METAIRIE — Though veteran NFL cornerback Tracy Porter no longer plays for the New Orleans Saints, it seems safe to say that former teammates and Who Dat Nation hold a special place for him in their collective heart.
After all, Porter, a Port Allen native, played a starring role in one of the biggest moments in Saints history, returning a Peyton Manning interception 74 yards for a clinching touchdown in a 31-17 upset win against the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.
That was then.
On Sunday night in Denver, we are reminded once again of the ever-changing world of professional football. Porter and Manning, a native son of New Orleans, are now Broncos teammates intent on beating the Saints on a prime time stage at Sports Authority Stadium in the Mile High City.
Manning is sure to be under center for the 3-3 Broncos. Porter, who has been sidelined in recent days because of symptoms that led to an unexplained seizure he suffered during the Broncos’ preseason, will be a game-time decision.
Porter, 26, made it clear to reporters Thursday where he stood on the issue.
“I want to play,” Porter said. “Who wouldn’t want to play against their old team? All I can do is cross my fingers and toes that everything clears out, everything checks out and I’ll be able to play Sunday night.”
Porter has been in and out of practice this week, practicing on a limited basis Wednesday before missing Thursday’s workout altogether because of a doctor’s appointment and Friday while awaiting the prognosis. He was listed as questionable on the league’s injury report Friday, meaning he has a 50-50 chance of playing.
Suffice to say that if Porter is scratched from Sunday’s game, the Broncos will be missing a defensive back who has an instinctive flair for the dramatic. Of his 10 career NFL interceptions, three have been returned for touchdowns, including one in his debut with the Broncos in a 31-19 win against quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In addition, Porter helped the Saints win the NFC Championship in January 2010 with a pick of Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre at the end of regulation en route to a 31-28 victory in overtime.
Porter also returned a Chad Henne interception 54 yards for a touchdown in a memorable 46-34 comeback victory against the Miami Dolphins in Game 6 of the 2009 season.
“Tracy plays the deep ball better than any corner I’ve seen,” Saints safety Roman Harper said. “He can run. He’s very physical at the line, and he’s very smart. He’s a very confident player. I love the dude to death. I know he misses us, and we miss him, too.”
And despite his affection for ex-teammate Drew Brees, Porter said he would like to add the Saints’ $100 Million Man to the list of quarterbacks he has victimized since entering the league as a second-round pick from Indiana University in 2008.
“It will be great to intercept Drew, to make him mad and put my team closer to a victory,” said Porter, who signed a one-year, $4 million contract in March with the Broncos. “But I still have to be in the right place at the right time like I was in the Super Bowl.”
In order to do that, Porter must be cleared to play by team doctors. If Porter gets the green light, he would become the third Saints free agent to play against his old team in as many games, joining San Diego wide receiver Robert Meachem and Tampa Bay guard Carl Nicks.
The Saints beat both the Chargers 31-24, despite two touchdowns by Meachem, and the Buccaneers 35-28, despite yielding more than 500 yards.
“I had four great years with Tracy, going against him in practice every day,” Brees said. “You know, he obviously was a big part of what we were able to accomplish here the last four years, and it’s always weird to see a guy like that who was such a big part of what you did and all of a sudden he’s on the other side in a game.”
Saints interim coach Joe Vitt said TE Jimmy Graham, while limited again Friday with a sprained right ankle, did do a little more in practice and will be a game-time decision as will LB David Hawthorne (hamstring). Both are listed as questionable, while WR Joe Morgan (chest) and TE Daniel Graham (knee) have been ruled out. … RB Darren Sproles returned to practice Friday after missing two days because of a family matter and will play against the Broncos, Vitt said. … The Saints, who normally leave the day before a road game, departed for Denver after Friday’s practice in order to get acclimated to the thin air. The team will have a walkthrough practice in the stadium Saturday. … Drew Brees was chosen in an online vote of fans as the FedEx NFL Air Player of the Week for his 377-yard, four-TD day in a 35-28 win over Tampa Bay last week.
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