"They're a team and an organization that we kind of aspire to be, that team, a perennial playoff contender and somebody who is vying for a championship every year and has a legitimate shot," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said Tuesday after the teams' joint practice at Gillette Stadium.
"I think any time you can come and practice against a team like the Patriots, who, really, you could call the team of the decade — their sustained level of success is the envy of the whole league, including us — for us to be able to come up here and get this type of work against them is great," Brees added.
In 2009, the Saints turned in a season that served as one of the greatest stories in NFL history. They resurrected a shattered area, rallied the citizens of New Orleans and helped create hope after the city was throttled by Hurricane Katrina.
They're one of the most popular teams in the league, and they were easy for so many to root for during their Super Bowl trek. Yet, the Saints — behind head coach Sean Payton, who has often praised Patriots head coach Bill Belichick — don’t want to stop at one Super Bowl.
Payton said he'd like to talk to Belichick about the challenges of repeating as champions. Belichick's Patriots were the last team to win consecutive titles (2003-04), and they're also one of two teams in the history of the NFL to win three titles in four years.
"[Belichick] is a guy that certainly I respect, and when we got to New Orleans in '06, we paid close attention to who was winning in our league," Payton said. "Clearly, we patterned our organization after what New England was trying to accomplish. My grandmother used to say, 'I think imitation is the greatest form of flattery.' He’s someone who’s done a great job. They’ve created a great environment here that we tried to create in New Orleans. He’s real talented."