The payments were made out of a pool funded by players, coaches and others. Payouts were also awarded for big plays such as forced fumbles, sacks and interceptions, but such compensation is not allowed under the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement. The NFL said the pool grew as large as $50,000 during the Saints championship season.
The Saints will have to choose an interim coach, and candidates to take on that role include offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr., defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and offensive line coach Aaron Kromer.
“He couldn’t get off a (trainer’s) table for like three weeks. He wasn’t in meetings. He wasn’t at practice,” Strief said. “There’s a tremendous amount of faith in the offensive staff. Even after he came back, I think he really kind of gave a lot more responsibility to the guys that had been doing it. He really kind of said, `All right, you’ve been doing it, you’re doing a good job, go ahead and keep going.’”
After losing the game in which Payton was injured in Tampa Bay, the Saints finished the regular season 9-1 with Carmichael calling plays into quarterback Drew Brees. The offense set numerous NFL records including for total yards and yards passing.
“Our offensive staff last year really worked very much more independently than they ever had before,” Strief said. “So I think in that respect, we’re somewhat used to that already.”
Strief said Saints veterans have been with Payton long enough now that they know how he likes the structure and tempo of practice, and that they even worked to simulate that during last year’s lockout, when Brees gathered players together for offseason workouts at Tulane.
“It crushes you to see him and I know it was unexpected for him,” Strief said. “For all of us, really, it was completely unexpected.
“When I was hurt last year, for me to watch a game on TV was miserable. I can only imagine what it’s going to be like for him,” said Strief, who sprained his right knee and missed part of the season. “And I know that for me personally, he will be a big motivating factor in working hard and being a better player because he deserves to have us do that.”
By Elaine Donnelly
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