Saints Hope To Copy Patriots

After winning their first (and only) Super Bowl, the Saints hope to win in back-to-back seasons. One former Patriots player was part of the last team to do it. He has some advice for his new team.

Photo: Randall Gay (AP Photo)

While the Saints have heard enough of the word hangover since winning Super Bowl XLIV, they're certainly not averse to making sure they avoid the pitfalls that got five of the previous 12 Super Bowl champions.

Those five teams -- including the 2009 Pittsburgh Steelers -- failed to even make the playoffs the year after winning the Super Bowl. As a result, the Saints are determined to not join that dubious list.

On the other hand, the Saints were plenty focused on becoming only the ninth team in NFL history to repeat as Super Bowl champions when training camp opened Friday.

When they did, they were armed with some information gathered with the help of former coaches and players who have won a championship, either in the NFL or another sport.

Saints coach Sean Payton has thoroughly studied the cause and effect of winning a title and the obstacles that lie ahead in their bid to repeat. Super Bowl MVP quarterback Drew Brees did his homework, too.

"You hear some of the recurring themes that it starts from within, the challenge of staying hungry, of not assuming you're going to be back in the postseason," Payton said. "We've seen this ... we've seen this a lot more in our sport than any other.

"You try to outline and identify and look closely at some of those topics," he said, "having that same hunger and attention to detail, and not allowing your mind to think everything will take care of itself by the time of the first game of the season starts."

Knowing that, the Saints returned to work in mid-April to start their off-season program ready to put last season behind them and look ahead to the next challenge.

"You'd be naive to think that you could just show up and everyone would be intimidated because you're the defending world champions or from anything you had accomplished the year before," said Brees. "If anything, you have to work that much harder."

Saints cornerback Randall Gay has first-hand experience at it. He was on the last team to win back-to-back Super Bowls with the New England Patriots in 2004 even though he was still playing at LSU in 2003 when the Tigers won the BCS title.

"When I first got there (in 2004), it was business as usual," he said of his rookie season with the Patriots. "But once the season started, they didn't talk about anything. It was about what you had to do that day, that practice, that game ... you weren't looking ahead and what was done was done."

Gay said he didn't dispense any advice to his teammates about what they'll face this season. Still, he knows the best way to approach it.

"I think you have to take your mind off last year," he said. "It's like, 'Hey, it's over, it's in the books. It's written down and it's not going anywhere.' But that's not going to help us this year. The only thing it does is it makes other people want to put a target on your back and beat you."

CAMP CALENDAR: Camp closes Aug. 30. The Saints will hold a Black & Gold practice on Aug. 7 and will practice with the New England Patriots on Aug. 10-11 in Foxborough, Mass., and Houston Texans on Aug. 18-19 in Metairie, La.

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