FOXBORO -- It comes to mind at every practice: Sean Payton isn't with his team.
The Saints head coach received a one-year suspension following the NFL's bounty investigation in March. But despite having five months to let reality sink it, it's strange not to see Payton standing, arms folded across his chest, on the sidelines at a New Orleans practice. His absence is a reminder of the team's hellish offseason and the steep price paid to the league for its violations.
Yet even after the suspensions -- to Payton, former DC Gregg Williams, GM Mickey Williams, LB Jonathan Vilma, DE Will Smith -- and fines were handed out, the questions keep rolling in.
Here are a few that surfaced at Tuesday's media availability.
To quarterback Drew Brees:Do you sense because of whats happened, that there is an 'Us against the world' sentiment?
Brees:I didnt know if Id say it like that its 'Us against the world', but we're going to have a chip on our shoulder anyways. But, theres no shortage of motivation to go out and play well this year.
To Assistant Head CoachLinebackers Joe Vitt (who is suspended without pay for the first six games of the regular season):Is there anything you can learn from the experience the Patriots had and the season they had with going 17-0 after Spygate?
Vitt: Let me just say this, number one - I made this statement yesterday and Sean has made this statement that this franchise that were going against is the Microsoft of our industry with what theyve done. Number two in my era as a coach, Bill Belichick is the coach of my era. Hes the Don Shula, the Bill Walsh of my era. So theyve had some adversity and have done a great job of handling it. Ive had conversations with Bill. We know that our players are strong. Weve been through adversity before, but theres really no comparisons as youre getting out to these practices. Were trying to get better, both teams every day.
To Offensive Coordinator Pete Carmichael:Can you talk about the Saints having an 'Us against the world' mentality?
Carmichael: I think it was a tough offseason for the team, but we stuck together. We know what we have in our locker room and who we are. The teamness of our group is second to none.
When the topic of Deflategate was broached on HBO's Any Given Wednesday with Bill Simmons, which debuted this week, Ben Affleck became all kinds of fired up.
"What they did was suspend Tom Brady for four days for not giving them his [expletive] cellphone," Affleck said. "I would never give an organization as leak-prone as the NFL my [expletive] cellphone . . . so you can just look through my emails and listen to my voicemails?"
Affleck grew up in Cambridge, Mass. and is a passionate Patriots fan. He made no attempts to hide his fandom, and his appreciation for Brady, as he and Simmons (also a Patriots fan) discussed the football-deflation controversy that has now lasted well over a year.
Affleck, who said he would want to cast himself as Brady if ever a Deflategate movie was made, harped on the fact that the league wanted Brady to turn over his phone.
"Maybe Tom Brady is so [expletive] classy and such a [expletive] gentleman," Affleck said, "that he doesn’t want people to know that he may have reflected on his real opinion on some of his co-workers."
Brady is waiting for the Second Circuit to make a decision as to whether or not it will rehear his case against the NFL. Earlier this offseason, the Second Circuit reinstated Brady's four-game suspension issued by the league when a three-judge panel ruled in favor of the NFL, 2-1.
Pro Football Talk wrote on Thursday that a decision from the Second Circuit could come at any time. If the rehearding request is denied, Brady could then take the case to the Supreme Court. Should the Second Circuit grant Brady a rehearing, his suspension would be delaed until the court reached a decision. In that case, Brady could potentially play the entire 2016 season before a decision came to pass.
Tom Brady wasn't always the most famous person in his family. Growing up, his sisters were the accomplished athletes in the household.
For his latest Throwback Thursday style Facebook post, Brady published a pair of photos of an old high school essay that he wrote in the fall of his senior year in 1994. It was titled "The way my sisters influenced me."
I found an essay I wrote in 1994... I love my big sisters! #tbt. Thanks for the good grade Mr Stark!Posted by Tom Brady on Thursday, June 23, 2016
In it, he discusses some of the difficulties of growing up with three older sisters and no brothers. Because Maureen, Julie and Nancy Brady had achieved so much in softball, basketball and soccer, Brady -- or "Tommy," as he signed his paper -- had trouble getting noticed.
Of course, it wouldn't be long before Brady was headed from San Mateo, California to Ann Arbor, Michigan in order to play football for the Wolverines. He probably had no trouble garnering attention by then. Still, it's funny to read about how he felt overlooked in his youth.
He closed the essay explaining that he knew his sisters would always provide him support throughout his life, adding, "hopefully, just maybe, one day people will walk up to them and say, 'Aren't you Tommy's sister?' or 'Hey where is your brother?' Maybe . . . "
If the Brady sisters didn't get those kinds of comments by the time the baby of the family was given an 'A' for his English assignment, it probably didn't take long before they did. About seven years later, he took over as the starting quarterback of the Patriots.