After losing Lombardi, Saints hope to keep Pace

MOBILE, Ala. — After talking about the loss of quarterbacks coach Joe Lombardi and how it’s inevitable the franchise will lose bright young staff members, New Orleans Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis was asked Tuesday about one that didn’t get away — for now.

Loomis acknowledged another team, reportedly the Miami Dolphins, wanted to interview director of player personnel Ryan Pace nearly two weeks ago. But the Saints denied the request because they were preparing for their divisional playoff game.

When asked if he could talk about Pace, who has been with the team’s scouting department for 12 seasons, Loomis jokingly said he didn’t like to.

“I kind of feel like he’s been our secret for a while … but look, he’s a great, young personnel director,” a smiling Loomis said of Pace, who was elevated to his current position this past summer.

“He’s got a great eye for talent, and (players) that fit what we are doing and what we want to do. He’s very talented. He’s a guy that we’re going to lose at some point.”

But the Saints weren’t ready to do that just yet when the Dolphins called looking for general manager candidates. They haven’t hired anyone yet, but Loomis said they’ve moved on in their search.

Lombardi, the Saints’ quarterbacks coach since 2009 and a member of Sean Payton’s staff since 2007, was named Tuesday offensive coordinator by new Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell.

The number is up

After wearing jersey No. 18 this season, which has become a tradition over the last decade for the LSU football program, former Tigers linebacker Lamin Barrow has a new look for the Reese’s Senior Bowl.

Barrow has worn No. 50 this week in practice sessions and will don it for the South squad in Saturday’s all-star game in Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

“It’s just a number to me,” Barrow said. “I guess everybody knows I was (number) 18 this past season, and that was a big thing for me. I’m fine with a big number. … I’m going to have to change it next year anyway.

“I’m just out here to do a job, so the number doesn’t matter to me.”

Moving on

Auburn cornerback and kick returner Chris Davis made a name for himself with one of the most shocking plays in college football history when he returned a missed field goal 109 yards for a touchdown against top-ranked Alabama on Nov. 30.

The score on the game’s final play put Auburn in the Southeastern Conference Championship game the next week, which Davis said was the only thing on his mind when he awoke the next morning.

Nearly eight weeks later, Davis said hardly a day goes by that someone doesn’t ask him about it — like this week at the Senior Bowl festivities.

“It’s something that’s brought up a lot, but I put it behind me because I’m trying to get to the next level,” he said Tuesday. “I’m asked about that play every time I turn around.

“Some day I’ll appreciate it more. Right now, I’m chasing my dream. … I’m trying to get to the next level.”

Juniors welcome

For the second year in a row, a junior in eligibility is getting a chance to take part in Senior Bowl activities.

Alabama linebacker Adrian Hubbard, a fourth-year junior who declared for the May draft, was allowed to participate this week because he has already graduated.

The NFL allowed two tackles — Syracuse’s Justin Pugh and Alabama’s D.J. Fluker — to play in last season’s game because they graduated and were giving up their final season of eligibility to enter the draft.

Back again

Detroit Lions trainer Dean Kleinschmidt, a member of the Saints’ training staff for 31 seasons from 1969 to 1999, is working his 43rd consecutive Senior Bowl this week.

Kleinschmidt, who last month completed his 40th season as a head trainer in the NFL, is serving as the medical coordinator for both the North and South squads as he has for decades.

He first attended the game in 1971 when then-Saints coach J.D. Roberts and his staff coached one of the squads.

A year later, Kleinschmidt was asked back when the New York Jets trainer couldn’t work the game and he’s returned every year since.