Saints' Vitt: "It's good to be back"

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“I never thought I would say this but it’s good to see you guys,” was how assistant head coach Joe Vitt began his Monday press conference with reporters. Vitt is now back in the role of acting head coach having served his six-game bounty related suspension.

Offensive line coach and running game coordinator led the team during Vitt’s absence and after a 0-4 start helped see the saints to a now 2-4 record. “I think Aaron Kromer did a phenomenal job of keeping this team together through some tough times,” Vitt said of Kromer’s job as acting head coach. He has kept our staff together. We had a little bit of a rocky start. You never know how the season is going to go because every season takes on a life of its own. He has kept it together and kept our team together. Our hats are off to Aaron.”

The Saints have won two in a row following a thrilling 35-28 in Tampa on Sunday.

Vitt has coached football for 30 years and so his time away was no vacation. “There is nothing you can do to fill this void. At the end of the day, my wife (Linda) should be nominated for the Ed Block Courage award. My wife is a great mother and wife, but she really became a great friend to me over this time,” says Vitt of the internal support he received at home. The Saints linebackers coach spent time working with the Marine Semper Fi Fund, spoke to flood victims in LaPlace, spoke to Tulane’s football team trying to stay busy and an eye to his return date, “I know I looked at my watch and the calendar a lot.”

Head coach Sean Payton’s suspension started in the spring and so Vitt was tasked to lead the team through the NFL Draft, off season program, training camp and preseason schedule before leaving. “I have never taken that for granted one time,” Vitt said when asked if his suspension made him appreciate his job more.” I have never taken for granted my stay in this league. I have never taken for granted how blessed I am to be in this league. I have coached with so many great players and coaches — it’s good to be back.”

ON TO THE BRONCOS

Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt is back after having served a six-game suspension.

Vitt began getting ready for the Broncos immediately upon arriving in New Orleans last night and into the night. The Broncos are 3-3 and coming off a 35-24 win at San Diego where quarterback Payton Manning led the Broncos to 35 unanswered points in an incredible comeback win. The Chargers were up 24-0 at halftime.

The way the Broncos are playing is tough enough but having to play them in altitude makes it harder. Vitt said the team is considering arriving in Denver on Friday to give the team a couple of days to adjust to the higher altitude. Sunday will also be the second straight road game for the Saints.

“If you are a good football team it doesn’t matter where you play, who you play or when you play,” says Vitt of the challenge. “We are going to prepare all this week to be the best team we can come Sunday night.”

Manning has bounced back nicely after missing all of last season with a neck injury. The Denver QB has thrown for 1808 yards to go with 14 touchdowns and only four interceptions. “He is a first ballot hall of famer,” Vitt says of Manning. “He has the records and numbers out there to warrant that. He is a football genius. He understands defenses, alignments and pre-snap reads. When you talk about the skill level of quarterbacks there needs to be three characteristics and he has all three. He is tough, smart and accurate.” Manning has tossed three touchdown passes in three straight weeks.

FORCE THE WR OUT

The final play of the game was no doubt a nail bitter for Saints fans and for a second a disheartening moment as it appeared as if Tampa Bay had tied the game. The catch was ruled incomplete though as Bucs receiver Mike Williams went out of bounds and then was the first player to touch the football making it an illegal catch.

Williams going out of bounds wasn't by accident as Saints cornerback Patrick Robinson shoved Williams out of bounds on purpose to make him ineligible. It was a football play that is taught to the secondary. “In our red zone work, we work specifically on situational football and that’s something that’s said and talked about all the time by Coach Spags (Steve Spagnuolo). He does a good job with that,” said offensive line coach Aaron Kromer on Monday of the play.

Tampa quarterback Josh Freeman scrambled out of the pocket and once that happened it made him a runner, making receivers blockers and defenders can then put hands on them. If Freeman were in the pocket, the play could have been flagged for illegal contact or pass interference. “It was smart. If you noticed, and everybody was focused on where the ball was thrown, but Malcolm (Jenkins) did the same thing to another receiver on the other side of the field,” Saints defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo explained Monday. “That’s good football. Good players do it in key situations in this league and two of our guys actually did it on that one. Patrick Robinson knew exactly what he was doing because as soon as the guy caught the ball, if you watch him, he goes right to the official. Good officiating. I want to make sure I get that out. Good officiating on that play.”

During punts, you will see the receiving team on the ends force the gunners out of bounds but shoving them and in that case that is a legal play as well.

ATTA BOY JENKINS

Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins hustle play is one that coaches and players have pointed to as a sign of the heart the team possesses.

One the plays being talked about Monday was Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins running down Tampa receiver Vincent Jackson on what could have been a 96-yard touchdown play. Jenkins caught up to Jackson and brought him down at the Saints one yard line. The Saints defense then went on to have a spectacular goal line stand keeping the Bucs from scoring as Tampa went and failed to convert on fourth down.

The Saints defense surrendered 513 yards of total offense to Tampa Sunday but the Jenkins play is an example of what is good about that side of the ball says their coordinator. “I’m going to admit that it crushes me to think of what, I mean you’re looking at that and you’re saying these guys can’t stop anybody,” says Spagnuolo. “That’s not really the truth because when we've had to, we do it. The explosive plays still kill us, but there is a lot of heart in this group. It’s amazing. The guys are amazing. Malcolm’s play right there, and we all know which one I’m talking about, is evident of how these guys play. I would piggyback that by going back to the red zone plays. To force them into 21 red zone plays in two drives says the same thing. In other words, they get some big plays to get into the red zone and we don’t just fold the tent and let them score in two plays.

“Malcolm Jenkins running down that long play, that play could have changed the tempo and the momentum we had going. That’s the kind of team we have,” adds Kromer who feels Jenkins is representative of the type of players in the Saints locker room. “They’re not going to give up. They’re going to keep fighting. He went down and made that play when we had the goal line stand. That was a huge turning point in the game I thought.


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