Saints on 'Hard Knocks'?

USA Today sports television writer Michael Hiestand throws out a fascinating suggestion, writing that the New Orleans Saints should be featured on HBO’s “Hard Knocks’’ this summer.

It would be a fascinating story -- a close-up look at a team preparing to go through a season without suspended head coach Sean Payton. There could be even many more layers to this story before training camp arrives. Bill Parcells could be in Payton’s place and it’s possible multiple players also could be facing suspensions. This is unprecedented stuff for an NFL team and the drama could be tremendous.

Would the Saints accept if the show is offered to them? Tough question. In normal years, I’d say no. Payton runs a tight ship and I’d have a tough time seeing him giving cameras total access to his team. But this is not a normal year. Despite all the turmoil that has come out of the bounty program, the Saints have some charming players that could put this team back in a positive light. This might not be a bad move.

Could any other NFC South teams be candidates for the show?

The Atlanta Falcons last year made some vague statements that they could be interested if the time was right. Atlanta has the kind of veteran team that could probably handle the distractions that might come with this. But I have a tough time seeing coach Mike Smith being in favor of opening up his locker room and meeting rooms to the world.

The Carolina Panthers are viewed as a team on the rise and quarterback Cam Newton is a media darling. That could make the Panthers interesting to HBO and NFL Films. But as long as Marty Hurney is the general manager, I don’t see the Panthers going down this road.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were courted for the show last season and former coach Raheem Morris was lobbying for his team to be on the show. Ultimately, the Bucs declined. They said they wanted to make sure their young team was at a point in its development where it could handle potential distractions. That was probably a wise move because last season showed the Bucs were far from a finished product. My early impressions of new coach Greg Schiano are that he’s not the kind of guy that would want to put his team in the spotlight. That could change once Schiano’s been around a year or two, but I’m guessing the Bucs aren’t interested this year.