Saints safety Roman Harper
On Carolina's secondary:"I only have the far-away view. I don't really know much about anything besides I see some of the concepts of some of the things they did when I was there. So other than that, not really. I haven't seen too many games. I'm playing my own. One time, we were off on a Monday night. I fell asleep. I know they're competing. I know they have some younger guys now. Overall, I know (Steve) Wilks and (Sean) McDermott will have them right, eventually at some point."
On the defensive backs roster changes:"Peanut (Charles Tillman) retired. Josh (Norman) was gone after the franchise thing. Me, they let me go because they wanted to see what Tre's (Boston) got. So I wasn't totally surprised. All those things that happened to me are business. It is what it is but I'm not totally surprised. Any time after the Super Bowl, your team is going to change. Whenever you have success, people are going to try and cherry pick off your players and things like that. I know Washington is happy about getting Josh. Those are some of the things that happen. It's just unfortunate that it's coming to this. Everybody has all these eyes on Carolina's secondary. I think it's a complete defense thing, that's what they pride themselves on, is being a complete defense thing and not just, 'Hey it's all about this one player. It's all about this one player.' They have star guys at certain positions but at the same time, it's a total, complete defensive effort from man-to-man to zone, everybody being in their spots and playing as a great unit, allowing their defensive line to get up into the quarterback by playing great coverage whether it's man-to-man or zone."
On quarterback Cam Newton's struggles this year compared to last year:"I really can't put my finger on it. I think Carolina has always been a great team that has played complementary football. When I was there, it was all about complementary football. We were not just depending on the offense to go out there and score 35, 40 points. The defense has to play great defense, get turnovers and put the offense in position to score. All those things have to work hand-in-hand week in and week out to be successful. When some of these things are missing, and the other parts of the game, you don't take advantage of it and the other aspects of it. It all has to go hand-in-hand – offense, defense and special teams – and when some of the key cogs are not playing up to par and not doing how we need to do it, you're not going to be as successful as you would like to be."
On the Panthers' record so far this season:"I'm surely surprised. I wouldn't have guessed they'd be 1-4. I'm sure it was one or two plays each game that they look back like, 'We should've won that game,' or, 'It takes this to win the game.' The same way with us, we're 1-3 and I would say the same thing. Oakland, the opening game, if we defensively make a play in the fourth quarter, I think we win the game. Then the New York Giants, I think offensively, if we make a play offensively against the Giants in the second game, we win the game. That's the difference between 3-1 and 1-3, or 3-1 versus 1-4, or whatever the record is. So I think those are the differences you look back on – just a few couple plays that lose you a game every week. You have to be on the top end of that play or that game, or that play, to usually come out on top of the game."
If he has any regrets from his time with Carolina:"Of course there's regret, but I look back on it and what I would've done differently in the game. What could I have done? I don't really know. So the regret is just that we did not take advantage of it as a team. My regret is that I feel like we played our worst game we played all year long in the biggest game and the biggest opportunity on the biggest stage. Those things are what I have regret on but I take everything in life as a learning experience. I felt like I learned a lot last year. It made me more of a complete, not only person but, player as well. Dealing with different guys and different personalities and these different things that help you be able to go to different locker rooms and just fit in. Next thing you know, you become guys and closer and things like that. I really, really enjoyed it, man. It was some of the best guys – what I call some of my best friends will be from that locker room. At one point, we had the whole world dabbing. Literally, we did. It was fun, man. I'm so glad I was a part of that. To start off the season 14-0. When we started off 5-0 and 6-0, we had guys around the locker room who never had a start like that and they're asking, 'Has anybody been 6-0 or 7-0?' It was just me and Peanut. I was like, 'I've been 13-0.' And Cam right then was like, 'I'm going to beat that record,' and I said good because I'll be here with you when you do it. Those experiences there, I'll be able to carry with me for the rest of my life. For that, I really, really am thankful for the opportunity to be there for it."
On head coach Ron Rivera's history of finishing seasons with winning records:"Because of his faith in his team, the faith in his coaching staff and the belief that we can do this. He has the utmost belief in his team. He's not lying when he says that. I was there two years ago when we went two whole months without winning a game. Nobody believed in the team besides Coach Rivera. He harped on that every single day and because of that, it just really breathes confidence in his players, throughout his staff and his team that, 'Hey, if nobody else believes in you, I'm the head man and I believe in you. And I believe in each one of you guys that go out there, that we can do this and get this win, week in and week out,' and he's not going to waver or back down off of that. Sometimes, not everything is going to work out the way it is but you have to continue to ride the ship. Eventually, we're going to get to some calm water and get a nice ride going but when the waves are rocking and things like that, nobody wants to be the captain but Coach Rivera does. For that, you truly appreciate how great he is."
On helping New Orleans with the terminology he remembers Carolina using:"I don't know how much of it is a secret but I told them, straight up, 'I'll give you as much or as little as you need. So if you guys want more or whatever you think, just let me know and I'll tell you what I know.' And it was the same way when I was in Carolina, when I told them about New Orleans, 'I'll give you as much or as little as you need. Whatever you want to do, I'm here to help because I want to win ball games and that's the most important thing to me.' I know both sides respect that and understand that. Coach Rivera and those guys and McDermott, they all know that I know what they run. It's just part of it, man. It's part of the game. It's part of this whole back-and-forth thing that we call life and competition."
On how much information he has given:"Now that would just not be fun to tell. That just wouldn't be fun to tell."
