Saints focused on Brees' health vs Panthers, fixing mistakes
METAIRIE, La. (AP) Saints coach Sean Payton isn't ready to say whether he expects Drew Brees to miss snaps because of a hit he took to his throwing arm.
''It's early right now. Today's the day after (the injury),'' Payton said when asked if he'd consider resting Brees this Sunday at Carolina. ''Certainly we'll do the best thing for him and where he's at.''
Brees was in the locker room Monday when it was open to reporters. He usually does not do interviews on Mondays and that was again the case. His outward appearance in the locker room offered no hint at anything unusual, but on Sunday he had acknowledged that one of the hits he took hurt his throwing shoulder and probably affected him on some throws.
Brees, who hasn't missed a start because of injury since joining the Saints in 2006, never left Sunday's 26-19 loss to Tampa Bay. He didn't play to his usual standard of 300-plus yards and multiple touchdowns. He passed for 255 yards and one touchdown. His 16-yard scoring pass to first-year receiver Willie Snead came in the fourth quarter, well after Brees' right shoulder injury in the second quarter.
''Obviously, I saw he wasn't putting a lot of zip on the ball down the field, like past 30 yards,'' Snead said of the Saints' 36-year-old quarterback.
But on shorter throws, Snead said, ''I felt like he was putting a lot of velocity on the ball. I didn't really see a difference. But I could tell his arm was hurting. Hopefully he's OK.
''Drew's a warrior,'' the receiver added. ''He's going to do everything in his power to make sure he's ready to go. He's just that type of guy. He's been doing this for a long time and he knows how to do it.''
The health of New Orleans' all-time passer is but one of many matters Payton has to address as he tries to correct the myriad mistakes that have contributed to an 0-2 start. That much, the coach made clear.
''There are a number of things we've got to work on cleaning up and there's a sense of urgency, obviously, to get those things corrected or we'll have the same type of result,'' Payton said, expressing concerns about penalties, turnovers and other miscues his team committed.
The Saints were penalized 10 times for 115 yards, and Payton noted that there were more flags against his team which were declined.
''The penalty number bothers me,'' Payton said, adding that he thought the game included a ''good crew'' of officials. ''I didn't see a lot of calls where all of a sudden I'm on the phone with the league office wondering what just happened.''
As for the turnovers, two came on fumbles, and Payton said he had specifically warned his players last week to focus on ball security because Bucs coach Lovie Smith has long coached defenses that are proficient at forcing fumbles.
Payton also was critical of New Orleans' special teams play, particularly a 37-yard kickoff return late in the first half that set up a Bucs score. Additionally, first-year kicker Zach Hocker missed a 42-yard field goal and had an extra point blocked.
Then there was the beating that Brees took. He was sacked four times and Payton noted that Brees was hit as he threw ''too many times.''
The running game, Payton said, was inconsistent, leading to more difficult third-down situations.
''That's going to be important for us,'' Payton said. ''Our first and second down efficiency (Sunday) wasn't real good at all.''
At the same time, Payton said he wasn't worried about fracturing in the locker room, calling his players ''grown men'' who appear committed to evaluating their performances fairly and making corrections.
''From a grand scheme of things, look, we've got this roster right now and Clark Kent's not walking in the door,'' Payton said. ''We've got to clean up some of the mistakes that are keeping us from winning games.''
Notes: Defensive tackle Akiem Hicks said he was benched in the third quarter, but had not yet had a chance to sit down with Payton and discuss why. Payton, however, thought the term ''benched,'' was a little strong. ''Rotating a defensive lineman is pretty common,'' Payton said. ''After we did that, we had pretty good production defensively - in fact, very good. ... A lot of defensive linemen are going to play for our team.''
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