METAIRIE, La. (AP) — As far as Drew Brees is concerned, Sean Payton, Mickey Loomis and Joe Vitt all have played an important role in putting him in position to break Johnny Unitas' half-century-old record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass.
So Brees thought they should at least have an opportunity to be in the Superdome if the record falls when the Saints host San Diego on Sunday night.
"We have the opportunity to break the Johnny Unitas record, and I say 'we' because it is a team deal, and Joe Vitt is a part of that, Sean Payton is a part of that and Mickey Loomis is a part of that," Brees said. "They are all a part of that, and I felt like they certainly deserved the opportunity to be there in attendance and share that moment with us."
Payton (a full season), Loomis (eight games) and Vitt (six games) are all serving various suspensions in connection with the league's bounty investigation.
Brees tied Unitas' mark of touchdown passes in 47 straight games last Sunday in Green Bay. It was on the plane ride home, Brees said, that he started thinking about asking NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell if he would grant permission for Payton, Loomis and Vitt to attend the next game. Goodell agreed on condition that arrangements be made for the three men to watch from a private area where they won't have contact with the team.
"I haven't had any contact with coach Payton or Mickey or Joe, obviously, but I made that request in hopes that they would be able to be there," Brees said. "My assumption is they will be there.
"It would mean a lot, and that's why I asked," Brees said.
The Saints are 0-4 without Payton at the helm. Offensive line coach Aaron Kromer is serving as interim coach for the first six games. Vitt, who oversaw the staff during the offseason and training camp, is expected to retake the reins upon his return in Week 8, when the Saints, who have a bye next week, play their seventh game at Denver.
If any of the three suspended men show for Sunday night's game, Brees said it possibly could provide an emotional boost for the team. But the quarterback stressed that was not his motivation for wanting them there.
"We know we have a job to do, and it's to win this game, it's to prepare ourselves the best we can throughout this week," Brees said. "None of those guys will be in the locker room. It's not like we're getting a pregame speech from anybody. We know what we need to do. I felt that it was important that those guys be there because they are a part of this. ... Despite the circumstances, they are as big a part of this as anybody, and it felt like they deserved the opportunity to be here, and I appreciate the commissioner giving permission for them to do that."
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