Game action photos #1 from the Saints 47-10 win over the Bills in Week 10.
The New Orleans Saints (7-2) are on a roll that the franchise hasn't experienced since the end of 2011, when the team won its final eight regular-season games and its wild card playoff game. And the current seven-game winning streak for New Orleans, as it enters Sunday's game against Washington (4-5) in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, is one that has players being advised to remain even-keeled while they attempt to do something that few teams in franchise history have done.
"Every day, we talk about the realities of today, each week and the understanding of we're just past the midway point of the season and yet, the experts will be talking playoffs, Super Bowl," Coach Sean Paytonsaid Wednesday morning in a teleconference with local media. "It's the craziest stuff ever. And tune it out. Laugh at it.
"Understand what it is, but there's so much more we have to do and accomplish. We've just got to look at it like we have been, with a win-the-day approach: Practice well, preparation and get ready for this game. But the other stuff can be toxic."
In lockstep with this season's success, media requests for players have skyrocketed.
"It's a young team, there's a lot of energy," Payton said. "There's certain things that we still have to improve on; there's a lot of things. But the amount of requests, it can be over the top. Different than three years ago (when the Saints started the season 5-0). Just trying to make sure they understand, 'Here's our weekly schedule,' and understand that this is the formula and be respectful and make ourselves available, etcetera, but not at the expense of the process."
Too, requests for Payton also significantly have increased.
"Absolutely. I have a list on my desk here, it would choke you," he said. "(It's) more than I'm comfortable with and more than we're going to fill. But that's different than three years ago. There's not enough time in the day to make everyone happy that way, so somebody's going to be unhappy and that's just how it is."
NEW ADDITION:The Saints have added running back Jonathan Williamsto the 53-man roster, signed from Denver's practice squad. Williams was Buffalo's fifth-round draft pick in 2016; he ran for 94 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries, in 11 games for the Bills. He played collegiately at Arkansas, and was coached there by current Saints running backs coach Joel Thomas, who was on the Razorbacks' staff in 2013-14.
Thomas helped present the Saints' sales pitch to Williams. The Saints had a vacancy due to running back Daniel Lascobeing placed on injured reserve. Lasco will have surgery to repair a bulging disc, after suffering a spinal injury in Sunday's road victory against Buffalo.
"We remember (Williams) very clearly from a year-and-a-half ago when he came out of Arkansas," Payton said. "We kept track of him and coincidentally, Joel had coached him when he was the running back coach at Arkansas.
"Look, late Monday night, there was pressure on Joel because (Williams) had two contracts offered to him, he had Atlanta and New Orleans both recruiting him hard. I'd given him a call, Joel was talking to him – the agent, Mickey, a lot of people get involved in that and fortunately, we were able to sign him. He's excited about becoming a Saint and he's got the makeup to fit all these other intangibles that I think are important."
EARLY BIRDS:A significant contributing factor for the Saints' offensive success has been the return from surgery by two offensive linemen, center Max Ungerand left tackle Terron Armstead. Unger had foot surgery in the offseason but returned in time to start the season opener, and Armstead had surgery to repair a torn labrum in the offseason and has returned to start the last five games.
"It's significant," Payton said. "One of the things you're always hopeful of during the season, is that when you have players that miss time, it's not for long periods of time. Those were offseason injuries and (Saints director of sports medicine) Beau (Lowery)*and these guys here, (head athletic trainer)Scottie (Patton*), have done a great job getting those guys back with confidence and ready to play. It's huge."