2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Despite going 7-9, Saints liked their resilience

    2012-12-31 19:21

(Eds: With AP Photos.)
By BRETT MARTEL
AP Sports Writer

METAIRIE, La. (AP) - As Saints players dumped belongings from their lockers into huge brown bags, right tackle Zach Strief said he wished he could look forward to a new season devoid of questions about the bounty scandal.

The seven-year veteran and offensive captain knows better than that.

He expects everything the Saints do when Sean Payton returns in 2013 to be compared to how the team struggled while its coach was suspended in 2012.

``I'm sure it'll come up again next year when it's not even an issue because now it's his first year back,'' Strief said. ``So it'll probably take two years to really get away from it.''

That doesn't mean it will take two years to return to the playoffs.

Although the Saints (7-9) never did quite recover from an 0-4 start, those first four losses all were by single digits, and they went 7-5 the rest of the way.

Given that Drew Brees passed for a whopping 5,177 yards and 43 touchdowns, and that both Marques Colston and Lance Moore surpassed the 1,000-yard mark receiving, the offense doesn't appear to need much work.

Even New Orleans' historically bad defense, which gave up the most yards (7,042) ever in a single season, demonstrated progress under first-year coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and registered the club's first shutout in 17 years earlier this month.

So while the Saints will take a hard look at what went wrong defensively this season, assistant head coach Joe Vitt, who also coaches linebackers, doesn't expect a complete overhaul.

``Extreme makeover - I don't know about that. I really don't, but that's why we're in the evaluation process now,'' Vitt said Monday. ``We'll make sure that we're putting the right players in the right positions to make plays. We'll match the proper calls with personnel groupings and do a hard evaluation of ourselves, that's only fair.''

The Saints dealt with unprecedented punishment and distractions in 2012. Not only was Payton suspended the entire season, but Vitt was suspended six games and general manager Mickey Loomis eight games. The Saints also lost second-round draft choices in 2012 and 2013. Even though player suspensions for linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive Will Smith never came to pass - they were thrown out on appeal - those players spent much of the season taking part in a legal effort to overturn their bounty sanctions.

While the Saints never used the bounty fallout as excuses during the season, they figured it took some sort of toll.

``I don't know how drastic of an effect it had ... but there was some effect there and there was a whole bunch of combination of things to equal the 7-9 record,'' linebacker Jonathan Casillas said.

The Saints' experienced team of assistants sought to take the same approach in terms of scheduling and routines that Payton had during the previous six seasons. They even had an expansive mural of a glaring Payton placed in the indoor practice facility to remind players of their banned coach's intensity, and that he was there with them in spirit.

Still, it was obvious that they missed Payton's ability to gauge the pulse of the team, motivate players and determine what needed to be fixed when things went wrong.

After winning more games than any team during the previous three seasons combined, the Saints had their first losing season since 2007 and missed the playoffs for the first time in four years.

``We certainly want coach back as soon as we can get him back,'' Strief said. ``We've said all along he's an important part of this organization. He's the leader of this organization, so you don't want to lose that guy.

``I know that he's going to be revved up. He's got 12 months of aggression wound up for us so I'm sure he'll be ready to go.''

The Saints will have a few key personnel issues to deal with when Payton returns, likely after the Super Bowl on Feb. 3. Several regulars will be free agents, including left tackle Jermon Bushrod, defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis, receiver Devery Henderson and Casillas. The Saints appear ready to part with veteran linebacker Scott Shanle, a former starter who was a healthy scratch the past eight games.

Saints players said Monday they hoped most of them will remain, citing the bond created in the locker room among players who never quit on a season that seemed doomed from the start. First, New Orleans rallied from 0-4 to 5-5, then responded to a late-season three-game skid by winning two straight and helping to knock Dallas out of the playoffs.

``The underlying story should be the resilience and the courage of our men in this locker room,'' Saints cornerback Jabari Greer said. ``It was: Never give up on each other. Never give up on our team.

``We know that the business of football is unforgiving and we live in a production-oriented business,'' Greer added. ``Obviously, that changes every year and we realize that.''

Vitt, likewise, has said that the 2012 Saints was among his favorite teams in a career spanning more than three decades, and that he believes the way they handled the stresses of 2012 set them up for a very competitive 2013.

``We can sit and whine and sit here in self-pity and talk about coulda, shoulda, woulda, or we can try to get this thing behind us as soon as we can and move on to the business of getting better,'' Vitt said. ``That's what our players want to do. That's what our coaches want to do. That's what Sean would demand.

``But I have more respect now for this group of players and these coaches and our organization than I ever have,'' Vitt added. ``I'm proud to be a part of it.''

