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Saints Still on a Super Bowl High

FORT LAUDERDALE - Drew Brees, classy and composed, beamed with the look of a Super Bowl champion Monday after the New Orleans Saints upset the Indianapolis Colts.

If he had deservedly celebrated long into the Florida night, he concealed it well.

"I had to ask my wife (this morning), 'Did yesterday really happen?' Yes it did," said the game's MVP before he was whisked off to begin a whirlwind day, including taping an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman.

Sean Payton, minus his ever-present visor, sported the happily dazed, disheveled demeanor of an all-night Bourbon Street reveler. He wore a strand of gold Mardi Gras beads, rumpled shirt and blue jeans. Looking bleary-eyed, Payton carried a cup of coffee into a news conference only long enough to put it down and cradle the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

"This thing laid in my bed next to me last night," Payton said, prompting laughter from the media. "Rolled over a couple of times and probably drooled on it. Man, there's nothing like it."

Payton explained that, sometime near midnight after the Saints' 31-17 triumph, members of the Lombardi family - including Saints quarterbacks coach Joe Lombardi and his father, Vince Jr. - posed with the silver hardware named after the late Hall of Fame coaching legend.

"I just thought to myself, 'You've got to be kidding me,' " Payton recalled at the irony of the moment. "If you believe in heaven, and you believe Vince Lombardi there's looking (down) at his grandson . . . you can't get enough of this."

This was Payton's second Super Bowl, his first as a head coach. He served as offensive coordinator for the 2000 New York Giants NFC champions, but they were smashed 34-7 by the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV.

"To be a coach and part of a great team with players like Drew Brees, I'm honored," Payton said. "I don't take that opportunity lightly at all. I feel very fortunate, very blessed, very humbled by it."

Pulling off a coaching encore is another matter.

One franchise, the New England Patriots, has won back-to-back Super Bowls since the dawn of the new millennium.

Peyton wouldn't address specifics, such as whether New Orleans would re-sign free safety Darren Sharper, who led the NFL this season in interceptions and was a steal at $1.7 million. The coach said he would allow "24 to 48 hours before eyeing up the next challenge."

He said the topic of next season's Super Bowl XLV in Dallas did come up during the wee-morning hours and acknowledged that winning one NFL championship would not whet his coaching whistle, not with a four-time Pro Bowl quarterback playing lights-out football.

"When you get a quarterback like Drew Brees in the prime of his career, it's not enough," Payton said. "Last night was great, but there's still something that burns in you to separate yourself more. So we'll spend a little bit of time refueling, recharging the batteries and getting ourselves prepared for the challenges ahead."

Come spring, Brees said, "32 teams will feel it's their year."

"What will be fun will be using the word 'repeat' all next year," he said.

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