Sunday marked the 10-year anniversary of the most iconic play in the history of the New Orleans Saints.
I refer, of course, to the blocked punt by Saints special teams standout Steve Gleason on Sept. 25, 2006. The play, which resulted in a touchdown, came to signify a rebirth for a city that had been devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
For the Saints, Gleason’s play represented the turning point for a franchise that would go from laughingstock to Super Bowl champion in the space of three years. A statue sits outside the Superdome commemorating the moment. It was, and remains, a big deal for everyone involved.
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Gleason, a brave man locked in an infinite battle with ALS, was in attendance at the Superdome on Monday night for the Saints’ matchup against the Falcons. We’d love to say New Orleans summoned some of that old magic to honor the anniversary, but sports don’t always follow the script you want. In fact, sometimes you get the opposite.
On Monday night, about 900 miles away from the Superdome, Dee Gordon blasted a leadoff home run in the Miami Marlins’ first game since the tragic death of teammate Jose Fernandez. It has my vote as the sports moment of the year wholesale NFL jerseys.
Would it have been great for the Saints to have another dramatic special teams conquest on the Gleason anniversary? Sure. But maybe the sports world used up its allotment of “This is a movie, right?” moments for the night. Everybody should be cool with this.
While most teams sit their starters for the final preseason game, the New Orleans Saints will roll with their top players for a spell Thursday night versus the Baltimore Ravens.
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Coach Sean Payton said Tuesday that he plans to play his starters for about a quarter of action in the preseason finale.
It’s customary that key players sit to avoid injury in the fourth preseason game, leaving playing time mostly to borderline roster dwellers battling for the final few spots or practice squad gigs.
The Times-Picayune’s Josh Katzenstein points out that the last time quarterback Drew Brees started a preseason finale was 2006 — a decade ago, in his first year with the Saints.
If Payton doesn’t reverse course and decides it’s not worth risking Brees in another meaningless game, it will display how much the coach believes his team needs to concoct momentum heading into the regular season after some mediocre preseason outings.
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Not much will be gleaned from watching Saints starters play against Baltimore backups (assuming John Harbaugh sticks with the traditional route) other than to get some positivity heading into games that count.
Several other teams will also play key players in the preseason finale, including Hue Jackson’s Cleveland Browns. Titans coach Mike Mularkey said earlier this week the plan was for Marcus Mariota to play Thursday, but didn’t rule out changing his mind.
Getting some additional snaps in the final tuneup can be beneficial, especially for young players. But if a key cog goes down, expect to hear a loud uproar on Friday.
Saints defensive tackle Nick Fairley will play Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs jerseys, but he’ll do so with a heavy heart. Fairley unexpectedly lost his mother, Paula Rodgers, this past week.
Fairley raced back to the Mobile, Alabama, area in the wee hours of Wednesday morning to be with his family as his mother passed away at the age of 51. She leaves behind four children and six grandchildren. The funeral is 11 a.m. on Tuesday at New Ship A.M.E. Church in Theodore, Alabama.
According to Fairley’s agent, Brian Overstreet, he will play Sunday under the belief his mother — with whom he was incredibly close — would have wanted him to do so.
Rodgers had complained of chest pains a few weeks ago and briefly stayed in the hospital. But her death was a horrific shock to those who knew her. Fairley missed practices Wednesday and Thursday to be with his family, but returned to the team Friday.
A free-agent signing this past offseason, the Auburn product signed with the Saints, in part, because of the team’s proximity to his mother. She would attend every home game. There, she saw her son morph into the team’s top acquisition and establish himself among the best interior tackles with 3.5 sacks this season.
Now, he’ll head back on the field after dealing with a deeply personal loss.
“He’s going to play for her,” Overstreet said.