Payton reflects on return to Superdome

Sunday marks the five-year anniversary of the New Orleans Saints returning to the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina. Saints coach Sean Payton got a little philosophical when recalling that event.

It’s understandable, because that game symbolized a city on the way back and marked a turning point in the history of a franchise that had struggled for much of its existence.

"I think 10, 15, 20, 30 years from now, as those memories fade, I don’t think we’ll ever lose track or not remember Steve Gleason blocking a punt,’’ Payton said. “If there was one moment, it would be the first punt of the game and Gleason hitting it just right and coming up with it. That was a significant play in that game and probably the loudest I’ve ever heard any stadium, ever. There would be a distant second, there would be a big gap between the next crowd noise that you would be able to remember.

“The Super Bowl would be second as far as the crowd noise, and I’ve said this before, I think, and many would argue, but the significance of that season certainly was equal to the significance of eventually winning the Super Bowl. The significance of that season and us playing well in 2006 mattered a lot. (The) 2009 (season) was important because you won a championship but ’06 for many was just as important, if not more.”

That’s a pretty strong statement, but it’s very true. Without what happened in 2006, the Super Bowl championship in 2009 might not have taken place.

Payton said the return to the Superdome was like a second start for the franchise and it made him reflect on the first start.

“I run into so many people that tell me that they were there at Tulane Stadium when (John) Gilliam returned the (first in franchise history) kickoff for a touchdown,’’ Payton said. “I don’t know how many seats Tulane Stadium sat at that time, but I’m going to say 5,000 more people have told me than seats available, but I think this was that type of, or even of greater significance. That represented the start of the franchise. This represented the coming back and the return of not just a team, but more importantly a region and a city.”