportunity to put him outside a little bit more. He got some more space, and he made some plays, which is a good thing.

Q: (Saquon) has talked a bunch about trying to find the right mix between trying to break a big one and sometimes just sticking it up in there and getting three or four yards. How do you think he's done at that and what do you preach to him in that regard?

A: I tell him obviously that it is important early when you're an explosive player that you're not always looking for the home run, because it's hard to get the home run when you're looking for it. Just let it naturally happen. For him, he's got to learn, as you said, to be able to take the hard three-four yard runs, those will set up your real big runs eventually that he's going to have or any player, but just don't look for it, just go play. Trust it, trust your rules, trust your reads, and let everything else take care of itself.

Q: On his touchdown run, can you describe the skills and talents that he uses there, the patience and how he ends up helping to create that whole and hitting it?

A: We're a work in progress in working with our offensive line, he's got to get used to their rhythm and they've got to get used to his rhythm, and so as he's going through, he's got very good vision like a lot of young players do, and he's got to make sure that he's in rhythm so that he's at the right point to be able to cut when the time is right, and he did a good job of helping his blockers. All the players try to make sure they get in phase with a block because they can help their blocks, and then what you want to try to do is get yourself in a situation where you're one on one, you versus the safety or a corner or whatever it may be, and then you use some of your skills and he was able to do that. He had a really good stiff arm on the play to ward off the player, and then obviously he was able to explode and score.

Q: Was it the other safety coming down, he's not being blocked but on the other side of the lineman – is that his job to shake him outside?

A: I always tell him, as with a lot of backs, there's always going to be one guy unblocked, so we're going to try to cover everybody else up, you get to that one on one, you want to try to win the one on one. The defensive player is going to try to win, obviously going to try to stop you. Your job as a runner is to try to win the one on ones, and so they've won some and he's won some. Obviously as he continues to go, we want him to win more than he loses.

Q: So he technically won two on that play?

A: Well yeah, when that happens, I'll take that any time as anybody else would.

Q: When he needs a breather when he's on the sideline, what goes into determining whether it's (Jonathan Stewart) or (Wayne Gallman) that goes in?

A: It really is the feel of the game. Wayne has really showed some spark when he's come in so far, so we've kind of put him in certain situations. Jonathan Stewart is a veteran guy, he knows what to do, so we feel good about him. It really depends on the situation, there's no predetermined 'this is going to be the second or third guy in the game', but for the most part, Gallman has been a little more productive so he's usually going to get the first call.

Q: How has Stewart handled that because he's the guy who's used to being his team's main running back, now he's maybe the third – how's he handling that?

A: All I can say about Jonathan Stewart is he is a real pro. I think anybody that understands the game of football, when you say that about a football player, I think that it's hard to have a higher compliment.

Q: Did Wayne show you enough in the summer to the point where he wasn't just a guy who came in when Saquon needed a breather, that he was a guy who you had to put into the game plan to know that he can do some things on his own as well?

A: Yes, I think so. A year ago, of course with a different offense, but a year ago he had good production. He was able to as a young player be good in all three phases, but like a lot of players, you've got to take the next step. What he had done in the past, while a good blueprint, did not really apply to this year. I had to see him improve in those areas, and for the most part, he has done that and he, like a lot of guys, is always harder – kind of like what (Stewart) goes through – because if you're not the starter, you've got to be ready to play right now. But that's just the role that they have right now, so I've continued to encourage and push them to be ready and be a difference maker as soon as you get on the field for the good. Don't press, don't reach, just go play and everything else will take care of itself.

Q: What kind of mismatch would it create if you get Gallman and Barkley on the field together, with Saquon in the slot or Gallman in the backfield? As a running back coach, how much fun would that be?

A: As a running back coach, you want as many running backs on the field as you can at a time, but that really goes outside the realm of us. The bottom line is, as far as match ups, I would say this – for the guy that's on the field, handle your business, do your job and help us, and personnel, who's going to be on the field, I don't care who/what/how. At the end of the day, the backfield position has got to do the right things to help us win the game. How much they play, how many snaps and all that, the bottom line is, this is going to help us to be good in all three phases so we can win the game.

Q: What's the biggest thing you've learned about Saquon in your time with him?

