METAIRIE — It started with the Super Bowl XLIV hangover, a Crescent City-style after party which stretched into the summer of 2010.
The NFL lockout followed the next offseason, eclipsed only in rumors and controversy by last summer’s story lines: All-Pro quarterback Drew Brees missed offseason workouts because of a contract dispute and the Saints’ pay-to-injure controversy known as Bountygate became national news.
It’s been relatively quiet at team headquarters, and Brees likes it.
“We’ve been looking forward to this for a while,” he said Thursday afternoon after OTA workouts.
Brees nearly forgot what it felt like to fall under the NFL radar. After all, it’s been four years since the Saints became a nationally known NFL franchise, sometimes for the right reasons and others times, not so much. Now, he wants the Saints to take advantage of this new found, laid-back atmosphere and get back to winning, something that didn’t occur much in 2012.
The return of Sean Payton from his season-long suspension has helped the Saints return to their level of Who Dat normalcy.
“I think the number one thing for me is just be what I’m used to in regards to coaching,” Payton said. “Whether that’s an extra Red Bull or not, I don’t know. It’s good to be back around these guys.”
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“This has been great,” Brees said. “Just getting us back in this locker room in mid-April and just focusing on getting better in the weight room and just being around the guys. Getting back to football, and that’s what we do.”
This atmosphere might help Brees tweak his own offensive heroics. While the defense’s inept play doomed last season’s late-season playoff push, Brees’ second-ranked offense suffered its own shortcomings without the help of Payton. Brees didn’t always play like Brees.
Yes, he threw for 5,177 yards and 43 touchdowns, but his inability to finish off Kansas City, his five interceptions at Atlanta, then another two against San Francisco that were returned for TDs and others non-super moments blemished his 12th season. He finished with 19 interceptions and his lowest completion percentage since joining the Saints in 2006.
No time like a slow summer to work on it.
“There is just something about getting in the locker room with the team and just watching it all come together,” Brees said. “We’re all excited about the draft, some of these young players, and free agency. We got the new defensive scheme and, like I said, we’re working on new wrinkles. This is the time of year where you watch it all come together.”
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