After 25 days on the road – a training camp tour that included stops in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., for practice, and Foxborough, Mass., and Houston for joint practices and preseason games – the New Orleans Saints returned to the practice field at the teams Metairie facility Monday.
The long, winding road back to Louisiana left the team somewhat eager to get back to a familiar routine.
"I think we're all creatures of habit, so these guys – in the next two days – are all getting settled into their routine here," Coach Sean Payton said. "Weather was good today, we had a good (fan) turnout and the fields are in great shape. We're still in training camp mode and I think that's the mind-set we're taking."
The mind-set, too, is to climb into the victory column.
New Orleans lost 34-22 to New England, then 16-9 to Houston in games that followed disturbingly similar patterns.
The Saints turned over the ball (four times against the Patriots and three more against the Texans) which led to two defensive touchdowns by the former, and a touchdown and field goal by the latter. Also, two end zone interceptions ended potential scoring drives by the Saints.
That, perhaps, has made the pursuit of success a tad more urgent for Friday's preseason game against Pittsburgh, the first time the Saints will play in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome this season.
"I think it is important," Payton said. "Now, we've talked about going into these games (that) although there is a rotation and there's going to be some guys that we decide not to play, the object obviously is to finish the end of the game. Last week, regardless of where we were in that second half, we were looking at playing that game out, just like a regular-season game. I think it'll be important.
"For a lot of these guys, this will be the first time they've played here in Louisiana or in the Superdome. So I'm looking for us to play well on Friday, and I think these guys expect to as well."
Despite the absence of victory, Payton said he has seen much of what he'd hoped to see during training camp.
"I think the practice tempo has been good," he said. "Obviously, there are a handful of things that we've got to be able to clean up. But I think the effort and the focus has been real good.
"We've got to find a way this week to play a better game. There are certain elements that really put you behind (in) the game. You start the game the way we did with a good three-and-out defensively, you're going to have field position and it was a big point of emphasis and we turn the ball over right away. That's something in the regular season that shifts the momentum, especially on the road."
It's something that the Saints hope to eliminate in the Superdome, after nearly an uninterrupted month on the road.