The New Orleans Saints went back to work on Wednesday already in a tough spot as they try and dig themselves out of a 0-3 start. Add the theatrics that took place on Monday Night Football were many felt the Packers had a win taken from them, and the Saints expect historic Lambeau Field to be amped up. It’s a situation they experienced only a season ago as both teams kicked off the NFL regular season and had the Packers coming off of a Super Bowl victory.
“I’m not sure what’s better if they win the game or come back fired up ready to get a victory after getting snubbed,” says linebacker Scott Shanle of once again facing an emotional Green Bay team. “I think just the fact that playing there playing them in that building is a tough place to play regardless of what has gone on so far this season. Two highly talented teams kind of in a position that nobody really expected us to be in wins and losses wise, so it’s a big game for both teams.”
“They’re a very talented group,” said interim head coach Aaron Kromer Monday after practice. “We went up there last year in the first game of the season. We had a pretty productive day. We got down early and came back. Drew (Brees) did a nice job of passing the ball around and getting us back in the game. We got to go up there with our best effort.”
To put up a best effort performance Sunday, the team will have to correct the mistakes that have kept them from winning a game this season and that starts says players by having solid practices. “I thought preparation was good today starting with meetings this morning and just the mindset,” said Saints quarterback Drew Brees. “Felt like today was very productive.”The team also practiced without shoulder pads in an effort to be fresher on Sunday according to Kromer.
When the schedule came out at the start of the season, the Packers game already was a daunting task. Monday night’s debacle added perhaps a little extra unwanted spice to the game as one wonders if Green Bay will play a little more motivated, say with a chip on its shoulders.
“Chip on a shoulder? We can’t do anything about that. We got a chip on our shoulder too. I mean we’re 0-3,” says wide receiver Lance Moore. “We want to do what it takes to get a win and hopefully Sunday we’ll be able to do that.”
One would think taking on a ticked off team on the road would be the last thing you would want to do but some players said Wednesday that playing such a talented team could crank up the focus. “You have to look at these types of games against these types of teams as an opportunity to improve, get some confidence and get on a roll,” said right tackle Zach Strief . “It’s not going to be easy. It’s not easy to go there and play. I think it’s going to be hard to go there and play them after what happened to them on Monday night. I’m sure we would feel the same way. They’d be a lot of motivation to come out and play well and we’ll be ready for that.”
A week ago I wrote that there was a calm sense of urgency in the locker room. This week while there isn’t panic, the frustration level of a 0-3 start is evident. “Anyone that’s outside of this organization that is frustrated our level of frustration for the guys in this locker room, for the coaches, for our front office, their frustrated two, three times as much,” said left tackle Jermon Bushrod who used hand gestures to show the different levels of frustration. The hand representing the team was significantly higher than the fans level of frustration to prove the point that the team isn’t happy. “This is our job. This is what we signed up to do. We never thought that we’d start the season 0-3. We understand the type of relationship we have with our fans and we want to put a smile on their face because they deserve that.”
Three Saints did not practice on Wednesday. Defensive end Turk McBride (ankle), linebacker David Hawthorne (hamstring) and linebacker Jonathan Casillas (neck) were the players that did not participate. There were no other players listed. McBride has missed two straight games.
By the time the Saints wrapped up practice on Wednesday, the story of a possible deal between the NFL and the NFLRA seemed very close to happening. The goal it appears by both sides is to have the real refs on the field for Sunday’s games.
Wednesday the referee-league negotiations and Monday night’s situation was a topic, albeit a topic players did their best to avoid. “That’d be great. That would be great,” receiver Lance Moore said laughing. “Not going to get too much out of me. I’m going to keep my check. Na I think it would be awesome. The sooner we get them back the better.”
Saints quarterback Drew Brees had some strong Tweets this week about the referee situation. “I love this league and love the game of football, but tonight’s debacle hurts me greatly. This is NOT the league we’re supposed to represent,” Brees tweeted on Monday following the Seattle and Green Bay game where many feel the Packers got hosed. On Wednesday, he clarified that his remarks and comments said on national radio back on Monday weren’t intended to bash the replacement referees but more just frustration of wanted to see the situation resolved. “I’d say that the headlines that came out Monday, which was Brees bashes replacement officials, is not entirely accurate,” said Brees. “ It was more a challenge to the league to resolve the matter and the fact that you feel like they obviously hold a great responsibility in making sure that that’s done properly. “These replacement officials have been put in a really tough position, because they’re not qualified with the instincts and everything else to be out there with the speed of the game. The level of play is just not fair to them. They’re doing the best they can. That’s what I said.”
Several players when asked if they were ready for the real refs to come back to work answered with just a look that said it all. It’s clear everyone wants the pros back on the field and are being careful not of upset a league that has a quick trigger finger when it comes to levying fines.
“I’d love to have a lot of thoughts on that but I have plenty of things to think about myself,” was how Kromer responded when asked for his thoughts on the officials. “All we are worried about right now is how we are getting better and how we are going to win a game and go up to Green Bay and have our best performance. I really don’t have any comment on any officials.”
The Saints will practice Thursday and Friday before wrapping things up with a walkthrough on Saturday. They’ll then board a flight for Sunday’s game at Green Bay. It is a late afternoon kick-off slated for 3:25.
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