As the rain poured down and the Saints players all ran back to their coaches to escape the cold, Head Coach Sean Payton stuck behind to speak to the media about how their preparations for this weekend’s game have been and reminisce about his history with the U.K.
After a tumultuous week in the NFL with politics, unfortunately, dominating most of the headlines, naturally, it did not take long for the topic of President Trump’s recent comments and subsequent player protests to come up.
As tweeted by Brees earlier, the Saints plan on taking a page out of the Dallas Cowboys’ book by kneeling together before the anthem and then standing once the Star-Spangled Banner is sung.
This was, according to Payton, a decision made by the players, and when asked about it, he said the following:
Look, those guys met and like with anything [it’s up to] the team. It’s something that I think they, and all of us felt, we want to be unified and I think that’s good.
While vague, his comments resonate with the general consensus around the league regarding this topic, that the players, coaches, staff and owners all stand unified on their right to a peaceful protest and freedom of speech.
Thankfully, politics was far from all Coach Payton spoke about after Friday's practice as the focus turned to football and London.
Snead and Lattimore return
With the imminent return of Willie Snead to the playing field, Payton was asked about the return of Snead, whom he later described as someone who had “…moved around well” this week:
He’s an experienced guy so the transition for him, obviously with his intelligence is smooth. It’s good to have him back and we’ll sort through what we want to do with regards in this game and moving forwards the same way.
The return of their starting receiver cannot come soon enough as they lost an offensive weapon this week in the face of John Kuhn who has been listed on the Saints IR. The fullback suffered a biceps injury in Thursday's practice, and while this did coincidentally open up a roster spot, the loss of their only FB will surely hurt them.
Also returning to the active roster is CB Marshon Lattimore. The rookie is an integral part of this young Saints secondary going forward, and Coach Payton was very positive on his impending return:
It's another good corner, I think this is a talented group of receivers, [and] he played well up until missing the game after New England. So, I think that's important, you get a starter back like him, who's been playing well, and I think he's had a good week of work.
London Impresses Payton
For most of the Saints, this could well be their first trip abroad, let alone their first visit to Britain. However, the Saints have been in this position before and Sean Payton remembers it well. Unlike Baltimore Head Coach John Harbaugh who recently stated that his downtrodden Ravens will not be returning to London any time soon, Payton was full of optimism and compliments when discussing both the previous and current visit to the capital:
The property and security has been, I would say outstanding. So, it’s really enabled us to focus on this game and the team we’re getting ready to play. You know I think it’s been a real smooth transition.
And with regards to their early arrival in the U.K. and having a few days to acclimatize, Payton was similarly upbeat:
Listen, you try to put a plan together and we came early the last time and kinda liked the schedule, but the key is finding the hotel and finding the fields. The place here is outstanding, the grass field setup we stayed on the one field but there’s two others we could have used. The hotel location, all of it, has been good for us.
Reminiscing about his experiences playing in the U.K.
Finally, while many players may not have left the States before, the venture over the pond to their transatlantic cousins here in the U.K. is a journey former Leicester Panthers QB Sean Payton knows all too well. He may have only played here for a year, but upon reminiscing about his time in the Midlands, Payton was keen to emphasize how well both the fan base and the ownership of the club took to the team…….
It was 1987, Leicester’s in the Midlands so it’s about two hours from here. There was probably about eight teams. The stadium we played on was Saffron Lane or Saffron Park and it’s no longer there. Everards [Brewery] was the sponsor of our team, Barrie Wardle was the owner – great guy. A lot of good friendships, there were four Americans that were being paid, and you know the tourists would be in London, there aren’t a lot of tourists in Leicester, and you’d put the game plan together during the day and then when everyone was off work we’d practice in the evenings. John Grisham wrote a book ‘Playing for Pizza’ just read that book, that was my experience.
We had a decent following, but you were playing because you enjoyed it.
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