New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, still reeling from the excitement (and collateral damage) caused by the Saints' trip to a Mississippi water park earlier this month, produced some more drama Friday at the Bengals' practice facility in downtown Cincinnati. A day after conducting a pair of joint workouts with the Bengals, the Saints staged a practice that was attended by country star Kenny Chesney, who not only is Payton's favorite musician but, realistically, is also his favorite non-relative.
Chesney, 39, who played wide receiver at Gibbs High School in Lutrell, Tenn., ran some routes, including a post pattern on which he was under thrown by quarterback Drew Brees. "He totally underestimated my speed," Chesney said later by telephone as he and Payton took turns howling into the mouthpiece.
At the end of practice, Payton told the team that if Chesney could catch a punt, he'd give them Monday off. However, if Chesney missed, they had to practice twice instead of once.
"We've got a game Thursday (at Kansas City), and Wednesday is a travel day, so we really need to practice Monday," Payton said. "But I figured there was no way in hell this guy could catch it. He told me he wanted three chances, and I said, 'Fine.'
"I'm having visions of Marcia Brady with that swollen nose in 'The Brady Bunch.' And then, lo and behold, he catches this sucker like he's Billy (White Shoes) Johnson. Then he got mobbed. It was like frickin' 'Rudy.'"
Chesney, comparing the pressure of the moment to that of playing in a playoff game, sought advice before the kick.
"Reggie Bush is there about to break out the Blackberry and start hitting up every girl he knows because he might have Monday off. I asked him if he had any advice for me, and he said, 'Yeah, don't drop it,' " Chesney said. "The bad thing is, if Sean has a punt returner who drops the ball this season, the first person he's gonna think about is me."
Payton: "I wanted to sign him. But negotiations broke down. He wanted an extended curfew. And he wanted the owner (Tom Benson)'s boat. Not to borrow his boat. He wanted the boat, period."
Chesney: "The boat was a deal-breaker. I told him, 'Bro, I want your yacht. Yours is 15 feet longer than mine.' I've got a lot of girls to put on there, and I need all the room I can get. But he wouldn't give it to me. I also wanted guaranteed money. And I'm not a curfew kind of guy."
Chesney, who is finishing up a tour and has a new album coming out on Sept. 11, has already had an eventful offseason. While in Tampa, Fla., for a show in early June, he hooked up with another coaching friend, Jon Gruden, who asked him for a peculiar favor. "He gave me Jake Plummer's number and told me to call him," Chesney says. "He said, 'He loves your music. You need to talk him out of retiring.' So I left him a message. But I'm pretty sure he ain't coming back."
As for his buddy Peyton Manning, Chesney says, "If he can get (Colts owner) Jimmy Irsay to give me a boat, I might sign with Indy."