The Saints have built a talented roster, and it skews older.
That’s not just at quarterback, where 41-year-old Drew Brees is back for another push, but across the board. And all that experience, coupled with the obvious restraints created by the coronavirus pandemic have led coach Sean Payton (who knows about the virus too well, as the league’s first known case) to deliberately pull back on what he’s trying to do with his team this offseason.
They’re still having some degree of videoconferencing meetings with his players, but the sessions are designed for the rookies and younger players, as Payton made it clear to his veterans they’re free to work on their own.
“I didn’t want them thinking, ‘Oh, next month, honey, the facility may be back open and then we’re gonna be going into minicamp,’” Payton told Albert Breer of SI.com. “Because, honestly at that time, and even still today, no one really knows if that can happen. We think we’re gonna have a training camp, but no one knows anything about the offseason, relative to OTAs or minicamp. So I wanted them to focus on two things: Handle your family and their well-being, and begin to get yourself in fantastic shape.
“Don’t worry about the X’s and O’s right now, you’ll have plenty of time for those. So our players are lifting at home, and getting credit for it. But we’re not gonna spend all afternoon on Webex meetings with Drew Brees and Michael Thomas and Marshon Lattimore. We’re just not gonna do that. . . . And even if the skies parted and the league said, Hey, guess what? In the month of July, we’re allowing this. Well, we’re not gonna be interested in doing that. We’ll be ready when training camp starts.”
Payton also draws back on his experience from the 2011 lockout. After not being allowed to talk to players at all that offseason, the Saints rolled in and went 13-3 and won their division.
“We didn’t have any choice in it [in 2011],” Payton said. “And so, look, you had guys like Brees [taking charge], and I’m sure we’ll have guys spending time running routes on air with him and doing all those sorts of things. But I think we’ll have plenty of time, I honestly think the No. 1 concern would just be the muscle soft-tissue injuries early on, as they get into football shape.”
Those concerns are many weeks away, and Payton’s not going to spend those weeks overloading guys he trusts to be ready.