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Payton keeps Saints jovial in dreary weather with bellhop stunt

Sean Payton had taken a few pages from Bill Walsh's playbook before.

DAVIE, Fla. -- Sean Payton had taken a few pages from Bill Walsh's playbook before.

Not quite like this, though.

Ever focused on the mood of his players, the New Orleans Saints' head coach kicked off Super Bowl week by donning a bellhop uniform and helping with luggage when the team bus showed up at its downtown Miami hotel Monday.

Quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints' six other Pro Bowl players joined Payton, hoping to ease whatever tension accompanied the team on the first Super Bowl trip in its 43-year history.

"You never lose track of the job you have, and for about a half hour today, those Pro Bowl players, I thought, earned some pretty good tips here with our players getting off the buses and handling the luggage," Payton said, his eyes twinkling while he otherwise continued to speak in his typical wooden tone. "We're always wanting to steal a pretty good idea. I think Bill Walsh, a long time ago, had a pretty good idea, and we just kind of took it like one of his offensive plays and ran with it."

When Hall of Fame coach Walsh coached the 1981 San Francisco 49ers to the first of five Super Bowls for that franchise, he essentially did the same thing. The Joe Montana-led Niners beat the Cincinnati Bengals 26-21.

The Saints are hoping for similar success against the favored Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

Brees and his teammates were amused by Payton, but not surprised. Playing for Payton means constantly encountering motivational poems in one's locker, watching inspirational videos or listening to guest speakers such as former 49ers safety Ronnie Lott, who addressed the team the night before its NFC Championship Game victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

"You could very easily get to this week and all of a sudden want to put too much pressure on yourself or feel the pressure or the hype in the media and everything else," Brees said. "But I think that's one of Sean's great strengths -- the ability to constantly have his finger on the pulse of the team and know when it's time to work, when it's time to joke and have a good time, and, obviously, when the guys pulled up, he thought that would be a good way to welcome everybody in, and it was."

The other Saints Pro Bowl players who borrowed bellhop uniforms -- white button-down coats with black shoulder patches and black pants -- from the team hotel included right guard Jahri Evans, center Jonathan Goodwin, right tackle Jon Stinchcomb, linebacker Jonathan Vilma, and safeties Darren Sharper and Roman Harper.

Some of the bigger players, like the 6-foot-4, 318 pound Evans, were too big for the getups.

"I had to stretch it out a little bit, but it felt pretty good," Evans said. "Just imagine their reaction when they got off the bus and saw us standing there. It was just pretty funny."

For the Saints, the moment brightened an otherwise dreary, rainy day in Miami.

The weather forced the team to change and delay practice plans, but Payton dismissed the inconvenience as minor. Ever mindful of what the Saints and all of New Orleans went through after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, no one on this team was about to complain about a steady rain and an extra 45-minute bus ride to an indoor field at the Miami Dolphins' training headquarters in Davie.

"It is what it is," Brees said. "Weather the storm. We know how to do that. We jumped right on the buses, went to the practice field, got a good sweat in, got a good workout in, and I think it just really set the tone for us and our mindset for this week."

The Saints initially were scheduled to practice at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, where tight end Jeremy Shockey and linebacker Jonathan Vilma both starred in college. On Monday, the Saints still went to campus and changed there, then took a bus up to Davie. The plan is to return to Coral Gables for practices this week as weather permits, with the bubble at Dolphins headquarters serving as the contingency if rain persists.

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