June 1, 2005

Jim Haslett Press Conference Transcript: Saints head coach talks to media on June 1

Q: How do you look at the linebacker position and how do you feel about it?

A: "We're very young first of all. I think our oldest guy has four years of accredited seasons in the NFL (Sedrick Hodge), but I think they're a very talented group. They all can run. They're very instinctive. I thought Courtney (Watson), Colby (Bockwoldt) and James Allen are all doing an outstanding job. I look for positives. Cie Grant's done a nice job since he's been back after missing two years because of injuries. (Alfred) Fincher who we drafted from Connecticut has a chance. He's really instinctive, he's tough, loves the game. Sedrick Hodge is our oldest guy. He has started for three years, so we got some guys, Roger Knight, Derrick Rodgers is still here."

Q: Can you discuss Cie Grant's rehabilitation?

A: "He's a guy that played a number of different positions in college. He started out as a corner, played safety, outside linebacker, inside linebacker. He's really instinctive. He just got sidelined with a knee problem. I think so far up to this point he has overcome it. He's had no problems with it. He looks good. He's fast. He's struggling a little bit because he hasn't played. I think he just needs to get out there and put the pads on when we get to training camp. Hopefully, he holds up and he'll be fine."

Q: Do you feel comfortable with the position because of how Allen, Bockwoldt and Watson filled in at the end of last season?

A: "I think those guys really stepped up. James Allen played six really good games. Colby Bockwoldt and Courtney Watson, who we drafted really high in the second round, is instinctive and has really good playmaking abilities, so I think you just got to give them a chance. You just don't walk in at linebacker and become a great player. I think this trio we have and some of the younger guys have a chance to be pretty good football players."

Q: Did Watson's emergence and the drafting of Alfred Fincher make Orlando Ruff expendable?

A: "It was a mutual agreement, really. He felt he would have a better chance of playing somewhere else and we wanted to get a look at Alfred running around. We got Roger Knight who can play that position and a couple of other guys. Cie Grant, you could put him back there even though we really don't want to do that right now."

Q: Do you anticipate picking up any other players after the June 1 round of cuts?

A: "No, I don't think so. You never know, but I don't think so."

Q: What have you guys tweaked in terms of offseason work?

A: "There's a lot you can learn in the offseason. I don't think you have to beat them up and I like our mental aspect more than anything, what we're doing out there. Guys are really hustling, there's not a lot of mental errors. The offensive coaches are doing a good job of simplifying some things and utilizing guys in different ways. All this stuff is to get us ready for the training camp and get ready for the season, but I think it will pay off in the long run."

Q: When you start the mini-camp next week will it be significantly different from what you've done in the past three weeks?

A: "No, not at all. The drills will be different in the way we run them. We'll finish without team stuff. We'll go back to a normal in-season schedule."

Q: Can you talk about Mike Sheppard, why you decided to make him the offensive coordinator and what you like about him?

A: "We went through a long process. We talked to a lot of people in the league. I thought there were a lot of good candidates out there. One thing we wanted to do was keep the verbiage the same because the players we had here, we had a lot of young guys who grew up in the system and it was the only system they knew. That included Aaron (Brooks), Deuce (McAllister), Joe Horn, the whole offensive line. We didn't want to change the verbiage and what we were doing. We wanted to take advantage of the players we had. We wanted to simplify some things for the quarterback. The verbiage is very long, so I thought the offensive coaches, especially Mike spent a lot of hours reducing things, where it's easier for them just to play and not worry about thinking so much."

Q: Can you elaborate on Sheppard's style?

A: "I don't know yet. I'll find out when we get going. I don't think he's a hollerer and screamer. He's more of a teacher. He's a technician and he's coached quarterbacks for a long time. He's been a coordinator. This has been his third team where he's been a coordinator. He's been successful and he's had teams that have been successful. He's had teams that have been ranked as high as third in offense and 18th in Buffalo. I think we have some pretty good players and I think he has a good feel of how to utilize them. I think he knows everybody's strengths' and weaknesses."

Q: Can you discuss both the left and right side of the offensive lines?

A: "We've upgraded a lot in that area. I think Jammal Brown's going to be a hell of a player. Jermane Mayberry's made the Pro Bowl. You have him with LeCharles (Bentley), Kendyl Jacox, Wayne Gandy, Jon Stinchcomb, Montrae Holland. I think there's going to be some good battles in who's going to be the starters out of those seven. Spencer Folau and (Jamar) Nesbit have done a nice job. I think our line is finally where we want it to be after a couple of years and we're going to have to take full advantage of them. They're big. They're all 320 (pounds) plus and they're very athletic."

Q: How have Jammal, Josh Bullocks and Alfred Fincher progressed?

A: "Jammal's practicing with the first group right now. Bullocks has shown great playmaking abilities, amazing an interception every practice. Fincher's a guy that is very intense and I think he has a chance to play. I think all three of them are going to help us. I think some of the lower round picks, (Jason) Jefferson, Adrian's (McPherson) a raw kid. I think they're going to have a chance to help us out in some areas."

Q: Has Dwight Smith already taken on a role where guys king of listen to him and look to him?

A: "He's the kind of guy that he loves being on the field. Just his demeanor...He's a football guy. He loves the game, he loves playing, he loves practicing. I think it's important to him. He does have great ball skills. He is tough. I think he's a great addition to our football team."

Q: In having Mike McKenzie for an entire year, along with the addition of Smith and an improving pass rush, would you expect an increase in forcing turnovers?

A: "We led the NFL in fumble recoveries and forced fumbles last year and the one area we wanted to improve in is more interceptions. I think Dwight, Josh Bullocks, Courtney Watson playing the whole season, (Mike) McKenzie who had five in the games he played and Jason Craft gives us the chance to get more interceptions. Stopping the run will be the main thing to get teams in passing situations."

Q: Will you be able to get a new contract done with McKenzie?

A: "I don't know. You're going to have to talk to management on that, because they're working on the deal. I know he's here, he's working really hard. There's deals back and forth. I don't know where it's at. I know the kid is a hell of a football player and he wants to be here and help us win a lot of games. That's the most important thing to me."

Q: Is McKenzie at the offseason team workouts with the understanding that there will be talks?

A: "There have been talks. I know there have been and I know that he's pleased up to the point of where it's at. I don't get involved in that stuff, but I know his demeanor on the field ahs been outstanding."

Q: Was trading a second round pick to acquire McKenzie was a good deal?

A: "I would not see why it would raise a few eyebrows. He's been a starter ever since he stepped on the field day one as a rookie and a five-year starter going in his sixth year. You don't draft those types of guys in the second round. I think it's an excellent draft pick."

Q: On if he has talked with Mickey Loomis about his contract?

A: "I haven't talked to him yet directly. I know there have been talks."

Q: Is progress being made?

A: "I'm going to worry about what is going on on the field to be honest with you."

Q: On if that will be done before the start of training camp?

A: "I'm hoping it is. Again, I'll coach this team the best I can do."

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