HEAD COACH BRUCE ARIANS
"The only person not practicing was Mike Evans."
(On WR Mike Evans missing practice and his status)
"It's day-to-day. We'll see how it goes."
(On what makes Saints QB Drew Brees special)
"I think a number of things. Same system, same coach – you're not going to show him anything he hasn't seen. It's just whether or not you can disguise it well enough and beat people one-on-one. He's had a really good offensive line while he's been there and good players around him. That's a heck of a combination for success and he does a great job with it."
(On how the team has changed and adapted its routine with the COVID-19 safety protocols in place)
"Well, there's new protocols coming out daily as far as what we'll do [on] Mondays after games. It's been that way the whole time. The biggest thing for us is different meeting rooms, how we're eating, how we're going to travel – everything's different. There's not one thing that's the same that we would have been in last year."
(On if he is pleased with how the team has adapted to the new protocols up to this point)
"Extremely. I think our guys have made a commitment to each other as far as the virus and staying safe. They've adjusted to every single change in the schedule. I've changed schedules on them on purpose – everything wasn't the same time every day. You had to read the schedule and you had to make changes every single day. I might switch it at lunch time on purpose just to make them adjust."
(On how he will evaluate QB Josh Rosen while he runs the scout team offenses throughout the season or if he will wait to further evaluate Rosen following the season)
"Yeah, pretty much because he doesn't get too many of those plays. Blaine Gabbert and Griff (Ryan Griffin) share those – it's the only reps they get most of the time. There will be days when he runs the scout team, but most of it's going to be individual work and watching him progress during the season fundamentally."
(On the type of injury Mike Evans is dealing with)
"It's a soft-tissue injury."
(On the challenge facing a strong special teams unit to open the season Week 1 in New Orleans)
"It's always a challenge any time you play a team that has the quality of depth they have. They're going to have good [special] teams – they're well coached and it's always a challenge. It's no different than their offense or their defense."
(On if he is more confident entering Week 1 in terms of the kicking game)
"Yeah, hopefully. Knock on wood. Hopefully he's reliable and we'll see. But, I feel very, very comfortable with it."
(On what he remembers about the defense's performances against New Orleans last season and if the unit will be more prepared to face New Orleans this season)
"I would think we'd be a heck of a lot more prepared. We got to see ourselves do it against them on film. Down there [in New Orleans] we busted coverage and gave them an easy touchdown. Carlton [Davis] was ejected for a hit in the flat. There were a lot of things – we recovered a fumble on a punt and we don't get it. Again, it was more us inflicting wounds upon ourselves. Here it was strictly the turnovers quick and we didn't get off to a fast start defensively. We let them take it and go down the field. Those things are all easily correctable and they see themselves do it, so let's see if they can fix it."
(On QB Tom Brady's role in collaborating on the play selection for the week and when he and Arians discuss that)
"It's pretty much at the end of the week. As we go through certain things, he might have an idea, but it's pretty much the gameplan and then he studies the gameplan, he practices it and then he'll pick the plays like all our quarterbacks always have."
(On if he and his staff are excited to be able to make in-game adjustments with Brady based on what Brady sees on the field)
"It's really no different than any quarterback we've ever had. It's just that he's got 20 years of experience, so it's a little bit different when you're talking to him."
(On how he wants the team to approach the heightened expectations surrounding it entering the season)
"You always embrace it and then you forget about it. You're not going to go to the Super Bowl this week – you can only take care of today's work. I thought we did a great job of taking care of today so far and again, tomorrow just take care of tomorrow. [It's] just a day-to-day process. Respect that process, come to work every single day and let the all the chips fall at the end."
(On if having a fast start to the season will be important with the new additions to the roster)
"I think it would definitely help. I don't think it's a total necessity, but yeah, it always helps to start fast."
(On how the team can help T Tristan Wirfs against Saints DE Cam Jordan and the importance of Brady getting the ball out of his hands quickly)
"I think both those things [are important]. When you go into a gameplan, you look at all the matchups across the board and you can't help them all or nobody will go out for a pass. A lot of times it's just sending them out fast and let the quarterback get the ball out of his hand. He's going to have to block him – there's no two ways around it. He's going to have to block the guy."
(On the ability of cornerbacks Carlton Davis III, Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean to hold Saints WR Michael Thomas in check)
"I don't know if anybody's held him in check yet. He caught about 150 passes. Take care of everybody else [and] I like our matchups. They've all grown [and] they're all better players than they were when they played him last year."
(On how K Ryan Succop has looked in practice and if he will be limited in his range)
"We pretty much know his range right now in [the] outdoors and the wind. We always find that out at the stadium every week. We come up and we mark the sheet [for] where we're going to kick from each end zone. Indoors obviously should help to give three or four more yards. We'll find out every week at the stadium, but he looks pretty solid right now."
(On if Succop could make a 50-yard field goal)
"He hit 52 [yards] outside easily."
(On how Byron Leftwich has matured as a play-caller and how the challenge has changed for him with the weapons offensively)
"I guess we'll wait and see. He's called them against Todd [Bowles] a few times and it's fun as a coordinator to have that many weapons. Don't feel like you have to get guys the ball – just let the ball distribute itself. Byron does a good job handling the running game and the passing game and he's got a great feel for it having been a quarterback and how to call plays."
