<span>Saints Head Coach Sean Payton bid farewell to the players on Thursday, but left them with a reminder about what he expects from the team when they reconvene for training on July 31.
"I talked to them about where we are, where we have come from this off-season and the things we've accomplished and the goals we have moving forward," said Payton. "It's important to point out the things we have accomplished, things like a very strong off-season strength and conditioning program, very good mini-camps and impressive OTA's. I feel like it's been our best off-season. I want that to continue when we come back for training camp."
Payton said that the next five weeks, particularly for the veteran players and the coaching staff, are important times to get away and get refreshed for the long grind that upcoming season promises to bring. "I know we are all looking forward to the challenges we have ahead of us, our schedule, with the NFC East and the AFC East and our division, will make it interesting, but that being said, it's important to get away a bit, recharge and spend time with the family and get ready for the season."
Payton did say that with all of the work invested in the off-season, such as with player acquisitions, the draft, off-season strength and conditioning, meetings and actual time on the playing field, that it's only natural to always have football somewhere in your mind. "I think it's just natural to have people ask you about the team and the upcoming season and the challenges in front of you. Certainly there is an excitement, but the time away needs to be spent getting ready for the season."
The Saints training camp practice schedule, which will be officially announced in the upcoming weeks, figures to follow very much inline with the practice schedules Payton has held through his first three seasons, meaning plenty of two-a-day practices. The one big difference will be that team will hold their training camp at their year-around facility in Metairie, as opposed to a college campus.
Each member of the team can fully expect to battle through the July and August heat and humidity and the challenges that those present while trying to get ready for the season. "That's all part of it," said MLB Jonathan Vilma. "You know it's going to be tough, but that's why we have been doing all the work in the off-season. It's all about getting ready for the season."
Payton and Vilma both were in agreement that the Saints' new look defensive, under the direction of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, has made major strides this off-season. "I like the way the defense is flying around and coming up with new and different schemes," Payton said. "The energy level is great and they enthusiasm is evident and contagious. That's exciting."
Thus the veterans and the coaches will scatter shortly for some rest and relaxation with, as Payton estimated, nearly 2/3 of the playbook installed during the off-season, while many of the rookies will continue to take advantage of the team's workout facilities.
"The difference in training camps will obviously be the pads, practicing twice a day and the increased repetitions that the players will get," Payton said.