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Sean Payton: Letting Malcolm Jenkins leave was a big mistake

Wild Card Playoffs - New Orleans Saints v Philadelphia Eagles

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 04: Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints talks with Malcolm Jenkins #27 against the Philadelphia Eagles during their NFC Wild Card Playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field on January 4, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

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Eagles cornerback Malcolm Jenkins is preparing to face his old team, the Saints, in the playoffs on Sunday, and there may be some hard feelings present, as evidenced by Jenkins flipping the bird to the Saints’ sideline during the teams’ regular-season meeting.

But there are no hard feelings flowing the other direction, according to Saints coach Sean Payton, who said he wishes he still had Jenkins on his team.

“He was probably one of the most important parts to our Super Bowl run,” Payton said, via Matt Lombardo of NJ.com. “And that was only his rookie season. He’s one of my guys, and I mean that. Probably one of the bigger mistakes that we’ve made, and you have to ask yourself ‘how did that happen?’ Letting him out of the building certainly wasn’t a smart decision.”

Payton said that despite Jenkins’ gesture in the heat of the moment amid the Saints’ blowout win during the regular season, they have a great relationship.

“I told him after the game that I love him,” Payton said. “And I know the feeling is mutual. I just have a ton of respect for him as a player, and also as a person. He’s a fantastic, fantastic player, and just as good of a person.”

Jenkins will try to make Payton regret letting him get away even more on Sunday.