MOBILE, Ala. — Joe Vitt sat in the stands of Mobile’s Ladd-Peebles Stadium, intently watching as college senior all-stars participated in practice for Saturday’s Senior Bowl.
But whatever was going on on the field and whoever the Saints get in April’s NFL Draft, it’s safe to say that Vitt is more excited about who New Orleans got back Tuesday morning.
Sean Payton was reinstated by the NFL, allowing him immediate contact as the Saints move on from 2012 towards the 2013 season.
“Listen, I’m not saying we got through this thing with flying colors but at least the band is back together,” Vitt said. “It could have been a lot worse. We’re excited.”
Closure, though, this is not.
“It doesn’t for me,” Vitt said. “You’re going to have to ask Sean that question, Mickey (Loomis) that question, (Jonathan) Vilma that questions. It certainly doesn’t for me.
“I can forgive. I’m not going to forget. It is what it is."
Of those sitting in the stands of Mobile’s municipal stadium on a cool, clear day, Vitt knows exactly what Payton is feeling right now.
Vitt, who served as interim coach in Payton’s absence, was suspended for the first six games of the season, returning only after the Saints’ game in Tampa on Oct. 21.
“Absolutely I do,” Vitt said. “I met the team in Tampa when I came back and that was only after six weeks how much I missed them. He has been gone since last March. You’ve got to be kidding me.”
Payton returns two weeks before he was expected to be reinstated. Under the circumstances, the timing couldn’t have been better.
“This is perfect getting him back now because he’s going to be here for the readings of our players, he’s going to be here for the readings of these college seniors,” Vitt said. “We start handing out unrestricted free agent tape on Thursday and Friday of this week. T his is where you’re building the foundation of your football team, is with the evaluation process of these draft eligible juniors and seniors and the free agents that are out there.”
The linebackers coach said he talked with Payton early Tuesday morning, hours after the head coach returned to Dallas from a trip to New York to discuss his suspension and reinstatement with commissioner Roger Goodell.
Vitt said Payton will be in Mobile on Wednesday and expects him to be armed with binders full of information.
“Oh yeah. He’s going to hit the ground running with both feet,” Vitt said. “His jaw is going to be set. He’ll have a note pad full of thoughts and ideas and he’s going to have to get himself caught up with the evaluation process of our team and looking at film, which he’ll do.”