New Orleans Saints making the best of training camp's 'dog days' without Coach Sean Payton
The Saints weren't having a great practice Wednesday. And everyone on the field could sense it. It was one of those early "dog days" of training camp, where things got a little sloppy during one period in particular. And if Coach Sean Payton had been there, he would have chewed everyone out and made them start over.
Saints interim coach Joe Vitt says he has tried to run training camp the same way suspended coach Sean Payton would.
Instead, replacement coach Joe Vitt chewed everyone out and made them start over.
"The reaction from everyone was basically, 'Yeah, we knew that was coming,'" said right tackle Zach Strief, who described Vitt's reaction as "exactly what Sean would've done."
"If the tempo's not there in practice, it's not because Sean's not here. It's because it's camp, and that happens every year," Strief said. "But the good thing is that it's been so consistent here for so long, that we know what to expect, and we know how it's supposed to be done. Sometimes it'll be the veteran guys speaking up to the younger guys.
"And Joe's done a great job of feeling this team out. When to push and when to pull back. That's something you might miss with your head coach not being here. But we're not."
As expected, quarterback Drew Brees also has done his best to fill the leadership void while Payton is serving his year-long suspension as part of the NFL's bounty punishments.
"You know, little things will happen, and I'll just kind of think for a moment, 'What would Sean do?'" Brees said. "And honestly, in a way, I try to mimic that and I try to be that voice at times. But in my way, and within my personality."
That doesn't mean Payton hasn't been missed during the first week of training camp.
Brees and Strief admitted that they miss Payton on a personal level and notice his absence.
And Vitt continued his run of blunt honesty when he shot down the idea that camp has felt the same this year as years past.
"No, listen to me, at the end of the day it doesn't feel the same to me, because Sean's not here," Vitt said. "But it's our goal to make sure it feels the same for every other coach and every player and everybody else here. The program is set, the standard is high. The guys know what we're supposed to do, where we're going, and we're just staying on track."
In that regard, the Saints' first week of camp has been a great success.
To the naked eye, this year's training camp looks and feels a lot like any other typical Saints camp.
There have been some noticeable differences -- mostly in the muted volume with former assistants Gregg Williams and Curtis Johnson no longer on the staff. But aside from that, there are no signs of disarray or dysfunction, no signs of a team being knocked off its course because of the severe bounty punishments handed out by the NFL, no signs that the Saints are poised to drop out of playoff contention -- even though that seems to be a popular prediction among various national analysts.
Brees said he understands why some people might feel that way, even though he disagrees. And he understands why so many out-of-town media members have visited the Saints' camp the past week, asking about what has changed.
"I guess it's appropriate, just because this is unheard of, right? This has never happened before," Brees said of a team losing its coach to a year-long suspension, linebacker Jonathan Vilma to a year-long suspension and others to shorter suspensions. "And listen, we're kind of learning as we go. I'm not going to sit here and tell you we have all the answers. Training camp's always a time where you're kind of establishing an identity and watching a team come together.
We will survive.......and thrive!
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