Originally written on Chicks in the Huddle  |  Last updated 3/21/12

We’ve been riding pretty high for the past few years, Saints fans. We’ve celebrated a Super Bowl victory, back-to-back playoff appearances, division titles and record breaking performances by our star players. But now that this bounty sh*t has hit the fan, it’s time to see if you’re ride or die, or just another fairweather in a catchy black and gold tee.

The NFL came down hard on the team after an investigation revealed defensive players were getting payouts for big hits. (Some hits that apparently weren’t big enough to draw fines or flags during the actual games, but no matter.) Here’s the rundown:

Coach Sean Payton: Suspended for a year
GM Mickey Loomis: Banned for the first 8 regular season games
Assistant Coach Joe Vitt: Suspended for the first 6 games
2nd round draft picks in 2012 and 2013: Gone

The league basically stopped short of sticking the sharp end of a fleur-de-lis up all of our arses. But here’s the thing. We have this week to embrace meltdown mode, then it’s time to press the f*ck on.

First things first, lets get this Drew Brees monkey off our backs. Between Peyton Manning’s contract deal with the Broncos and Sean Payton’s suspension, we don’t have leverage anymore. Drew Brees is essentially our new team head coach and we don’t need money on his mind. We need him focused on the task at hand. Even if we think he’s asking too much, I don’t care anymore. Pay the damn man! We don’t have anymore cards to play. The jig is up!

Secondly, don’t think that just because Sean Payton publicly took the year long suspension hard that the team’s front office didn’t see this one coming on some level and make the necessary preparations. If there is one thing we know about our head coach, he’s no fool. He’s a schemer. He always thinks a few steps ahead, as does GM Mickey Loomis. We’d be fools to think they didn’t prepare for, at the very least, long term suspensions. They’ve been planning, plotting and strategizing how to react if and when Roger Goodell tried to make an example out of them.

Perhaps Sean Payton’s unfortunate leg break last year was our little guardian angel’s way of preparing us for his absence from the sidelines. Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael had to step up then and he’ll have to step up now, with the help of our quarterback…who we’ll have paid because we’re not idiots. Sure Sean was still up in the booth giving input but have faith in Carmichael and the insight Payton has given him thus far. And if you don’t trust Carmichael, you then must trust Drew. Then again, there’s always this option…

As for the draft, Loomis will be missed but we also have one of the best scouting teams in the league. It’s not just Mickey who has a knack for seeking out low profile players with exceptional talent. And you’d better believe that from the time this scandal broke through April 1st, Loomis will be getting that scouting team’s ducks in a row to find the best possible players with the draft picks we were oh so fortunate to keep.

I could go off on Goodell right now for making an example out of the Saints with this unprecedented punishment, but who has the f*cking time and what will it change? Besides, given some of the “goings on” in Florida in recent weeks, I’d almost feel silly making this the issue that inspires me to launch a movement. What I care about is how my team will respond in the face of adversity. This is an opportunity for the Saints to shut up each and every hater dancing with glee right now at the notion that they’re a “team in turmoil.” What the team needs to know is that we fans aren’t hitting the panic buttons. Payton calls their plays but we in many ways fuel their passion with our blind loyalty. It’s our “Who Dat” chants that get them amped at away games and our raucous behavior in the dome that makes it one of the hardest places for opposing teams to play. Goodell can take a lot of things away from us, but he can’t take away that legendary Who Dat spirit that has so often propelled our team to victory.

Sure there will be trash talkers throwing this in our faces. Who gives a sh*t? They’re so intimidated by our success that they can only pray these punishments will somehow, some way give their pathetic teams a decent shot at beating us. Bless their hearts.

The sports pundits will beat this one to death, until of course Tim Tebow does something that is just too gosh darn adorable to ignore. Before long, it will be back to business as usual on ESPN. In the interim, might I suggest a mind-numbing marathon of “The Real Housewives of Somewhere”?

My message is simple: This isn’t the end for the Saints. If anything, we could witness a team with a chip on it’s shoulder in 2012, hellbent on proving that bounty or not, it’s damn good and gunning for another ring. I for one don’t plan on hanging my head a second longer. Eff the penalties. I’m a ride or die Saints chick. Always have been, always will be.

I leave you with this quote from Saints cornerback Jabari Greer:

It seems as if they are trying to destroy our season,’’ Greer said in an interview with Sirius NFL Radio. “They are trying to take away our leaders, take away our leadership. But it’s not going to happen. We are New Orleans. We will be strong, we will get through this, we will fight through this and we will win. It’s not gonna happen. It’s not gonna happen. No matter the adversity, we’re going to stand up, we’re going to stand strong, we’re going to look you in your face and we’re going to continue to play with passion, play with heart, because that’s how we play. Not with malicious intent, not trying to hurt somebody. It doesn’t matter about a bounty system. We go out there and play hard, we play fast, because we’re men of integrity and we love to play the game.

“We play a violent game. So that is, my spirit and my soul is moving me to words to say that people are painting us as mercenaries for hire. They are painting us as thugs. We’re fathers, we’re professionals and we are men.”

Believe dat.

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