The 2013 New Orleans Saints already have a new feel to them. Reports coming out of rookie camp and the first round of OTAs have been much more positive than those of last year. More than likely, the ability to put last year’s bounty scandal behind them, the introduction of new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, and the change in defensive scheme are some of the things that have led to renewed positivity. The biggest factor, though, has to be the the return of mastermind coach, Sean Payton.
It is often the little, unseen nuances that lead to a Super Bowl season. Hunger, desire, and that oh so necessary chip on your shoulder certainly are some of the more obvious things while a team is fighting for the ultimate prize of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at season’s end. I want to take a little bit deeper look at some of those behind the scenes things that may seem insignificant at first glance, but could very well prove to be the things that get our New Orleans Saints over the top.
Introducing CrossFit: As intuitive a coach that there is in the NFL, Sean Payton spent his time off the field last year developing new wrinkles that would improve performance across the board. He started by looking into CrossFit, first trying it himself, and then implementing it in rookie camp and OTAs. For those who don’t know much about CrossFit, it is dedicated to intense competition (necessary for position battles and to keep teams motivated) as well as somewhat fooling your body and building quickly upon itself to often times other worldly results. Just look at the positivity in Payton’s eyes, and his tone in pressers. He was always a fiery guy, a fierce competitor. He’s even more so now. His energy level is up, he’s even more fiery, and he is in the shape of his life. I know without a shadow of a doubt that he will expect the same of his players.
CrossFit has already brought about a sense of camaraderie both on and off the field amongst the players. Martez Wilson, Jabari Greer, and Thomas Morstead have all seen the benefits, and I would have to believe that the transformation of both mind and body will be evident on the field in 2o13.
A more in depth look at how CrossFit has already helped can be found in Mike Triplett’s article here: http://www.nola.com/saints/index.ssf/2013/05/sean_payton_brought_back_high-.html
New Additions: Obviously, new players is not something unseen, but many of the guys at rookie camp and initial signings will never be seen on the NFL playing field this year or maybe even ever. One case in point is Ryan Lacy. He was cut immediately after rookie camp, but he had a few days to make his mark. Others will get more time, and perhaps even crack the opening day roster. Either way, whether it is a word that’s said, an inspiring or new insight, or intensity brought to the field or life off it – a newness of perspective is given. That, my fellow fans, rubs off. Those players, whether they’re the here today gone tomorrow kind, or those that stick, make an impact. That impact has a ripple effect across the team that changes the flow and trends a team towards the success that they so desire. It is precisely because the New Orleans pride themselves on employing quality individuals that this statement can be made. Though most analysts and broadcasters will tell you that the players play and the coaches coach and everyone starts the season off on the same page – not true. Sean Payton is every bit a player as the guys who strap on the pads and uniforms. He has been a quarterback before. He knows what it is like to lead a team, share in its successes and failures, and to be in the trenches.
Restructuring/Team Work: The most obvious example of this is Roman Harper‘s willingness to restructure his deal to allow the New Orleans Saints to gain even more salary cap room. Not many players want to accept less money to remain with a club, but there is a culture in New Orleans like none other. It’s not just the team mentality, it’s the people and stories that many who have been with the Saints since Hurricane Katrina know quite well. Drew Brees and his compatriots have a persistence and determination unrivaled in the NFL.
Thankfulness: Rob Ryan and other outcasts go into this group. He is a man who is just thankful not to be looking for a job still, never mind to have found one in a desirable location with a huge will to win. Ranking last or near last in many statistical categories is motivation enough. Add in a guy with a need to prove himself after being labeled as a guy who takes defenses that are underperforming and helps little to make them a contender, and you have yourself a recipe for motivation and thankfulness.
Not too many people look at the Saints and think they’re a land of misfit toys anymore, but once upon a time that’s what they were. Look back to just as recently as 2006, and you’ll see a Drew Brees fresh off of shoulder surgery whom no one gave much of a shot. Now, he’s among the game’s elite and arguably the best there is. Marques Colston fits the mold too. Just 4 picks away from being Mr. Irrelevant, from a football program that has since disbanded, he knows what it takes. He too is thankful for having the opportunity to succeed. Nine times in ten, that breeds a winner. With all of these things combined, I think we have ourselves a bona fide contender for the Super Bowl this year folks. Let me know what you think, and be sure to follow the rest of our fabulous staff on Twitter.