Credit Mike Triplett of the New Orleans Times-Picayune for a solid interview with suspended Saints coach Sean Payton that ran in today’s edition of the newspaper.
Payton touches on a lot of subjects, like the offense he’s helping run for his son’s youth football team, and admits he’s glad that public opinion seems to have shifted somewhat for the Saints in what has been a protracted legal battle for players involved.
Payton, of course, has been banished for the entire season after former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams ran a bounty program under him. Payton and Williams accepted their punishments much more easily than players who have a union that can support them in the matter.
What is the lesson Payton has taken from the situation?
“When you're the head coach, you've got to pay attention to all areas of your football team,” he told Triplett. “I'm going to leave it just at that. And I think right now the bigger picture is what's in front of us - I say us, I mean our team, and not so much what's behind us. Certainly you learn from mistakes and certainly you learn from what's happened. There's a lot that went into this, and I think fortunately there's a lot more that's come out after the fact and I think will continue to surface. But I'm just excited to watch the team respond. Excited to watch the coaches and fans. I can't go to the games, but I'm excited to see how they play out. And to see their preparation, as I've said before, this is something we were built to handle. And I'm sure the players feel the same way."
Payton said he doesn’t have any regrets how he handled the matter with the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell and said “we tried to do everything possible to show as much as cooperation as possible."
Triplett asked Payton what the main thing is the NFL has gotten wrong in the entire matter.
“I'd rather not get into it specifically, because we could elaborate for an hour. I think it's better to just leave it at that,” he said. “There's a lot at stake still for guys like Jon Vilma. They're working hard to get the correct ruling. ... But I think the timing (when the allegations first surfaced in March) and all of a sudden the chain of events and when they happened and when we first were in New York (visiting with league officials), I think that caught myself and all of us off guard for how quickly that all happened."
Payton downplays the idea that he will be badly missed this season as the Saints have an interim head coach in Joe Vitt and an interim to the interim head coach in Aaron Kromer.
“I think the stability aspect of the program is so strong,” he said. “There's so many players and coaches that are there now that have been involved since '06. I think it'd be much more difficult if this was early in our tenure here. But I've seen where we're the only team with the same ownership, GM, coach and quarterback all have been the same since '06. And all that lends to that stability and allows you to handle challenges."
It certainly will be a season-long challenge for the Saints. We’ll get a handle on how they will do beginning Sunday.
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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune
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