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Grubbs hungry to fit in with Saints offense

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METAIRIE, La. (AP)

When Ben Grubbs ventured into free agency, all signs pointed to New Orleans.

The former Pro Bowl guard with Baltimore didn't even need to hear Saints offensive line coach Aaron Kromer's recruiting pitch about the benefits of blocking for Drew Brees or how much other players have enjoyed working and living in the football-mad Big Easy.

''I tried to sell him on coming here and he just said, `Coach, I'm coming. Let's just go sign the contract,''' Kromer recalled after practice this week.

Grubbs grew up in Alabama and played at Auburn, and when All-Pro guard Carl Nicks left New Orleans during the same offseason in which Grubbs became a free agent, the opportunity to play closer to home and with a record-setting offense presented itself.

''I'm a Southern boy, so I fit right in. I feel like I'm at home,'' said Grubbs, who signed a five-year, $36 million contract in March. ''From top to bottom, the Saints are a first-class organization - good coaches, good players. It was similar to Baltimore. That's why I made that decision.''

Personally, Grubbs expects New Orleans to suit him well. He loves sea food, particularly char-broiled oysters.

''The food here is ridiculous, man,'' the 6-foot-3, 310-pound Grubbs said. ''You can throw a rock and hit a good restaurant.''

Grubbs settled in a quiet suburban neighborhood along the Mississippi River where he can ride his bike on the levee. He also enjoys live music, of which there is no shortage in New Orleans on any night of the week.

The real question is how well Grubbs will take the place of Nicks, who outweighs him by about 50 pounds.

''Ben Grubbs was the next best guard in the league, by far, when free agency started,'' Kromer said. ''It wasn't close. If Ben would have chosen another team, it would have been a huge drop-off. I really feel that other than weight, that Ben is a very qualified substitute for Carl Nicks. The difference is he hasn't played with our guys.''

In Baltimore, Grubbs was part of an offense that revolved around a running game that is spearheaded by Ray Rice. In New Orleans (No. 9 in the AP Pro32), everything runs through Brees, who passed for a single-season record 5,476 yards last season. There is a ton of pressure on the guards to hold firm at the line of scrimmage on pass plays so Brees can step up in the pocket, while the Saints' offensive tackles funnel opposing defensive ends wide.

''In the past, we've done a good job of that, playing physical inside,'' Kromer said. ''So what Ben is now adapting to is that whole inside presence, making sure that next to the center is solid and nothing leaks inside.''

Grubbs said he's still adjusting to the change in schemes during the early stages of training camp, still thinking on the field a little more than he would like instead of performing instinctively.

''I had to switch gears. We were a run-first offense (in Baltimore). Everything revolved around Ray Rice. We had a hell of a fullback in Vonta Leach and we passed second,'' Grubbs said. ''I would like to call this offense balanced. Any day, you could pick what you want to do.''

While the Saints offense is generally associated with Brees' record-setting passing numbers, there are also four good running backs - Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory - who have combined to help New Orleans rise among the leaders in rushing in recent seasons.

''The arsenal of running backs is amazing. And when you've got Drew behind you, all you've got to do is protect for him and he'll make the passes,'' Grubbs said.

The Saints already know how well Grubbs can run block. How well he protects Brees will hinge on the chemistry he develops with center Brian de la Puente and left tackle Jermon Bushrod, Kromer said.

''The biggest thing with a new offensive lineman is adapting to the guy next to you,'' Kromer said.

Bushrod and Grubbs already had a relationship before Grubbs arrived. They both entered the NFL in 2007 and had trained together.

''He's a good dude, man. I'm excited about the opportunity we have this year, he and I playing beside each other,'' Bushrod said. ''It sucks we lost Carl, and he deserved to get what he did. But we brought Ben in. He's a good guy and we're excited about it.''

Notes: Brees said he meant no disrespect to Commissioner Roger Goodell when he told a magazine that players have trouble trusting Goodell in the wake of the league's bounty investigation. ''I was asked direct questions about how the players felt and I gave a very honest and direct answer,'' Brees said. ''It was blown out of proportion a little bit when people said I was bashing the commissioner. That was not the case. That was all I said and I really have nothing else to say about it.'' ... The Saints remained without first-team cornerbacks Jabari Greer (groin) and Patrick Robinson (shoulder) during Wednesday's practice.

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Online: http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Tagged: Saints, Buccaneers, Ravens, Drew Brees, Jermon Bushrod, Ben Grubbs, Ray Rice, Carl Nicks, Brian de la Puente

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