Like every other team in the NFL, the New Orleans Saints will enter the final preseason game of the year with roster spots up for grabs. But unlike most other teams, Saints players will also be thinking about Tropical Storm Isaac, projected to be a hurricane before making landfall this week. The impending storm is adding more suspense to the close of the preseason.
When the Saints face the Tennessee Titans in Nashville on Thursday, August 30, some players will be battling for jobs on the field in Tennessee while worrying about friends and family members in Louisiana. Coaches gave players a day off on Sunday to make arrangements, and the team left town on Monday evening after cutting 15 players to trim the roster down to 75. The Saints plan to practice in Cincinnati on Tuesday and arrive in Nashville on Wednesday. Between the adjusted travel plans and the mandatory roster cuts, it has already been a busy week for the team.
Meanwhile, they will be playing the Titans for the third time in less than a calendar year. The teams closed out the 2011 preseason in New Orleans, with the Titans winning 32-9. The outcome was not surprising, considering the Titans played quarterbacks Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker for most of the game, while third-string quarterback Sean Canfield took every snap for the Saints.
The teams met again in a more important regular season game played on December 11 in Nashville. The Saints entered the contest with a four-game winning streak, and both teams were hoping to grab playoff spots in the final weeks of the season. New Orleans won 22-17, stopping a Tennessee drive led by Locker as the clock expired. The Saints ended the year with eight consecutive wins and claimed the NFC South title, but the Titans did not earn a postseason bid.
As a Saints fan, I am hoping the players stay safe on Thursday and can begin the game knowing the storm has passed and left minimal damage behind. With some roster spots still open, I am looking forward to seeing great competition on the field.
Mike Patton is a sports fan who grew up in New Orleans cheering for the New Orleans Saints, Chicago Cubs, and LSU Tigers. As a kid in 1987, he made his first trip to Wrigley Field and also slept outside of the Louisiana Superdome to purchase playoff tickets for the Saints' first postseason appearance. Follow Mike on twitter @MikePattonGBS.