Payton misses training camp to attend colleague's funeral

Payton misses training camp to attend colleague's funeral
Saints completed their fourth practice of training camp. (Photo by David Grunfeld, | The Times-Picayune)

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Several members of The Saints coaching staff missed training camp Friday to attend funeral services for a close friend.

New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton, along with several members of the organization, missed Friday's training camp practice to attend the funeral service of Tony Sparano, one of Payton's closest friends in the coaching fraternity.

Joining Payton at the service were Assistant General Manager/College Scouting Director Jeff Ireland; offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael; defensive coordinator Dennis Allen; assistant head coach/tight ends Dan Campbell and linebackers coach Mike Nolan, according to a news release issued by The Saints.

On Thursday, following the Saints' opening training camp practice, Payton spoke of  his relationship with Sparano, who was the offensive line coach for the Vikings at the time of his death.

Sparano died on July 22. He was 56.

"He meant a lot," Payton said in an issued statement. "He was a close friend. We worked together for three years in Dallas. We were hired on the same day and his office was right next to mine and (he was) probably one of the two or three closest friends I had in the game."

Payton said Sparano's death was surreal.

"He was a tremendous coach, a great person. He was great with his players," Payton said. "He spoke to our team the day before the Super Bowl. We practiced in Miami on that Saturday on the field (at Dolphin Stadium). It was more of a light practice but afterwards he shared a few words with our players and he and his wife have always been close friends of my family, he'll be missed."

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