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News » After bye, Saints could use some celestial help

After bye, Saints could use some celestial help

After bye, Saints could use some celestial help
METAIRIE, La. (AP) - For the first time this season, the New Orleans Saints can hold on to that winning feeling for more than one week.

Who knows if that would be the case if they didn't have this weekend off.

Coach Sean Payton has reason to hope the Saints (4-4) can emerge as playoff contenders in the second half of the season. But nothing, it seems, is certain with this club.

It's hard to predict what the Saints' roster will look like each week, never mind for the remainder of what has been an injury-plagued campaign of fits and starts that has left New Orleans mired in mediocrity.

"We understand in this league that nobody really cares," began Payton, who also could be dealing with suspensions of three key players in the next few weeks. "I say that not in a negative way, but nobody wants to hear about your pains.

"It's getting to the point with injuries and other potential losses, we have to be able to handle that stuff and not let it negatively affect our team."

The plight of the club's all-time rusher, Deuce McAllister, illustrates as well as anything what a bizarre season this has been for New Orleans.

As training camp began, many doubted McAllister could be the punishing, power runner he once was after his second knee reconstruction since 2005. Now that McAllister has defied the odds to show he can still produce, he faces a possible four-game suspension because the weight-loss supplement he used yielded a positive test for a diuretic that is banned by the NFL.

Making matters worse, both starting defensive ends, Will Smith and Charles Grant, face potential punishment for the same violation. They'll all keep playing while their suspensions are under appeal, and there's no set time for how long that process can take. But Payton sounded confident the three regulars at least would be available when the Saints return to action Nov. 9 at Atlanta.

"I think we're beyond that right now," Payton said. "Without commenting on dates or specifics, I'm sure at some point there will be a hearing and there will be a decision made by the league and we'll go from there."

The Saints already have seen starting offensive guard Jamar Nesbit sit out four games for the same violation. He's suing the manufacturer of StarCaps, the weight-loss supplement he and McAllister have said they took, which does not list the banned substance Bumetanide as an ingredient.

Then there are the injuries, one of which prevented Reggie Bush from joining the Saints for their 37-32 win over San Diego in London a week ago.

Instead, Bush had arthroscopic surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee. Fortunately for the Saints, this weekend's bye fell during his estimated monthlong recovery. Still, Payton wasn't ready to pinpoint a return date for the explosive star, who had eight touchdowns - three on punt returns - through his first six games before getting hurt in his seventh game at Carolina.

The Saints have yet to fully realize the benefits of a trade for former Pro Bowl tight end Jeremy Shockey. Shockey had what was thought to be a groin injury during training camp. He played through pain during the first three regular-season games before he finally decided to have sports hernia surgery, which sidelined him for three weeks.

He returned in a lopsided loss at Carolina during which the pain returned, and then accused the club of misdiagnosing him. He again played in London a week ago, but had only one catch for 6 yards.

Marques Colston, the Saints' top receiver the previous two seasons, got a contract extension at the beginning of training camp, only to tear a ligament in his left thumb during the season opener. The injury cost him five games.

Rookie cornerback Tracy Porter, who earned a starting job by opening day, was lost for the season because of a broken wrist in Week 5. Sedrick Ellis, the top draft pick last spring and immediately a starter at defensive tackle, also missed about a month with a meniscus tear.

Indeed, the Saints have dealt with a season's worth of adversity already. When asked how he might handle looming suspensions, Payton could speak from experience when he said it would be similar to the overlapping losses of key players to injuries.

"That would be the closest thing I could describe it to," Payton said.

Still, the Saints are at .500 and their postseason hopes very much alive. The reason? Drew Brees, who has completed 69 percent of his passes for a league-leading 2,563 yards and 15 touchdowns.

When Colston, Shockey and veteran receiver David Patten were out, Brees proved he could make do with reserves such as receiver Lance Moore or tight end Billy Miller, who found throws delivered on the money when they got open and ended up with star-like numbers themselves. Against San Diego, Moore had six catches for 90 yards and a touchdown, while Miller had a team-leading seven receptions for 82 yards.

If Brees keeps playing like that, the Saints should be competitive. As it is, three of their four losses came down to the wire. What cost New Orleans in those games were untimely penalties, missed field goals and failures on short-yardage plays that should have been routine for a team with this much offense.

"We had set high goals. Fortunately for us we have a lot of football left, but we're going to have to play more consistently," Payton said. "I think anyone would see that."

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: October 30, 2008

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Andre' Goodman Name: Andre' Goodman
Position: CB
Age: 29
Experience: 7 years
College: South Carolina
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