METAIRIE, La. – Sean Payton, Joe Vitt and Mickey Loomis might not have been around for the four games New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees has thrown a touchdown this season.
But he’s hoping they’re there Sunday night, when Brees is attempting to set an NFL record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass, surpassing Johnny Unitas’ 52-year-old mark of 47 straight.
“Of course they know how this team feels about all those people and what a big part they are in our journey despite the circumstances and the fact that we have the opportunity to break the Johnny Unitas record, and I say ‘we’ because it is a team deal, and Joe Vitt is a part of that, Sean Payton is a part of that and Mickey Loomis is a part of that,” Brees said Thursday, a day after news broke of his request to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
“They are all a part of that, and I felt like they certainly deserved the opportunity to be there in attendance and share that moment with us.”
Payton was suspended for the season, Loomis for eight games and Vitt for six for what the NFL said were roles in an alleged bounty system. Vitt and Loomis were around for training camp, but have been out of contact with the team since the regular season started.
Payton hasn’t had any contact with the team, save for a day at Willie Roaf’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony, since his suspension began in April.
Per the terms of the punishments, Brees said he hasn't had any contact with any of the suspended parties. But he'd like for them to attend.
Brees sent a personal email to Goodell after coming up with the idea on the plane ride back from Green Bay, where he tied Unitas’ record. He hasn’t had any contact with any of the suspended parties, but hopes they honor the request and come to the game.
Goodell OK’d the game visit with the exception that the three must watch the game in a private area of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and can have no contact with the team.
That, in a way, could keep the atmosphere from becoming supercharged, Brees said.
“None of those guys will be in the locker room,” Brees said. “It’s not like we’re getting a pregame speech from anybody. We know what we need to do. I felt that it was important that those guys be there because they are a part of this.”
He added, “Like I said, despite the circumstances, they are as big a part of this as anybody, and it felt like they deserved the opportunity to be here, and I appreciate the commissioner giving permission for them to do that.”