Saints Publicly Air Dirty Laundry

While still talented, the Saints appear to be a team about ready to fall apart at the seams, and they'll try to reverse the negative vibe against the Vikings on national television. Besides the in-team bickering, they also will be putting a familiar face in action against Randy Moss. Get the in-depth scoop from New Orleans.

With a second straight loss to a winless team behind them, the Saints have to concentrate on getting back on track against one of the NFC's top teams in a nationally televised game Sunday night.

And for the second consecutive week, the Saints (2-3) will have to play through off-the-field issues when they go against the Minnesota Vikings (3-1) in the Superdome.

One week after a heated exchange between quarterback Aaron Brooks and defensive end Charles Grant on the charter flight home, the Saints fell to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. A day later, General Manager Mickey Loomis said the team has not performed up to his or owner Tom Benson's expectations and that everyone in the organization is accountable.

Loomis told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that while he still believes in the coaching staff and players, he's not afraid to make changes if the season doesn't turn around.

"Ultimately, we all are judged by wins and losses," said Loomis, who is in his third year as the team's GM. "If we can't work it out, then changes have to be made. And I'm not afraid to make them. That's my job, to bring the right players into our program and the right coaches to coach them."

Loomis said he has discussed these issues with fifth-year coach Jim Haslett. Since claiming the NFC West title and first playoff win in franchise history back in 2000, the Saints are 26-27. After getting off to a 2-1 start this year, they lost to the Arizona Cardinals and Bucs, who were 0-3 and 0-4, respectively, when they met.

"I believed, and I still believe, that we have a good football team," Loomis said. "But something is missing. It's a bottom-line business. And the bottom line is wins and losses."

The Saints finished 8-8 last season, and Loomis said expectations for a playoff run were realistic. He said he believes the coaching staff and players are working as hard as they can to correct the problems that have held them back recently. But he said it's time to see results.

"We've got good coaches, and we've got good talent," Loomis said. "Something's missing. If the chemistry doesn't work, then we'll have to do something different."

Addressing the media after practice Wednesday, Haslett said he understood the message but wondered about the timing since there are 11 games remaining in the season.

"I'm not really sure what it was directed at, but coaches know that it's a win-loss business," he said. "That's what you are judged on. I don't think anybody really cares about the rest.

"As long as the players understand that we're in this thing together, the coaches and players, and if you're not successful bad things happen and a lot of families are affected on both sides of the ball — coaching and playing. So, I don't know if the timing was right, but I think the message was understood. But I think that's kind of a given with coaches anyway."

Loomis said Benson, who rarely speaks to the media, is upset with the situation, as are the fans. As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 7,000 tickets remained for the game with the Vikings.

"They're frustrated, we all are," Loomis said. "We keep talking about how we've got to correct the little things, and they're tired of hearing that. And, frankly, so am I. And coaches are tired of saying it. We all feel their pain."

Loomis said no one in the organization is free from the blame, including himself, and added he isn't ready to give up on the season. At 2-3, the Saints are two games behind the Atlanta Falcons (4-1) in the NFC South.

"We're not ready to give up on the season," he said. "We still believe we have good players, and we believe we have good coaches. We've got to get a big win this week against Minnesota and get back on the right track."

SERIES HISTORY: 23rd meeting. The Vikings lead the Saints 15-7 after winning four of the past five matchups. The Vikings won 32-31 the last time they met on Dec. 15, 2002, scoring a touchdown with five seconds to play to pull to within one point. Instead of kicking the PAT and going to overtime, however, coach Mike Tice gambled and went for the win and Daunte Culpepper ran it in for the victory.


  • DE Charles Grant, who coach Jim Haslett said is coming off his best game as a pro in a loss to the Tampa Bay Bucs, is tied for the NFL lead in sacks going into this week's game with the Vikings.

    Grant, who recorded two sacks in a 20-17 loss to the Bucs last Sunday, already has seven sacks this season. That ties him with Atlanta Falcons defensive end Patrick Kerney for the league lead.

    All of Grant's sacks have come in the last four games after he was shut out in the season opener with the Seattle Seahawks. He collected a career-high three sacks in a 28-25 win over the St. Louis Rams on Sept. 26.

    Grant, a 6-foot-3, 290-pounder, has 24 career sacks in only 37 games with five multiple-sack games. He also forced a fumble in the loss to the Bucs.

  • With his next scoring catch, wide receiver Joe Horn will move into second place on the club's all-time list for touchdown receptions.

