Straight-talking Saints travel to face Redskins
By By Richard Dark/EMG sports writer
October 13, 2002
NEW ORLEANS It's refreshing.
Mostly because the majority of coach speak isn't so straight forward. Skirting the issue, circular reasoning, semantics and such are all a part of the back and forth exchanges between National Football League coaches in the days leading up to a game.
This week there hasn't been much of that. New Orleans Saints coach Jim Haslett doesn't speak in those terms for the most part, and although Washington Redskins "Ball Coach" Steve Spurrier seems to be the prime example of coach speak, this week he shot pretty much straight from the hip.
Not that he didn't do so in his 12 previous seasons at the University of Florida.
This week, when cornered, he backed off of critical statements about Jim Haslett's habit of overachieving when it comes to the time clock. Backpedaling is not something Spurrier is all that good at, so this week must have shocked many of his ex-colleagues in the Southeastern Conference.
Conversely, backpedaling is something Haslett almost never does and when speaking about his team's prowess away from the Louisiana Superdome, he did not hesitate to praise and puff out the chest a bit.
This week that is not the case as the Saints (4-1) get set to take on the Redskins today at Fed/Ex Field. The entire District of Columbia area is blanketed with a level of fear these days because of the maniacal actions of a sniper who is still at large as of early Saturday.
As the victim toll rose sharply this week, NFL officials and area police were forced to magnify the level of security surrounding the contest, which will kick off at noon today.
Players were mum on the subject, but Haslett said he was confident, everything would be fine.
Haslett would not say if any one with the team would be allowed to leave the hotel during their stay.
On the field, the drama should be just as compelling. Both teams can score at will, so expect the scoreboard operator to be quite busy. The wildcard should be the ability of Ole Miss alumnus Deuce McAllister to continue his steady, methodical, week-by-week improvement.
McAllister leads the NFC in rushing with 461 yards and in total yards from scrimmage with 606. The Saints lead the NFC in red-zone (84.6) and third-down efficiency (47.8 percent). New Orleans is fifth in the NFC in total offense. The Saints are averaging 28.6 points, which is on pace to break the team record of 26.4 set in 1987.
Meridian native Kenny Smith will see action again this week, as defensive end Willie Whitehead is still out with a broken fibula.
He will back up Charles Grant, who tore it up against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Haslett said the improvement of both of his young DEs accelerated this week. "They are fine; they did real well in practice this week, so we'll go from there."
Speedy wideout Dont Stallworth remains doubtful with a strained left hamstring. He remains a game time decision, but Haslett was not holding out hope. Philadelphia native and special teams captain Fred McAfee special teams standout Fred McAfee (hamstring) and cornerback Keyuo Craver (knee) also are expected to miss the game. For the Skins running back Stephen Davis is questionable, amongst a host of players with various bumps and bruises, but should play.
The Redskins hold a 13-5 advantage in the series. Last year, they continued a stunning Saints slide, humbling them 40-10 in the Superdome over the holidays. Overall, they have momentum on their side, winning eight of the last nine since 1980.