"There's a feeling of jealously. I said that on the air. I said, 'To be honest with you, I'm jealous that we're not preparing right now and getting ready to play in this game having already done it.'
"I do think that loss to Seattle, as difficult as it was for us, can help light a fire or fuel us to what we want to do this season. Part of what we did last season was spent following up our past success with 11 wins, and yet all we were looking for is that opportunity in the postseason tournament. There's nothing worse than an early exit. That will drive us during the offseason. We will respond the right way."
Payton said his team was poised to make a deep run in the postseason, but lost the final game to Tampa Bay and then to Seattle in the opening round of the wildcard playoffs.
"I looked closely at that last game of the regular season against Tampa Bay and Atlanta playing Carolina at the same time, and possibly doing that differently and resting the starters," said the coach. "It's a slippery slope going into that game in the event Carolina wins.
"But we lost Malcolm Jenkins in that game, we lost Jimmy Graham in that game and we lost Chris Ivory in that game. We lost them all early in the game. As a coach, you go back and look at those things. As difficult as that loss to Seattle was to swallow, for all of us it has gone and it hasn't tasted any better. But it really hits you when you're at the Super Bowl and not playing."
Payton said the team had a lot of confidence entering the wildcard postseason.
"We're constantly paying attention to our competition and how we're playing," said Payton. "We felt we were a dangerous team in that tournament because we had been there and been through the process. We knew as a wildcard team that we had to get hot and had to play well during that three-week period leading into the Super Bowl. That's what made it hard, being a wildcard team. But I don't think we felt excited just be in the postseason. It was a disappointment. Our experience level was not to be a wildcard entry."
Payton said he sees the Saints making a Super Bowl run in 2011 and 2012.
"We've got our work cut out for us this offseason with 26 free agents and that's challenging every year," said the coach." "But we have the nucleus of a group that is prepared to win for a quite a while. Now, we've got a lot of work to do here from right now till, let's call it March 4, and beyond that. That being said, we've put ourselves in a position to continue on the current course we're on. We've got to be flexible enough to adjust and deal with the ongoing labor issues and yet the window you're referencing sits there for us."