    Horn, who is in his fifth year with the Saints, caught a 3-yard scoring pass from quarterback Aaron Brooks in last week's game with the Bucs.

    Horn has 37 TD catches in his career with the Saints, which ties him with Danny Abramowicz (1967-73). Eric Martin has the most touchdown catches in Saints history with 48 from 1985-93.

  • Even though he's been playing with a pulled groin muscle for the last four weeks, punter Mitch Berger ranks first in the NFC and second in the NFL in net punting with an average of 41.0 yards per kick.

    Indianapolis Colts punter Hunter Smith leads the league in net average at 41.2 yards per kick. Berger, who has a gross average of 43.6 yards, has also dropped 10 punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line in the first five games.

  • QB Aaron Brooks' streak of 147 pass attempts without an interception ended Sunday when Bucs cornerback Brian Kelly picked off a throw intended for tight end Boo Williams in the fourth quarter.

    It was the second lengthy streak that Brooks has put together in the 2003 and 2004 seasons. He finished the 2003 season with 232 consecutive attempts without an interception and extended it to 256 before Seattle's Michael Boulware ended it in the opener.

    Since the beginning of the 2003 season, Brooks has thrown 31 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions.

  • The Saints signed running back Fred McAfee, perhaps their top special teams performer the last four seasons, on Tuesday. McAfee was voted to the Pro Bowl as the NFC's special teams performer after the 2002 season

    McAfee, who is in his 14th NFL season, was also a valuable leader in the locker room before the Saints decided not to re-sign him during the offseason.

    "I thought Freddy could help us more than a couple of guys we had inactive every week," coach Jim Haslett said. "I think he's a great team player and is good to have around for morale. He's probably the best I've ever had (in the locker room). And he's a good football player, he's a Pro Bowler on special teams and he can help us in that area."

  • To make room on the roster for McAfee, the Saints waived reserve safety Deveron Harper. A three-year veteran who surprisingly made the roster in 2003, Harper played mainly on special teams.

  • The Saints have posted a 15-24 overall record in games played in prime-time going into their Sunday night meeting with the Vikings on ESPN. The Saints are 8-11 all-time in Sunday night games.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 10 — Points scored by the Saints in the first quarter of their five games so far this season. All of those points came in a 30-27 win over the San Francisco 49ers on Sept. 19.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I told the guys after the game that they have to be resilient. You've got to bounce back from it. You've got to take the bullets when they're coming, and they're going to come this week. They're going to be flying from all directions and you've got to be able to handle it, deal with it, and get ready to play the upcoming opponent. It's just the nature of the business." — Saints coach Jim Haslett on losing two straight games to previously winless opponents.

    With a game coming up Sunday night against the Minnesota Vikings and All-Pro wide receiver Randy Moss, the Saints made the move everyone thought they would make Wednesday.

    Cornerback Mike McKenzie, who was obtained in an Oct. 4 trade with the Green Bay Packers, worked with the first-team defense when the team began preparing for the Vikings on Wednesday.

    Saints coach Jim Haslett said McKenzie will start at left corner Sunday night in place of Fred Thomas, who has been a starter for the last three seasons. McKenzie did not play last week against the Bucs because of his unfamiliarity with the Saints' system.

    Thomas will still play a lot Sunday night — the Saints will likely be in a nickel defense most of the night against Moss and the Vikings' three-receiver sets.


  • RB Deuce McAllister, who had missed two games with a severely sprained right ankle, came through Sunday's game against the Bucs with no major setbacks and should be ready for Sunday's game with the Vikings.

    McAllister told trainers that he had some soreness Monday, but he was able to practice at full speed when the team returned to work on Wednesday. He is listed as probable for Sunday's game.

  • LCB Mike McKenzie is nursing a sore hamstring, but coach Jim Haslett said he expects him to be 100 percent by the end of the week.

    McKenzie, who is expected to start in place of Fred Thomas against the Vikings, is officially listed as questionable.

  • MLB Courtney Watson, a rookie who started the first four games, returned to practice Wednesday after missing the game with the Bucs because of a sore right knee. Watson is listed as questionable for Sunday.

  • WLB Derrick Rodgers was limited in practice on Wednesday with a chest injury. Rodgers is listed as probable for Sunday's game with the Vikings.

  • WR Talman Gardner, who has missed two games with a sprained right ankle, returned to practice on a limited basis Wednesday. He is listed as questionable for Sunday's game.

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