2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Column: Saints' exorcism of 'Bountygate' complete

    2013-10-06 18:05

(Eds: With AP Photos.)
By JIM LITKE
AP Sports Columnist

CHICAGO (AP) - The exorcism is nearly complete.

Spooked as the New Orleans Saints were - top to bottom - at this time a year ago, ``Bountygate'' seems like little more than a bad dream now.

After a businesslike 26-18 victory over Chicago on Sunday, New Orleans is at 5-0, instead of last season's 1-4 start, and still among the fast-thinning ranks of unbeatens in the NFL. Drew Brees is off to another scintillating start, Sean Payton is back in charge, and if reuniting one of the best quarterback-coach duos in the league wasn't intimidating enough, well, the Saints are suddenly boasting a top-five defense to boot.

Most of the credit for that last development belongs to Rob Ryan, the son of bona fide defensive genius Buddy Ryan, and the less-well-groomed twin brother of Jets coach Rex. Rob Ryan was calling the shots for Dallas' defense last season, and the emergence of Cameron Jordan and Junior Gallette along the Saints' defensive front, along with rookie Kenny Vaccaro in the secondary, made his move to New Orleans look downright prescient.

But there's no doubt up and down the roster who has made the biggest difference in the Saints' fortunes this time around - even if Payton's players find it hard to say exactly why.

``Coach understands the temperature of this team, when to turn it up and when to dial it down,'' veteran corner Jabari Greer said.

``Last year,'' Brees said, ``everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. ... It hasn't been perfect, but ...''

``I can't quite put my finger on it, either. But if I had to guess, I'd say Coach Payton's attention to detail is,'' and here tackle Charles Brown paused to find the right word, ``contagious.''

The Saints got lucky when Chicago's Matt Forte fumbled a pitch on the first play of the game, but made their own break on the first play of the next series, when corner Malcolm Jenkins scooted around the right end untouched on the blitz and jarred the ball loose from quarterback Jay Cutler. New Orleans settled for field goals after both turnovers; even so, the Bears wound up chasing the Saints the rest of the way.

``I thought our guys played real smart and did what we needed to do to get a good road victory,'' Payton said. ``It wasn't always perfect or clean in the second half, but it was good enough.''

Payton conceded that watching Saints games from his couch at home last year was tough. He was parked there because NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Payton for a year in response to a murky bounty system being run by former New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

Additionally, Goodell fined the team $500,000 and banned general manager Mickey Loomis and assistant coach Joe Vitt for varying lengths of time. Coming off three straight playoff seasons - including a Super Bowl win - the Saints stumbled to 7-9. Payton's personal life was only slightly less tumultuous. He got divorced, and barred from most NFL contact, his strongest connection to the game was coaching the offense for his son's team back in Dallas.

Payton talks sparingly about that time. But Brees volunteered last week that one area where Payton has improved noticeably is how thoroughly he gets his ideas across- ``He wants to make sure everything is communicated,'' is how the quarterback put it - and the coach was inclined to agree.

``There's a lot of players in this locker room that weren't here a year ago. There's constant change,'' Payton said. ``The thing I noticed most being away one year, you miss out on a draft and free agency class and ... that first team meeting there's 40 new faces.

``Often times as a coach you think they've heard your message, or they've heard it before when a lot of them, by and large, haven't,'' he added. ``This group's worked hard. They've been very eager to please.''

And he's responded in kind.

Payton admits he was furious at the start of the suspension, resentful a few weeks in, but learned to direct some of his anger and most of his energy into working out. Ultimately, he was humbled when Saints owner Tom Benson gave him a new contract instead of firing him. Payton, in turn, rededicated himself to shoring up the foundation he's been building in New Orleans since taking a flyer on Brees in 2006.

``He's pretty consistent,'' Greer said. ``Maybe a little more mellow in certain instances than he used to be, but he's the same steady guy.

``You get used to taking orders from a guy like that,'' he added. ``So even if he goes away and comes back, like coach Payton did, it's funny how familiar it seems and how fast you can settle back in.''

---

Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org and follow him at http://twitter.com/JimLitke

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Justin HoustonMar 2 09:52a

Kansas City Chiefs LB Justin Houston had the franchise tag placed on him Monday, March 2, according to a source.

Ndamukong SuhMar 2 09:43a

Detroit Lions impending free-agent DT Ndamukong Suh will not receive the franchise tag Monday, March 2.

