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.