The New Orleans Saints got back to work on Wednesday as they prepare to open the regular season on Sunday against the Washington Redskins. A main topic at Saints camp was how the team and city both are looking forward to the home opener for more than just the start of a new season.
A Saints game following a hurricane seems to be a part of the team’s recent history. It is why Saints quarterback Drew Brees understands the emotions that will be present on game day. “In the seven years we’ve been here, 06’ first game in the dome was the Atlanta Falcons. First game in the dome was after Katrina. ’08 first game in the dome was first game of the season was after Gustav, played Tampa. And now here we are first game in the dome, first game of the season is after Isaac,” Brees recalled. “I guess we’ve been in these situations before where we know it can be quite emotional and obviously a lot of people are still recovering, still struggling. Us as a team recognize what it means to them, for us to be out there and our motivation being to play for them.”
Saints fans have been steadfast in support of their Black and Gold since news broke of the bounty scandal Players since OTAs, training camp, and this preseason have expressed gratitude for the Who Dat support. “I think there is a very intimate relationship here between the team and the fan base. We take it very serious that if there is a chance for us to make them feel good for a day we’re going to give extra to make sure that happens for them,” says right tackle Zach Strief. “We’re behind them just like they’re behind us. I think we take it very serious here to make sure that they’re getting out of it what they want to get out of it.”
Wednesday was the first day required by the league to produce an injury report and the Saints injury hasn’t looked this healthy in quite some time. Only wide receiver Marquis Colston did not practice. A sore foot was given as the reason and Kromer said he anticipated that Colston would be practicing tomorrow and will be ready to play come Sunday.
Saints fans no doubt have to be happy to hear that starting linebackers Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne practiced on a limited basis. Lofton is dealing with a high ankle sprain and Hawthorne is recovering from knee surgery to repair a meniscus injury.
Starting cornerback Jabari Greer also practiced on a limited basis.
Wide receiver Adrian Arrington was listed as practicing fully confirming what he told reporters back on Monday about his likely status for Sunday. “It’s only been a little over three weeks so I’m not a hundred percent, but I’m definitely good enough to be able to play,” said Arrington. “It’s just something I have to continue to grind through and just continue to treat my knee up as the weeks go by.” Arrington had meniscus surgery himself and missed all five preseason games.
Running back Darren Sproles who missed the final three preseason games himself was not listed on the injury report. That should add another smile to Saints fans.
The best part of the injury report is that Kromer felt that “all of these guys should be ready”, when asked if he expected the listed players to play against Washington.
Aaron Kromer will have to make a number of decisions as acting head coach. Among the first will be this week in regards as to who dresses and who doesn’t at running back. The Saints decided to keep Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram, Chris Ivory, and rookie Travaris Cadet a total of five running backs. Last season, the Saints when typically only dressed three running backs when all were healthy. So what will go into in the decision making process for Week 1?
“It depends. There are a lot of factors in who dresses for a game. One of the biggest factors is special teams,” said Kromer. “If you are active on special teams, whether it is a returner, a coverage unit, or a punt protector, you have a chance to dress. You have more opportunities. When it comes down to offense, defense and whether you are on the line to dress or not, a lot of times it is special teams.”
One other aspect as to who to play will be in regards to what type of game plan the team puts together for the Redskins. Kromer remember is the running game coordinator as well as the offensive line coach, so this type of back and forth thought process is something he is used to.
“When we are designing our offense, it is to get guys involved in the playmaking situations. With each one of those guys, they have what they do best. They cross what they do,” Kromer explains. “If you look at (Darren) Sproles, he can run the ball, but he is a great receiver. If you look at (Travaris) Cadet, he is great receiver and he can run the ball. You look at (Mark) Ingram, he can run the ball but he is a good receiver. All of those guys can do a lot of things which is a benefit to us. We try to get them in. If they are dressed, we are going to use them in some fashion.”
It will definitely be interesting to see who among the five backs will be active on Sunday.
The Saints will practice again on Thursday and Friday wrapping up their practice portions of preparation. Saturday will be a walkthrough putting the finishing touches to the game plan. Sunday it is game day as the 2012 regular season kicks off at noon inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.