-- CHARLOTTE, N.C. - New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton had been biting his tongue all week about the extra-short turnaround from a Sunday night game to a Thursday night road game. But Payton couldn't resist bringing it up during his opening comments after New Orleans' 28-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers, calling it crazy, silly and foolish.
"You know, Thursday night games are one thing, but to play on a Sunday night game and then come back and play on a Thursday ... you can't really [complain publicly] because first off, it's not an excuse for your players, you don't want it to be. But I would say it's crazy. It's silly, all right? It shouldn't happen," Payton said.
Later, he added: "It's foolish. You got three guys that are hurt in there right now. To play a Sunday night and travel is foolish."
According to Elias Sports Bureau, only four times in the last 20 years had an NFL team been forced to play a Thursday road game following a Sunday night contest. Only one team, Miami in 2003, had won both.
Payton said he didn't bring it up with the league when the schedule first came out because he didn't fully appreciate it until "you go actually through logistics and see what your players go through."
And he said it wasn't a big campaign for him, saying, "That's just my little frustration with something as simple as scheduling that can be easily fixed."
Payton did bring up the scheduling challenge with players during the week -- but they said his message was to make sure they didn't allow themselves to use it as an excuse heading into the game.
"His biggest message was nobody cares and no one wants to hear it. ... Control what you can control," said offensive tackle Zach Strief, who also serves as the Saints' NFL Players Association union rep. "Now do you think it's fair to play a night game and then travel on a Thursday? I mean, no, that's a tough deal. And they can spit out all the stats or whatever that they would like to spit out that it doesn't affect players and guys aren't getting injured more. At the end of the day, it's baloney.
"Obviously you say, 'Why would we do that? In all good conscious of player safety, why would we do that?'"
Strief added: "What you love is the way the team responded."
Outside linebacker Junior Galette echoed that sentiment.
"It's tough on your body. But Sean said, you know, if we come in here and lose, we can't have excuses and say it's because we played two games in five days," Galette said. "I mean obviously we're world-class athletes, if anyone can do it we can.
"Sean took care of us, we just had a walk-through [practice], we had a simple game plan. We knew we had to have a simple game plan to play fast, and that's what we did tonight."