METAIRIE – When the Saints walked into their indoor practice facility for Friday’s practice, they found suspended coach Sean Payton staring intently at them.
Well, he wasn’t actually there. But a larger-than-life photo of Payton patrolling the sideline in Super Bowl XLIV was affixed to a wall high above the field. Etched on the picture were the words Payton left his coaches and players with when he had to leave the team in April: “Do Your Job.”
Interim head coach Joe Vitt said the photo, which was the idea of team owner Tom Benson, was from the third quarter of the Super Bowl after Indianapolis Colts tight end Dallas Clark caught a pass.
“He’s looking at me,” Vitt said as reporters chuckled. “Now, if you ask every player on our roster and anybody on our roster, they’ll tell you he’s looking at them.
“Everybody here has gotten that look,” he added. “The lips are pursed, the eyes are squinted, and he’s looking right through the back of your head.”
When asked what it’s like to get that look, Vitt said, “It’s not good … it’s not good.”
“It’s scary,” running back Pierre Thomas said. “He doesn’t look happy.”
MORSTEAD SIGNS DEAL: Punter and kickoff man Thomas Morstead, who agreed to a six-year, $21.9 million contract extension with the team late Thursday night, said he was a little nervous at practice Friday.
While Morstead was happy with the contract that will run through 2018, he couldn’t help but think about what could go wrong during practice.
“I thought if I had a bad practice, they might take (the offer) back,” he said.
Morstead, a fourth-year pro who was going into the final year of the rookie contract he signed after being chosen in the fifth round of the 2009 draft, said team officials contacted his agent four or five days earlier.
“They threw out an initial offer, and it was a good enough offer that I knew they were pretty serious,” said Morstead, who set a club record with a 48.3-yard average last year and had an NFL-high 68 touchbacks on kickoffs.
MESSAGE RECEIVED: Coaches, players and other team personnel have been sporting gray T-shirts with the same Payton message on the front and back.
The shirt’s front has a gold fleur-de-lis with the “Do Your Job” mantra, while the back has words “Everything Matters” on it.
“Hey, listen, Sean and Mickey (Loomis) built this program,” Vitt said. “We’re doing everything that Sean would do and we’ll try to do it without him right now. We’ll try to make him proud, and that’s just a reminder.”
MORE RAIN: For the second straight day, the Saints had to move practice to the indoor facility after rain and torrential thunderstorms rolled through the area just before noon.
“I feel terrible for our fans, but that’s just the way it is,” Vitt said. “The (grass) field is soggy and there’s no footing out there.”
Vitt said the team will attempt to practice outside Saturday at 4 p.m., weather permitting. Fans are urged to check the team’s website at www.neworleanssaints.com or Twitter @Saints for updates.
EYE-CATCHING: The best play of team drills Friday came when cornerback Patrick Robinson challenged tight end Jimmy Graham for the ball on a deep pass down the left sideline, which resulted in an interception.
Robinson read the ball all the way from Drew Brees’ hand and came away with the pick before falling out of bounds.
Earlier, tight end Michael Higgins had a nice catch over the middle from Brees despite tight man-to-man coverage by strong safety Roman Harper.
INJURY REPORT: Tight end David Thomas did not work Friday because of a lower back strain, but Vitt said he’s expected to return Saturday or Sunday, while defensive tackle Akiem Hicks was held out again with his fractured hand.
Also, running back Mark Ingram was limited in practice as he continues to come back from arthroscopic knee surgery in early May.
“We are going to take him into it slowly,” Vitt said. “We’ve got to remember that we’ve got five preseason games. We’ve got the extra game and we’re going to bring him along at the proper pace.”
PADS GO ON: Saturday’s workout, regardless of whether it’s inside or out, will be in full pads for the first time.
According to the new collective bargaining agreement, teams must hold three days of practice in helmets and shorts.
Pierre Thomas said the players are eager to turn things up a notch.
“I definitely am, just to see what everybody has,” he said. “It’s a different story when you have soft pads. When you put pads on it’s a whole different story. You really see the skills the guys have, especially the younger guys.”
MORA OBSERVES PRACTICE: Former Saints coach Jim Mora was a visitor to Friday’s practice.
As he has done for the last few seasons, Mora does pregame work for WDSU-TV, the New Orleans NBC affiliate, when the network carries Saints’ games.