(On RB Ronald Jones II's confidence and if he had a conversation with Jones after signing RB Leonard Fournette)
"No. He just came out and practiced as well as he's practiced all year for the last three or four days. Not that I would have expected any other things – he's answered. It's his job and he's getting ready to play."
(On game planning for Saints QB Taysom Hill and his versatility within their offense)
"He's a unique bird. He's a tight end, he's a running back, he's on special teams. They have every fake known to man in special teams with him. He can throw the ball – obviously he's a backup quarterback. He presents a lot of different challenges when he's in the ballgame."
(On ILB Jack Cichy's performance in training camp and what he did to earn a roster spot)
"He plays really, really hard and he does everything the way you ask him to do it. Hopefully – knock on wood – he can stay healthy for once. He's a heck of a high-motor guy that does everything exactly the way it's coached."
(On if Evans can play on Sunday without participating in many practices during the week)
"We'll take it all the way to the wire with him. He's gotten 1,000 reps already for this game the whole camp. It'll just be a game-time decision. If he doesn't go [in practice] on Friday, we'll take it all the way to the ballgame. If he can't play, other guys will step in and step up."
(On how much he would like to watch Sunday's game against New Orleans as a fan)
"I would have my TV on for sure. I'd be there early, probably with a few cold ones and some hot dogs. I'd be ready. When they turned for the kickoff, I'd be ready to roll."
(On examples of players he has coached who have taken a few years before settling in at the NFL level)
"I think most rookies are that way. I've always said, 'If they play before Thanksgiving, they're really special' because it's such a different leap of the volume of information you have to learn to be able to play fast and still learn all that information. I've seen a ton of guys. Our number one pick in Arizona didn't play – I don't know if he dressed for a game, D.J. Humphries – then he's been starting ever since. It's just a matter of drafting good athletes and letting them grow into the position. Don't force them in there."
TIGHT END ROB GRONKOWSKI
(On how the team will generate energy without fans in the stadium)
"That's what we're going to have to do – we're going to have to create our own energy. We've been doing it the whole time throughout practices, throughout training camp and now this week. We're going to have to feed off each other big time. We're going to have to rely on each other big time. We're going to have to take energy from each other [and] build each other up. That's what it's going to take. It's a huge aspect when there's fans – you can pull energy from them – the cheers, the boos, whatever it is. That's a whole different energy source, I believe. But, that's not the case. They're not going to be there. We have to help each other out, we have to pick each other up and we've got to feed of each other and build momentum to gain energy and help each other out."
(On the challenge for the team entering Week 1 and specifically for QB Tom Brady)
"It's definitely going to be a challenge going into New Orleans. They're a great team, they have great players, they have another great quarterback, too, in Drew Brees. They have a good defense, a good offense, so it's definitely going to be a challenge. It's definitely another challenge for Tom, for myself [and] for this team. All we can ask for is to just go out there and give our best and not really look at anything else. Like, 'Oh, I have to go out there and win for this or that.' No. We just have to go out there, give it our best, give it our all and give it our best fight that we can possibly give when we get out there to New Orleans."
(On the advice he would give to his teammates about managing the expectations entering the season)
"That's just all hype. That's a lot of noise outside of the building and I would just say we've got to take it one day at a time, one week at a time, one game at a time. That's what it's all about. You've got to play a 16-game season. You've got to be good week in and week out, and the way to do that is just take one step at a time [and] one game at a time. Never look ahead of yourself. Never look ahead of a practice, always try to do your best every single day and just stay in the present and do what you can do that day. Like I said, take it one game at a time and that's all you can really do."
DEFENSIVE LINEMAN VITA VEA
(On the pride the defense takes in repeating as the league's top run defense)
"I think it's just taking it one step at a time – not getting into the hype and not getting ahead of ourselves. Take it one week at a time and just hone in on what's being coached to us, what the coaches are telling us and all that good stuff."
(On the defense being easier to understand having played in the system for a season already)
"For sure. I think that definitely helped a lot coming in under the same scheme as last year because you begin to learn more than what you knew last year. Obviously, you have to learn about your position, so I think that came second nature to the majority of us. I think when that happens, you begin to learn more about the defense itself, the game, the offense and all that."
(On his approach when he is facing a double team and if he tries to split the two players or attack one player)
"I think it depends on what kind of double it is. I think in the moment, sometimes you get that muscle memory where you can just play off of it depending on what type of double you're getting or who you're playing against."
SAFETY ANTOINE WINFIELD JR.
(On who gave him the news that he earned a starting safety spot and his reaction to the news)
"It was Coach [Todd] Bowles. He kind of just came up to me after a practice and said it was my spot, so go out and own it. I was just excited. I've put in a lot of work over the camp to get the starting position and now my goal is just to be the best I can be for my team."
(On if his father, Antoine Winfield Sr., has talked to him about his playing days vs. the Saints)
"It's funny because I remember watching those games, like him playing against New Orleans. It's just so surreal to actually be here. It's already coming up upon us on Sunday, so it's going to be game time. I'm just really excited to go out there and play."
(On his mindset heading into Sunday's game)
"My goal is just to go in there and do my job – try not to do too much or do anybody else's job, just do mine and make any plays that I can make for my team to give us the best chance to win."