It may not be a playoff game but the game Sunday between the New Orleans Saints (6-8) and the Dallas Cowboys (8-6) definitely has plenty of storylines.
Dallas, New York and Washington are all (8-6) on the season with the Redskins atop the division due to tiebreakers. The Cowboys need a fourth straight win to keep pace for a possible playoff spot, “We’re just concentrating on continuing to just grind and figure out a way to win a game against New Orleans who’s going to be a very-very tough test for us. ,” Dallas quarterback Tony Romo said this week.
Saints safety Steve Gleason was surprised this morning with a custom-made, two-seater recumbent bike — and within a few minutes of seeing it in his driveway, he suited up for a ride in Lakeview. Gleason, who battles ALS (or Lou Gehrig's disease), will plan to train on the bike to ride in the Ride 2 Recovery Gulf Coast Challenge, a more than 400 mile ride that begins in New Orleans and ends in Florida. The event, presented by United Healthcare, is March 2-9 and is one of several annual "challenge" rides to benefit wounded veterans.
The "Big Easy" bike, designed and donated by Ride 2 Recovery, can be pedaled by one or two people, allowing Gleason to take breaks. It has an independent pedaling system, adjustable seating and straps, and an elevated seat. Before he sped off with Ride 2 Recovery's John Wordin, Gleason said he battles ALS with "perseverance and creativity." Then with a smile: "Let's go."
Gleason's wife Michel and his family kept the bike a secret and said the bike was "the best Christmas present," and the couple's son Rivers cheered him with pom poms borrowed from the Saintsations cheerleaders.
It was back to work for the New Orleans Saints as they prepare for Sunday’s game in Dallas against the Cowboys.
It may surprise to know that the Cowboys are 4th in the NFL in passing (the Saints are 2nd) with an average of 294.8 yards per game. “ Offensively, I think this is the best Tony Romo has ever played, his accuracy, his command of the offense, getting the good plays,” Vitt detailed. “Bill Callahan is doing a great job with the offensive line. I think they have really cut down on their play selection of the run game, but they really execute. The wide receivers are making really big plays; if you don’t tackle them they are going the distance. I can’t say enough about this running back DeMarco Murray. He will have a one-yard gain, a two-yard gain, and all of a sudden he has a 60-yard gain.”
Dallas however is ranked 31st in the league at running the football averaging just 80.4 yards per game.
There were smiles all around the New Orleans Saints training facility on Monday following the team’s 41-0 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. “We’ve got a lot of guys that have a lot of want-to on this team and have a lot of pride,” Saints assistant coach Joe Vitt said Monday. “It was a good, team win and we probably put together four quarters as well as we have all year long.”
“It was great. It’s sad that it was a little late in the season to happen,” said Saints defensive end Cam Jordan Monday. “You definitely would like it to click a little earlier, but it’s still nice to see that everyone can come together for a complete game finally.”
“We know the talent we have in the locker room and we definitely displayed that yesterday,” Saints guard Jahri Evans told reporters Monday. “We wish we could have done that earlier in the season but it’s never too late. Guys played hard. Guys played for each other. We came out there and we put up points on the board and the defense held them to zero points which is huge. You definitely saw a glimpse of what we were trying to do going into the season and what we knew we had in the locker room. Hopefully we can keep it going, finish strong and take it into next year.”
The New Orleans Saints entered Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay knowing their shot at the playoffs was all but extinguished thanks to a three game losing streak. Pride they said leading up to the game, was just as important to play for and they did just that in embarrassing Tampa Bay 41-0. It was the first time the Saints went over the 40-point mark this season, and the first sweep of the Bucs since the 2006 season.
1995 was the last time a Saints defense recorded a shutout. 17 years if you’re doing the math and for a defense that at times has given up over 500 yards of offense and 420 yards passing to Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman in the first meeting between the two teams this season, that’s a pretty high accomplishment.
