When the Saints take the field at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay Sunday, head coach Sean Payton will likely be hit with a vivid, painful memory.
This will be Payton’s first trip back to the stadium since October 2011, when he tore his MCL and fractured the tibia in his left leg after a sideline collision with tight end Jimmy Graham early in the game.
Quarterback Drew Brees calls the field at Raymond James “The scene of the crime.”
“We kind of chuckle about that now because he goes down, and he can’t stand up obviously,” Brees said. “He is in extreme pain, and he goes over where the offensive linemen sit. He’s sitting with his leg propped up, and he’s calling the plays from the Jumbotron. Then all of a sudden the field flips, and we are no longer going the way he was looking. We were going the opposite way, so as he is looking at the hashes, everything is flipped around. He had to get that adjustment going in his head, and there were times where he would start a play and it was the wrong hash. I had to flip it”.
Payton headed for the locker room just before halftime, no longer able to numb the pain in his leg enough with just ice. He spent the second half of the game inside the training room, surrendering play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael.
“Obviously he had to get to a hospital because his leg was in bad shape,” Brees said. “None of us wanted that to happen. He hung in there as long as he could to stay with us.”
Payton hasn’t said much about his personal return to Tampa, but Brees is betting he’ll be fired up to avenge that day’s loss, as well as the tribulations of the Bounty scandal that followed in 2012, preventing Payton from coaching the Saints at all last season.
“I’m glad he is healthy,” Brees said. “We have Crossfit Sean Payton now, and he is ready to roll.”