DAVIE, Fla. – Sean Payton had taken a few pages from the playbook of the late coaching great Bill Walsh before. Not quite like this, though.
Ever focused on the mood of his players, the Saints’ head coach kicked off Super Bowl week by donning a bellhop uniform and helping with the luggage when the team bus showed up at its downtown Miami hotel on Monday.
Drew Brees and the Saints’ six other Pro Bowl players joined him, hoping to ease whatever tension accompanied the Saints on the first Super Bowl trip in the club’s 43-year history.
“You never lose track of the job you have and for about a half hour today those Pro Bowl players, I thought, earned some pretty good tips here with our players getting off the buses and handling the luggage,” Payton said, his eyes twinkling while he otherwise continued to speak in his typical wooden tone.
“We’re always wanting to steal a pretty good idea. I think Bill Walsh, a long time ago, had a pretty good idea and we just kind of took it like one of his … plays and ran with it.”
When Walsh coached the 1981 San Francisco 49ers to the first of five Super Bowls for that franchise, he did essentially the same thing. The Joe Montana-led Niners beat Cincinnati, 26-21.
The Saints are hoping for similar success against favored Indianapolis Sunday.
Brees and his teammates were amused by Payton, but not surprised. Playing for Payton means constantly encountering motivational poems in one’s locker, watching inspirational videos or listening to guest speakers like former 49ers safety Ronnie Lott, who addressed the team the night before its NFC championship victory over Minnesota.
“You could very easily get to this week and all of a sudden want to put too much pressure on yourself or feel the pressure or the hype in the media and everything else,” Brees said. “But I think that’s one of Sean’s great strengths – the ability to constantly have his finger on the pulse of the team and know when it’s time to work, when it’s time to joke and have a good time and, obviously, when the guys pulled up he thought that would be a good way to welcome everybody in and it was.”
The other Saints’ Pro Bowlers who borrowed bellhop uniforms – white button-down coats with black shoulder patches and black pants – from the team hotel included right guard Jahri Evans, center Jonathan Goodwin, right tackle Jon Stinchcomb, linebacker Jonathan Vilma, and safeties Darren Sharper and Roman Harper.
Some of the bigger players, like the 6-foot-4, 318 pound Evans, were too big for the getups.
“I had to stretch it out a little bit, but it felt pretty good,” Evans said. “Just imagine their reaction when they got off the bus and saw us standing there. It was just pretty funny.”
For the Saints, it brightened an otherwise dreary, rainy day in Miami.
The weather forced a change in practice plans, but Payton dismissed the inconvenience as minor.
Ever mindful of what the Saints and all of New Orleans went through after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, no one was about to complain about a steady rain and an extra 45-minute bus ride to an indoor field at the Miami Dolphins’ training headquarters in Davie.
“It is what it is. Weather the storm. We know how to do that,” Brees said. “We jumped right on the buses, went to the practice field, got a good sweat in, got a good workout in and I think it just really set the tone for us and our mindset for this week.”
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