In 2018, the Sean Payton-led Saints beat division rival Carolina Panthers 31-26 in a Wild Card victory that inspired the head coach to dance in the post-game locker room celebration.
And recruit his team to join him...”I want 53 jumping right now!”
In 2023, now just two months after becoming the Denver Broncos’ head coach, Payton has a slightly different context for asking his full team “to jump right now.”
After Broncos players essentially got the Club Med training regimen last season - with no preseason games for starters, fewer padded practices and a much softer approach to daily and weekly training - the 2023 approach is going to look and feel a lot different.
For one thing, the hugging and dancing will come after post-season wins.
For another, Payton intends to make the offseason training plan basically a month of strength training to get in shape, ruling out a voluntary mini-camp before Phase I.
“I saw where that was printed,” Payton said. “We’re going right to Phase 1 for a month. We’re just going to lift and run.”
And this is not some new-fangled approach the coach came up with while on his year hiatus from coaching.
This is how he ran the Saints.
“We’ve done that before in New Orleans,” he said, noting the purpose is to extend the playing time - even playing life - of an athlete every season. “I think, when you train athletes. I think we’re too quick to move out of Phase 1 into football after three weeks of lifting and running. That’s not enough time.”
In addition to time in the weight room, Payton will be giving them more time on the field…as everyone will play preseason games.
“We are going to play all of them [players]. …Absolutely we are,” Payton told the media during the NFL owners’ meeting Monday. “That’s the preseason.”
Payton noted the significant negative impact injuries had on the Broncos last season, not the least of which occurred to the wide receivers:
“From a team standpoint, we weren’t healthy. None of the starters played in any of the preseason games and there wasn’t any nine-on-seven, one-on-one [drills during training camp],” Payton said. “The approach was much, much different than what I’m used to.”
That was mostly a nice way of saying last year’s approach was a complete nightmare and things will definitely be different under Payton.
Bringing in his old buddy Beau Lower as vice president of player health & performance, Payton is planning on a much healthier team overall.
And he believes Lower can develop a good rapport with the players in Denver just as he had done in New Orleans.
“It’s something you earn with your players. [Lower’s] got an amazing way about him and he’s also very well respected” Payton said. “We’re lucky to have him. …I do know that we’re playing tackle football and you have to practice tackle football.”
Although Payton has repeatedly said his plans for the Broncos this season are not meant as an indictment on the way things were done before, it’s clear he has a strong conviction about doing this his way in Denver.
Thank goodness. I’m ready to dance.
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