Saints overcome distractions
METAIRIE — The most turbulent offseason in New Orleans Saints’ history will come to a quiet end Thursday with a scramble golf tournament for players, coaches and staff.
Fans would prefer it to come to an end with the team holding a news conference to announce that Drew Brees was signing a long-term contract, of course, but that’s unlikely to happen.
But there is some good news, acting head coach Joe Vitt said after the final on-field organized team activity Wednesday.
With this phase of a tough offseason behind them, the Saints can look forward to some rest and come back focused when they report for training camp on July 26.
According to Vitt, the Saints have ignored the tumult of the past 31/2 months and done what suspended coach Sean Payton asked them to do: their jobs.
Whether it was the bounty scandal that rocked the entire league and the reverberations that continue, Brees’ contract situation, or the ESPN report that General Manager Mickey Loomis listened in on opposing coaches from his suite years ago, Vitt said the Saints responded by working hard.
“When you take a look at everything that we have gotten in during these OTAs, it’s been outstanding,” he said. “The teaching has been great. Our coaches have done an outstanding job at evaluating the personnel that we have on our team — what’s their strengths, what are their weaknesses.
“We’ve got our training camp schedule really finished now. Just knowing the players we have and what we’ve got to work on, it’s been outstanding.”
The bottom line is an offseason that started with losing All-Pro guard Carl Nicks in free agency and saw Payton, Loomis, Vitt and players Jonathan Vilma and Will Smith disciplined for their roles in the bounty scandal hasn’t been an unmitigated disaster.
“I think Sean would be very, very proud with this coaching staff,” Vitt said. “Sean would be very, very proud of the job the support staff has done from the trainers to equipment men to the cinematographers.
“When Sean left here there was one mandate: ‘Do your job.’ These guys have definitely done their job. We’re not only excited about what took place and happened in the OTAs, we’re really, really looking forward to getting to training camp.”
Whether that includes Brees remains to be seen. He has until July 16 to get a long-term deal, but has said he won’t play for the one-year franchise tender.
That was one topic that likely didn’t come up when Vitt addressed the players after their final practice.
“What has happened to this football team is unprecedented,” he said. “If we are going to do something that has never been done before, then we have to do something that has never been done through the offseason.
“We’ve got to come back in the best shape we have ever been in. The commitment has to be stronger than it’s ever been. … Our players and coaches know exactly what we’re up against. This is going to be a challenge, and they know it.”