MOBILE, Al. - Saints head coach Sean Payton says he's glad to be back with the team and that despite all of the media speculation and rumor over his contract status, he had no intention of going anywhere else.
"There was no way I was going to another team," he emphasized Wednesday morning at an impromptu press conference in the stands at the Senior Bowl that for several hours overshadowed the practices for the game.
"The issue (with my contract) was a minor technicality."
Payton said the media correctly reported about the issue with his contract, but he said the major impediment in getting it re-done was the issue of having contact with the team.
In the middle of the season and his suspension, it was reported that Payton's contract extension was nixed by the NFL and speculation ran rampant that he would be able to become a free agent.
Payton answered questions for more than a half hour Wednesday morning, saying he was anxious to get back to work, and realizing that there was a lot of work to do. He said his mentor Bill Parcells said he would have to dispel the myth that just his return would bring the team back to an 11 or 12-win team.
"When you play the way we played defensively, it’s going to be hard to win," he said in an observation about the 2012, which was statistically the worst in NFL history.
Payton admitted that he got into a routine on game days during his suspension, even though he wasn’t here. “It’s difficult, you’re watching from afar and naturally at times it becomes frustrating. With the situation as unique and unprecedented as it was, I’m thankful to the staff.”
He also said that despite the frustration of a tough season for his team and the players and coaches, he said the most difficult part of the suspension was missing the personal relationships.
“The amount of time you spend with the players and fellow coaches are extraordinary. You want to see them do well, you want to see them have success. I think the hardest part wasn’t football. The hardest part, so many of the people – Mickey Loomis, Mr. Benson, the players – the more difficult part was not being able to have the personal interaction as a friend. That was more difficult than football.”