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.
On Monday, Julian Edelman took a light shot at the Steelers when asked about Antonio Brown streaming Mike Tomlin’s postgame speech on Facebook Live.
"That's how that team is run," Edelman said on WEEI Monday. "I personally don't think that would be something that would happen in our locker room, but hey, whatever. Some people like red and some people like blue. Some people like tulips and some people like roses. Whatever."
Ben Roethlisberger, one of the players who was speaking during Brown’s video, was asked to respond to Edelman’s comments Wednesday. He did so by saying the Steelers are run in a manner that’s gotten them six Super Bowl championships.
“I don’t think I need to speak much,” Roethlisberger said. “We’ve got our trophies out there. I’ve got owners that I think are the best in the business. They’re family to us, and I’m sure if he talked to his owner, he would say the same thing about the Rooneys. Anybody in here in the football world or the regular world that owns the Rooneys knows what they stand for. It’s a blessing to call them a family.”
Brown, whose actions were admonished by Tomlin Tuesday, could be fined if the NFL determines that he violated the league’s social media policy. The policy is as follows:
"The use of social media by coaches, players, and other club football operations personnel is prohibited on game day (including halftime) beginning 90 minutes before kickoff until after the post-game locker room is open to the media and players have first fulfilled their obligation to be available to the news media who are at the game."
Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Antonio Brown posted an apology on social media Tuesday night for his Facebook Live video that has caused a stir over the last few days.
"I let my emotions and genuine excitement get the best of me, and I wanted to share that moment with our fans," said Brown in a statement on his Twitter. ""It was wrong of me to do, against team and NFL policy, and I have apologized to Coach Tomlin and my teammates for my actions.
"I'm sorry to them for letting it become a distraction and something that they've had to answer questions about while we're preparing for a big game on Sunday."
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said on Tuesday that he has “absolutely no worries on the video's effect" on Sunday's game against the Patriots, but it was "selfish and inconsiderate" of his star wide receiver.
Brown could still be fined for violating the league's social-media policy. The policy states that players, coaches and football operations personnel are banned from using social media on game days 90 minutes before kickoff, during games, and before "traditional media interviews."