WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. – New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton has dismissed Friday’s upcoming reunion with former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams as “not a big deal” as the team prepares for its preseason opener at the St. Louis Rams on Friday.
“It’s not a big topic,” Payton said. “Really, our players are playing, it’s a preseason game, we’re trying to get guys evaluated. In my opinion, it’s not a big deal at all. ... It’s about the players and us preparing ‘em.”
Payton and Williams, of course, were central figures in the Saints’ bounty scandal, which led to both coaches being suspended for the entire 2012 season. Even before that, Payton opted to let Williams move on when his contract expired following the 2011 season.
Williams is now the Rams’ defensive coordinator. Adding some intrigue to Friday’s game is the memory of the 2011 preseason opener, when Williams blitzed like crazy against the San Francisco 49ers, leading to six first-half sacks.
There was a report at the time (which Saints coach Sean Payton later dismissed as “absolutely crazy”) that Payton was miffed at new 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh for not calling him before that preseason game to discuss how they planned to approach the game.
Regardless of all that history, Payton said he doesn’t have any plans to talk with Williams or Rams head coach Jeff Fisher about their approach heading into this game.
“No … I don’t expect to have any conversation prior to the game with those guys,” Payton said. “I am sure there are a couple of things that they want to get accomplished. There are certain things we want to get accomplished. Most importantly is evaluating these guys and getting them snaps and paying attention to how many snaps they are getting. I think typically in the first preseason game you work waves, three waves of players and then how many plays they get is really determined in how the early part of the game goes.
“I just finished telling them, this game Friday is a month away. What we’re doing Tuesday, Wednesday, there are a lot of things that we are trying to work on here that are unrelated to that preseason game. I think we have to look at it that way. Obviously it will be our first opportunity to play a game and there will be a good chance for a number of these guys to get reps not only on offense and defense, but in the kicking game.”