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Injury bug finally bites New Orleans Saints

By By Richard Dark/EMG staff writer
August 30, 2003
NEW ORLEANS What an NFL team fears most this time of year came to fruition Thursday night.
The New Orleans Saints, unlike many other teams this entire preseason, had managed to get through their entire training camp and nearly all of their exhibition slate without sustaining a major injury to any key players. But in the first quarter of the Saints' 24-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins, Jim Haslett's luck ran out.
Starting strong safety Mel Mitchell was shaken up in the first quarter after Dolphins reserve QB Sage Rosenfels rolled him up on an illegal block from behind. He was helped from the field and it was later announced that he sustained a serious knee injury and will be out for an indefinite amount of time.
Also in the secondary, S/DB Michael Hawthorne left the game in the first quarter with a shoulder sprain. He has been one of the defensive backs considered to be trade bait and the injury may have seriously damaged his chance to make the final 53. The downed duo leaves a serious hole at safety with only Tebucky Jones, Jay Bellamy and Steve Gleason able to pick up the slack.
Haslett said it was a tough blow to an area of the defense already considered to have problems stopping the pass.
Former Saints running back Ricky Williams wasn't exactly welcomed back into the Superdome with open arms. During player introductions the crowd rained down boos when his name was called. On the Dolphins' first offensive play from scrimmage, Williams could not handle a simple short dump off from quarterback Jay Fiedler and the fans booed him lustily. He received a Bronx cheer again during the Dolphins second series when James Allen stopped him for a 1-yard loss.
Dolphins safety Sammy Knight, who left New Orleans during the offseason after being a starter here for six seasons, was cheered.
Did not dress
A multitude of Saints players did not dress out for various reasons. They were: WR Donte Stallworth, RG Melvin Paige, TE Ernie Conwell, TE David Sloan, TE Walter Rasby, QB Chris Finlen, DE Charles Grant, DE Darrin Howard, DT Jovan Bush, DT Henry Ford, LB Roger Knight, LB Cie Grant and ST Steve Gleason.
Miami's Mississippians
A few former state standouts have migrated down to South Beach. They include: CB Korey Banks (Mississippi State), DT Tim Bowens (Okolona, Ole Miss), CB Terrell Buckley (Pascagoula), WR Donald Lee (Maben, MSU), CB Patrick Surtain (Southern Miss) and OL Todd Wade (Jackson, Ole Miss).
Other Miami more interesting
With many of the Miami media on hand in the press box, maybe the most-watched monitors were the ones showing the third-ranked Hurricanes on the road in Shreveport being hosted by Louisiana Tech.
In Memoriam
Prior to the game, the team paid tribute to their late grounds superintendent Tim Fletcher who died this past summer as the result of an accidental electrocution at the Saints practice facility. His family was on the field before the game.
Quick Quotable
Multiple duties
Tory Woodbury displayed plenty of athleticism by manning several positions, including safety and quarterback. Under center, he completed several passes, scrambled for a first down. He also made a tackle on defense.
What's Next
For the Saints, it will be a weekend of final cuts and undoubtedly a harried search of the waiver wire in a last-ditch effort to depth at a couple of positions of need. After one final week to try and fix some problem areas, the team will travel to Seattle to face the Seahawks one week from Sunday at 3 pm.