NFL Recovering Saints hold Patriots as a model
FOXBOROUGH, MASS. (AP)
A harsh penalty imposed by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell may inspire
the New Orleans Saints to have an outstanding season.
They can look to the New England Patriots and coach Bill Belichick for
evidence of that.
''They've had some adversity and did a great job of handling it,''
Saints interim coach Joe Vitt said Tuesday after his team practiced
with the Patriots (No. 2 in the AP Pro32). ''I've had conversations
with Bill. We know that our players are strong.
''We've been through adversity before.''
In 2007, Goodell imposed fines of $500,000 on Belichick and $250,000 on
the Patriots and took away a first-round draft pick for videotaping an
opponent against NFL rules. The Patriots went 18-0 that season before
losing the Super Bowl.
This year, he came down even harder on the Saints (No. 9) for a bounty
program in which he found that players were paid for hurting opposing
players. Coach Sean Payton and linebacker Jonathan Vilma were suspended
for the season. Vitt got a six-game suspension, beginning with the
opener of the regular season. Defensive end Will Smith received four
games, defensive end Anthony Hargrove, now with Green Bay, has eight,
and linebacker Scott Fujita, now with Cleveland, will sit out three.
In addition, general manager Mickey Loomis was suspended eight games
and the Saints were fined $500,000 and docked second-round draft picks
in 2012 and 2013.
New Orleans tight end David Thomas, a member of the 2007 Patriots, gave
his teammates some advice about how New England's players handled their
He told them, ''the biggest thing was it will only be a distraction if
you let it be a distraction,'' Saints safety Roman Harper said. ''That
was the motto that they really took in that locker room and we kind of
took the same thing. And as long as we stick together in our locker
room, which is a great one, and we don't let outsiders get in and
continue to be a distraction, it won't distract us.''
In 2007, the Patriots set an NFL record with 589 points, Brady
established the league mark of 50 touchdown passes and Randy Moss
caught an NFL-record 23 touchdowns.
''It showed that even with a lot of adversity floating around, you
could still have success and have a great football season,'' Thomas
The Patriots adopted an us-vs.-them attitude that year, and some Saints
feel the same.
''We definitely have a chip on our shoulder,'' quarterback Drew Brees
said. ''We were going to have one anyway, but there's no shortage of
motivation to go out and play well this year.''
The Patriots' response to the punishment ''is something we can look at
and say, `hey, this is maybe the closest to what we're going through,'
and just try to turn a negative into a positive somehow,'' Brees said.
The Saints and Patriots have another joint practice Wednesday before
meeting in a preseason game Thursday. They also practiced together in
training camp two years ago when Payton was in charge of the Saints.
Now, it's Vitt.
''I miss Sean not being here,'' Belichick said. ''I think the world of
Sean. He's a great friend and I look forward to seeing him back out
The players were happy, finally, to see different players line up on
the other side of the ball after facing only teammates throughout camp.
Both defenses, though, still went against two of the NFL's best
quarterbacks just as they do when they're playing against their own.
''Seeing Brady and now Brees, it's tough matchups for this defense,''
Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said. ''But it can make us
The Saints new zone defense under coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is
getting a good test against Brady.
''If you're putting on a new defense, who better to go against every
day than Drew Brees,'' Vitt asked. ''And then, all of a sudden, you're
going against Tom Brady. Both those guys do a tremendous job of looking
people off and getting you off your spot and fitting the ball in
Brees set NFL records last season with 5,476 yards passing, 468
completions and a 71.2 percent completion percentage. Brady's 5,235
yards passing also surpassed the record of 5,084 set by Dan Marino in
So, how do they compare?
''Tom's quite a bit taller,'' Harper said with a smile. ''They both
have great commands of their offenses. Both of them threw an
interception today, which hardly ever happens, (but) Tom's a completely
different beast. I think he throws the ball down the field almost
better than anybody in the league right now - (an) extremely, extremely
NOTES: Belichick and Vitt flew on New Orleans owner Tom Benson's plane
to the funeral service Tuesday for Garrett Reid, son of Philadelphia
Eagles coach Andy Reid, in Broomall, Pa. ''We got to the practice field
just a little bit late,'' Vitt said. ''Andy Reid's family had so many
supporters, they kind of moved the service back a half hour.'' ...
Belichick was moved by the service. ''Andy Reid is strong and his
family is strong, and everybody knows that our thoughts and our wishes
are with him,'' he said, adding that he had ''a heavy heart.'' ...
Spagnuolo said the players had to temper their intensity because ''if
you let that level get too high, then all you do is spend time butting
chests and getting in fights. We don't want to do that.'' ... Brady -
with his dog, Lua, by his side - and Brees spent several minutes after
the workout chatting on the field.
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