Saints enjoy new facility
By By Richard Dark / EMG staff writer
Aug. 3, 2003
METAIRIE, La. The first week of a grueling training camp is behind them and the New Orleans Saints' MVP of the first seven days could be any number of players.
But in reality, that MVP should stand for Most Valuable Product and the award goes to the new indoor training facility for being the best for the team during the opening quarter of the 2003 training camp.
The team dealt with approximately 45 days of rain during their preseason stay in Thibodaux and missed practices added up to plenty of problems that sent a ripple effect throughout each respective season.
Over the last week, the team has dodged the weather several times, by simply packing it in and running into the new indoor field, which is the largest in the NFL.
Coach Jim Haslett, for one, is a big fan because given the way the south Louisiana skies tend to open up after lunch on a daily basis; the headman often had headaches.
But the roof over the field and field turf surface along with air conditioning aren't the only things the players are excited about. Plush hotel accommodations and a spacious locker room are just some other reasons the overall team attitude is much more positive.
But brand new digs aren't the whole story of the first week.
Heading into Saturday night's Black and Gold scrimmage in Lafayette, several players were quickly becoming the big stories, and putting their signature on the initial workouts. And fittingly, in the mold of upgrading in the offseason, most of them play on the defensive side of the ball.
Linebacker Derrick Rodgers: The New Orleans native has emerged early on as the leader on a new-look linebacker corps. The veteran came over from the Miami Dolphins and seemingly is eager to prove to the Dolphins that they should have held onto him. The battle between him and second-year LB James Allen seems to have been decided already.
Safety Tebucky Jones: Jones appears for now to be as good as advertised. The acquisition from New England is quickly shedding a past label of being soft. "I expect him to go out there and be the man for us on defense this year," said defensive coordinator Rick Venturi. "He's capable of that, and we are looking for good things from him, he's big and fast."
Tight end Ernie Conwell: Conwell, a former integral member of the "Fastest Show on Turf" St. Louis Rams, brings a dimension to a position that has disappointed Saints fans for the past five seasons. At 6-2, 265, Conwell has the body to block well and is surprisingly fast. The Saints West Coast offense desperately needs a tight end that can stay on the field and open up the middle.
Cornerback Dale Carter: Carter, in his first training camp since 1999, is aptly playing the role of the Phoenix, rising from the ashes yet again. Carter seems like a new man both in attitude, drive and physicality. Teammates say that Carter, who has had a checkered past of off the field problems, has his head in the right place, namely at the front of the charge. "In the past, I haven't been that vocal leadership type of guy, but if that's the type of player this team needs me to be, that's what I'll do," Carter said at the start of camp. "I'm ready to go."
The team listed a variety of injuries heading into the scrimmage in front of 18,000 at ULL. They are: DE Melvin Williams (knee); OT Scott Sanderson (hernia); RB Tavian Banks (hamstring); KR Michael Lewis (neck); G Peter Heyer (shoulder); LB Cie Grant (hamstring); TE Boo Williams (hamstring); DT Henry Ford (sprained ankle); G Chad Setterstrom (hamstring); G LeCharles Bentley (strained pectoral) and CB Dale Carter (knee tendonitis) did not play in the scrimmage. Grady Jackson also did not work, missing his third straight day because of a death in the family.