While team doctors were pleased with the results of surgery Monday to repair a torn meniscus and broken tibia in Payton's left leg, there remained a number of questions pertaining to how the Saints will adapt to their head coach's long recovery.
"It'll be interesting how that all plays out," quarterback Drew Brees said, adding that he was confident Payton would find a way to turn the situation to the Saints' advantage. "It's unchartered territory for all of us."
Payton isn't expected to be able to put weight on his injured leg for about eight weeks, said Dr. Deryk Jones, the team orthopedic surgeon who operated on the coach. Jones added that a full recovery could take three to six months.
So it will be a while before Payton again paces the sideline, where he usually juggles the responsibilities of calling offensive plays, coaching up players on certain assignments and sometimes not so cordially seeking clarification from referees about officiating decisions.
"He's just got a kind of presence and moxie that when you're on the sideline you look for," Saints offensive guard Carl Nicks said. "He's yelling, and he's calling the plays. He's getting everybody situated. You can take it for granted. He's our leader, you know? So it's kind of weird" not having him on the sideline.
Payton was hurt during New Orleans' 26-20 loss at Tampa Bay on Sunday when Saints tight end Jimmy Graham was tackled into his coach along the sideline. Payton remained in the hospital Monday for observation and was expected to be discharged Tuesday and back at work by Wednesday.
Brees said he'd been told that Payton had equipment set up in his hospital room so he could go over video as the Saints look to correct mistakes from the loss to the Buccaneers and prepare to host the Indianapolis Colts this Sunday night.
"Knowing him, he's trying to get through this as quickly as possible so he can get to the facility and start game-planning," Brees said. "I know he's got his little film set up there at the hospital, so he's going to be grinding while he's trying to fight through the pain and not move his leg too much."
After the loss to the Bucs, Payton said he expected to call plays from the booth while his mobility is limited. That presents some new challenges because NFL rules don't allow coaches in the booth to communicate directly with players on the field through the ear pieces installed in the helmets of the quarterback and the designated defensive captain. Payton normally sends offensive plays directly to Brees.
Brees said offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. probably will end up sending in the plays from the sideline after receiving them from Payton.
"There are a couple of more variables now in this thing, the extra couple of seconds that it takes for Sean to go to Pete and then Pete to go to me," Brees said. "Is it going to be different? Yes. I won't know how different until we actually get into this first game doing it. But I think the communication is already very good between myself and Pete, and Pete and Sean. ... I really don't see us skipping a beat."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press