After having their departure from Seattle late Monday night delayed by a problem with their chartered flight and not getting back until Tuesday afternoon, the New Orleans Saints were back at work Wednesday.
While the coaching staff immediately went to the office Tuesday to continue their preparations for Sunday night’s game against the Carolina Panthers, with whom they share the NFC South lead, the players were in Wednesday for film and weightlifting sessions only.
All in all, coach Sean Payton said, their travel adventures weren’t that big of a problem. They had already planned to give the players a lighter day Wednesday — much like a Monday after a Sunday game — to give them more time to recover from their game against the Seattle Seahawks.
“This is something we had planned, regardless of whether we flew back after the game or flew back the next morning,” Payton said Wednesday. “It’s just something we’ve done when we played a West Coast game and came back and played a Sunday game.
“So, (the game) is a little further away,” he added. “From a schedule standpoint, we should be fine. I think it’s important to have that time (off) from your last game to when you first start practicing.”
The Saints (9-3) will do that Thursday when they get back on the field for what normally would be a Wednesday practice. They’ll work again Friday and Saturday to complete their preps for the Panthers (9-3).
While a cracked window on their chartered plane kept them grounded, Payton, safety Malcolm Jenkins and tight end Benjamin Watson said it was more of an inconvenience than a distraction — especially after a 34-7 loss.
“It ended up being seamless,” Payton said in crediting members of the football operations staff. “We have a great advance crew … those guys do a great job planning. They quickly made some audibles, and we were able to get out to some hotels and get up the next morning and fly back.”
“It was just a little inconvenience, especially after a loss like that because you kind of just want to get home as fast as possible,” Jenkins said. “We were somewhat prepared to deal with it once the situation presented itself, but it just kind of went right along with the rest of the day.”
Eventually, the Saints arrived back in New Orleans only about nine hours after their expected 6 a.m. return.
Modern technology, like iPads, helped the coaching staff get a head start on the Panthers — who on Sunday chalked up their eighth consecutive win with a 27-6 decision over the Tampa Bay Bucs.
“The iPads had all the games of Carolina, cut ups, everything that you necessarily need,” Payton said. “I don’t think there is a big adjustment or a big deal about getting back in the next day as opposed to 6 a.m.”
“It doesn’t really change,” Watson said of the preps for the Panthers. “We can do all of those things that we would be doing here anyway while we’re away. It’s just a wrinkle in the schedule, but again it’s something everybody deals with from time to time and you have to be prepared for it.”
Because it was a Monday night game, Payton said the coaches didn’t have a lot of time to dissect the disappointing loss to the Seahawks.
At the same time, he said his team has to improve in a lot of areas as it heads into the final four games of the regular season — which includes two meetings with the Panthers in a 15-day stretch.
“We did a lot of things that kept us from winning, and I think in a lot of areas,” Payton said. “It wasn’t just one area.
“Offensively, we struggled to find any rhythm,” he said. “Defensively, when we needed to get off the field we couldn’t. It was clear that we didn’t play up to our standards. Yet, we didn’t do a good enough job coaching or playing. We’ll get those corrections made quickly here.”
While they didn’t practice Wednesday, the Saints were required to file a practice report with the league office estimating who would or wouldn’t have worked.
Payton listed T Zach Strief (ankle), NT Brodrick Bunkley (ankle), S Rafael Bush (ankle), DE Keyunta Dawson (calf) and DE Glenn Foster (knee) as not participating, while CB Keenan Lewis (hamstring/abdomen) and T Bryce Harris (thigh) would have had full participation.