Saints practice in Cincinnati sun
Drew Brees called the Saints together before the start of
practice on Tuesday, an uncharacteristic move by the quarterback to
make sure that a team with so much experience in dealing with
distractions was ready to handle the latest one.
The Saints practiced on the Cincinnati Bengals’ grass fields
downtown on a sunny, 87-degree afternoon while Hurricane Isaac bore
down on New Orleans, finishing their preseason the way their entire
offseason has gone. It’s been one thing after another.
”A lot of this has been swirling around us and now all of a
sudden, we’re together and let’s make sure we’re out here with a
purpose,” Brees said, summing up his speech to the team. ”It’s to
get better, not just to run around and run some plays.
”We’ve got a great group of guys, great leadership. Everybody
understands we’re going to weather the storm literally and find the
way to make the most of it and make a positive out of a tough
The Saints were forced to scramble when Isaac set course for New
Orleans. They played a preseason game on Saturday night, then
rearranged their plans and spent Sunday and Monday evacuating their
families and preparing their homes for the storm.
They’ve been through this drill several times already. The
Saints (No. 9 in the AP Pro32) played their entire 2005 season away
from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina devastated the region.
They practiced in Indianapolis the week before their 2008 season
opener after Hurricane Gustav forced an evacuation.
Needing a place to practice for their final preseason game on
Thursday in Tennessee, the Saints found enough open hotel rooms in
Cincinnati and received the Bengals’ permission to use the visiting
locker room at Paul Brown Stadium and work out on the adjacent
Most of the team flew into town on Monday night. A few players
arrived on Tuesday morning after evacuating their families. Brees
drove his family to Birmingham, Ala., then flew to Cincinnati on
When they weren’t in meetings or practice, players were on their
cell phones or watching the storm’s progress on television.
”I’m glued to the TV, just trying to see where that storm’s
tracking and how strong it is and what the projections are,” Brees
said. ”The crazy thing is we’re going to play a game in Nashville
and by Thursday evening, the (remnant) of the storm is supposed to
be there. So you can’t really escape it.”
The Saints held a team meeting on Tuesday morning, followed by
practice and another meeting. They planned a light workout on
Wednesday morning before flying to Nashville for a game that will
mark another transition for the team.
Head coach Sean Payton was suspended for the season as part of
the Saints’ bounty scandal. Assistant Joe Vitt took over on an
interim basis, but will start his six-game suspension next week.
Offensive line coach Aaron Kromer will be in charge while Vitt is
In addition to handling the Saints’ hectic week, Vitt is
figuring out how to turn things over to Kromer during the final
”Really, I’m phasing out and he’s phasing in,” Vitt said.
”His role will expand in the game on Thursday night. This is
really the second phase of the transition that’s going to have to
So much has happened to the Saints in the offseason because of
the bounty scandal that the schedule and travel changes didn’t seem
to bother them very much.
”There is always adversity, there is always something that
happens,” offensive tackle Zach Strief said. ”This year it
happened in the offseason.
”There is always going to be something, but I think the staff
has been proactive on speaking about you’ll be judged based on how
you handle that. Some teams handle the adversity by tanking. Some
teams handle the adversity by rising to the occasion. I think we’ve
been pretty successful of that here in the past. This is just
another one of those things.”
Strief grew up in nearly Milford and took a few players out to a
local chili parlor when they arrived on Monday night. He was having
a ribs restaurant supply food on Tuesday.
Safety Roman Harper considered it part of being with the
”We are the best team in the league at mid-stream
adjustments,” Harper said.
The Bengals were leaving the stadium while the Saints arrived on
buses Tuesday. Bengals offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth, who lives
in Louisiana, was hoping to get in touch with some of the Saints
during their brief visit.
”I know some of the guys up here and will try to reach out to
them,” Whitworth said. ”They’ve had to deal with a lot over the
years. It’s just another year or another something that’s probably
made them as tough as they are as a football team, all the
adversity they’ve overcome.”
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Online: http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 and