(On how he feels about the physical shape of his players)
"I'm real pleased with the veterans. I think the rookies look like they would've showed up for rookie minicamp right after the draft. Some of them just don't know how to train – not all of them. Some of them are in great shape. The veterans knew what to expect and I'm really, really pleased with the conditioning of the group."
(On the running back room and who the top running back on the depth chart will be)
"RoJo [Ronald Jones II] is the main guy. He'll carry the load. All of those other guys are fighting for roles – [for] who goes in second when he gets tired, maybe who is the third-down guy. But they're all fighting for a role and special teams will have a lot to do with that. LeSean – adding him – he's a great veteran, he's a very bright guy and he's already coaching those guys and helping them out. He'll find his niche easily."
(On if the team has a hotel where players can stay to avoid outside interactions with others)
"Yeah, we have a hotel sequestered now. We can't force the guys to go, so it's up to them. We have some veterans over there who do live in town because they know how safe it will be. We'll obviously stay there the night before home games like we always have. We talked about having a commitment to each other – it only takes one to sink the ship. Right now, I think it will be easier to handle – although we'll still have 69 guys this year once we keep going after the cuts, so it's going to be a little bit harder, but it's going to take a hell of a commitment from everybody."
(On if he has gotten a sense that the team has shaken off the awe of playing with QB Tom Brady)
"It's going to take a little bit more time for some of them – some of the young ones, especially. [For] the guys that were with him out at Berkeley [Preparatory School], it's all over with. But the young players, I still think every day they come in and it's just like, 'Wow.' Once we start really practicing, I think it will be more of a factor, but we'll get over it pretty soon. I think it's just mostly the young guys right now."
(On what gives him the confidence to know that he can trust RB Ronald Jones II in a starting role after he stepped in as the starter late in season)
"Just the way he handled it. He improved dramatically from last April to December. He has shown that he's the guy. He is a guy with a lot of talent. He is excellent in the screen game. His run after catch is good. Just for him – how much can he expand it? But I have all the confidence in the world [in him]. He put a lot of time in working out and catching balls to improve his hands in the offseason and it's showing up already."
(On the screen game and how good QB Tom Brady is with it)
"I thought we were a pretty solid screen team last year. When we [went] back and evaluated wide receiver screens and running back screens, we were fairly effective. We had a lot of big plays. It's who you're throwing them to. Chris Godwin, obviously, was excellent at it. Dare [Ogunbowale] and RoJo were probably the best screen runners, although Peyton [Barber] did a pretty solid job. I think it's a big part of our offense [and] what we've always done. To me, they're really running plays. You're just throwing the ball outside fast – it's an outside running play when you use wide receiver screens. Tom has always been great at those. He gets it out of his hands so fast and so accurately that it's an easy ball to run with as soon as you catch it."
(On if he can see RB LeSean McCoy being a big part of the screen offense)
"Oh yeah, he's a heck of a receiver. That's the one thing that gets me excited having played against him all these years is that he's a hell of a receiver and he's still got a very explosive first step. Yeah, I think that will be a big part of it."
(On if he will penalize players who do not respect the COVID-19 rules and protocols in their personal time)
"There are penalties in place for right now. I kind of trust our guys right now. When we travel there will be no going to restaurants or going out. We'll be sequestered in the hotel that we're at, play the game and get home. It's so much different than baseball where you're sitting in the city for four days, going to restaurants [and] going out than it is for football. Very seldom are we in the town for more than 28 hours."
(On his comments early in the offseason about the likelihood that players will get sick, and if believes players have to come into the season with that mindset)
"That was about a month or so ago before I saw the protocols. Right now, I don't think they will [get sick]. Once I saw the protocols and what is in place here at the facility – and testing on Friday – we shouldn't be playing against anybody that's sick on Sunday. There might be a rare occurrence. I feel very comfortable that they won't get sick in the football atmosphere. If they're going to get sick, it's going to be outside the building. We talked long and hard about that in our first meeting. I wasn't happy the first day of staying far apart on the field. We were still staying too close together, talking to each other. [They were] coaching guys and they were too close together. We're learning everyday to make that commitment even better everyday to adjust to this lifestyle now."
(On if he feels much better about the health and safety of the players now than he did earlier in the offseason when he made comments suggesting players would get sick)
"Yeah, I think I made those in June before I knew anything about what was going to happen. Now, I'm totally convinced it's good or I wouldn't be here."
(On if there are obstacles coaching a team with heightened expectations and veteran talent)
"I think it's how they blend together and their commitment to accountability to each other, on and off the field. I think we set a culture last year – I don't know if I've ever been around a bunch of guys that worked any harder than our guys did last year. We need to work smarter and play smarter. I think the additions that we have are veteran, smart players who can help young guys, especially on and off the field. [They can] help them take care of their bodies, [teach them] how to stay hydrated and all those things to stop simple things like soft tissue injuries. Tom [Brady] and Alex [Guerrero] are great at that. I think those guys that we've added are just a library of information for all these young guys. We have a great sports science staff already, and if they just listen and stay hydrated, it will stop a lot of those things."
