Titans 10, Saints 6

Joe Vitt coached to the very last minute, sprinting down the

field and screaming for a timeout as his team moved into scoring

territory.

Meaningless preseason game? Hardly. The New Orleans Saints’

interim coach gave his team everything he had in a 10-6 loss to the

Tennessee Titans on Thursday night. It may have been meaningless to

most, but it was full of import for Vitt, who now starts a six-week

suspension for his role in the Saints’ bounty scandal.

”I just told the guys it’s been my honor and my pleasure and it

really has been,” Vitt said. ” … The only person who’s dreading

this more than anybody is my wife.”

Vitt believes he delivers the Saints to their Sept. 9 opener

against the Washington Redskins in the best shape possible. Not

only are they as healthy as any Saints team he can remember, every

player is on the same page following a tumultuous offseason that’s

brought scandal and storms and every kind of distraction

imaginable.

”I’m proud of the way they went through OTAs,” Vitt said.

”I’m proud of the way they went through training camp. I’m proud

of the way they stuck together. And this week, we got displaced yet

again and we had not one man late for a meeting. Everybody came

together here and got the work done that we had to get done.”

That showed against the Titans. Vitt scratched 26 players, and

the reserves left on the field outplayed Tennessee, which held out

a few stars but played most of the regulars along with quarterback

Jake Locker.

Also taking on a larger role in the game was Aaron Kromer, the

next interim coach in line. He’ll be New Orleans’ field leader for

six games and Vitt said his role against the Titans expanded quite

a bit and included game management issues like replay

challenges.

Though coach Sean Payton has been gone since the spring when he

began serving his one-year suspension, Vitt doesn’t feel the

coaches have deviated from his plan one bit.

”This coaching staff has been like a board of directors,” Vitt

said.

Now it’s Kromer’s turn to take over as chairman. But first, the

Saints will return home Friday and check in on their families and

homes after Isaac caused flooding and damage in Louisiana. They’ll

have Saturday and Sunday off before gathering for a meeting Sunday

night that will serve as the official start of the regular

season.

Rather than rip the team apart, Brees says the situation has

only made it stronger. The Saints played five preseason games this

year, something that usually drives players nuts. But in retrospect

Brees believes pulling the team together so early helped settle

everything for the players.

”I guess in spite of everything that’s going on, it was

probably nice to come to camp early and hunker down and just focus

on football,” Brees said. ”For a lot of us, we just want to get

out on the field as quickly as possible. I’ve really watched the

team come together over the last six weeks through some pretty

interesting circumstances, especially as of late.”

Online:

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