As the Saints prepare to wrap up their final week of offseason training activities, coach Sean Payton is revelling in what he says is a somewhat historic moment for him: 100 percent participation. No contract disputes or holdouts, just every player on the roster, happily baking under the New Orleans sun, preparing for next season.
“On the field, we were able to install a new defense. I think, most importantly though, time spent in the weight room and the conditioning I think have made for one of the better offseasons in regards to players lifting and training. Our attendance has been outstanding,” says Payton.
It may seem like a small key, but this is the first time in three seasons the entire team has been together.
Two years ago, the NFL Lockout blocked these OTA’s.
Last season, Payton was suspended for Bounty Gate, and Drew Brees was absent amidst his contract battle.
Expectations are sky high that this season looks to be different than the Black and Gold’s last two campaigns.
“Coming off a disappointing year, I think we have enough veteran leadership on this team and players recognize that we can be a lot better and we need to be better. I think it starts with that,” says Payton.
Many journalists and fans are already identifying similarities between this year’s team and the winning crews of the past, especially the Super Bowl Champs of 2009.
Payton advises that, as promising as the last few weeks of OTA’s have been, the 2013 Saints still have a long way to go.
“I never talk with this team about us being like the ’09, ’10, or ’11 teams so there’s nothing promised. There’s a process of working hard and obviously there’s a lot of things we’ve got to improve on and that’s what we’re working on. Outside of that, shoot, we haven’t even put on pads yet, so we’re working to make the improvements. We’re working to get ready for the opportunity to go into full pads practice.”
Saints Training Camp kicks off in late July.
Tuesday’s practice was the last OTA open to the media, although the Saints will work Wednesday and Thursday.
Benjamin Watson, Ryan Steed, Terron Armstead, Roman Harper, and Patrick Robinson sat out of Tuesday’s practice, which emphasized third down and heavy personnel groupings.