It’s been said you have to walk a mile in a man’s shoes to understand what he’s going through.
New Orleans Saints right tackle Zach Strief is that man this week.
Seven years ago, Strief, a rookie seventh-round draft pick who had yet to play in a regular-season game, had the gargantuan task of lining up at left tackle against Pro Bowl defensive end Simeon Rice because of an injury to starter Jammal Brown.
Strief never let Rice, one of the NFL’s elite pass-rushers at the time, get near Drew Brees that day, and the Saints offense never missed a beat in a 31-14 road win against the Tampa Bay Bucs.
Fast forward to Wednesday when Saints coach Sean Payton announced that rookie Terron Armstead, a third-round draft pick, will make his first NFL start at left tackle in Sunday’s crucial NFC South matchup with the Carolina Panthers.
So Strief knew exactly what Armstead, who replaces the demoted Charles Brown, was feeling Wednesday.
As the youngster was being interviewed by reporters after practice, Strief stood a few feet away talking to other media members who were wondering about the task Armstead faces.
“Terron’s a professional football player … he made the roster this year,” said Strief, an offensive captain. “He proved in games early he could do it. Everyone here has plenty of confidence in him. Sooner or later, he was going to be a starter in this league.
“Just like anybody, there’s going to be things happen to Terron because he’s young. But I think we have more than enough confidence that Terron will be a good player for us.”
When someone mentioned that Brees fared well that day in November 2006 when another greenhorn was called on in a pinch, Strief said, “(Brees) is still living. He didn’t even get hit in that game.”
After traveling to Metairie for a tryout along with four other kickers Nov. 12, when the Saints were trying to cover their bases while Garrett Hartley was struggling, Shayne Graham was back Wednesday.
Graham, 36, was signed Tuesday after Payton had seen enough of Hartley, who missed field-goal attempts of 36 (blocked) and 26 yards in a 27-16 loss to the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.
Graham, who went to training camp with the Saints in 2000, was out of football this season after playing with the Houston Texans in 2012. He said he had tryouts with “four or five” teams before the Saints finally called again.
“We were told they were just going to sit things out and see what happens,” he said of his earlier visit. “You know there are reasons why you were brought in, but you never wish anything bad on anyone. When I got the call, it was just time to get the call.”
After connecting on 85.4 percent of his career field-goal attempts (245 of 287), Graham said he’s ready despite his recent layoff. His last field goal made was a 55-yarder for the Texans at New England in the playoffs in January.
“I don’t feel like there’s any physical concern,” he said. “I’ve been in this situation before. The goal posts are the same size, the ball is the same football. You come in and kick; that’s what you do.”
After clearing waivers Wednesday, Hartley took to Twitter and wrote that “it’s been an honor to wear the Black & Gold.”
“I have been blessed with the opportunity that the (Saints and) ownership have given me,” wrote Hartley, who helped the Saints win Super Bowl XLIV. “The memories that were made with this team will live in my heart forever!”
Down to 10
With Hartley gone, the Saints only have 10 players remaining on the 53-man active roster who were on the team that won the Super Bowl just four years ago.
Those 10 are: Brees; Strief; running back Pierre Thomas; guard Jahri Evans; wide receivers Marques Colston, Lance Moore and Robert Meachem; punter Thomas Morstead; and safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper.
The Saints’ practice report Thursday was virtually unchanged from the one Payton turned in a day earlier.
The only difference was Harper’s status. Limited by a hip problem Wednesday, he had full participation Thursday.
S Rafael Bush (ankle) did not practice and could miss his third straight game this week, while LB Keyunta Dawson (calf) and TE Josh Hill (hamstring) were limited.
Smith sits out
For the Panthers, wide receiver Steve Smith, who has a jammed finger, didn’t practice after being limited Wednesday.
Still, team officials expect Smith to play against the Saints.
Not practicing Thursday was RB Jonathan Stewart (knee), while TE Brandon Williams (hip) was limited. TE Greg Olsen (foot) had full participation after not working Wednesday.
By the numbers
11-5 — Payton’s record in the game following a double-digit loss, including the postseason. The Saints dropped an 11-point decision to St. Louis last week.
Advocate sportswriter Ramon Antonio Vargas contributed to this report.