Work in Sports
Can't remember all the Saints
This is the 14th in a series of postcards Sports Illustrated's Peter King will e-mail from his annual NFL training-camp tour.
Thursday, Aug. 3
TEAM: New Orleans Saints
SITE: Interesting place, this Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La. It's on a bayou. It's muggy. They tell me they get 5,000 partiers for weekend scrimmage/practices in the Nicholls State stadium. "It's quite a scene," said GM Randy Mueller. "They get fired up when we're doing our walkthrough stuff."
PLAYER I SAW WHOM I REALLY LIKED: I knew nothing about MLB Charlie Clemons before Thursday, except that he was a 250-pound load of a linebacker who Dick Vermeil liked to use as a pass-rusher occasionally in St. Louis the past three years. But there he was on the Nicholls State football practice field Thursday morning, making the best play I've seen on my camp trip since the Ray Lewis play I raved about at Ravens camp. At the snap of the ball, quarterback Billy Joe Tolliver dropped back five steps and threw a liner over the middle for one of two wideouts running crosses over the middle, about 20 yards downfield. Clemons leaped a good 30 inches in the air -- in full pads, mind you -- and deflected the ball up in the air. He got his bearings, found the ball fluttering in front of him, then dove for the ball and caught it two feet from the ground. Incredible play. A restricted free agent signed away from the Rams in February, he's the keystone to the Saints' defense, and, from what I saw, an intense, driven guy.
OPINION/FACTOID THAT MIGHT BE INTERESTING ONLY TO ME: Mueller, a Northwesterner his entire life, informed me that several of the Saints employees who followed him from Seattle started to warm to bayou country when they discovered a Starbucks in one of the northern 'burbs.
THE FOOD: I came expecting Creole Ice Cream down here in the bayou. I got four small bags of Baked Lays. Too many interviews. Missed lunch. Nice chips, though.
Dear NFL Junkie:
In the morning, just before 9, I asked Saints director of media and public relations Greg Bensel what the dead arachnid was on the floor of the Saints' press room. This poor thing was legs up, on his back, absolutely dead.
"That would be a cockroach," Bensel said.
"Wow," I said. "It's a big one."
One of the other p.r. aides came over. "No it isn't," she said. "Unfortunately, I've seen bigger."
Welcome to Thibodaux.
It is also the home for wayward players getting, in many cases, their last and best chance at the bigs. The Saints signed Alfred Williams, the oft-injured Broncos defensive end, Thursday morning, and word is they're close to a deal with Gilbert "Never Met A Cheeseburger I Didn't Like" Brown. Look out at practice, and you'll see Brian Milne, the former Bengals/Seahawks fullback, and ex-Cowboy Kevin Mathis and the former Steeler Darren Perry, and -- well, it goes on and on.
But one man I imagine won't be here much longer is cornerback Corey Harris, who had a cup of coffee with the Saints as a rookie last year. Defensive coordinator Ron Zook, a Type-A guy if you've ever seen one, thought Harris stopped short of a full effort on a drill Thursday morning, and he immediately challenged Harris. "Don't ever pull up like that!" Zook said. "You stopped!" When Harris shook his head and slightly smiled, Zook went off on him. "Laugh all you want, son! You're fighting for your damn life here! Do you understand?"
A second later, Zook said: "Don't tease us! Play like you should play!"
I have a feeling I'll be reading the name Corey Harris in transactions in the next few weeks.
Check back soon for more postcards from camp. Next: Tampa Bay