Photo lifted from the fine folks at WWLTV.com
A week after pigs flew through a Hell frozen over, the New Orleans Saints finally landed in Miami to begin on-site training for the Super Bowl. Well, most of the Saints finally arrived, that is. Six of them were already in Miami to attend the Pro Bowl, which they were voted into but (thankfully) had good reasons not to play in. At one point during the NFL Network broadcast, Michael Irvin was speaking to Jonathan Vilma and asked if he feels like he's missing out on coming off the plane with his teammates. Vilma said it's more important to disembark with his teammates back in New Orleans with a Super Bowl trophy.
But what would Vilma and his five teammates do while when the rest of the squad arrived? If you think about it, it does seem like an awkward situation. All year Sean Payton and Co. have been preaching the line about team unity and effort. This Saints' team is not about one player, or even the six that made it to the Pro Bowl. So how do you reconcile the fact that the Pro Bowlers are already in Miami because they've been selected as being more exceptional than their teammates? Dress them up as bellhops and greet the rest of the team when they pull up to the hotel, that's how.
As the stories from across the country start to pile up this Super Bowl week, one thing Saints fans will likely hear over and over is how Sean Payton is a "master motivator". He's a deeply cerebral student of the game and takes after his mentor, Bill Parcells, in using psychological tactics in all phases of the game. Payton, though, seems to have more of a loose streak than Parcells. This is a guy who played "Stand Up and Get Crunked" to get his players motivated in the locker room as well as giving every Saint a bat with the words "Bring the wood". And now you see him dress up his star players as bell hops and greet the rest of the team in a move that almost certainly is meant to convey that those players wouldn't have made it to the Pro Bowl if not for their teammates' help.
Now the Saints are all together and have six days to prepare for the biggest games of their lives. For a franchise that's never been to the big game - and a city still coming to grips with their team's new-found success - Payton sure is acting like a seasoned championship head coach. Forget that this is the Saints' only Super Bowl appearance, Payton talks about veteran leadership and poise and he and his players will no doubt repeat the lines "we're here to do a job" and "we have to finish strong" about one million times when asked how they're dealing with the media spotlight.
Being in a small market like New Orleans allows Payton and his players to somewhat fly under the radar nationally. Anyone whose worn black and gold for a game this season knows they have the undying affection of this city, so really, the trick for Payton is to keep his players focused at the task at hand, but loose enough to keep the pressure off. The New Orleans head coach just showed he can mix fun with hard work. Saints fans will love to see the hard work pay off with the party of a lifetime on Sunday.
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