Friday, December 6, 2013
The Associated Press
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — A harsh penalty imposed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell may inspire the New Orleans Saints to have an outstanding season.
Jabar Gaffney of the Patriots works against Saints defensive back A.J. Davis during Tuesday’s practice at Foxborough, Mass. The teams play Thursday night.
The Associated Press
WHO: Patriots vs. New Orleans Saints
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: Gillette Stadium
TELEVISION: Channel 8
They can look to the New England Patriots and Coach Bill Belichick for evidence of that.
"They've had some adversity and did a great job of handling it," Saints interim coach Joe Vitt said Tuesday after his team practiced with the Patriots. "I've had conversations with Bill. We know that our players are strong.
"We've been through adversity before."
In 2007, Goodell imposed fines of $500,000 on Belichick and $250,000 on the Patriots and took away a first-round draft pick for videotaping an opponent against NFL rules. The Patriots went 18-0 that season before losing the Super Bowl.
This year he came down even harder on the Saints for a bounty program in which he found that players were paid for hurting opposing players. Coach Sean Payton and linebacker Jonathan Vilma were suspended for the season. Vitt got a six-game suspension, beginning with the opener of the regular season. Defensive end Will Smith received four games, defensive end Anthony Hargrove, now with Green Bay, has eight, and linebacker Scott Fujita, now with Cleveland, will sit out three.
The Saints were fined $500,000, and docked second-round draft picks in 2012 and 2013.
New Orleans tight end David Thomas, a member of the 2007 Patriots, gave his teammates some advice about how New England's players handled their adversity.
He told them, "the biggest thing was it will only be a distraction if you let it be a distraction," Saints safety Roman Harper said. "That was the motto that they really took in that locker room and we kind of took the same thing. And as long as we stick together in our locker room, which is a great one, and we don't let outsiders get in and continue to be a distraction, it won't distract us."
In 2007, the Patriots set an NFL record with 589 points, Tom Brady established the league mark of 50 touchdown passes and Randy Moss caught an NFL-record 23 touchdowns.
"It showed that even with a lot of adversity floating around, you could still have success and have a great football season," Thomas said.
The Saints and Patriots have another joint practice Wednesday before meeting in a preseason game Thursday.