Suspended New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton will be allowed back at the Superdome this week for a game in which Drew Brees can break Johnny Unitas’s record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass.
The National Football League granted a request from Brees that Payton, interim coach Joe Vitt and General Manager Mickey Loomis -- all of whom were banned for their roles in the Saints’ bounty case -- be permitted to attend the Oct. 7 game against the San Diego Chargers. Brees last week tied Unitas by throwing a touchdown pass in his 47th straight game.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an e-mailed statement that Payton, Vitt and Loomis would be allowed to watch the game from a “private area in the stadium”, but can’t have any contact with the team. It’s not yet known if Payton, Vitt or Loomis will be at the game.
Payton received a one-year suspension for his part in the case which the NFL said involves payments to players for injuring opponents. Vitt was banned for the first six games of the season and Loomis was suspended eight games while the Saints were fined $500,000 and stripped of two draft picks.
Unitas threw touchdown passes in 47 consecutive games from Dec. 9, 1956 through Dec. 4, 1960 for the Baltimore Colts, breaking the previous mark of 22 games held by Cecil Isbell. Unitas, who died in 2002 at the age of 69, held sole possession of the record for 19,663 days before Brees tied him last week with three touchdown passes against the Green Bay Packers. Brees has thrown 114 touchdown passes during his run, 12 more than Unitas during his streak.
Brees said it’s probably no coincidence that he’ll get a chance to break the record against the team he played for during his first five NFL seasons. Loomis and Payton helped bring Brees to New Orleans from San Diego in 2007.
“It’s tremendous, but at the same time I need to focus on my job and whatever it takes to help us win,” Brees, whose team is off to an 0-4 start, said of eclipsing’s Unitas’s mark. “If we break the record in the process then that’s great.”