A Short Offseason Is Worth The Price

The New Orleans Saints waited a long time for this moment -- winning the Super Bowl. Now that it has come to pass, they need to get back into preparing for next year. This year, they'll have a lot less time to prepare.

Because the organization and city waited so long for a world championship, Saints players and coaches planned on making the most of their 31-17 victory against the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.

The loyal fans and Super Bowl champion Saints partied long and hard for the first time in the franchise's 43-year history, putting the organization's often-rocky past -- including the term Aints -- behind them at last.

While it took an awful long time to achieve it, they won't have that much time to savor it or dwell on it, Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees said after helping his team get past the Colts.

"We're going to enjoy this for a while, but once the OTAs (organized team activities) and minicamps get rolling, it's all about that 2010 season," Brees said. "What I think is going to be fun is using the word 'repeat' next year."

That time will be here before they know it. Because their season ended so late, and happily so, the Saints won't have much time for rest and relaxation. Their off-season strength and conditioning program will likely begin in late March, and, just like that, they'll be back at it again.

When they do, the Saints should be well-stocked to make another deep run into the playoffs and possibly make another Super Bowl appearance next February in Arlington, Texas.

Two Super Bowls in two seasons? It's a possibility, considering general manager Mickey Loomis and coach Sean Payton have been laying the foundation for that first one for the last three seasons.

Brees, the triggerman for an offense that has led the NFL in total yards three of his four seasons with the teams, is still in the prime of his career at the age of 31. What's more, he has all of his key weapons coming back in 2010.

And defensively, the Saints improved dramatically under Gregg Williams and adding a few more pieces to the puzzle could make them even better in season two and in the years to come.

"There are some things that are in place that could keep them around for a long time," said Fox Sports analyst and Cowboys Hall of Famer Troy Aikman.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--During the Carnival season, it's not unusual to see elaborate parades weaving through the streets of New Orleans.

But the riders usually aren't worshipped as heroes and they aren't wearing Saints jerseys like they were Tuesday night when hundreds of thousands of fans turned out to honor the Super Bowl XLIV champions with their own version of Mardi Gras known as Lombardi Gras.

Saints owner Tom Benson led a parade that covered a four-mile route through the Central Business District, about two miles shorter than most parades, two nights after the Saints took their first Super Bowl title with a 31-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. The crowd stood 20 deep or more for most of the route.

The players tossed beads into the crowd and signed autographs for the screaming fans, Benson shouted "Who Dat!" into a microphone from his perch atop the lead float and coach Sean Payton blew kisses while holding the Vince Lombardi Trophy over his head.

"Here's to the best Mardi Gras week in the history of this city," Payton said as he raised a glass of champagne during a toast outside the city's historic Gallier Hall.

Benson, Payton and quarterback Drew Brees will all be part of regular Mardi Gras parades this weekend with Brees serving as the king of the Krewe of Bacchus.

Benson and the Saints organization later thanked the city's police department and fire department, who are already stretched thin because of the ongoing Mardi Gras festivities, and state and local government officials for their help in putting on the parade.

City officials later said it might have been the biggest procession in New Orleans history.

"Just like winning the Super Bowl, this parade was a monumental event in our franchise's history," Benson said in a statement released by the club. "Celebrating with our fans and feeling the outpouring of their support and excitement made the victory even more special.

"I'm a native New Orleanian, and I know what parades mean to this community. I know last night is one we will all remember -- and it seems like everyone was there. The initial estimates are that this might have been the biggest parade ever in a city known for big parades, and our players and staff were absolutely thrilled to celebrate with the best fans in the NFL."

--The Vince Lombardi Trophy spent a few first interesting hours in the hands of the Saints after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell awarded it to owner Tom Benson on Sunday night.

After the initial celebration on the field and in the locker room at Sun Life Stadium, the coveted trophy was back at the team hotel for a lengthier postgame celebration.

Hours later, coach Sean Payton took the trophy up to his room for a few quiet moments, putting it on the desk before saying a prayer.

"I thanked God for these special times that don't come around too often," Payton said at a news conference on Monday. "For that, I am very appreciative and very humbled."

Then, Payton confessed he put the silver trophy in his bed before he fell asleep at 4 a.m.

"I rolled over it a couple times, I probably drooled on it," he said as he and reporters began to chuckle. "But man, there's nothing like it. There's nothing like it."

--The Saints became the 10th team to win the Super Bowl in their first try. The last to do it was the 2002 Tampa Bay Bucs in Super Bowl XXXVII.

They also were just the fifth club to best a team that had previous Super Bowl experience. The record for first-timers was 4-19 until the Saints beat the Colts. The Bucs, who ripped the Oakland Raiders, were the last to do it.

--It went unnoticed because they were in the Super Bowl, but four players with ties to the Saints organization were selected to the NFL's All-Decade Team.

The team, which was announced during the Pro Bowl on Jan. 31, included three former Saints -- tackle William Roaf, defensive tackle La'Roi Glover and fullback Lorenzo Neal.

Also making the team was current free safety Darren Sharper, although he made it largely because of what he did with the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "When you have an opportunity to participate in the event itself, it just pulls you that much closer to wanting to be in it again." -- Saints coach Sean Payton, on his team being hungry enough to get back to Super Bowl XLV to defend its title.

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