Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Reporter
METAIRIE, La. – With two silvery metal crutches bearing the bulk of his weight, Sean Payton slowly made his way into an interview room Thursday, the first public appearance for the Saints coach since having surgery to repair a torn meniscus and fractured tibia in his left knee three days earlier.
But listen to Payton talk about the logistics of how everything will work for the injured coach during the work week and game day and you get the idea that he hasn’t missed a beat despite missing nearly half a week.
“Just the early part of the work week in regards to football that would be what’s different,” Payton said. “And yet, last night I was able to come in and spend some time with our coaches. We had a meeting like we always would at 5 o’clock. Spent some time on the injury list; spent some time on the game day 46 like we always do and who is going to be inactive, who is active; spent some time with defensive coaches and offensive coaches, specifically about this week’s game.”
Not that his players didn’t take the opportunity to point out that something is, indeed, different about playing for a coach who is suddenly injured and not around like he normally is.
Prior to the regular season cornerback Tracy Porter time with left knee injury. So Payton, as he has done in the past, bought a glass china doll, something that he described as “very fragile and sits in bubbles and it’s rare that you have one that is not broken,” and put it in Porter’s locker.
A little more than two months later, Porter had the last laugh.
“When I got home last night here to the building – a lot of cookies and balloons and a lot of cool stuff and there was a china doll on my desk with a note that said Return to Sender,” Payton said.
Porter had given the doll to receiver Marques Colston when he broke his collarbone. The cornerback immediately went to get it back with one plan in mind.
“When coach Payton’s injury occurred, I went into the receiver room and saw the china doll, so I said, ‘Why not send it right back to him,’ ” Porter said. “So I had the Made In China put back on there. And I had the label Fragile and in parenthesis I put Return to Sender and I sat it right on his desk.”
Payton’s response to Porter after a team meeting?
“Touché,” Payton told Porter.
Thursday, though, was about getting back into a routine. Payton watched portions of practice from a gold cart retrofitted with a landing for his left leg to rest on.
The main thing, Payton said, was keeping the players on their regular schedule.
“We’re (routine) driven here and our guys are on a schedule and I think that serves us well whenever there’s any type of distraction,” Payton said. “I don’t see this being a big one.”
On Friday, Payton will go to the Superdome with general manager Mickey Loomis to check out the coaches’ booth to figure out the logistics of having the head coach up there during games along with assistant coaches.
Payton said he won’t try to be on the field for pregame warm-ups and he won’t go to the locker room for halftime, instead working to make things as simple for him as he can.
He’s also not worried about the extra three to four seconds he said it will take for him to decide on a play, radio it down to offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. who will then give it to quarterback Drew Brees.
“As a young assistant there have been times in all of our careers where at one point or another we were in a press box,” Payton said. “I think it’ll be fairly smooth for us in that we’ve got a flow already in how things happen during a game.”
There’s one other thing that should go smoothly, Payton said, and that’s rehabilitating his leg thanks to working for a professional football team.
“It’s hard for me to pass up (trainer) Scottie (Patton) in the morning or in the afternoon or right when I’m finished here and I’m back in there,” Payton said. “I just came from treatment. I had a treatment prior to the meetings this morning. I can have four treatments in a day where I work and a clean set of clothes and meals…
“This is what they do for a living. They get people healthy to get them on the football field. I’m added to that list.”