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Saints' Payton 'discouraged' by aspects of London trip

METAIRIE, La. -- Sean Payton struggled to be diplomatic about the NFL's handling of the Saints' game in London last weekend, railing against everything from the "sloppy" field conditions to a cramped flight home on a plane "that's over 30 years old."

"Logistically, I think it's hard to bring two teams over there and play a game during the regular season like this," the Saints' coach said Tuesday.

The Saints left London on a charter flight Monday afternoon, the day after a crucial 37-32 victory over the San Diego Chargers in what was a designated "home" game for New Orleans.

Payton said the people in England and the fans at the game "were great," and went on to say there were some positive aspects of the team's trip, such as exposing fans overseas to the best level of American football.

However, it was clear on Tuesday that he was discouraged by some of the logistical challenges his team met while trying to prepare for an important contest that counted in the standings.

"The travel, transportation, those aren't club issues, those are league issues. We've been unable to figure that part of it out," Payton said. "When we play a game and we're in a plane that's over 30 years old a day later and we have players sitting in (small) seats ... I think they just have a lot of work to do to figure this thing out. It's hard for me to say it's a great experience and a great thing for your club."

Payton said the trip was particularly hard on trainers as well as staff handling players' equipment, video equipment and computers, estimating that some of them worked "14- or 15-hour nights on a turnaround, moving it from one place to another."

He added that what was billed as a "regular game" simply wasn't.

"It isn't for (New Orleans). It isn't for the local economy here. It's not for anyone," Payton said. "Call it a home game if you want or an away game. I don't know what you want to call it, but there are just a lot of things in my opinion that need to be sorted out."

Payton said the field, which resembled a muddy bog in a low-scoring, rain-soaked game last year between the New York Giants and Miami Dolphins, remained delicate despite better weather this year and was easily torn up.

"The field conditions were poor. It's discouraging being that it's the second time (the NFL has) gone over there," Payton said. "We had the longest cleats possible to wear. It's just real loose and it started tearing up in the walk through (on Saturday), so we knew it was going to tear up in the game. ... It becomes harder for a defense to rush the passer on a slow field like that. The weather was clear, so we had a nice evening, but the footing was more advantageous to the offenses."

Payton was pleased with the final score, of course, but seemed hesitant to contemplate how much more he might have been aggravated if the Saints had lost.

"Both teams found a pretty good place in the countryside to practice with good logistics and fields, but there are just so many other things that come up that make you scratch your head," Payton said. "It's certainly a lot easier to come back after that game, as bad as the flight is, as bad as that specific flight was yesterday with everything from just leaving the hotel on time to just getting a piece of luggage at the airport. As bad as it is, it would certainly be a lot worse if you didn't win the game."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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