METAIRIE, La. (AP) – The Lombardi Trophy, stacks of cash totaling more than $200,000 and a Super Bowl ring – flanked by armed guards – were among the sights Saints players saw when they showed up at team headquarters this week to prepare for their playoff opener.
Several players said after practice Wednesday that coach Sean Payton put the iconic silver trophy and the approximate amount of bonus money paid to Super Bowl-winning players on display to remind them of what could be theirs if they win three more games, starting with Sunday’s divisional-round clash with the defending champion Eagles in the Superdome.
“Of course, everybody’s playing to be champions. But that trophy, that bread, all that’s on the line. It’s just another little way to get us going,” running back Mark Ingram said, adding that if the Saints win, “I want my presentation to look just like that.
“The glass box of cash, my ring, all that,” Ingram continued. “I don’t want no direct deposits coming from the playoffs. I want all my cash coming to the crib looking just like they had it the other day. That was nice.”
Defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins described a raucous response from players when they saw the display.
“If you saw all that money in front of you, you’d get excited too. Anybody would get excited about that, and I’m right along with them,” Rankins said. “Sean does a great job of getting us ready. He kind of knows what buttons to push and how to pique guys’ interest and get guys even more excited than they already are to go and play a playoff game.”
The Saints have won one Super Bowl in their 52-year history. The season was 2009. Payton was the coach; Drew Brees was the quarterback. The only other players from that squad still in the Saints locker room are punter Thomas Morstead and offensive lineman Jermon Bushrod, who was a starting left tackle back then and serves as a reserve now.
“Just Sean trying to give everybody a vision, especially the young guys, as to what we’re after and the opportunity we have,” Brees said. “Especially as the No. 1 seed, it all comes through this place.”
At the same time, several players stressed that the Saints weren’t getting ahead of themselves or looking past the Eagles, whom they routed, 48-7, earlier this season.
“I understand it, you know, kind of visual, but none of that matters this game,” left tackle Terron Armstead said. “That’s all we’re thinking about – this game. Win or go home. That’s it.”
Payton has used visual props to get messages across to players since being hired as New Orleans’ coach in 2006.
After the team started 0-4 in 2007, Payton parked a wagon full of instruments – meant to resemble an empty bandwagon – alongside the practice field. He has also been known to place rat traps around team headquarters before “trap games” against heavy underdogs, or gas cans in the lockers of veterans as a way of challenging them to show, metaphorically speaking, that they still have gas in the tank.