Visit to McCarthy's Hometown...........Kenny Mayne

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Super Bowl Champion Saints have Lombardi Ties

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton excused himself, walked to a table and brought the Vince Lombardi Trophy back with him to the podium where he was conducting a post-Super Bowl news conference Monday morning.

Payton wanted to share the special meaning the trophy has to New Orleans, the Saints organization and especially a particular member of his coaching staff. To him, it was almost ordained that the Lombardi Trophy, the symbol of Super Bowl victory, was in the Saints' hands.

"Last night at about midnight, we grabbed this trophy and one of our coaches, his name is Joe Lombardi - he's Vince Lombardi's grandson - and Joe Lombardi, his father Vince Jr., his two brothers sat and posed with this trophy - the four of them while pictures were taken," Payton said. "I just thought to myself you've got to be kidding me.

"If you believe in heaven, and you believe Vince Lombardi's there looking down on his grandson, it doesn't get any better. This is a guy that coaches our quarterbacks, coaches Drew Brees, and here's a trophy that's named after his grandfather. You can't get enough of this."

The mystical greatness of the trophy did not preclude Payton from sleeping with it by his side Sunday night - "I probably drooled on it," he joked - but it was in its rightful place in the morning and before long was in New Orleans on display for the team's faithful fans.

The postgame party at the Saints' hotel lasted late into the night, and for at least one special member of the team, the following morning had dreamlike qualities.

"I had to wake up this morning and turn to my wife and say, 'Did yesterday really happen?' " Brees said. "And she said, 'Yes, it did.' What a special moment, something that you dream about as a kid.

"Our victory last night was the culmination of four years of hard work, fighting through a lot of adversity, ups and downs, and more importantly than that, representing a city that has been through so much - been through so many struggles and hardships."

The Saints weren't favorites to win the Super Bowl at the start of the season, but their victory Sunday at Sun Life Stadium stamped them as the best team in the National Football League. They haven't convinced everybody of that fact, evidenced by Las Vegas oddsmakers ranking them behind the Indianapolis Colts (13-2) and San Diego Chargers (8-1) as favorites for Super Bowl XLV.

It's not bad enough they were ranked below the Colts, but they were tied with New England - a team they crushed in November - at 10-1, according to betting site The Green Bay Packers were tied with the Dallas Cowboys at 12-1.

The odds might speak to Las Vegas' belief that the Saints were more of a team of destiny than dominance, but it also reflects the potentially difficult off-season they face. They are expected to extend Brees' contract - and make him one of the highest-paid players - and they have roughly 25 players whose contracts expire in March.

Among those who will definitely be unrestricted free agents are safety Darren Sharper, linebacker Scott Fujita and center Nick Leckey. In addition, eight other prominent players would be unrestricted if there is a salary cap and will be restricted if there isn't, as expected.

Among those players are left tackle Jammal Brown, running back Mike Bell, guard Jahri Evans, receiver Lance Moore, end Anthony Hargrove and receiver Courtney Roby. The Saints also must decide whether they want to carry running back Reggie Bush at a salary cap number of more than $13 million.

"Somewhere last night we talked about Dallas, Texas (site of Super Bowl XLV), and one of the greatest stadiums now that our league knows, and there's probably never enough in regards to the challenge," Payton said of the upcoming season. "That's the neat thing about it. When you get a quarterback like Drew Brees, who's in the prime of his career, it's not enough.

"Last night was great, and yet there's still something that burns in you to separate yourself more. So we'll spend a little bit of time here refueling, recharging the batteries and getting ourselves prepared for the challenges ahead. We know that it'll be difficult and yet, no more difficult than getting this team going after Katrina . . . "

For now, the Saints can revel in their remarkable season - beating five Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks, winning 13 in a row and helping revive a hurricane-ravaged city. They deserve at least some time to celebrate.

Next season? They'll get to that after the party dies.

"Our players will be ready for the challenge," Payton said. "We're young. We're hungry. One thing about this game, this Super Bowl, and when you have an opportunity to participate the week of and in the event itself, it just pulls you that much closer to wanting to be in it again."

Article Courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


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