It has been an interesting work week for the New Orleans Saints as the Paul Tagliabue bounty decision and subsequent stories about his investigation have been the talk centering the team this past week. Fans feel it was the final chapter in a season that was doomed from the start thanks to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and his bounty investigation and penalties.
Sunday the Saints (5-8) host the Buccaneers (6-7) for the second time this season with each team entering the game on three game losing streaks. The playoffs may be out of reach for the Black and Gold but that doesn’t mean the team feels the season is over with already.
It’s been another typical week for the New Orleans Saints in a season that has been anything but normal. Tuesday former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue vacated the bounty penalties imposed Saints players linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith along with former Saints linebacker Scott Fujita and defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove. No suspensions will be served but the decision did not make tensions between the team and the league any better.
“If someone would just come out from the league office and admit that they could have handled this situation better, it would go such a long way with both players and fans,” Brees told reporters. “I think people have really come around to realize what this thing was all about from the beginning. Right now, the league office and Commissioner Goodell have very little to no credibility with us as players and, I’d say, with a lot of the fans because of the way that this has taken place."
There is no shortage of drama post Tagliabue’s decision as transcripts from Tagliabue’s testimony have begun to be leaked and stories written about them. Not surprisingly there are not very pro Saints as it seems the league is doing all it can to justify the bounty investigation and punishments first handed down.
Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue had a lot to say Tuesday with the release of his findings and rulings. It was 22 pages worth. The final paragraph: “I affirm the factual findings of Commissioner Goodell; I conclude that Hargrove, Smith, and Vilma engaged in “conduct detrimental to the integrity of, and public confidence in, the game of professional football”; and I vacate all player discipline.”
In short, it means that Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith will be able to play out the rest of the season. It also means that former Saints linebacker Scott Fujita and defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove will not have to serve suspensions.
So what does the Tagliabue decision mean? It seems to say the players were unprofessional in a way — but not in a way that merited the suspensions?
Judging by the many callers to my radio show, "The Sports Hangover” and a stroll around message boards, fans feel vindicated. It's proof the NFL had a vendetta against the New Orleans Saints. The opinions ranged from conspiracy theories to lessons learned.
NFL spokesperson Greg Aiello was quick to point out on Twitter that the NFL was just in its decisions and inquiry. “Memo to NFLPA — Paul Tagliabue wrote: "I affirm Commissioner Goodell's factual findings as to the four players." Aiello then made it seem as if NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was merciful in his rulings. “Tagliabue: "There is evidence in the record that suggests Commissioner Goodell could have disciplined a greater # of Saints players."
A landmark case had a landmark decision Tuesday afternoon as former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue vacated the suspension of New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith plus former Saints linebacker Scott Fujita and defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove.
"Unlike Saints' broad organizational misconduct, player appeals involve sharply focused issues of alleged individual player misconduct in several different aspects,” Tagliabue said in a statement. “My affirmation of Commissioner Goodell's findings could certainly justify the issuance of fines. However, this entire case has been contaminated by the coaches and others in the Saints' organization."
Read Tagliabue's full decision here: http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap1000000109668/article/paul-tagliabues-full-decision-on-saints-bounty-appeal
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell originally handed Vilma a full season suspension, Smith four games, Scott Fujita four games and Hargrove eight games.
The former commissioner said testimony and evidence showed three of the players did engage in conduct detrimental to the league. He found that players participated in a performance-based pool that rewarded certain plays like hard tackles. Those plays could have merited fines.
Mathematically the New Orleans Saints are not out of the playoff picture. Realistically the final three games are more about the future of the team than about possible playoff scenarios.
Sunday’s 52-27 loss seems to be the nail in a coffin in which the 2012 bruised and battered season will be buried. Fans aren’t the only ones disappointed that the rest of December will have football without post season implications.
Sunday the Saints host the (6-7) Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a question posed to Vitt was how would the team approach the final three games of the season? Would the team see it as a chance to play and evaluate younger players or would it treat the remaining weeks as if something were still on the line?
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