NEW ORLEANS -- Suspended Saints head coach Sean Payton opined on the benefits and negatives of his time away from the NFL at a forum Tuesday, and he suggested the 0-4 team would "turn this thing around."
Payton made the comments Tuesday afternoon at the PwC SMU Athletic Forum in Dallas.
"I do think that they'll turn this thing around, and I think that they've got the right people in that locker room, the right assistant coaches," Payton said.
Payton pointed to his team's 0-4 start in 2007, when the Saints followed up its disastrous start with a four-game win streak to get the team back to .500.
"Granted it's a tough challenge, but I just know how that team is made up, and I know how we put together the parameters of what we look for in character and toughness and intelligence, and I think it's the one thing, that foundation, that gives them a chance," he said, "and without that it would be much more difficult."
Even more difficult than seeing his team struggling and winless on the field, Payton said, has been the lack of communication between him and his players -- people he called dear friends.
"It's really unprecedented or rare that all of a sudden, for the better part of six or seven months, you can't have any contact with those people who you would say are your closest friends or the guys you love and care about," Payton said. "That is the void I feel more than the football void."
The first days of his suspension weren't easy. Payton found himself "bitter and angry."
"It was clear that I didn't want to spend six months feeling this way."
Now, Payton said he's able to practice with his son twice a week, and even make it to games on Saturdays. He's able to see his daughter cheerleading on Fridays.
"All these things were pictures or phone calls, and maybe you'd be able to get to a game or two," Payton said.
He said the whole ordeal has ended up being a blessing and a positive for his family.
"The time I'm able to spend with my son and daughter has been invaluable."