The coach, now two weeks removed from his reinstatement, serves as a central figure as the team returns to normalcy in the wake of the bounty scandal. Payton represents continuity, but he also sees 2013 as a fresh start.
"I'm coming in with the mindset that this is my first year here and I just got hired," Payton told ESPN Radio in Chicago.
Payton's next key decision is settling on a defensive coordinator. NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reported that after interviewing Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham on Thursday, the Saints will meet with Rob Ryan on Friday. Ryan could walk away with the job, though Payton has left the door open for a third, mystery candidate.
"We're waiting on a third interview for next week," Payton said. "But with the combine two weeks away, I don't want to have to hurry to make the decision, but yet there's a sense of urgency."
Payton said he watched every Saints game with his NFL Sunday Ticket package. He doesn't hide the fact that his forced absence was difficult.
"The hardest part of it was just not having the interaction you're used to having with your friends. The relationships, that all goes quiet," he said. "And so as much as the practices and the games were difficult, I think the harder part of it was just not having that contact and that interaction that you're used to for, shoot, 25, 26 years."
Now Payton is back. Don't be surprised if it has an immediate impact on the Saints' fortunes.
Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @DanHanzus.