After the New Orleans Saints finished their final training camp practice Friday night, it was debatable as to who enjoyed the experience more:
Was it the 3,507 fans inside Tulane's Yulman Stadium? Or was it the Saints players who worked out on Tom Benson Field?
"Friday Night Lights out here, like high school stuff," linebacker David Hawthorne said.
"Definitely (a good move), to change up the scenery. To come out here, this is nice. It's just a good changeup to come out here in front of the fans and make it like a game-like experience."
Similar to last season, when the Saints held a training camp at Mandeville High, New Orleans trekked away from its training facility in Metairie to conduct a night practice. Friday's work marked the conclusion of training camp 2015, which began at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., and ended on a field that was named in honor of Saints owner Tom Benson, whose financial contribution helped finance the construction of Yulman Stadium.
"I like coming here. This is something I think that we would certainly explore doing again."
Payton said his team had productive work as it prepares to play its final preseason home game, Sunday against the Texans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Kickoff is at 3 p.m.
"Overall, there was a little bit of emphasis on the Houston game, and then we had some periods of offense versus defense," he said.
"I thought it was good. It's always better when you're working the competitive periods. The carded periods tend to be a little more of a teaching period, where you're working on looks that you're going to see that you don't necessarily run offensively and defensively."
Saints fans won't see much of quarterback Drew Brees against Houston.
"I think you'll see a handful of plays (from Brees)," he said. "You're not going to see three quarters, maybe like back in '06 and '07, those early years. We'll get him some work and then we'll get into our rotation.
"Our plans right now are to play Luke (McCown) quite a bit and in the second half, you're going to see Ryan (Griffin) and Garrett (Grayson)."
Despite the absence of Brees, the game will be critical for many Saints players. Those who are scrapping for a roster spot will need every opportunity they can get in order to leave a lasting impression.
"This game is important," Payton said. "And it may not be important for some of the players, but I would say it's the most important game of the season for a number of players."
It will be the latest positive step for the Saints this offseason.
"We've still got a long way to go, but I like the way we're headed," Hawthorne said.
The Saints held their final practice of 2015 Training Camp presented by Verizon at Tulane's Yulman Stadium on Friday, August 28, 2015. Photos by Alex Restrepo. (New Orleans Saints photos)