Payton's location not much of an issue for Saints
METAIRIE, La. (AP)
No matter how many blowouts the Saints post while Sean Payton is overseeing games from a booth high above the field, the injured coach isn't about to stay away from the sideline any longer than necessary.
''When I'm healthy, I'll go back down to the field,'' Payton said Monday, shortly after leaning his crutches against a wall and gingerly taking a seat behind a microphone at Saints headquarters. ''I think it's going to be December. ... We've got some goals in regard to when we can leave the crutches and when I can get to this podium in three seconds instead of 13 seconds. Generally when that starts to happen, there's a good chance I'll go down to the field again.''
Although Payton had not done any coaching from a booth since he was a college assistant at Illinois in the mid-1990s, there was no evidence that either he or his players had any trouble adjusting to his new location in a stunning 62-7 victory over Indianapolis on Sunday night.
Payton decided last week that he would limit his role to providing general observations and reminders to his assistants, but relinquish his usual play-calling duties, allowing offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. to handle that from the sideline.
Payton said in the case of the Colts game, he figured he was not as well prepared to call plays because he'd spent last Monday through Wednesday afternoon in a hospital recovering from surgery on his broken left leg.
So Payton might go back to calling plays this week. But when asked whether he'd share his plans in that regard, he smiled and said, ''absolutely not,'' explaining he doesn't want next Sunday's opponent, St. Louis, to know.
In any event, it's no secret to anyone now that the Saints' offense can be as explosive with Payton upstairs as it ever was with him on the sideline.
The only reason Drew Brees did not extend his NFL record streak of four games with at least 350 yards passing was because the Saints decided to play backup Chase Daniel late in the third quarter. Brees was 31 of 35 for 325 yards and five TDs. Seven offensive series produced touchdowns and two produced field goals.
Although Payton never doubted his team's ability to adjust to his absence from the sideline, he said he could appreciate why his shift in location was a matter of concern last week.
''Whenever there's change there's uneasiness with everyone. Something's different and how's it going to go?'' Payton said. ''You hear me talk about the crisis in every season that every team has ... and what you just don't know is when and who and how it's going to affect you.''
Payton said there were instances in which his new vantage point helped, such as when he noticed that a running play to the outside with Darren Sproles, which gained only a yard, was nearly a much bigger play. He advised Carmichael to go back to that play later and it resulted in Sproles' 16-yard scoring run.
''From up there you could see there was room outside,'' Payton said. ''If you're on the field you might not get back to that running play. ... So it's those types of observations that, `Hey, that's a good play. Let's not be afraid to come back to it.'''
The timing of Payton's injury also made some uneasy, because the Saints were coming off of a sloppy loss in Tampa Bay and it seemed they had much to correct. Payton's response was to take a big picture approach after he rejoined the club for meetings in midweek and delivered a message that seemed to hit home. He essentially asked players and assistants to consider whether they were truly doing their best.
''It's like the parent with children who are capable of getting A's and might be getting B's,'' Payton explained. ''The same thing exists for us as coaches and as teachers. ... It was the thinking that at some point here, if we're wanting to be a really, really good football team, we need to see it.''
Payton can't really say that anymore, not after the Saints dominated both offensively and defensively, forcing three turnovers and converting them into touchdowns en route to scoring as many points as any team since the AFL and NFL merged in 1970. The Saints also eclipsed the old franchise record for points in a game by 11.
Defensive end Will Smith said Payton said the right things at the right time.
''He was just honest,'' Smith said. ''You get caught up a lot of times with coaches trying to motivate you and it becomes unrealistic in a sense. But his was really realistic. We hadn't played up to our potential.''
Notes: Payton was not yet sure whether RB Mark Ingram's heel injury would hasten the activation of Chris Ivory, who is eligible to come off of the physically unable to perform list. Ingram rushed for 91 yards before his injury, after which he was seen on crutches and wearing a protective boot. Payton, however, has said X-rays were negative and that he'd have a better handle on Ingram's status Wednesday.