METAIRIE, La. -- Fresh off his seven-week bounty-related suspension, New Orleans Saints interim coach Joe Vitt did not wait an extra second to rejoin the team -- in Florida.
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After watching Sunday's game from an undisclosed location in the Tampa area, he flew back to New Orleans with the Saints after they beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 35-28 in a game Vitt was barred from attending.
On Monday, he said his suspension was excruciating.
"I agonized," he said. "It's hard to go through that. I've been with these guys for seven years. I care very deeply for this team. When you're not there on game day, win or lose, with guys that you respect and love, it was a challenge."
The Saints losing their first four games under his interim replacement, offensive line coach Aaron Kromer, made it even more agonizing. New Orleans has won two in row but still faces an uphill battle to climb into playoff contention a year after finishing 13-3.
First on Vitt's agenda is fixing the NFL's worst defense statistically.
The Saints (2-4) have allowed an NFL-high 465.5 yards per game under new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, including 513 to the Bucs, who scored touchdowns on its first three possessions.
On NFL Network
will re-air the New Orleans Saints' 35-28 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 7 on Wednesday, Oct. 24 at 9 p.m. ET.
Four of the Saints' six opponents have gained more yards against them than anyone else. A fifth, the Washington Redskins, score a season-high 40 points.
"I'm certainly not a miracle worker," Vitt said. "I'm humble to be back here. I met with (Spagnuolo) this morning, and we know there are things we can do better from a coaching standpoint and from a players' standpoint and from a schematic standpoint."
Vitt can help just by coaching the linebackers, his position responsibility. The Saints have been down a defensive staff member since his suspension started at the end of the preseason.
The Saints will try to build on their performance against the Bucs even though it was uneven. Drew Brees rallied New Orleans from deficits of 14-0 and 21-7 by throwing for 313 yards and four touchdowns in the first half alone.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press