Quotes: Sean Payton, Demario Davis, James Hurst on day after regular season finale

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James Hurst
(Photo: Parker Waters)

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Conference Call With Local Media
Monday, January 10, 2022

Is there overriding characteristic that you would place on this team, whether it be resilience or whatever now that you look back at it?
“Yeah, I think so, I think that’s something that you find out about really when guys have adversity, it’s one of the things we look for when we’re putting a team together, the makeup and toughness and grit, if you will. And I think it serves you well, not necessarily when you’re winning, but it serves you well when you have to overcome some adversity. And I think clearly, that would be a trait I would describe of this team.”

What are the conversations you have after a season that ended not making the playoffs versus the last four years where it’s been a loss in the playoffs?
“Now, alright, I think Malcolm (Jenkins) said something yesterday and it resonated and it’s true, he’s experienced it. These things end the same way, they end in the locker room with players packing. They end with the team meeting, they end with we’re going to forward you the schedules via email, once we receive a better idea of the offseason. They end with players getting exit physicals, they end with players, having some offseason surgeries done, clean up work done or significant surgeries done. They end with evaluations by the coaching staffs on the individual players throughout the year and so that cycle begins. I mean, that’s the best way to describe it. Look what was unique yesterday is that typically what I just described, follows a loss and so what was unique yesterday is, man, you’re getting ready for this week, you’re playing Atlanta, of course, in the division, need to win this game, need to play well and we do that. And then you come in and you watch the finish of a game and then I said this last night to my wife, I said, God for a second there, it feels like we lost. And so I know why it feels that way. But that’s the difference relative to the past 24 or 48 hours.”

How did you know this team grit and resilient players?
“I think it’s demonstrated, I think people have behavior patterns and you lose a tough game, you come back and get ready to play. I thought we lost a tough game week two, and then went on the road at New England and won one. You relocate (Ida) and you see it with players, you see with coaches. You know it’s a long season, so coming back to work after a tough loss, you can’t wait to play the next game and you work harder. And so it’s something you see, it becomes easier to see the more you’re in this thing a long time. You can identify it with players, coaches, you can identify it with a lot of different employees.”

How tough is it to keep guys from drifting either mentally or physically when you’re going through a process like this or you’re losing your five games in a row and to get them to bounce back and finish out the way they did?
“Yeah, look, I think that leans on leadership, you know, both from within the team, from the coaching staff that leads on the next plan. It gets back to the ingredients, it’s back to getting the right type of people in the building because if you don’t have that, then what we’re talking about becomes impossible.”

I know there’s not always carryover from one year to another, but I always remember, during those 7-9 seasons, when you pointed to that one photo on the sideline and sort of the energy of the young players you had brought in. Do you get a similar vibe that you are building around a good core here and that can carry over?
“Listen, I think the core, I think we’ve been building around a real good core since 17. If you really look closely at some of the older players prior, that draft class, man, I think there’s a lot of guys here. I mean, shoot, I don’t know how many wins in the last call it four years, five years, but I think these guys have won a lot of games.”

I know there’s always change. Do you anticipate any of your coaches getting interviews, considering the success y’all have had recently?
“Yeah, look, I think that comes with success. And I think it’s a positive thing. Hopefully that happens again for guys to get opportunities, but I think that’s part of the deal. And there’s certainly change every year.”

Is there anything that’s sticking with you as you look back on the season, like a stretch of games, or one game in particular, or anything?
“No, look, there’s a handful of things you can that you can look at. What’s that?”

Well, just anything that gnaws at you?
“Oh, there’s always a lot of things that gnaw at me, but no, it’s not one specific thing. Not anything that just grinds. I mean, there’s a handful of things relative to the course of the season and it just it is what it is.”

Early in free agency or in the offseason, last year, you publicly said you wanted to bring Jameis Winston back, do you know yet what the plan is, as far as that goes for this offsesaon?
“Listen, we literally just finished meeting with our players. And so none of those discussions or evaluations or any of that would have taken place yet. Those will begin to take place in the next three weeks, four weeks.”

Do you know anything more about Taysom Hill’s injury?
“Yeah, it’s a Lisfranc. He actually had one, he just was up here we were talking. He had one before in his right foot so when he planted, because I didn’t see how it happened, but when he planted with his left foot he felt something. My take is they will have to do a surgery. That’s what I heard today. So it’s a lisfranc. They’ll repair that area and then do a smaller surgery to remove the hardware after it’s healed.”

Did any of that come with any sort of projected timetable?
“No, listen, it’s not going to impact his offseason. I wouldn’t go through timetables right now. You asked what the injury was and I’m telling you it’s a Lisfranc.”