On coming off of a Super Bowl win versus a Super Bowl loss:"It's so hard to come back after. First of all, the schedule's harder. Number two, in your minds, you're like, 'We're good. We'll figure it out. We got it. I got it.' Every week, 'I got it.' That's the hardest part. It truly is, it's hard. Everybody goes through it. Every team has done it and it's just part of it. We went through it here in New Orleans in 2010. We had injuries and some different things. Defensively, we were really good after the Super Bowl year but offensively, we struggled at times and uncharacteristically. You have to be able to be complementary football. That's what wins in this league. You have to know each team has a different personality and what's going to win for each team is going to be a bit different. We have to figure that out. I'm sure Carolina is going to be fine. Talent is not an issue there. Great guys and a great locker room is not an issue. It's going to come and it's going to work itself out. They just have to find their stride. I just hope it's not this week, that's all I'm saying."
Saints head coach Sean Payton
On his takeaways after a bye week from the Saints' first four games of the season:"Well, a couple of things. I think number one, we've got to clean up some of the special teams errors. We had the blocked field goal in New York that was pretty significant in a low scoring game. Had a chance to go up at halftime and when that happens, you're minus-three and then they scoop and score at seven. It's a 10-point swing in the game. The next week in Atlanta, we're able to start with a score, get a stop defensively, we're going to have decent field position and we muff a punt with a jam, so there are small details and yet significant ones in games that you're playing that are as close as we've been playing. I think defensively it's constantly looking at how we can improve in the red zone, looking at our third-down defense and then with some of the injuries, getting the right personnel on the field. That's been one of the challenges with regards to the health of some guys over there and we've had some young guys step up, but really looking closely at what we're trying to do in each package. Offensively, I think, constantly looking at the efficiency. Our third-down numbers early on weren't real good and then the last couple weeks have been better. And then, how are we improving as a team running the football and each week that kind of changes based on the game you're in. But, you do have a chance to self-scout and for us, it's four games and yet there are still some trends that you want to make sure you're correcting."
On if he expects to face quarterback Cam Newton as Carolina's starting quarterback and what his thoughts are on facing Newton:"He's a fantastic player, the league's MVP a year ago. We fully expect him to play and recognize the challenges when we do play against him. I said this last season after not only seeing him for two games in our games but also throughout the course of the season - you see a lot of film because you're watching Atlanta or Tampa or a common opponent - the growth, being here for so long you see with some players, but his efficiency in the pocket and where he's going, he's got great command of what they're doing offensively and Mike (Shula) does a good job there mixing in some of the looks. They give you enough stuff unbalanced – they give you read option, they give you so many different things that make it challenging to defend. That's the key is trying to defensively be on top of each personnel group and then what they're trying to do within the framework of the formation."
On how different Carolina's offense looked on Monday Night Football with Derek Anderson at quarterback:"You go into that game and you're watching the tape, any time your offense goes from your starter to your backup, there's going to be a change. You take a guy like Cam, in fairness to Derek, that's challenging. No different than Luke (McCown) a year ago when all of a sudden we were without Drew (Brees) for one week, Week 3 I think, against you guys. That being said, I think, the injury to (Jonathan) Stewart and a handful of other guys, I mean, you recognize how challenging each week is when you play in our league. Home or on the road, it comes down to a handful of possessions. I didn't see the game on TV, but we got the coaches' tape the next day and you know, there's opportunities, you watch that game, where obviously they get the ball in the deep red zone and have the interception. There's a handful of possessions that I'm sure you look back on that you want to correct and improve on."
On Stewart practicing today for the first time today in a month and if his return is important:"Those are starting elite players. Two Pro Bowl players, so one of them is a quarterback, that's super significant and when one is your halfback, the same applies. I think that you are always hoping that early in the season, throughout the season, you can minimize the injury bug. We've kind of been bitten a little bit, specifically defensively, but we go into Atlanta with nine starters out in that game. That's one of the challenges week to week. Mondays, even when you win, always seem like they're hectic because you have to make roster adjustments and begin to look at who your 53 or 46 are going to be for the game."
On how it's been having safety Roman Harper back on the team this year:"It's been good. A guy like him, who's played as long as he has, is a savvy veteran. He's got real good leadership skills in his own way, and I think for some of our young players it's been a real plus. Each week when we're game planning, there's packages where we're going to have him in the game and we understand what they are, but he's got real good awareness and there's a calming sense when you're around him. He's got real good football IQ."
On if Harper has been able to provide insight to the Panthers that you can't get from tape:"No. We're division teams, and there hasn't been any staff changes for a long time, and so the only thing that you're paying attention to aside from the scheme is, you know, the personnel that's different; the young players that made the roster that you are going to see for the first time. We'll kind of tweak, see their team in the offseason with what they're wanting to do, maybe in the kicking game, offensively or defensively, but when you play Carolina, Sean's (McDermott) been there, of course Ron (Rivera) and Mike (Shula) and those guys, and they do a great job and you know it's a tough division game, a game that both cases a year ago that came down to fourth quarter scores or defending a score in a two-minute there at Carolina with (Josh) Norman's interception. They're hard-fought games, so from a scheme and personnel standpoint, you're a lot more familiar with your division opponents, particularly when there hasn't been much change."
On how tight end Greg Olsen can be so wide open and how defenses are getting lost with him:"Well no one is getting lost with him, it's a credit to his skill set. He's got all that grit you're looking for. He's willing to not only run routes, but he's willing to do some of the other things that are necessary as a tight end. And yet, he can run, he's very smart. Mike and those guys do a great job with their play action and also their spread formations of creating some of those explosive plays. I can remember the whole process with him, because he's from Wayne, N.J., and played high school football there. I was coaching with the Giants, and then he went on to Miami and then got drafted into our league and you put him in line with a long line of players at Miami that have been outstanding tight ends and I think his consistency, there's just a grit factor with him that combined with his speed and his hands and his football IQ, you end up with one of the better tight ends, if not one of the top tight ends in our game right now, clearly."
View photos of the Panthers' week of practice leading up to their game against New Orleans.