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Sean Payton: Keeping it Loose

If you happened to be driving down Airline Drive earlier Friday afternoon and heard the Ying Yang Twins’ “Halftime (Stand Up and Get Crunk)” blaring, you would have guessed someone driving by near you had his car stereo cranked up pretty high – hardly the sounds you would imagine coming from the Saints practice facility in Metairie. The popular Saints in-game song could be heard coming from the indoor practice field. Was this some joke from one of the players? No, it was just another trick up Saints Head Coach Sean Payton’s sleeves.

Payton used the song to replicate the crowd noise the Saints will be hearing as fans cheer on their team Sunday at the Superdome. But the song has far greater meaning..The fans and the Saints kickoff coverage team rock the Dome to this song after every touchdown. Have you ever heard a stadium get louder than when this song comes on? The Saints hope to be hearing this song early and often come Sunday.

Throughout the season, Coach Payton has been able to keep his team focused week after week. And it paid off as the Saints reeled off 13 straight wins to start the season. At any point in the run the Saints could have gotten complacent or lose focus, but Payton would not let them.

Payton, a pupil of master motivator Bill Parcells, has matured as a coach the past four season at the helm of the Saints and has learned which buttons to push with his team.

In the preparation leading to up to a Week 9 showdown at the Superdome, Sean Payton distributed a simple leaflet with a picture of Panthers QB Jake Delhomme and Coach John Fox overlooking the Superdome. Underneath the picture where the words “Who’s House Is It- Thiers or Ours?”, a reference to the Panthers’ six game winning streak at the Saints’ home field. Such a simple gesture but it had the player’s attention. The team responded with a 30-20 victory that week.

“It’s one of Sean’s great strengths, ” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said of his coach. “How do you find a way- and it’s one of the biggest challenges in the NFL- to make sure your team is ready to play 16 weeks. It’s a long season. It’s a marathon. How do you make it to where your team is always concentrated and never having a mental lapse. And you have to continue to find a chip to put on your shoulder, a motivational tactic of some kind that will get guys to play each week.”

One of Payton’s favorite motivational tricks is to set mouse traps all over the locker room. His message- “Don’t eat the cheese.” In other words, don’t listen to what the media says about the team. That is a quick way to get complacent or lose focus.

Last week against the Cardinals, Reggie Bush came out of the pre-game tunnel swinging a black baseball bat like a Little Leaguer in his first game. The bat, a party favor from Payton given to all his players, simply had the words “Bring the Wood” inscribed on it. The young RB got the message and responded early, delivering punishing hit after hit on helpless Cardinals defenders and having the best game of his career. The rest of the team responded with a physical game that wore down the Cardinals.

The Saints are a loose and confident bunch heading into Sunday’s game in the Dome. Sure, a few players have been goofing off lately, as witnessed by a recent aersol war between Mike Bell and Sedrick Ellis in the locker room Friday. But the Saints are well prepared and loose and enjoying the moment, a direct reflection of their coach.

It’ll be interesting to see what beat they march to in the Superdome Sunday.

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