The quarterback position was obviously a huge story of the offseason. In 17 games, you actually saw all four quarterbacks start at least one game. Just curious what your biggest takeaways are on how that position and how that situation developed and then heading into the offseason?
“I think it is way too early to even answer that. A lot of guys receive an opportunity to play not just a quarterback. Again, we have a whole month ahead of us here where we are going to be sitting down going through each position. We just finished playing yesterday.”

New Orleans Saints Linebacker Demario Davis
Virtual Media Availability
Monday, January 10, 2022

Can you just speak to the abruptness and the finality of the season ending?
“Yeah it’s tough, you play this game for one reason and that’s to win and anytime you fall short of that, whether it’s soon, whether it’s later, it’s disappointing. So yeah, you’re hoping to get in and anytime you’re in a situation where you’re hoping and you don’t have that control inside your hands, you know, it’s not the best situation to be in.”

How do you feel that your team performed under the circumstances and through all the adversity this season?
“I think it’s disappointing because the year finished not being able to go to the playoffs. There’s still a lot to be said and a lot to be commended for the efforts of the team and the players and the coaches and all that we had to endure during the year, but not just what we went through. Because everybody has adversity, but it’s all about how you respond to it and a lot of times, when you take so many blows, you can either wave the white flag and surrender or give up or throw in the towel. But this team was resilient and continued to fight all the way through, even to the end and having a chance at the end of making it to the playoffs. I think a lot has to be said for that, just in the character of this team, you know, football is the greatest teacher of life, I believe. That’s my favorite part about the game is how much it teaches about life and one thing about life is you’re going to go through trials, you’re going to go through adversity and you have to keep moving forward and that doesn’t mean that at the end of the storm, you know, that the sun’s going to come out all bright and everything’s going to be all good. (It’s) just like this situation, we fought all the way through and we still ended up falling short. But if you don’t fight, you don’t have a chance and if you do fight, you do have a chance and that was our situation and I think it’s the same in life, the only way you’re going to know or only way you’re going to have a chance to make it to a better situation is to keep moving forward when adversity comes. And as long as you keep moving forward, the sun will eventually come out and eventually go in your favor. And so I think we got a chance to experience that firsthand this season and we’re all better players and people for it.”

Was there a time where things seemed bleak this season and how did the leadership of the team allow the team to fight back?
“Yeah, I think the toughest stretch was probably the five weeks of defeat in a row after, losing a lot of guys to injury and being in a situation where you just kind of try to scramble to get a win and I think in that situation it could have easily felt like disarray. But our mindset was just (to) continue to focus on the process, continue to keep our head down and do what we know works and eventually (it) will turn in our favor and I (think it) did. We were able to string together a couple of wins down the stretch and play some really good football coming down the stretch and so yes, I think in that moment was probably the toughest and then fighting back out of that of course and getting on a bit of a roll and then, losing a bunch of guys to COVID right before Miami. I think that was another challenge. But we came back from that and fought again and won the last two. I just think whenever that opposition presented itself, we just found a way to get through it and I think that to answer your question, that five-game stretch was probably the hardest blow we took, but we found a way to get back on track.”

When you look back on the season, do you have any regrets about the way anything played out?
“I’m not a big person that has a lot of regrets. Anytime you fall short, of course, you’re going to play it in your mind, like what things could have been done different? And so, I think my mind is still going through the season, recapping it on those things. But as of right now, I don’t have any regrets.”

How will you spend the next week, two weeks, three weeks, month or so?
“Typically, I keep my same routine all the way through the Super Bowl. I’m just big on conditioning your mind for when I’m in that scenario, I’ll be prepared for it. So I stay on that track. My seven on seven youth travel team is beginning to pick up so I have meetings with my coaches and meeting with those players, getting ready for the season coming soon, so excited about that. And just a lot of time with the family.”

“Just with the role that the defense played in keeping this team where it was this year, I’m just curious what you think Dennis Allen does well, as a coordinator, to kind of get you guys in position to keep the team competitive. And what the continuity on that staff has meant to you and his players as well.
“Just a phenomenal coach, leader. Really understands our defenses’ personnel, understanding what guys do well, understands how to put us all in position to have success, really good at understanding the opponents in different ways that they have success with who their best players are and how they want to get their best players the ball and putting us in situations and strategies to be able to best defend that. And when you have that on a consistent basis, you are able to gradually continue to get better from a player standpoint, and what you can do to make the unit better and from a defending standpoint to understand different opponents and how to strategically limit them.”

As a leader of this team, just in that culture you mentioned, like just kind of what is your role and some of the other veteran guys’ roles in kind of building that and establishing it and how do you bring the young players into that and kind of show them the way?
“Leadership takes on a lot of different roles, just depending, I think, number one is being able to do your job and do it at a high level. That’s always going to be what’s needed and required of you. Then I think just leading by example, showing guys what it takes to perform consistently on Sundays, from the way that you prepare, from the way that you train, from the way that you study to the way that you recover your body. Just kind of leading by example, and showing them that way. And then I think it’s echoing the standard and what’s expected in this building. There’s a high standard excellence, it’s a high level of expectations and just being able to echo that and show why that standard is what it is and, and how it got there.”

