METAIRIE, La. — Sean Payton could dance around questions about play-calling duties for so long.
Thursday, less than 24 hours before the Saints would officially start training camp with their first practice, Payton gave in.
He’ll call the plays, unleashing his offensive wizardry upon the NFL once again.
And count Drew Brees among those excited about Payton’s taking that duty back over.
“I love the fact that Sean is back and he’s taking the reins and he’s going to be the voice in my ear,” said Brees, the record-setting quarterback whose career trajectory has gone up since pairing with Payton.
This season will mark the first time since the first quarter of New Orleans’ Oct. 16, 2011 game at Tampa Bay that Payton will employ himself in such a manner.
That’s the day he went down with a gruesome leg injury and turned the play-calling duties over to offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael.
“Pete has been very instrumental in what we’ve done offensively and very instrumental in the way Drew Brees has progressed and played and will be involved,” Payton said. “It’s something I enjoy doing as well. It’s just a matter of getting back up to speed and getting familiar with all the elements of it.”
In 29 games, the Saints averaged nearly 30 points with Carmichael calling plays.
But in 2011, when Payton was injured, he had the head coach in his ear helping to make adjustments. That’s when the Saints averaged nearly 35 points per game in scoring a team-record 547 points.
A season ago, without Payton, the Saints averaged a little bit more than a point less, but the running game fell from sixth to 25th. By the time the running game showed signs of life, the season already was off track. The Saints scored nearly 100 points less than a year earlier.
Still, for Brees, who will receive the play calls in his ear during games, the change won’t be that big.
“Sean calling the plays again, here’s the thing – that’s the way it was for 5½ years until he got hurt,” Brees said. “And then Pete Carmichael took over for the remainder of the ’11 season and then obviously last year. I thought Pete Carmichael did a phenomenal job.”
Payton said Carmichael, along with quarterbacks coach Joe Lombardi, will be able to give input but ultimately, he’ll be the final play-caller.