WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. — Sean Payton saw a play more than a decade ago that caused him to toss aside the football and pull out a volleyball during Friday’s practice.

There’s a good chance the play happened by accident. But the result stuck with him and the New Orleans Saints now feels its important to prepare his team so the next time it happens on purpose.

In 2003, when Payton was coaching in Dallas, rookie return man Zuriel Smith stepped on the sideline while fielding a kick near the sideline late in the fourth quarter of the game. The Cowboys got the ball at the 40-yard line, since the kick was ruled out of bounds, hit a field goal with 11 seconds to force overtime, and ultimately beat the Giants.

“I don’t know if Zuriel knew exactly what he was doing when he did it, but I think it is something you have to emphasize because we see it every year,” Payton said. “We see a returner pick up a ball and go right out of bounds. If a ball is within distance to a sideline and you put your foot on the white first you can get it at the 40.”

To emphasize this point, Payton rolled a volleyball down the sideline and made his players pick it up with their foot on the sideline. Using a football would make it more difficult to control where it goes.

The hope will be that the Saints remember their afternoon playing with a volleyball during the heat of battle when a kickoff is bouncing near the sidelines.