2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Payton says his return alone doesn't fix Saints

    2013-03-20 20:30

PHOENIX (AP) - Sean Payton is trying to guard against anyone in the New Orleans Saints' organization thinking the team will return to its playoff form of recent seasons just because he's back.

``That's a dangerous mindset for a team to have. That's not real,'' Payton said when NFL coaches met with reporters Wednesday at the NFL owners meetings. ``We could turn around and win five games.''

Payton returned to work a little over two months ago following a full-season suspension - which lasted about nine months - in connection with the NFL's bounty investigation of the Saints.

Since then, he's made several substantial changes, most notably firing defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and hiring Rob Ryan to not only replace him, but to overhaul the defensive scheme from a 4-3 alignment to a 3-4.

Payton also has hired several new assistants and taken part in key personnel decisions, including ones that brought in cornerback Keenan Lewis in free agency while allowing four-year starting left tackle Jermon Bushrod to leave for Chicago.

Payton said he is well-rested and ``fired up'' to be back on the job, but also cautioned that the Saints have ``a lot of areas we have to improve on.''

``The one thing we have to avoid is perception that they'll be right back in the swing of things,'' Payton said. ``The way we played a year ago and some of the things we have to correct, we've got a lot of work ahead of us. ... We did a lot of things that prevented you from winning games.''

Payton said Spagnuolo wound up in a situation that was ``unfair,'' because he was hired only a couple months before Payton was suspended, and the two never coached together. Still, Payton emphasized that he was concerned by the Saints not only ranking last in the NFL in defense, but giving up more yards (7,042) than any team in history.

He also was bothered by New Orleans ranking 25th in rushing, averaging 98.6 yards per game.

Payton pinpointed those two statistical trends as reasons why Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees appeared to struggle at times, completing what for him was a relatively low 63 percent of his passes while throwing 19 interceptions and getting sacked 26 times.

``When you tell me a team is last in the league in defense and last in the running game, I'm telling you the quarterback's job description is entirely different,'' Payton asserted. ``I'm telling you he's having to play and press and try to do certain things that his counterpart may not have to do based on the way that team is running the ball or playing defense. ... You get one dimensional, you find yourself in these games where you're not controlling the game.''

Now Payton is trying to find a new left tackle and bolster a pass rush that ranked 29th in sacks per passing attempt.

``If you ask me what keeps me up at night,'' Payton began, ``there would be two areas: how are we going to improve our pass rush and how are we going to be at left tackle?''

Charles Brown, a 2010 second-round draft choice, could be the answer at left tackle, but Payton is concerned about his history of being injury prone.

``He has to be available,'' Payton said. ``Year after year, if you're unable to (remain healthy enough to play), then it becomes as a coach, `Do we have him? Do we not have him? ... It's hard to game plan then.

``I look at that spot like there's a magnet with no name on it.''

Payton said it was painful to watch from afar in frustration as his team struggled, and to be barred from even talking to people about it. And even as Payton said he tried to make the best of his suspension by coaching his son's sixth-grade football team and even going to the dentist more often, he also made it clear that he will never agree that his punishment was justified.

When asked if he subscribes to the notion that everything happens for a reason, he responded, ``I don't know that I would say everything happens for a reason; I would say everything happens.''

He went on to say that his approach to his suspension was to focus on what it would take to get reinstated, rather than allowing his behavior to be governed by his bitterness over the fact that, for nearly a year, he could not have conversations with colleagues to which he was closest.

``I could scream from the rooftops how screwed up I think that is, but that's not going to matter, all right?'' Payton said. ``So there's a discipline and a focus and you just make sure you get yourself in a place where you're able to handle the challenge and you're able to come back stronger, tougher, wiser, maybe more skeptical than ever.''

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

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Allen BradfordNov 27 07:12p

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The Dallas Cowboys have declared LB Dekoda Watson, OG Donald Hawkins, QB Dustin Vaughan, FS Jeff Heath, DL Joshua Brent, OT Tony Hills, CB Tyler Patmon inactive for Week 13.

Taylor HartNov 27 03:12p

The Philadelphia Eagles have declared OT Dennis Kelly, DB Jaylen Watkins, WR Jeff Maehl, OG Julian Vandervelde, QB Nick Foles, CB Rashad Carmichael, DE Taylor Hart inactive for Week 13.

Kyle FullerNov 27 11:32a

Chicago Bears CB Kyle Fuller (knee) will play in the team's Week 13 game against the Detroit Lions. Fuller had been questionable during the week.

Lance BriggsNov 27 11:22a

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Reggie BushNov 27 11:12a

The Detroit Lions have declared QB Kellen Moore, OG Larry Warford, DE Larry Webster, DL Nick Fairley, RB Reggie Bush, OT Riley Reiff, WR Ryan Broyles inactive for Week 13.

Reggie BushNov 27 11:12a

Detroit Lions RB Reggie Bush (ankle) is inactive Thursday, Nov. 27, for Week 13.

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The Seattle Seahawks signed free-agent DT Jimmy Staten (Seahawks) to their practice squad Wednesday, Nov. 26. The team also released OT Andrew McDonald from their practice squad.

Marcus ThigpenNov 26 09:03p

The Buffalo Bills claimed WR Marcus Thigpen off waivers from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Wednesday, Nov. 26. The team also waived DE Bryan Johnson.

Richard GordonNov 26 09:03p

The Tennessee Titans waived TE Richard Gordon Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Larry FitzgeraldNov 26 08:33p

Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald (knee) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Dwayne AllenNov 26 07:33p

Indianapolis Colts TE Dwayne Allen (ankle) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

C. PattersonNov 26 06:23p

Minnesota Vikings WR Cordarrelle Patterson (knee) did not practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Jerick McKinnonNov 26 06:13p

Minnesota Vikings RB Jerick McKinnon (back) did not practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Brandon LaFellNov 26 06:03p

New England Patriots WR Brandon LaFell (shoulder) was limited during practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

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New York Jets TE Jace Amaro (head) is not expected to play in Week 13, because he is going through the concussion protocol.

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