METAIRIE, La. — The beeps of a cherry picker post-practice Thursday in the New Orleans Saints indoor facility gave way to silence and awe in the same building less than 24 hours later.
Where a large banner of a missed Washington Redskins field goal against the Saints in 2009 hung for more than a year, a newer, larger, more intimidating picture was posted.
It’s Sean Payton, staring a hole through whoever is looking at him. It’s his quintessential game day look when something has gone awry. And it has the words “Do your job” emblazoned on it, the last message Payton had to the team before his year-long suspension began.
It’s. Well, let Saints running back Pierre Thomas tell you what it is.
“That’s a face that says don’t come out here and screw around,” Thomas said. “Don’t mess up. Make sure you’re paying attention. Even though I’m not here, I still see you.”
Indeed, the banner is significant for those inside the Saints program.
Payton hasn’t been with the team since this spring, when he was suspended for not stopping an alleged bounty pool, his reinstatement by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell expected only after the Super Bowl, which will be played in the Superdome, the Saints’ home facility.
For Thomas and his teammates, for acting head coach Joe Vitt and the coaching staff, the banner of Payton is homage to what the head coach has built since 2006 and, at least in spirit, watches over this over.
“You see that and that picture shows when you step into the facility, it’s time to go to work,” Thomas said. “It’s time to do your job. There’s no playing around. That’s why I say that face is scary. You look at that and if you know Payton, you know if you mess up he’s going to give you that look there.”
Payton’s banner takes its place with other significant moments from his era of head coach. There’s one of a stop in Super Bowl XLIV. Another shows the offense breaking the huddle during a key come-from-behind victory during the 2009 season.
There’s the missed Redskins field goal and a large one, standing alone, of Steve Gleason’s blocked punt in the re-opening of the Superdome post-Katrina.
And then there’s one of the team holding up the Lombardi Trophy, the most significant moment in team history.
The banner was the idea of team owner Tom Benson, Vitt said.
“We are trying to make him proud of us, and that’s just a reminder,” Vitt said.
The Saints hope to make Payton proud by becoming the first team to play in a Super Bowl in the stadium it calls home, doing it in spite of the offseason to forget.
Should that happen, and even if it doesn’t, punter Thomas Morstead sees only one final result in regard to the banner.
“I guarantee you this though - the first day he steps back in the facilities he’s going to tear that down. No doubt about it,” Morstead said.