Tom Benson still owns the team. Mickey Loomis remains the general manager. Sean Payton is the head coach, and everyone connected with the football operations is marching in step.
It seems status quo.
Truth is, the appearance of normalcy is quite deceiving at 5800 Airline Drive, 70003, the year-'round home of the Super Bowl XLIV champions.
Everything is different about the Saints’ facility these days because of the league-wide lockout. Players are not allowed inside these premises, not today, not tomorrow, probably not for the foreseeable future. At least, until the league’s 32 owners and the players can reach a new Collective Bargaining Agreement or the courts force the NFL to end the lockout.
Until then, Saints players are not welcome at 5800 Airline Drive. That includes the face of the franchise, quarterback Drew Brees, MVP of Super Bowl XLIV and now one of the lead plaintiffs in the players’ anti-trust suit against Benson and the other 31 owners.
On Monday, Payton, his assistants and scouts attended LSU’s Pro Day in Baton Rouge. The Saints also were well represented at Wednesday’s Pro Day at the University of Illinois. Later this month, Payton plans to attend Pro Day at the University of North Carolina.
League wise, NFL owners and Commissioner Roger Goodell and the various committees will hold their annual spring meetings Sunday through Tuesday at the Roosevelt Hotel.
Benson, Loomis and Payton all will be in attendance at various times during the three-day confab.
But, business as usual?
Far from it.
Read the rest at NewOrleans.com
NEWORLEANS.COM: Your team, and NFL teams, in general, is sending the message that they are going about “business as usual.’’ What is “business as usual’’ for the Saints?
MICKEY LOOMIS: Our business right now is no different than in past years. We’re preparing for the draft. We’re prepared for free agency if it would have happened at the end of the league year and we’ll be prepared when it happens going forward. We’re ready to go when it comes to free agency. We have evaluated our team. We have evaluated players around the league. So if and when that happens, we’ll be ready to go. What we can do now, what we are doing now, what we would typically do now is prepare for the upcoming draft. So that’s where are focus is in terms of the personnel department. Obviously, we get our coaches involved in that to some degree, so that’s what we’re doing. In terms of our coaching staff, like every other year, they go back and self-evaluate and self-scout our team and other teams. That’s normal and that’s what we’re doing.
NOC: Before the lockout, etc., you tendered offers to 10 players and ultimately signed K Garrett Hartley and RB Pierre Thomas to long term deals. Where do those other eight players stand in terms of those tendered offers. I’m speaking of WR Lance Moore, LT Jermon Bushrod, G Carl Nicks, SS Roman Harper, DE Jeff Charleston, S Usama Young, TE David Thomas and DT Remi Ayodele. Are those offers still valid?
ML: That’s a good question. I don’t know the answer to that. As of now, we’re prevented from doing any transactions. That will be the result of what happens as we go forward. I don’t know the answer to that, what rules are in place.
NOC: Did you think it would come to this? That is, the NFL Players Association would decertify and the owners implementing a lockout?
ML: I don’t want to answer that.
NOC: What can you do as an organization to help keep your team together right now?
ML: We can’t have any contact with our players so we’re going to honor that until we’re told differently. That’s just what it is. None of us can have business contacts with our players and we’re not going to.
NOC: What do you hope your players will do as a team during this time?
ML: Again, I don’t want to answer that. That all has to do with rules that exist during a lockout, so I’m not going to discuss that. Listen, this is no different than any other year when it comes to our “to-do’’ list. We have a list of items that we want to do in relative to our team in the offseason. Obviously, we can check off a few of those with the signings of Garrett Hartley and Pierre Thomas. We’ll have to wait on a number of other ones. But we have the normal stuff like draft preparation and we have some things we want to do around the facility and we’ll be able to do those.
NOC: With Drew Brees as a lead plaintiff in the current anti-trust suit against the NFL, what is management’s view on that?
ML: Again, that is not an issue I can discuss.
NOC: You signed free agent DT Shaun Rogers to a one-year, $4 million contract prior to the CBA expiration? How difficult is this for a new player?
ML: I don’t know that. It remains to be seen.
NOC: You must have discussed that possibility with him at the time of his signing.
ML: Look, he’s a veteran player. When we can have contact with him again, he’ll be able come in as part of our program whenever that occurs. Listen, all the teams are in the same position here. We’re all playing by the same team rules, so I don’t think there is a competitive imbalance.
NOC: What about those 8 to 10 teams that are dealing with new coaches and coaching staffs, some of whom have yet to meet the players on their rosters? It would appear that they might be at a competitive disadvantage.
ML: I don’t know. I’m not in that position so I’m not going to spend a lot of time thinking about it.
NOC: Does it help to have a veteran, established team, such as your team, at this time?
ML: That’s no different than any year. If you have some continuity and stability in your organization that helps every year regardless whether you have a work stoppage or you don’t. I always think that is an advantage.
NOC: But the difference here is those teams with new coaches don’t even have the ability to meet with their players, install their playbook, build relationships, etc. So there is a unique difference. Moving along, you were involved in the 1987 players’ strike as a member of the Seattle Seahawks’ front office. What are your memories of that labor situation?
ML: That was a strike year and this is a lockout at this point. You had replacement teams in ’87. There were a lot of differences. I don’t want to sit and talk about the differences but the similarity is obviously there was a work stoppage.
NOC: Do you remain optimistic that this will get resolved in a timely manner?
ML: Yeah, sure. I’m always optimistic.
NOC: You’re a ‘glass is half-full guy’?
ML: I’m not always a ‘glass half-full guy’ but most of the time I am. There are a lot of smart people at the management council, we have a great commissioner and I think there are a lot of smart people on the players’ side, so I think we’ll eventually get a deal.