(On if he finds himself striking a balance between catching up on what was missed this offseason and running his usual training camp practices)
"It's totally different. This isn't spring football – we're getting ready to play a game. We won't have any preseason so we're going to have to tackle each other, which I don't like doing, but is necessary. Our clock is ticking for the Saints – we're not in spring practice right now. It's going to be very hard on the younger players – in the spring we would have had two fields going on to get 400 reps. We could've seen guys play special teams positions, their positions and how they may fit in. Right now, we've got to get guys ready to play a game. It's a shame for those younger players, but that's the facts this year."
(On if he feels a veteran team and minimal coaching turnover from 2019 will help this season)
"Yeah, that's a huge part of it. Coaching coaches is harder than coaching players. Most of our guys are back, they know the systems – offense, defense, special teams – so they're hitting the ground running. Tom [Brady], 'Gronk' (Rob Gronkowski), 'Shady' (LeSean McCoy), they're all really smart, veteran guys – they'll catch up. Tom's already got it, Gronk's getting it and Shady will get it real fast. It's just a matter of me being smart enough to not overdo it as far as the hitting. We still have to tackle and as much as I want to do two fields to find those young guys, with the expanded practice squad we'll be able to get a good look at them anyway. Right now, it's just a matter of managing this thing daily to get where we want to go."
(On the biggest challenges he has faced with the new COVID-19 safety protocols)
"The hardest thing was finding a mask that I could talk through and using a microphone. We're doing our team meetings in the indoor facility where we're all spread out, have a big TV screen and using a microphone, which I'm not fond of. It's working fine. I've gotten used to it. Special teams is doing the same thing – Keith [Armstrong's] got a headset and we're doing special teams meetings out there also. Our ownership did an unbelievable job of reshaping this building so that we could have meeting rooms for all the guys with spacing. We couldn't use our big auditorium because it only holds 50 [people], so we can only use our offense in there. [We've] basically taken over the other side of the building. New classrooms, getting used to eating outside and all those things that can be a distraction if you allow them to be. So far, our guys are not allowing that to be a distraction or the coaching staff. I'm very pleased so far in that way."
(On expectations for the wide receivers beyond Mike Evans and Chris Godwin)
"Scotty [Miller] added about 10 pounds – he looks great. Justin [Watson] finished the season playing really well. He's running as fast as I've ever seen him right now, running and playing. 'Mitch' (Bryant Mitchell) got hurt last year. The young guys are going to have to get in shape. Tyler [Johnson] has a little bit of an injury right now, so he's missing some time. I think John Franklin and Cyril Grayson, some of the guys that were here, have a lot of athletic ability and speed, so they're looking for their roles. Again, it's that three, four and five – maybe six – and on special teams where Justin [Watson] led our team in tackles last year on special teams, so he has his niche."
(On the availability of OLB Jason Pierre-Paul and DL Vita Vea at the beginning of full practices on August 17)
"Jason – we're taking our time with him. He's a vet, but he's ready to go. Vita will have a little bit of a club on his hand to protect himself, but he's ready to go. They won't miss any time because it's all walkthrough right now, but it's just being smart with Jason and not setting him back with overworking that knee right now."
(On his first full team meeting and if he treats QB Tom Brady as just another member of the team)
"He's just another guy. He gets cussed out like everybody else, so it's no different that way. [The meeting] was fun. It was a meeting that was long, and we talked more about protocols and the things that we have to commit to, to win. If we have all our players, I like our chances. All those young guys on the practice squad have to be ready to step up when called on and the expectation level doesn't change. If you're in there, the expectation level does not change. It went very, very well."
(On what makes Brady unique)
"I think the desire to excel every single day, every play. If the ball is not where he wants it or the receiver's not where he wants him, it's non-stop grind with him. It was the same way with Peyton [Manning]. I think they all have the same qualities of willing themselves on other people to win and making them accept it quickly. All the good ones, they all had it. When they talked, everybody listened, and Tom has that for sure. Obviously, he has the rings and all that, but what he did over at Berkeley [Prep], that was strictly on him. Nobody edged him on to do that. He was like, 'Hey, let's get going.' Right now, he's tired of walkthroughs already. He's like, 'We've got to practice.' We've got to wait about five more days, but yeah, I love that about him."
(On if the coaching staff has put a contingency plan in place if one of them is unavailable for a game)
"Yeah, we did that. When we came back in July or late June, we put those protocols in place – who would take my place, who would take Todd [Bowles'] place, who would take Byron [Leftwich's] place, who would take Keith [Armstrong's] place. We have enough young coaches now in the system that if the receivers coach gets sick, the assistant receivers coach takes over. We're very fortunate to have that big of a staff and have guys I trust to do it."