Welcome to 2011, everybody! I hope you all had a fun New Year's Eve and a fulfilling 2010 that has you excited for what is to come.
The quote of the night came from Ryan Seacrest talking to some hot, new, young pop starlet on the podium with the New Kids on the Block and BackStreet Boys (who apparently are touring together in 2011 - Battle of the Aging Boy Bands, I guess - who knew??!!). Anyway, Seacrest was filling time until the ball dropped with inane dialog and ridiculous banter (Jenny McCarthy down in the crowd saying "I wish I could wake up to this excitement and energy every day!!!"), and started asking them what their New Year's Resolutions are. So this dingbat starlet - I don't even know her name - when it was her turn replies, "Try not to be such a douchebag."
Really. That's what it's come to? I hope that works out for her, and for anyone that comes in contact with her. Kids these days have numerous outlets to express themselves publicly every single moment of their lives (facebook, twitter, texts, emails, IM, etc.), but apparently it hasn't improved the quality of the expression and/or content at all.
OK, now I'm finished with my irrational and overgeneralized "Old Man Yells at Cloud" portion of the broadcast.
We have a great installment of Fleur-de-Links for you this afternoon, to enjoy amidst your bowl-game watching and continuing quality family holiday time.
Here's a quick spin around the headlines - PT's on the injury report, Saints aren't taking Bucs lightly, Bucs are still alive in playoff hunt, Saints won't watch scoreboard on Sunday, Freeman has better stats than Brees this year, Saints role players know their roles, Sean Payton hates talking to the media, yadda, yadda, yadda.
I'm sure you've had enough buildup, so just countdown to ZERO, kiss whomever's nearest to you and JUMP to the stories.
For New Year's Fun, let's play a little game. Imagine you are a past or present Saints figure (player, coach, employee, reporter, beat columnist, blogger, etc.), create a resolution for him/her, and then post it in the comment section. I'm sure hilarity will ensue, so bring your "A" game!!
j_bushrod7475 New years eve dinner with @jessmendez_ n some friends... #meltingpot
HeathEvans "@Nick_Fairley251: Watching "True Grit""It's horrible! Hope u got in free like Beth & I did??
BillyMiller83 Ok I would love to hear what yall are going to change in 2011 but let's be real it's only till March 1st. LOL
T_Porter22 S/O to ALL my followers; old and new...and I would like to wish EVERYONE a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
alexbrown96 Happy New Year to all!!! May God bless us all this coming year and we all live, love and laugh like no tomorrow!!!
HeathEvans "@ClintCulberson: @HeathEvans True Grit was awesome! What are you smoking?" No....what were u smoking when u watched it?
robyslyfe A New Year brings fresh and new opportunities, make 2011 GREAT!!!..Happy New Year and GOD Bless!!
usama_young28 Happy new year!!!
TylerLorenzen Wishing luck to my #uconn dudes. Go get your respect! #fiestabowl
From the Saints Sideline
New Orleans Saints' Pierre Thomas shows he was down, not out | NOLA.com
James Varney - RB remains focused only on this season.
New Orleans Saints' Pierre Thomas questionable for Tampa Bay Buccaneers game | NOLA.com
James Varney - Payton says team exploring options at kick returner.
Saints list six as questionable for Bucs game, including Colston, Thomas | wwltv.com | Eye on Black and Gold
Bradley Handwerger - Six Saints players were listed as questionable for Sunday’s noon home game against Tampa Bay, including running back Pierre Thomas and receiver Marques Colston.
Saints set for stern test against Bucs’ Freeman | wwltv.com | Eye on Black and Gold
Bradley Handwerger - Josh Freeman won’t be compared in many ways with Drew Brees anytime soon.
Bucs overlooked | wwltv.com | Eye on Black and Gold
Jim Henderson - With one game to go in the regular season the top three teams in the NFC South have more victories than the top three teams in any other division.
New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton says offense needs to do a better job of holding up against the blitz | NOLA.com
Mike Triplett - Saints saw more blitzes from Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Falcons defenses than they've seen from most teams in recent years.
New Orleans Saints defense is stifling when teams get close to scoring: First-and-10 column | NOLA.com
Jeff Duncan's weekly observations from the Saints locker room.
New Orleans Saints' Jeff Charleston, Marvin Mitchell know, embrace roles | NOLA.com
Mike Triplett - Fourth-year veterans keyed goal-line stand vs. Falcons.
From the Crow's Nest
Freeman, Bucs look to seize rare playoff opportunity | tbo.com
Roy Cummings - Tampa Tribune - It was a negligible mistake, the kind you could easy overlook and move on from. But Josh Freeman felt a need to correct it, without hesitation.
Solid Line | buccaneers.com
Thursday Notes: James Lee and Jeremy Trueblood are battling to start at right tackle on Sunday in New Orleans, but the Bucs' O-Line has remained effective through a season of lineup shuffling.
