Transcripts: Smith, Ryan Press Interviews

Head coach Mike SmithOn the first prep day of the season:

"We got a jump on them on Monday a little bit. It was a much smoother Wednesday to start your week because we had an opportunity to spend a significant amount of time on Monday introducing the New Orleans Saints schemes. So I thought it was good. It was warm, maybe the hottest day we've had since we've been in camp."

Injury Report:

"We had everybody participating in practice. There were two players listed on it and they were full participants. We had everybody here in practice – I don't recall, I just looked at it. I don't even know which two they were, but we're healthy."

On his re-evaluation of Corey Peters:

"I think Corey, just from my live eye, I thought he did some good things. I'm going to go in there and watch the tape this afternoon and really get an opportunity to speak with Corey. Corey took a number of snaps. Today was his first really true practice, so it'll be interesting to see how he feels, but to the live eye he looked good."

On Saints and Falcons games:

"They're always hard fought, and they come down to a handful of plays. 25 percent of the games in the NFL come down to three points or less. It seems like when the Falcons and the Saints play it's a lot higher percentage, and it comes down to a handful of plays. They're a very good football team. They're well coached. They have an outstanding quarterback. They create some matchup issues for everybody that they play in the League. We look forward to competing against them. It's going to be a fun day on kickoff Sunday at 1 o'clock. I know that."

On the Saints adding Jairus Byrd:

"You know last year they were kind of down in turnovers. I'm sure that kind of was the reason that they were looking at a ball hawk. The numbers were down, I think they were 29th in the League in turnovers. Jairus Byrd is a guy that plays the ball extremely well in the air. You have to know where he is. We had an opportunity to play against him last year when we played up in Toronto when he was with the Buffalo Bills. He's an outstanding player. I'm sure that Coach Ryan will figure out different ways to play to his strengths.

Quarterback Matt RyanOn opening up the season against the New Orleans Saints:

"Yeah, I think anytime you have a season opener guys are excited for it. We've worked hard all offseason to get to this point, and we're excited about what's in front of us. I think anytime you have a division game, you play these guys twice a year – Carolina and Tampa as well – anytime you have one of those teams on the schedule it's always kind of ratchet up a little bit. It happens that we got both of them, the season opener and the division game. I think everybody is excited about it. We're ready to go, and we've got to play our best football on Sunday."

On whether or not he's excited about where the offense is right now:

"I am. I think we had a productive preseason. I feel like we got into a little bit of a rhythm in that third preseason game, and we hope to be able to carry that over into Sunday. We know we're going to have a tough challenge in front us, good defense we're going against, but I think everybody's confident with where we're at."

On how big is Steven Jackson's return:

"It's huge. Getting Steven back is big for us. Obviously he's a dynamic player, and he's going to be fresh and healthy out there for us, which when he's on the field that's a positive for us. I think it adds a lot of depth at the running back position for us. I think we can go three or four deep, and keep putting fresh guys out there that are capable to make big plays at any time. Having him back is really important for us."

On adding Devin Hester to the offense:

"We'll see. Obviously he showcased what he can do in the preseason. He's going to be a part of what we do offensively. He's an explosive dynamic player, and I think we'll find different ways to utilize him. I think everybody here has been impressed with the way that he plays the wide receiver position. We can put him outside. We can put him inside. He's really shown that he's a versatile wide receiver, and I think that's going to help us throughout the year."

On having more or less options with Tony Gonzalez being gone:

"Well, obviously you'll love to have Tony, and we're going to miss him because of the production he brought to the table. In order to replace schematically we're going to have to be a little bit different because we don't have Tony's skill set in one individual on our offense, but we can use different guys to make up for that. Devin, obviously being a new guy, I think he'll be part of that mix of finding different ways to recreate the production that Tony provided for us for the last five seasons."

On how important it is to not have any turnovers this upcoming Sunday:

"It's really important. I think there's a stat today, when they win the turnover battle with Sean Payton as their coach they're like 37 or 38-1 and that winning percentage is through the roof. It's important. We've got to protect the football, but at the same time you have to be aggressive against these guys because you know they're going to put up some points. It's always a fun matchup. It's good to go against good teams. You want to see where you stack up, and we just need to play our best football on Sunday."