Retirement at some point, what Malcolm (Jenkins) said was when he got to year ten, that’s when he kind of took it year by year and every year he kind of made that decision, having just completed your 10 year self, I’m curious how would you approach that scenario?
“Yeah, I’m not I’m not thinking anything about it. No time soon.”

Do you ever think about how different it would have been if you guys would have had Alvin (Kamara) for those four games, all that you lost? He is such a difference maker. How much of a difference that would have made in the season if he wouldn’t have gotten hurt?
“Yeah, I think about a lot of a lot of different things, scenarios. I think about what it would be like to have him. I think about what it would have been like to have Ryan Ramczyk and Terron (Armstead) down the stretch. I think about what it would have been like to have Mike T (Thomas) all season. I think about what it would have been like for Jameis (Winston) not to get hurt. I think about what it would been like for us not to have three of our major starters out defensively with COVID. I think about what it would have been like a lot of the season games where we didn’t have some of our better defensive players due to injury. So definitely, when you missing your top players in games it’s going to have an impact, and we know we put up a good fight and some of those situations we were still able to prevail. It potentially could have made a big difference, but we don’t get to rewind time and replay it differently. So you just kind of have to roll with what you’ve got.”

New Orleans Saints Offensive Lineman James Hurst
Media Availability
Monday, January 10, 2022

Do you feel that you are the ‘poster child’ for how this season went for this team considering all of the different positions you had to play?
“Yeah, I think there are a lot of similarities there for sure. We had many moving parts, a lot of similarities to a lot of things to what I’ve had to do in my career. I’ve moved around, changed on the fly, so hopefully, I was able to help here and there with certain guys with maybe some questions people had, getting people up to speed that were coming in certain spots late in the week, or playing different positions due to injury and things like that. Hopefully I was able to help where it was needed or where it was asked for to help our team in certain ways.”

Have you ever been on a team where you’ve been asked to help out in so many different ways?
“Definitely not. This was unique in that way, for certain. Just moving around week to week, switching positions several different times, that was a tough thing to do, but I’m happy to do it and play wherever I’m asked to. It’s always a good challenge for sure to make sure you’re on top of the playbook, techniques, assignments, and things like that. So yeah, it was a really unique opportunity, but I’m very grateful for it. I’m grateful that I’m trusted enough (by the coaches) to go in and help the team win.”

How taxing is it mentally was it to deal with all of the changes this season?
“Yeah, I think there was obviously a lot of things that happened throughout the season, but I think one positive thing to come out of all of that was that it allowed each week to be its own. It was a new picture, a new lineup, a different gameplan here and there. I think it allowed for a sense of urgency to stay tuned in and locked in. I think sometimes, when you go through a whole season, it can become very monotonous with the routine, the same guys playing, and playing the same opponents. It is easy to fall into the trap of, ‘Hey, it is just another day at work.’ This year there was no way that you could operate under that pretense. There were a lot of moving parts and a lot of things changing each and every week. I think that really captured everyone’s attention every single week and allowed people to tune in, lock in and focus to see what the challenge was each week, what to focus on, what position to play, and what my role is in the gameplan that week. I think there were a lot of positives from a lot of things that happened to us, and I think that will definitely help us out in the future.”

How difficult was it to establish continuity for the offensive line each week?
“It was very difficult. It was a big challenge for sure. The offensive line requires a lot of communication, continuity, gelling, kind of the more, the better. The more consistency you have with guys lining up (in the same spot), you can become more comfortable with communication, how guys fit into certain blocks, and things like that. That was a huge challenge for our group, but I think, at the end of the day, I think it helped some of the younger guys especially to learn the importance of communication and the urgency in which you have to communicate. The communication can’t start on Sunday. It’s got to be throughout the week, you have to watch film, you have to ask questions like, ‘Hey, how do you see this?’ or ‘How do you us handling this pressure or this front?’ or dealing with a certain type of block. I think those lessons are going to stick around with a lot of people in the offensive line room, probably for their whole career. I think that’s just going to only help us later down the road.”

What lessons can carry over from season to season?
“I think one important thing will be the mindset of, if you’re not the starter coming out of training camp, just to be ready. Not just be ready to play a game, but that you might be called upon to start 14, 15, 16 games throughout the season. I think just having that urgency of game planning week to week and understanding that you might not play this week or be active on the roster this week, but next week that could very well change. Every guy is one play away (from having to play). That’s the type of sport this is. I think that lesson will stick. I think the lesson of communication, how important that is, how important establishing how to communicate with teammates, and understanding and learning each guy individually as well. I think those things are going to stick with guys for a long time.

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