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Eben BrittonAug 30 05:12p

The Chicago Bears released WR Josh Bellamy, C Taylor Boggs, DT Brandon Dunn, LB Devekeyan Lattimore, CB Albert Louis-Jean, WR Dale Moss, DT Lee Pegues, DT Tracy Robertson, CB [ More ]

Chris ScottAug 30 05:02p

The Carolina Panthers released LB Denicos Allen, CB Carrington Byndom, OG Derek Dennis, LB Adarius Glanton, SS Robert Lester, WR Marcus Lucas, OT Andrew McDonald, FS Tom Nelson, DT [ More ]

Stephen BowenAug 30 04:12p

Washington Redskins WR Leonard Hankerson (knee) and DE Stephen Bowen (undisclosed) were placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list. OL Maurice Hurt was released as well.

Vinston PainterAug 30 03:02p

Denver Broncos QB Zac Dysert, RB Kapri Bibbs, OT Vinston Painter, WR Nathan Palmer and FS John Boyett were released Saturday, Aug. 30. The Broncos will try to re-sign [ More ]

Phillip AdamsAug 30 03:02p

Seattle Seahawks CB Phillip Adams is being released.

Alex HeneryAug 30 02:52p

Philadelphia Eagles PK Alex Henery has been released.

Devon StillAug 30 02:42p

Cincinnati Bengals DT Devon Still was released Saturday, Aug. 30.

Travian RobertsonAug 30 02:32p

Atlanta Falcons DL Travian Robertson has been released.

Ryan SeymourAug 30 02:32p

San Francisco 49ers OG Ryan Seymour has been released.

Tony HillsAug 30 02:32p

Miami Dolphins TE Kyle Miller, WR Matt Hazel, QB Seth Lobato, OG David Arkin, C Sam Brenner, WR Kevin Cone, LB Andrew Wilson, FS Jordan Kovacs, OL Evan Finkenberg, [ More ]

Allen ReisnerAug 30 02:22p

Minnesota Vikings TE Allen Reisner and RB Joe Banyard have been released.

Duke IhenachoAug 30 02:22p

Denver Broncos SS Duke Ihenacho and LB Shaquil Barrett were released Saturday, Aug. 30.

Kevin DorseyAug 30 02:22p

Green Bay Packers WR Kevin Dorsey has been released.

Rueben RandleAug 30 02:12p

New York Giants WR Rueben Randle will be available to return punts when WR Odell Beckham Jr. isn't able to, according to head coach Tom Coughlin. 'You can count [ More ]

Jerel WorthyAug 30 02:12p

New England Patriots DT Jerel Worthy was released Saturday, Aug. 30, according to a source.

Major WrightAug 30 02:12p

Tampa Bay Buccaneers SS Major Wright has been released.

John SimonAug 30 02:02p

Baltimore Ravens LB John Simon has been released, according to a source.

Ed ReynoldsAug 30 01:52p

Philadelphia Eagles S Ed Reynolds has been released.

Ricardo AllenAug 30 01:52p

Atlanta Falcons LB Jacques Smith and CB Ricardo Allen have been released.

Leon McFaddenAug 30 01:52p

Cleveland Browns CB Leon McFadden has been waived, according to a source.

Jon BeasonAug 30 01:42p

New York Giants LB Jon Beason (foot) has been activated from the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform list.

Alex HeneryAug 30 01:42p

Philadelphia Eagles PK Alex Henery, WR Damaris Johnson, DE Damion Square and RB Matthew Tucker have been released.

Nate PalmerAug 30 01:42p

Green Bay Packers LBs Nate Palmer (knee) and Adrian Hubbard (leg) have been placed on Reserve/Injured.

Kenjon BarnerAug 30 01:42p

Philadelphia Eagles RB Kenjon Barner (ankle) has been waived/injured.

John ConnerAug 30 01:42p

New York Giants FB John Conner has been released.

Eric WinstonAug 30 01:32p

Seattle Seahawks OT Eric Winston has been released.

Maikon BonaniAug 30 01:22p

Tennessee Titans PK Maikon Bonani has been released.

Kris DurhamAug 30 01:12p

Detroit Lions WR Kris Durham has been released.

Curtis MarshAug 30 01:12p

Philadelphia Eagles CB Curtis Marsh has been released.

Asa JacksonAug 30 01:12p

Baltimore Ravens CB Jimmy Smith (chest), CB Lardarius Webb (back), CB Asa Jackson (ankle) and OT Jah Reid (concussion) are participating in practice Saturday, Aug. 30.

Tajh BoydAug 30 01:02p

New York Jets QB Tajh Boyd and RB Alex Green have been released.

Stephen HillAug 30 12:52p

New York Jets WR Stephen Hill has been released.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2014 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group