On how important it is to run the ball against the Saints:

"It's important every week. I think that's one of the points of emphasis for us going into this season, is to be a more efficient team running the football. I think we were that during the preseason. I thought we did a pretty good job of being effective in the run game. Certainly, when you go against a good offense and a great quarterback like Drew Brees, time of possession can factor into success. Hopefully, we'll be able to get out there and get the run game established and that really will set things up for us."

On what's gone on against this team in the past:

"The games are always tight, as is the case week in and week out in the NFL. You got to find a way to make the four or five plays that change the outcome of the game. In the past we haven't done that, but we're not too worried about what happened four and five years ago. I think at this point we're a different football team; they're a different football team. It comes down to what we're going to do this year, and I think guys are excited about that."

On what he's feeling good about going into this game:

"I'm feeling good about a lot of things. I like where our offensive line is at. I think those guys have had a really productive training camp. Obviously, they've taken their fair share of criticism throughout the offseason, and I think they've shown up every day at work on the practice field with the right attitude. I think they've been really, really good. I think Mike Tice has been great for them. I really like what he brings to the table for us. That's a small part of what I'm excited about, but I think those guys are doing a great job."

On what jumps out about the Saints defense on film:

"Jairus Byrd, we know him from having played against him in Buffalo last year. We certainly know what he's capable of; his range is probably as good as anybody in this League. His production in terms of interceptions has been off the charts. I think he adds to an already solid defense. Scheme wise, it's always tough to tell during preseason what you're going to get, but it's a multiple defense. They can do a lot of different things, from a lot of personnel groupings, and that's all stuff that we'll have to be prepared for."

On what having several different running backs does for this offense:

"I think it's huge when you have depth at that position, each guy with a little bit different skill set, too. It allows you to do some different things. I'm excited about the guys that we have. Steven back healthy is big for us, the addition of Devonta Freeman, as a rookie he's done a good job for us during training camp. I really think it's a good thing for him that we have depth at that position because he's going to come in and contribute, but not be asked to be in there for 60 snaps a game. I think that's going to be a positive for him, but I like the guys that we have. We've got some explosive guys. Guys that are on top of pass protection. I think that Gerald Brown, our running back coach does as good of job, as anybody in this League, of getting those guys prepared for pass protection. I'm really excited about what those guys bring to the table."

On putting any burden on his self to lead this team:

"I think regardless of what you did the year before, we're in a League that's based on production. Every season that you go into it, as a quarterback you certainly feel responsible for doing your part. I think everybody in this locker room feels that way, regardless of what happened last year. It's a production based League. You have to produce. You have to play well, and I think that's where everybody's focus is at, including myself."

On getting the up-tempo offense back this season:

"When you have veteran guys out there that have been in this game for a long time it allows you to be more multiple than when you have young guys out there. So having those guys back on the field is big for us. It gives us our full complement of what we want to do offensively. Certainly it allows us to go as fast, or as slow as we want to go."

On going 55% from the red zone this season:

"I think it comes down to execution. I think it comes down to making the plays when they present themselves. As a quarterback that leads to make the right check when you see certain defenses that you're going against, and being accurate. Specifically for me I think that's the thing, make sure we're in the right play. Then when we have an opportunity to make a play be accurate with the football."

On what his project was for this offseason:

"You learn something from every season; I think this year was about teaching young guys. Although Roddy and Julio were up during training camp, during the offseason aspect of it we had a lot of young guys out there, and new guys Devin Hester, Devonta Freeman out there, who are going to be big parts of our offense. For me, it was going back to basics within our offense starting from the grass roots and trying to teach those guys what we're trying to do from the start. That was probably the biggest difference this year from other offseasons. I've probably worn more of that coaching hat than I have in other previous offseasons."

On opening up the season for the first time since 2009:

"I haven't even realized that till you said it, but it's always fun to have a home opener. Fans are fired up, they've been waiting all offseason for us to get going, but I expect the environment to be awesome. We've got great fans and I'm sure they're going to be awesome on Sunday."

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