"It stings," said cornerback Jabari Greer.
Before players scattered on Tuesday, they met one last time with coach Sean Payton.
Payton said the early season-ending loss made thinking about next season more difficult.
"This loss stung more considering where we were last season," said Payton. "I don't know if it hurt more than the loss in Chicago in 2006, You play to get into the postseason; you play to get into the tournament and to have an opportunity to play past when everyone else is playing.
"When that finality comes, there's raw emotion that comes out of it with frustration, of disappointment. -- all things that accompany losing. I think the same exists for the players. just as it does for the coaches. It'll take a while. It doesn't taste good, but it will go down and then you get on to the challenge ahead. There's a lot of work that we'll have to do this offseason and we recognize that completely. We''ll be ready to go."
No one knows what the future holds. The current labor agreement expires March 4, Without a new collective bargaining agreement players anticipate owners locking them out shortly thereafter.
That means no free agency, no trades, no access to the team facility for players interested in working out or in the midst of injury rehabilitation.
How different a plan do the Saints have this offseason given the labor situation?
"With the continuity, if in the event of a potential lockout, it would benefit teams that have continuity as opposed to teams that don't, " said the coach. " One of the challenges will be turnover of coaching staffs during this time frame. That would be challenging. The continuity we have and will continue to have will help mitigate that to some degree."
The Saints coaches will continue doing business as usual until told otherwise.
""That's the way every team's operating right now," said Payton. "Maybe we're getting ahead of the horse. We'll be in the midst of our evaluations. We'll be in the midst of our cut ups and scheme review and then we'll be in the midst of the Senior Bowl."
Payton told his players not to believe what they hear or read about free agency if and when it returns.
"Each year you pay attention to your roster and you look closely at where your teams are," said the coach. " "One of the first things I'll tell our players on Tuesday is don't believe a word you read in regards to this free agency. It will be the first thing that begins to pull at them. Come see us. We won't have, and for good reason, we won't have any contact or any comment in any way, shape or form, about the direction we're with with any of these players. They'll know that anything written or talked about will be purely conjecture, speculation and so that way they'll know to come see me directly, come visit Mickey Loomis and we'll discuss it on a case by case basis if there are any questions.
"That line of communication is critical. All that stuff written between and and when that period comes to an end, which may be longer than earlier because of the of the potential CBA will be just guesses and so that's important for the players to know because those thing scan pull at fabric about what you're trying to build/ There's nobody in here who will be talking off the record. Any source is going to be someone other than someone who will know the direction we're truly taking."
What was the plane ride from Seattle like?
"Disappointing," said Payton. "A lot of sleep. It was really just as you would expect. Everyone was tired and you expect to be so and so when you're heading back from a tough loss like that. It's just quiet and a lot of sleeping."