WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. (AP) — The kinship between Bill Belichick and Sean Payton is apparent in the way they compliment each other, as well as the subjects they’d rather not discuss.
They relate on matters ranging from winning it all to the awkwardness of tarnished reputations. Their franchises have drawn some of the harshest sanctions levied by the NFL.
Now they’ve gathered for a football summit of sorts this week at a secluded luxury resort in the mountains of West Virginia. They can provide plenty of reasons why they think working together before their preseason game on Saturday in New Orleans will help both squads improve.
If they’re also sharing notes about what they’ve learned from scandals known as “Spygate,” ‘’Bountygate,” or “Deflategate,” they weren’t acknowledging it when the teams practiced together on Wednesday.
“I won’t comment on anything with regards to New England’s situation and ours is behind us,” Payton said. “We’ve got to find a way to improve.”
In 2007, New England was levied heavy fines and docked draft picks by the NFL, which found the Patriots improperly videotaped an opponent’s coaches’ signals.
In 2012, an NFL probe concluded that the Saints had operated improper cash pools rewarding big and even injurious hits. Payton, who denied being aware of anything improper, was suspended for the 2012 season. Players the league identified as ringleaders of the “bounty” pool had various suspensions overturned on appeals brought by the NFL Players Association.
In May, the league announced it was suspending Patriots quarterback Tom Brady four games over allegations he conspired with two Patriots equipment employees to deflate footballs below what league rules allow to give him a competitive edge in New England’s victory over the Indianapolis Colts in January’s AFC championship game. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell upheld the suspension on appeal, after which the quarterback, backed by the NFLPA, sued in federal court.
A hearing in the case was held in New York on Wednesday, during which a judge said he would rule on Sept 4 if the two sides couldn’t resolve the issue.
Back at the Greenbrier Resort, where the Saints hold training camp, Brady could be heard intensely barking instructions at teammates between plays during 11-on-11 drills. He completed several impressive passes, including a precisely placed, and timed, pass to Danny Amendola in the back, right corner of the end zone.
Brady also engaged in friendly chatter with Saints quarterback Drew Brees, but still has not spoken with media since training camp began. His lawyers have advised him against doing so until after his legal resistance to the NFL’s “Deflategate” sanctions plays out.
“It’s unfortunate,” Brees said, referring to league probes both teams have faced. “All we can worry about is the opportunity we have to practice against these guys and get better.
“I’m a big fan of Tom Brady as a player and I really enjoy being around him as a person.”
Belichick, as usual, kept most of his comments short and most of his thoughts to himself, but wasn’t shy about complimenting Payton and the Saints.
“I have all the respect in the world for the Saints, their entire organization, Sean, the way they do things,” Belichick said. “We’ve got a great working relationship with the Saints, Sean and his staff. From a coaching standpoint, we both feel like we get done things that are beneficial to our teams. Players work hard, but they do it in the right way.”
Payton, meanwhile, has said the Patriots are to the NFL what Microsoft has been to the software industry. He said any coach who doesn’t try to become familiar with Belichick’s model for running a team is “foolish.”
Sometimes at cooler-weather practices, Payton even wears hooded sweat shirts with the sleeves cut short, a look for which Belichick is known.
Payton also made it clear he doesn’t want to be distracted — at least not any time soon — by questions of whether the Saints and Patriots have been treated, or are viewed, fairly.
“For me, it would be wasted energy,” Payton said. “Certainly, we’ve talked as a team about certain things, but it’s silly to dwell or look back or reflect. There’s certain things, you know, certain things you file away, and I’ve got one of those real good memories.”
NOTES: When Brady operated New England’s first-team offense in full team drills, he was working against New Orleans’ backup secondary. Starting cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Keenan Lewis both sat out, as did starting safeties Jairus Byrd and Kenny Vaccaro and primary nickel back Delvin Breaux. All have injuries which Payton has declined to discuss. In their places were rookies P.J. Williams (cornerback) and Damian Swann (nickel back), second-year pro Stanley Jean-Baptist (cornerback) and veteran safeties Rafael Bush and Kenny Phillips.