Team acting like business as usual despite distractions
Making the best of a bad situation is nothing new for the New Orleans Saints and their football operations staff.
That’s because coaches and players are used to adjusting for almost any situations — especially storms like Hurricane Gustav back in 2008 and Hurricane Isaac, which brought heavy rain and wind to south Louisiana on Tuesday evening and Wednesday.
So when the Saints (2-2) wrap up the preseason schedule at 6 p.m. Thursday, three days after having to flee their home base early for a game with the Tennessee Titans (2-1) in Nashville, Tenn., they’ll act like it’s business as usual despite some tough times earlier this week.
Interim coach Joe Vitt said staff members already had a plan in place when he arrived at the team’s Metairie training facility early Sunday, just eight hours after Saturday night’s game with the Houston Texans.
“Our organization is amazing,” Vitt said Tuesday in Cincinnati, where the Saints practiced for the first time since beating the Texans. “We have done this before. Our organization does a great job of on-the-move travel.”
Originally scheduled to have a day off Sunday, players were called in on short notice for a meeting and told to get their families taken care of before they took off for Cincinnati late Monday afternoon.
Despite the distractions, Vitt said the focus was what he would expect from a franchise that has survived some extraordinary events in the past seven years, starting with Hurricane Katrina.
“You have to draft a certain kind of player to play for us in New Orleans because there are certain challenges,” Vitt said. “This is a strong franchise. … We have the right people to meet these challenges, and we have the right leadership.”
Obviously, one of those leaders is quarterback Drew Brees. He made sure their only big practice of the week would be a productive one, reminding them before Tuesday’s workout that they had some work to do.
“It was like, ‘Hey, let’s make sure that we’re out here with a purpose,’ ” he said. “It’s to get better. It’s not just to run around and run some plays. We have a great group of guys. We have great leadership.
“Everybody understands that we’re going to weather the storm, literally, and we’re going to find a way to make the most of it and try to make a positive out of a tough situation.”
Because they didn’t have time to watch the tapes of their 34-27 win over the Texans, the Saints had to put that to bed Tuesday morning before finally getting back on the practice field.
The only thing the Saints were not able to get in was their weightlifting, Vitt said.
Brees said the hectic schedule reminded the Saints of training camp.
“You come out and practice and have meetings all morning,” he said. “It was kind of like a little bit of a training camp mentality. At times in training camp, we’re used to going away and then just kind of bearing down and focusing on football.”
Brees noted that while it’s another step in a tough year for the Saints, it’s nothing many of them haven’t seen.
“We’re built that way. We’ve been through a lot of tough scenarios here,” he said, noting that there are about 10 or 12 players and coaches that have seen it all since Sean Payton took over in 2006. “We’ve all been through a lot together.”
Of course, Brees and most of the starters won’t play against the Titans because it’s the final game before the regular-season opener on Sept. 9.
That means a lot of backups and third-teamers who could be on the bubble will try to leave a lasting impression and make the coaches’ decisions even tougher in a tough week.
“This is a challenge,” Vitt said of the staff, which must reduce the 75-man roster to the regular-season limit of 53 players by 8 p.m. Friday. “This is what it is, and we have to make these decisions.”
Vitt thanked Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown and coach Marvin Lewis for helping them out in a tight situation. “We have a great relationship with the Bengals and the Brown family, so this was a pretty good fit,” Vitt said. … After the game with the Titans, the Saints hope to fly back home and have an early afternoon meeting Friday as the staff works on making 22 moves to trim the roster. … Rookie wide receiver Nick Toon, who has missed the first four preseason games with a foot injury, is expected to make his Saints’ debut Thursday night. … Running back Darren Sproles, however, will be held out as the coaches want him to be fresh for the regular season after returning to practice last week after a knee injury. … Vitt said linebacker Lawrence Wilson went home to Connecticut on Monday for the birth of his baby boy, but was back at practice Tuesday.