Since Sean Payton returned from his bounty ban in January, the Saints have steered clear of scandal or contract holdouts in a blissfully uneventful offseason. With the focus back on football, optimism abounds in the Big Easy.
''Here we are, really for the first time in four years, where you feel like this is a normal offseason,'' quarterback Drew Brees said recently. ''You come to work every day with no distractions other than just focusing on football and getting better.''
The 2010 offseason was unusual in that the Saints were defending champs. In 2011, there was a lockout. Then 2012 was overshadowed by the NFL's probe of the Saints' cash-for-hits bounty system, which resulted in suspensions, fines and lost draft picks. Further complicating matters was Brees' contract holdout, which ended a couple weeks before 2012 training camp.
Brees still passed for 5,177 yards last season while leading a unit ranked second in yards per game, but such production wasn't enough to get the Saint...