A: Obviously a lot of people want to see the stats and production and he's done a really good job, especially in a lot of his mismatches, but I think it's always good as a coach getting to meet a new player, the person, because you kind of want to see some of his thoughts and stuff away from the game so you can get to build a good relationship. As far as on the game, I just think he has shown a lot of ability in a lot of the phases that we've talked about and so far throughout the preseason and throughout the regular season, he's shown a lot. But as he looks at it, 'I've got to protect a little bit better', 'my route can be a little sharper', that goes back to the good self-critique because he wants to play at the highest level he possibly can.

Q: How about handling the hype, the noise around him? Obviously he's a number two overall pick so a lot has been said, a lot of people are chirping in his ear, what do you see of how he handles that?

A: So far what I've seen is he has handled it like a real pro. Obviously he does have a lot of attention, there's a lot of focus on him and the only time you see sometimes when I want to speak to him is because he wants to do so well for our team that sometimes, 'man, I didn't do that exactly right', which goes back to the point – self-critique is good as long as you don't over-critique so you can't let that last play go and go on to the next play. Again, a lot of young players do that and so early we kind of had some talks about that, that you don't have to be perfect, you'll never play a perfect game. Don't worry about that, good, bad or indifferent, go on to the next play. That's what the young players have got to learn, and so as far as his own expectations, I think he's got high expectations which I would hope that all players would and right now I think he's playing at a good level.

*Q: You've coached running backs in this league for a good amount of time. The position has changed, there are guys around the league who are doing things as receivers, I can rally off the names but for you, do you look around the league and see what teams are doing? Case in point, what New Orleans is doing with (Alvin Kamara) or the Rams with (Todd Gurley), and now you have a special talent in Saquon that you say, 'you know what? Maybe we can incorporate some of that into our offense'? *

A: There's no doubt about that, but again I think the guys that have the most input on the play calling, they see that too. So, if you have a player that, I've said this, is good in all three phases, obviously you're going to try to get him some space and get him some touches, and try to do what you can to let him do his part to help us win the game; but also, part of that is, when it's time to block, you have to block, and when it's time to catch, you have to catch, and you have to be in the right spot because sometimes while you won't get the ball, what you're doing being in the right spot in the passing game is going to get another player open. That's how your offense continues to grow. When you get a chance to get your touches, fine, but when you don't, you're helping get somebody else open. I think that's important.

Q: What do you think Saquon gained from last week's game when he got banged up early, did miss a little portion of the game but then comes back and plays a defining role in winning the game?

A: For all young players, when they get hit especially early and, 'man, am I ok?' They have to have the confidence, 'I'm good, I'm ready to go'. So, what he did, which I thought was good is, 'man, am I good? Is it my leg? I've got to make sure I take care of them' – basically what he had to do was refocus and redo his computer to get everything right, so go back and say, 'ok everything is good, man that was a tough hit', but guess what? That's going to happen some more, and now, just like what I've been trying to say, the past is the past – am I good? I feel good, my body is good, good. I'm ready to go help our team. He was ready to go. That's the process, just like when there's going to be some time in the future, I hope it never happens – I wish it never happens, but it will – that something bad is going to happen. Can you erase that and move on? That's what he's got to do, and that's again, a learning process – I got injured a little bit, but now I'm ready to recover, I feel good, I'm ready to go.

Q: What can (Eli Penny) bring to this team?

A: So far, he's shown some good versatility as a player and he's done a good job at the point of attack. For a fullback, the modern fullback, you have to be able to block people, you have to be able to show versatility in catching the ball which he has shown, and you've got to be able to see if you can do as much one-back stuff as you can to get a guy through a game in case of injuries to a game. He's a work in progress.

*Q: You think he can do that? *

A: He has shown it, but he hasn't done it yet in a game so we're going to see. He's got to be trained for that's just because of the numbers that you're going to have dressed on game day. I think that he's shown a lot of good progress, but we've got to see what's going to happen when he gets out there and gets some more snaps.

Q: Pat Shurmur has mentioned that we don't see everything, but on the sidelines Saquon's passion is really unique. Is that interesting to see from a rookie? I think we saw a clip after his touchdown, he's saying, 'all game'. Is that unique for a rookie to take that role on the sideline?

A: I think he's got a lot of leadership skills, so I think he's doing what he naturally does and he really feels – the Saquon I know – he really feels like I'm going to bring energy to this team, I am a rookie but I'm going to bring some energy just like some other guys that are going to bring energy. For the unique ones, no. I think that's very normal.

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