<
>

Sean Payton on meeting with Johnny Manziel: A get-to-know-you session

Sean Payton explained that his Super Bowl-week meeting with Johnny Manziel was just a get-to-know-you session with the embattled quarterback, who is eyeing an NFL comeback.

Payton told the New Orleans Saints' website Tuesday that it was the first time he met Manziel. And he said the meeting was a "much different phase" than the Saints' recent visits with restricted free agent cornerback Malcolm Butler or numerous draft prospects.

"That is a little different [situation]," Payton said from the NFL owners meetings in Arizona. "I wasn't involved in the draft process in 2012, the year [Manziel] came out. And so I met him and had breakfast at the Super Bowl. I was curious, really, to get to know him some. He's got a number of things that he's working to do to make himself available.

"I certainly would say that for us it was just a chance for me to visit with him. And that would be in a much different phase than Malcolm Butler or some of the things we're discussing as we approach the draft. It was the first time I met him, and look, we spent some time just kind of going through his story."

Manziel has been training with quarterbacks coach George Whitfield in San Diego since telling ESPN's Ed Werder in January that he achieved sobriety without seeking professional help and hopes to return to the NFL.

"Football is his absolute focus right now," Manziel's publicist, Denise Michaels, recently told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.

As for the Saints' interest in Butler, neither Payton nor Saints general manager Mickey Loomis shed much light on what will come next in that process after Butler visited with the team two weeks ago.

Since Butler is a restricted free agent, the Saints would be required to send the No. 11 pick in the draft to the Patriots if they sign the standout cornerback to an offer sheet and New England doesn't match it.

The two teams could potentially work out a trade with lesser compensation -- but only if Butler signs his restricted free agent tender with the Patriots first.

Loomis described the Saints' interest Tuesday as "kicking the tires," according to the New Orleans Advocate and NOLA.com, but he declined to say whether the Saints would be willing to part with the No. 11 pick.

Payton told the Saints' website that the most important part of the recent visit was "getting to know this player a little bit."

"We practiced with the Patriots [in training camp each of the past two years]. I think we've got a pretty good handle on his skill set that we see on film and we see in practice," Payton said. "But this was a little bit more of a personal visit, and as much as we can trying to gather all the information to arrive at the best decision."