Freeman posts better stats than Brees | tbo.com
Unattributed Tampa Tribune staff article - New Orleans QB Drew Brees spent time mentoring Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman last summer.
Every Play Counts | buccaneers.com
Bucs energized, gearing up to be a winning team | tbo.com
Ira Kaufman - Tampa Tribune - In assuring themselves of a winning season, the Buccaneers have also shed a troubling label, according to head coach Raheem Morris.
Wide Right Q&A: Bucs DT Okam reflects on 2010's highs, lows | tbo.com
Anwar S. Richardson - Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Frank Okam experienced several highs and lows in 2010.
White at peace no matter what future holds | tbo.com
Ira Kaufman - Tampa Tribune - As he prepares for what could be his final game in a Buccaneers uniform, Stylez G. White knows he already has made quite a name for himself.
Final Word: NFC South - NFC South Blog | ESPN.com
Pat Y. - Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 17.
Hitting the NFC South hot spots - NFC South Blog | ESPN.com
Pat Y's mailbag.
Peter Finney's annual New Year's sports predictions column | NOLA.com
Crystal ball says Les Miles will shill for brain fuel.
New Orleans Saints vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers preview capsule | NOLA.com
Associated Press - Streaks, stats and notes entering Sunday's game.
New Orleans Saints award grant money to community volunteers | NOLA.com
Mike Triplett - LeAnne Cantrell of Mandeville is 2010 winner of Saints Community Quarterback Award.
Joe Vitt: Saints respect Falcons - NFC South Blog | ESPN.com
Pat Y. New Orleans Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt just called me with something he wanted to get off his chest.
2010 Saints Season Review - WWL | AM870 | FM105.3
Dave Cohen and Kristian Garic
Ohio State's Cameron Heyward plays key role for Buckeyes | NOLA.com
Ted Lewis - Son of Ironhead Heyward has attitude that goes against the grain.
by Dave Lawrence (neworleanssaints.com) posted on neworleans.com
New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Post-Practice Press Conference - Friday, December 31, 2010
"We'll hit the final injury report here: Robert Meachem (toe) was full, probable; Remi Ayodele (ankle) full, probable; Alex Brown (shoulder) full, probable; Chris Ivory (hamstring) full, probable; Jimmy Wilkerson (foot) full, probable; Reggie Bush (chest) full, probable; David Thomas (knee) did not practice; he's questionable; Jeremy Shockey (groin) did not practice, he's questionable; Anthony Hargrove (knee) did not practice, he's questionable; Anthony Waters (ankle) did not practice, he's questionable; Marques Colston (knee) did not practice, he's questionable; lastly Pierre Thomas (ankle) was limited and he's questionable. Today was like a Thursday with a nickel emphasis. We have one more tomorrow, which will be a little bit longer than a normal Saturday."
Did Pierre Thomas re-injure himself yesterday?
"No. We just listed him just as it is. Just less reps because of the ankle; limited."
So there was no physical setback?
"No. And nothing more about injuries. What I'm going to do anymore is just read the status and not discuss injuries."
"That was significant. If you go back to the Steelers game, we had a similar stand in regards to coming away from a sequence of plays with no points. Considering the ball was on the one, that's a game-changing type of series of plays. Those guys did a great job. Just going through the telestrator on the TV show that I do and watching it over and over again, it's all about get off and pad level and we had good penetration. On the second play when the ball came out, that was huge in a game like that."
You've talked about guys knowing their role is important. Would you say that Charleston and Mitchell are two guys in particular who know what their role is?
"I would say that's accurate. They know who they are. Both of them play a substantial amount of snaps; although they don't start, when you look each week at how many snaps they're on the field for, it's quite a bit."
Has Marvin Mitchell's role in particular increased this year?
"As we've gotten into some of our defensive packages that have included him, some of the (three-man line) stuff and some of the odd fronts, he's played more and done a good job with that."
As the calendar turns to 2011, do you have reflections on the past year?
"The season has gone by quick. I would say from experience that typically when you have success, it goes by quickly. When you're not playing as well, it seems like it can go on for a long time. I would just say that the time has flown. Here we are with one week remaining in the regular season and it has just gone by fast. It's good to be playing for something at this point in the season. Our goal is to finish this thing the right way and get better this weekend with this next opponent. We'll have a challenge with Tampa; a year ago we got a real good game from them and they ended up beating us. I'm sure that they'll be ready to play as well."
Does the fact that you may not have a bye leading into the playoffs change what you do leading into the start of next week? Are you starting to look ahead at all?
"We really haven't begun to look to next week. A lot of that has to do with the fact that we're on a short week ourselves after getting in here when we did on Tuesday and pushing practice back. You get consumed with the challenge in front of you so that doesn't allow you to look at New Year's or allow you to look at playoff scenarios. Certainly we pay attention and understand the different scenarios, but because of the time constraints and because of the short schedule - and for that matter even if it was a regular schedule, there is so much to be done in preparation for this game that we haven't gotten to that. We will at some point, we just haven't yet."
