METAIRIE — For the first time in five weeks, Saints defensive end Junior Galette was able to sleep Sunday night.
After the team’s first four games — all losses — he tossed and turned, going over what he and his teammates could have done differently.
But after the 31-24 victory against San Diego that got the Saints out of the winless category, Galette said he was able to go right off to sleep while still rising in plenty of time to make Monday’s film review and meetings.
“It’s lot different feeling after a win,” Galette said. “This place has been like a funeral home on Mondays.
“Nobody would have wanted to be here if we’d been 0-5. But today, everybody’s smiling at each other.”
Part of the reason could have been that this is bye week.
The players are off from today until next Monday, when they begin preparations for the Oct. 21 game at Tampa Bay.
It’s an early bye week for the Saints, who were off in Week 11 last year and in Week 9 in 2010.
But for those looking for omens, Week 4 was the bye week in 2009, and the Saints wound up winning the Super Bowl.
“You don’t want it too early,” Saints interim coach Aaron Kromer said. “But this is a good time for us, because it’s a chance to let their bodies heal and come back stronger.
“I think this last few games they’ve played extremely hard, they put their bodies to the test, and there’s a lot of wear and tear on these guys. We just need to carry that momentum back into the next week when we get back.”
Safety Roman Harper agreed.
“I usually like the bye week in the middle or maybe as late as possible,” the seven-year veteran said. “But this is OK.
“We knew we were coming into the bye week, so we poured everything we had into last week because there was no tomorrow if we lost anyway. Now we can relax, go home, get some rest and watch the other teams play.”
That’s the plan for offensive tackle Zach Strief, who unlike most of his teammates will be staying in New Orleans instead of making quick visits back home.
“When I was younger, I’d go home (Milford, Ohio), see how many bases I could touch and maybe go to my college (Northwestern),” he said. “Now I think about how many rehabs I can get in and how many times I can get a massage.
“We need to be getting geared up for this last run.”
Safety Malcolm Jenkins has been in the league three years less than Strief, so he’s still pumped up about getting away to his home town of Piscataway, N.J.
“I want to check out my high school team,” he said, “My first two years in the league, I was hurt and had to stay here.
“That was like the worst week ever. To me, going home is a good break away from football.”
The players may be off for the rest of the week, but the coaches will be taking advantage of not having to go immediately into a game plan to self-scout.
“In a normal week, it wouldn’t matter if we were 0-4 or 4-0, we’d be preparing for the next team,” defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. “Now we can evaluate ourselves a little bit.
“And then we’ll move on to the next game.”
Certainly there’s a little bit of pressure off the coaching staff, which was facing the prospect having to deal with a winless team taking the week off. They still face one last week of being under one interim coach while waiting for another interim coach’s suspension to be lifted, with the specter of Sean Payton’s giant “Do Your Job” poster staring at them from the wall of the practice facility. Not to mention Payton’s being in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday via special permission so he would witness Drew Brees setting the record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass.
But on Monday, Kromer, who will revert to being the offensive line/running game coach after the Tampa Bay game, said he never felt that the pressure was on him more personally than in any other situation.
“You feel the pressure to do a good job with any job you have,” he said. “Pressure just makes you work a little bit harder and a little bit smarter.”
But even winning didn’t change one thing for Kromer.
“As a group, we’re heading this thing in the right direction now,” he said. “But I don’t sleep either way.”
Maybe he should ask Junior Galette how it’s done.