I have the pleasure of sharing with you guys my newest interview with Saints’ starting linebacker and SuperBowl Champion Scott Shanle. I can tell you from my experience of blogging on the team that Scott has been one of the most “real” and approachable players on the team. I hope those of you that don’t know much about him will gain a little respect for him after hearing this interview. Many thanks to him for taking time away from his family on Father’s Day to grant me this interview. Scott touched on a variety of subjects, including the recent team OTAs, the break leading up to training camp, his football journey that eventually landed him to the Saints, the improved Saints’ defense, the departure of Scott Fujita, the young linebacker’s development and the team’s chances for next season. You can listen to the interview by clicking HERE (there’s also an old Heath Evans interview from this offseason you can check out too). I hope you enjoy! Below is a transcript of the conversation in case you would rather read than listen.
You know I was kind of looking forward to OTAs this year, just because I think after we had a season like we had and win the SuperBowl, you kind of want to see what the rest of your teammate’s mindset is as far as going into the next season. The way our OTAs went I’m very encouraged. I think the guys showed up with this attitude that “hey we want to do this thing again”. It felt too good and it was too great of an accomplishment not to come back hungry and driven to try to repeat.
(on if the SuperBowl celebration distractions are behind the team)
Yeah I definitely think so. I think it can work both ways, obviously we had a good time and the city had a good time with their little champions. But throughout the process, and you know when I still go places and still hear people talk to me about how big of a deal it is to them and how important it is, I think the celebration has continued and it’s developed the bond between the city even more when you find out that people are still so excited about it. It makes you feel good that you brought that much joy to the city.
(on what he’ll do during this break period)
Right now you want to get away a little bit, but you can’t get away so much that you get out of shape because of everything we worked for in the past three months preparing for the 2010 season. You don’t want to lose your conditioning and your mindset in the 5 weeks we have before training camp. I’m going to take a little trip home and see some family, maybe go over to Destin and hit the beach for a couple of days with the kids. After that it’s pretty simple: I’m working out every day and just getting my mind focused on the upcoming season.
(on his journey as a football player that led to being a starting linebacker on the SuperBowl champion)
Going all the way back to high school before going to Nebraska, I got recruited late in the process. The main thing, and you know I was recruited by a couple other big 12 schools, but I played 8 man football coming out of high school. Not too many division 1 schools are looking at guys playing 8 man football, it’s hard to judge exactly how good they are or what type of competition they are going against. From the get go I had to prove myself, and like you mentioned, all along the journey I had I never had anything given to me. Everything I’ve accomplished being a starter and being on the World Champion Saints wasn’t given to me. It wasn’t given to me because I was a 1st round pick (he was drafted in the 7th round), it wasn’t given to me because I signed a mega multi million dollar contract and they had to play me. At the end of the day it feels good knowing that everything I’ve gotten is because I worked hard for it. I’ve taken the opportunities given to me and the chances to show that I can play, and I made the most of them. That’s why I think I am where I am right now.
(on what made the defense so much better in 2009 than previous years he was with the team)
You know I think there were a few variables that came into play. Obviously I think Gary Gibbs is a great football coach, and I think Gregg Williams is a great football coach. Obviously both of them had different approaches to the game. Gary is more of a laid back guy, and Gregg majored in the psychological part of it as far as motivating players, and (Williams’) defensive schemes are more aggressive, more complex as far as looks that we give which I thought made us better on defense. Last year we knew every week we were going to cover a guy man to man most of the time that’s what we do. Along with that the secondary played as well as any year that I’ve been (in New Orleans). I mean, Darren Sharper wasn’t around the other 3 years I’ve been here, Tracy Porter emerged as one of the top corners in the league and Jabari Greer is one of the best man to man guys in the league. I think the play of our secondary really carried us to where we got.
(so the secondary was the main difference)
Yeah, I think when you look at the transformation of the defense. Obviously you do have to start with Gregg because I think Gregg did a great job of stirring things up when he got here, letting guys know he had a no nonsense approach. He didn’t care where you were drafted or how much money you were making, the best guys were going to play on Sunday. As a player, you respect that about a coach. He did it before when he was in Washington: LaVar Arrington, 1st round pick, Pro Bowl year I think he had, and he didn’t play the way Gregg wanted him to play or play in the scheme like he wanted him to, so he sat him down. I think as a player when you see a coach like that you gain a lot of respect for them knowing that they want to win every week and come Sunday they aren’t going to compromise the other 10 guys on the field. You know, a lot of coaches may say “hey were going to play the best guys” but I’m guaranteeing you with 75% of the other NFL teams it’s really lip service because a lot of times the general managers or the owners are saying who has to play based on their contract status or their draft status, you’re not going to pay a guy a ton of money to sit. But Gregg has a lot of say here and he’s shown that he’s a man of his word when he says he’s going to play the best guys.
(on the departure of Scott Fujita)
At the start of OTAs it really was different to me. For the last 4 years and even the year before in Dallas, I was used to looking over to that other linebacker spot and seeing him there on a daily basis. So it was weird at the start of OTAs, but a lot of the guys we have now, you know Jo-Lonn Dunbar played a lot in his spot last year when Scott had some injuries and he performed well. From the friendship side of it it does make it a little more difficult. When you develop a friendship with someone, when you develop a trust that every week and every Sunday you know exactly what you’re going to get… you know, we would joke around at practice and stuff, we kind of have the same personalities and going back to what I was saying before we were both guys that weren’t handed anything. Scott walked on at Cal, he was a 5th round draft pick, he earned everything he got. I think it was easy for us to kind of identify with each other and that kind of brought us together.
(on the young linebackers currently on the roster)
I’ve always been more of a leader by example guy. With Scott as more of a vocal leader, he’s now gone, and Jonathan Vilma as our defensive captain, I’ve always sat back and let them kind of handle the vocal role.
It’s my turn to step up and help a lot of those young guys, get let them know what’s helped me to play 7 years, now going into my 8th. I take that responsibility more seriously of being more vocal, because by nature that’s just not me. I’m just not a vocal person. But you know after seeing those guys in OTAs, they’ve calmed a lot of, not fears, but let’s say questions as far as “who can play this spot as well as Scott did”. Jo-Lonn played a lot of snaps in his spot last year. Stanley Arnoux is a good player, he’s very athletic, he just needs the experience and the reps. Jonathan Casillas played the last couple games of the last season when I was out. They have the experience and they’re good athletes, it’s almost like they kind of have to grow up in a hurry, but when you have the ability that they have you can do it.
(thoughts on the upcoming season)
You know, I’m gonna go out and I’m gonna say after we’ve been through OTAs, I was telling this to someone the other day, we are a better team right now in 2010 than we were at this point in 2009. The experience coming back, we’ve all had one year of experience in Gregg Williams’ scheme, we all know what’s expected. We can play fast, there is no hesitation in our play. I think defensively there’s no reason we can’t be a top 10 defense, that’s for sure. Our offense, you know, they’ve given us the last 3 years a great advantage every Sunday. As far as the season, there’ different variables as far as injuries and stuff, as long as we stay healthy I like the way our schedule looks. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be hosting a playoff game and a number one seed would be ideal, but I think we can do the same again.