LaMarr WoodleyMar 1 07:12p

The Oakland Raiders plan to release DE LaMarr Woodley, a league source said Sunday, March 1. He made just five tackles in six games before his season ended due [ More ]

DeMarco MurrayMar 1 02:42p

Dallas Cowboys impending free-agent RB DeMarco Murray probably will hit the free-agent market since contract talks with him have gone slow, according to executive vice president Stephen Jones. Jones [ More ]

Dez BryantFeb 28 10:12p

Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant is expected to receive the franchise tag by Monday, March 2, but during the NFL Scouting Combine, team owner Jerry Jones said that he [ More ]

DeMarco MurrayFeb 28 09:02p

Dallas Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray could give the team a chance to match any offer he receives during free agency, according to executive vice president Stephen Jones. 'There is [ More ]

Dez BryantFeb 28 08:52p

Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant will receive the franchise tag by the deadline Monday, March 2, executive vice president Stephen Jones confirmed Saturday, Feb. 28. The move will guarantee [ More ]

EJ ManuelFeb 28 02:22p

Buffalo Bills QB EJ Manuel still seems to be the No. 1 option at quarterback, for now, with Josh McCown heading to the Cleveland Browns. Buffalo could still add [ More ]

Josh McCownFeb 27 07:52p

Updating a previous report, Cleveland Browns QB Josh McCown signed a three-year deal Friday, Feb. 27, according to a source. Financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed. McCown completed [ More ]

Josh McCownFeb 27 06:32p

Free-agent QB Josh McCown (Buccaneers) has signed with the Cleveland Browns, according to his agent. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Reggie WayneFeb 27 04:42p

Indianapolis Colts impending free-agent WR Reggie Wayne (triceps) recently underwent surgery on his triceps and has started his rehab. Wayne still has not decided if he will play in 2015.

Darnell DockettFeb 27 04:22p

Arizona Cardinals DT Darnell Dockett was released Friday, Feb. 27. The Cardinals would like to re-sign Dockett if he is not able to find a better offer from another team.

Brandon GibsonFeb 27 03:42p

Miami Dolphins WR Brandon Gibson was released Friday, Feb. 27.

Stephen BowenFeb 27 03:22p

Washington Redskins DE Stephen Bowen was released Friday, Feb. 27.

Adrian PetersonFeb 27 02:42p

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson could be a trade target for the Indianapolis Colts. QB Andrew Luck hasn't had a successful running game behind him so far in Indianapolis. [ More ]

Adrian PetersonFeb 27 02:42p

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson could be a trade option for the Arizona Cardinals with QB Carson Palmer and WR Larry Fitzgerald nearing the end of their careers in [ More ]

Adrian PetersonFeb 27 02:32p

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson could be an option to be traded to the Dallas Cowboys. Peterson is from Palestine, Texas, which is between Dallas and Houston, and he's [ More ]

Devonta FreemanFeb 27 02:12p

Atlanta Falcons RB Devonta Freeman could be the full-time back in new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's scheme next season, according tot general manager Thomas Dimitroff. 'My first impression of [ More ]

Robert GeathersFeb 27 01:32p

Cincinnati Bengals DE Robert Geathers was released Friday, Feb. 27.

Greg LittleFeb 27 01:32p

Cincinnati Bengals WR Greg Little was released Friday, Feb. 27.

Chris CantyFeb 27 11:32a

Baltimore Ravens DE Chris Canty was released Friday, Feb. 27. The move saved the team around $2.7 million on the salary cap.

Brian HartlineFeb 27 10:32a

Miami Dolphins WR Brian Hartline was released Friday, Feb. 27.

Harry DouglasFeb 27 10:32a

Atlanta Falcons WR Harry Douglas was released Friday, Feb. 27.

Matt HasselbeckFeb 26 07:42p

Indianapolis Colts impending free-agent QB Matt Hasselbeck was re-signed to a one-year deal Thursday, Feb. 26. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Steven JacksonFeb 26 07:32p

Atlanta Falcons RB Steven Jackson will reportedly be released Friday, Feb. 27.

Adrian PetersonFeb 26 05:52p

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson's suspension was overturned by U.S. District Judge David S. Doty Thursday, Feb. 26. However, the NFL also announced that they will appeal the ruling, [ More ]

Travis KelceFeb 26 05:42p

Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce, who led the team with 67 catches and 862 receiving yards in 2014, is expected to be a more prominent part of the [ More ]

Kendall LangfordFeb 26 04:12p

St. Louis Rams DT Kendall Langford was released Thursday, Feb. 26, saving the team $6 million in salary cap space.

Greg HardyFeb 26 02:32p

Carolina Panthers impending free-agent DE Greg Hardy will seek immediate reinstatement after a judge overturned Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson's suspension, according to a source.

Theo RiddickFeb 26 02:22p

Detroit Lions RB Theo Riddick likely will be given the chance to earn a bigger role in the offense next season after the team released RB Reggie Bush.

Adrian PetersonFeb 26 12:32p

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson's suspension has been overturned after a judge granted a motion from the NFL Players Association to vacate the suspension.

Michael RoosFeb 26 12:02p

Free-agent OT Michael Roos (Titans) has announced his retirement from professional football.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2015 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group