Does it help that your two potential opponents next week are teams that you've seen recently in Seattle and St. Louis?
"If that scenario unfolded, I think it's a positive for both teams having played each other and getting a little bit more experience with each other."
If you do play on Saturday next week, would you just accelerate your schedule or might you shorten it up as you did this week?
"That's a good question. We'd have to look at it and look at the time slots and then make our plans. Once you get to this point, the key is making sure that we're not on the field too long. I think the scheduling and the practice time and all that is important and something that we take seriously and look at closely. That would be the case if that were the scenario."
Do you marvel at how fast Jimmy Graham has developed?
"He has progressed quickly and I think to some degree we talk all the time about touches. We have a number of guys each week going into a game, looking forward to opportunities. Lance Moore's stepped up and had a very good season. Jimmy Graham and his learning curve have happened very quick. He's done a very good job. You kind of earn that confidence. It was a play that we had run earlier in the game. We had just kind of tinkered with the route we were running with Jimmy based on the field position and down and distance. If you recall, we called a timeout just to think through what we wanted there and discussed two plays during that timeout and ended up going with that specific play. We just happened to get man coverage, which put him on a safety instead of a corner and he did a good job with the route. Drew (Brees) did a very good job with the location of the throw and the execution was good. For a young player that was exciting. As a coach, it's exciting to see his development."
When a guy gains the confidence of the offensive unit so quickly, how much of it is coaches and how much of it is Drew coming to you and saying I'd like to throw to that guy in the end zone?
"It's a combination as we all watch practice. You see his skill set and you see him continue to make plays. I think when you're a young player, you gain confidence through production and not only on the practice field but in game settings. I think that's the case with Jimmy."
I know you hate to give away a competitive advantage; we're not trying to help the bookies. We're trying to inform the fans?
"It was a Saints fan that blogged (Marques) Colston coming out of surgery. I was waiting for you to have the nerve to ask me according to a blog and you just hypothetically asked me if Colston had a surgery. I understand that and yet, really the report is what we give and you're right. I do hate to have any type of competitive edge that would work against us. I think injuries clearly in my experience can potentially do that. We'll list them. Just to discuss them, there's no benefit for us in regards to each week's game and really from our perspective, this is what the league requires. That's really it. The league doesn't require us to discuss the injuries from day to day, nor surgeries for that matter."
If Pierre Thomas can't go, what are your thoughts regarding kick return duties?
"We would again look at a number of guys if that was the scenario. We would look at guys that have had experience there. We've worked Robert (Meachem). We've worked Devery (Henderson). We've worked Adrian (Arrington). Adrian's a guy now that he's up that's taken snaps there. That could happen if we want to back off some snaps for him."
Is it a surprise Arrington hasn't been snatched up by another team?
"He's had opportunities and to his credit, at one point in the season, I won't get into teams, but he elected to stay and had an opportunity with another team on an active roster, which is pretty impressive."
Can he expect to actually play?
"Yes, we'll see. We'll see where he's at. If he's active and on the game day active list, you hope he's playing a role. You talk about that all the time because that number when you look at 46, that's a small number and there has to be something that they're doing. If it's up he'll have a role."
Has Robert Meachem improved as a threat on intermediate routes?
"I would say so. I think that he's improved his transition and his ability to sink his hips. He had a big intermediate route on a deep in or dagger, what we'd call, a third down conversion. When you have that fastball or speed, you can sometimes get that cushion of the intermediate routes to be more open. It's more challenging for a player that doesn't have the top end speed to separate underneath. Robert, has improved with his route tree. That's helped him."
How does that help in addition to the route running skills of Marques Colston and Lance Moore?
"Each week when we gameplan and sit in the meetings at night, a lot of thought is given to personnel. Who are we asking to do what? Who are we asking to do that against. So, there's times where you spend a half hour on one route, wanting to make sure that you get the matchup you want and you're asking the people on your side of the ball to do what you think they do well. A lot of attention's given to that. As a player, he adds things he does well to his list. That's a good thing."
How many of Robert's routes were a matter of reading the situation and improvisation as opposed to being called?
"There were two that were more improvisation or a broken play. One of the third down completions wasn't a broken down play, it was a deep dagger route. He's also a big receiver. That target area is good for the quarterback."
V-Roll Roll Call
Saints Vlog: December 31 - New injury before New Year | neworleans.com
Brian Allee-Walsh gives the final update of 2010 from Saints' headquarters.
Video Gallery: Saints-Bucs Preview | neworleanssaints.com
NFL Network - Playbook
Bucs Video Gallery: Raheem Morris' Press Conference 12/31/10 | buccaneers.com
Page includes other Bucs videos.