Back in 1997, Payton was leaving his post as quarterbacks coach at Illinois for a position on the Maryland coaching staff. Working in the Philadelphia Eagles front office at the time, I called him to inquire if he would have an interest in driving to Philadelphia to meet with owner
Payton and his pregnant wife,
What always impressed me about Payton was his determination and his ability to adapt. The working conditions in Philadelphia in 1997 were just horrible. Payton did not have an office. He worked out of his own briefcase, had no phone line and had to rely on a cell phone with very spotty service. To watch film, he moved from room to room, but he never complained. He never was in a bad mood. He just welcomed the new challenge with a smile.
Payton told me last week that every offseason he has some kind of team bonding session, usually paintball or bowling. This year he thought it would be the right thing to do to give back to the city of New Orleans. Payton held a team meeting and put his idea to a vote: either practice for an OTA day ... or help rebuild a neighborhood.
In a no-brainer unanimous vote, the Saints loaded their team buses to work with the Rebuilding Together New Orleans project. Rebuilding Together is a national nonprofit with a network of nearly 225 affiliates across the U.S. Their mission is to preserve affordable housing by bringing volunteers and communities together to rehabilitate the homes of low-income homeowners.
In the heat and humidity, the Saints worked on four homes in the Holly Grove neighborhood of New Orleans, which is still trying to recover from the effects of Hurricane Katrina. With the same intensity that goes into preparing his team, Payton and the Saints worked diligently, intent on rebuilding these homes and their owner's dreams.
"It's an awesome sight," said Payton, "The guys know how important these types of things are to our community. We are all in this together. This is our city. This is our home. We are just doing a small part, but it matters to the people that live here and it shows we care about them. It digs your roots in the town."
To further emphasize his commitment to the city, Payton and his staff invited high school players from inner city New Orleans for a one-day skill camp last weekend. The camp also allowed high school coaches to learn football from the Saints staff. For many of the kids, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The Saints are now a big part of restoring the city. Author
This hard work will pay huge dividends for the Saints. I cannot help but think that when this year's games get a little tough, bonding sessions like this one will make the Saints dig a little deeper, fight a little harder.
• Colts president
• I am very tired of hearing selfish
Minicamps? OTAs? This isn't real football, people. Steelers coach
By the way, I saw where Buffalo and Denver cancelled parts of their mandatory camps. So why do we make such a big deal when players miss an OTA?
• If I was starting an expansion team or if I was an owner possibly looking for a new coach, my first choice would be
• If I needed a running back, I would call the Giants and inquire about the availability of
What is going on in Tampa Bay? Is anyone happy? Witness these three quotes from three Buccaneers quarterbacks and tell me this won't be the best training camp soap opera next month.
• "I do believe that he thought I might be faking it. I mean, he asked me, 'Is it in your head?' For him to say that, that's just not right. There are just a lot of things that I can never forgive him for."
• "Chris did what he felt he had to do. I think he had to do it. ... I think Jon's a great coach, I think he is. But this is a tough business. I've been on the other side. I understand exactly where Chris is coming from. Chris is going to be a heck of a player once he gets his opportunity. I love Chris like a brother. It's just a shame what he's gone through with the injury. He'll come back. He'll bounce back. He deserves the opportunity."
• "There might be a time when I might have to stand up. I hate to do that to jeopardize my teammates because they're out here and I don't want to let them down in any sort of way. But I think at some point, you just want to see the respect from up top given."
I am very proud to be the son of a barber, and even prouder that my 82-year-old father still cuts hair every day. Happy Fathers Day.