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SaintsReporter 04-25-2004 03:22 PM

Post 5th Round Press Conference Transcript - Rick Mueller
 
Post 5th Round Press Conference Transcript - Rick Mueller
TRANSCRIPT: Rick Mueller (post-5th Round)
April 25, 2004
NewOrleansSaints.com

Q: Could you give us your evaluation of Rodney Leisle?

A: "He's a tough, hard-nosed player. A guy who can probably play the three-technique and the nose, we'll probably play him on the nose. We think he can do that. He bends well and plays with really good leverage. He's a really good player against the run, a tremendous worker and a great kid. He's another one of those lunch pail guys and we can't get enough of those guys. He plays hard every down. He's probably a little bit better run player right now than he is a pass rusher, but we like his work ethic, toughness and strength. I think he's going to be a good player for us for a long time."

Q: Did you consider LSU's Chad Lavalais?

A: "Chad's a good player. We thought Rodney would be a better player on the nose, and Chad is really a three-technique player in our mind. We really liked the strength and ability that Rodney had, and we thought he was a better fit in what we were looking for. But Chad is a good player, and rightfully went where he was drafted. Rodney is probably a better nose, where we consider Chad more of a three-technique (player). That was the difference in our mind."

Q: How did he intercept a pass while at college?

A: "It's unbelievable. He tipped a ball and made an interception on it. I've never heard of it. He's really productive and he has got a really good nose for the ball. He has a really good feel for blocking schemes and keeping people off of him&all of those things mentally and instinctively that you'd like that guy to do. I'm not surprised he was able to tip a pass and able to catch it."

Q: Was Leisle a player you thought would be drafted earlier?

A: "Yes. He is a guy we had rated higher. We anticipated him going on the first day. He's another guy who will come in with a chip on his shoulder. He is appreciative that we got him. I think he thinks it's a good situation. But it I think he's ready to prove everyone wrong who passed on him. That's the kind of kid that he is, and I don't think that's a bad thing from our standpoint."

Q: Why did he last so long?

A: "I think it's a good year for defensive tackles. We saw all of those guys in that upper group go, and those teams that needed a defensive tackle got one early. The teams that really had a need for one got them. I'm not sure why this group of tackles stuck around. He had an ankle injury that they cleaned out, and he's going to be fine."

Q: What about selecting FB Mike Karney?

A: "I really like Mike Karney. In this draft, we thought there was one blocking fullback available, and we got him. We didn't want to take a chance on not getting him, that's why we moved up. In retrospect, we moved up for our seventh round pick. We went from our sixth to the fifth round for our seventh round pick, so we felt like the price was worthwhile for getting this player. He is a Terrelle Smith-type of guy...a 250-pound, traditional blocking fullback. He'll get up there and block defensive ends, he's a really good pass protector, he doesn't envision himself as a ball-carrier. He's a blocking type of guy. The other thing he has is outstanding hands - he will catch the ball out of the backfield. He's played special teams for them and been productive. For us, he fits the role as a young blocking fullback that we need. I think we have a guy who will be a fullback here for a lot of years. That's what we need, and that's what we were looking for. We identified Mike as the only one available, to be honest with you. There are some other fullbacks who are pretty good players, but they aren't the 260-pound blockers. The others were catch the ball and run the ball type of players, and we don't ask our fullback to do that. We ask him to run up and block linebackers and throw his body around. He's a tough kid, a hard-working kid who lives and breathes football. He's a team guy all the way."

Q: Can you help on special teams?

A: "He should be able to help on kickoff returns, no question about it. He should be one of those up-back guys, and he's done it before. I think we'll use him there for sure."

Q: How important is signing quality undrafted free agents once the draft ends?

A: "It's always important. We've had guys we've signed after the draft make our team, like TE Zachary Hilton last year. This year we're not going to need as many. In past years, we've signed as many as 20, and usually it's around 12 or 15. This year we're probably going to need six guys, with our roster size the way it is right now. That will allow us to be more selective. We want to zero in on the right guys, and I think we'll be able to recruit them a little harder. That's really what it is at that point. They are always important. We've been able to steel some guys who have made our team, and that's like an extra draft pick."

Q: What happens to a veteran FB like Sam Gash? It seems like a fullback could play forever if they weren't injured.

A: "It's just like anything else when you get up in age, especially at that position...to stay healthy, to go through the offseason and training camp and still be effective. Right now, we're hoping Sam will be everything we thought he was, and we're open to keeping two fullbacks if that's the case. We'll just see how that shakes out. We talked to Sam at length about this before we signed him...that we were probably going to bring another guy in. We told him we could keep two, or he was going to have to fight for his job. Sam had no problem with that. I think he expects that every year. Your productivity probably declines toward the end of your career, but I still think Sam has some life left in him as a player."

Q: Who among the players you drafted will see a lot of playing time?

A: "I think they all should. We picked some pretty good players. I think you can count on Will Smith being on the field, obviously. I think Devery Henderson is going to compete for playing time. I know Courtney Watson is going to compete and want to get on the field, and definitely be a backup and play on special teams. Leisle is going to scrap for time and get in the game at some point in time. The fullback has a chance to be our blocking fullback. If he progresses and does the things we expect him to do, he ought to be on the field for us. Hopefully, we'll be able to get all of these guys on the field. Impact players, we'll see how this shakes out. But obviously, some of these guys have that potential. There are a lot of factors that come into play. Hopefully all of these guys will be productive for us in one way or another."

Q: Didn't you enter the draft wanting a cornerback?

A: "Ideally we did. We felt good about a certain group of corners, and it just so happened when we picked the value wasn't at corner for us. When we got around to value, those guys were gone. We feel good about our corners right now, and we would have liked to add a young one. Jason Craft helps us in what we did over the draft. I think that was big. It just didn't work out for us."

Q: Did the draft go like you thought it would?

A: "For our board, it came very close. It's not necessarily always a good thing. Usually you are sitting there with six or seven guys you thought would go on the first day of the draft, and that didn't happen for us this year. We saw guys go just how we got them graded. And I say it's not always a good thing because you are going to get value for a player on how you have them graded. But there wasn't that guy up there that we thought was way out of line. So I really haven't been that shocked by being there or not being there. If anything Devery Henderson and Will Smith were a surprise. We didn't think those guys would be there."

Q: Did you guys really have Henderson rated above Michael Clayton?

A: "There were a couple of things in the paper today completely wrong. I don't know where that came from."

Q: With Donte' Stallworth and Devery Henderson, if they were on the field together, is there a faster pair of wide receivers in the NFL?

A: "Not off the top of my head. That's a pretty good group of speed with those guys, and if you put Michael Lewis in the slot you would have three really fast guys."

Q: Will you start out Henderson behind Stallworth?

A: "That's a good question for Jim (Haslett). I think we're going to play him on the other side, based on what I can gather at this point. I think he'll be with Joe on the other side."


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