“It’s really been a great week. I think our players are really excited about playing this game,” assistant head coach Joe Vitt said following practice on Thursday.
It’s been a busy week at Saints camp with injury news and the announcement of who will head up the team for the first six weeks of the Season. Offensive line coach and running game coordinator Aaron Kromer will be the acting head coach until Vitt returns from serving a six game suspension. Thursday Kromer addressed the media for the first time as the man in charge and quickly told us that he is in charge but not really.
“The plan is that I’ll work these six games and Joe Vitt will come back and he’ll finish out the year. I’m a fill in for the fill in and I’m going to do the best job I can do,” Said Kromer who pointed out from the onset of the media session that he wouldn’t be leading the team alone. “We’ll do the same things that Sean Payton has done over the years. We’ll follow the same program. The coaches on this staff with Pete Carmichael, with Spagnuolo, with Greg McMahon those three guys know how to run a program themselves. So for me it’s an opportunity but it’s also a collaborative situation where we’ll all work together and solve this thing.”
“Aaron has been with us since our championship season and has done a great job with our offensive line and done a great job with our offense,” Vitt said of the confidence the team has in Kromer. "Everybody knows Aaron. Aaron’s going to continue on what Sean’s built here. He knows the program. He knows what we do and how we do it. He understands the teaching and the practice progression. It was a great pick by Mickey (Loomis)."
Kromer has been with the staff since 2008 and has 22 years of coaching experience under his belt. Experience that had the St. Louis Rams taking a look at him as a head coaching candidate before Jeff Fisher took the job earlier this year.
That experience could be a reason the team feels confident they'll be fine come the regular season. “Aaron is like me and Aaron is like Sean, this is all he has ever done. If somebody’s going to come in here and ask Aaron to do open heart surgery next door he’s going to get nervous. He doesn’t know how to hold a scalpel or fly an airplane,” Vitt said. “He, like I, are very comfortable with our players. We’re comfortable with the process that takes place here. Very comfortable with the way our install goes and how we segment our practices every week. So when this is all you do, now is there going to be added pressure not let people down sure, but hey listen you embrace some of those things.”
Kromer will be alongside Vitt during the next two preseason games to get a feel of what it’ll be like on the sideline. Vitt points out that having Steve Spagnuolo who was a head coach himself just months ago in St. Louis could help provide Kromer with guidance if needed.
Thursday’s media meeting was just another oddity to a list that has been growing since the Bounty Scandal rocked the NFL and Airline Drive. Can’t say many people have attended a coach’s presser from the interim to the interim coach who’s replacing the suspended head coach. The really strange thing is that it pretty much feels like business as usual at the facility. A point that the interim to the interim says is not felt by coincidence.
“You were at our practices. You guys have seen it. Tell me the difference. Tell me the difference between last year’s training camp and this year’s training camp. Tell me the difference that you see the way we run things. The way Drew Brees drops back to pass. The plays that we run, the hustle, the tempo on the field there isn’t a difference because we’re following what Sean Payton has taught us. We are keeping pace with the way that Sean would do it. What would we do today last year we did the same thing this year,” Kromer said passionately. “We’re always in constant improvement but at the same time it’s his program. It’s the way he’s done it. We’ve had a lot of success doing it his way and we think that it’s important that we continue to do that.”
Kromer continued, “What other program that you know that you’ve seen or in your business where they took the CEO away and said you can’t come to work. They took your boss away and he can’t come to work now you move up and change I bet you we’d see a difference. And I’ll tell you today that you don’t see a difference in the New Orleans Saints.”
Coach Vitt answered some questions on the injury front Thursday when asked specifically about players. The following were his takes.
Cornerback Marquis Johnson. The Alabama product had been dealing with knee swelling, “had a better day today. He’s got a good chance at playing.”
Linebacker Barrett Ruud took snaps at practice and will likely see action in the second half.
Wide Receiver Nick Toon. “He ran well yesterday. We’ll see.” Toon has missed all of the team’s preseason games since injuring his foot back on August 3.
Defensive end Turk McBride. McBride is recovering from an ankle injury “Practiced yesterday practiced again today so we’ll take at him if there’s any post practice swelling and make an evaluation before the game. Really had a more productive week then we originally had thought in the beginning of the week.”
Defensive tackle Tom Johnson. Vitt said he had a better week than expected and is coming along.
Wide receiver Adrian Arrington. No time table has been given for Double-A’s return to the field but Vitt today did provide a pretty big hint, “We think this we think that he’s going to be ready for the Redskins.”
Wide receiver Andy Tanner. Tanner hasn’t practiced since suffering an ankle injury last Friday but is improving, “He’s out of the boot. He’s not limping. He’s really making good progress.”