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Saints 2017 Year in Review: If the ride is over, Zach Strief spent final year as the ideal instructor

Zach Strief was only able to make an impact on the field for two games in 2017, but off the field he remained a force and leader in the locker room.

For the second time in a three-year span, Zach Strief would find himself preparing to train his eventual replacement, with 2017’s version being Ryan Ramczyk. He reached out to the Saints 32nd pick in the draft and invited him and a few other offensive lineman to come and train with him.

”I think them coming once is great,” Strief said. “It’ll be a better sign if they come next year because it is not for the faint of heart, but it’s kind of what’s necessary.

This and other acts of leadership had become common place for Strief as one of the players who was consistently voted as a captain among his peers. It also aided him in getting his body and mind ready to play for what would be his 12th season in the NFL. The grind is real, as he would allude to following a terrific 2016 season.

“I think physically it’s something that I could do,” he said. “The reality of this job is that there’s as much mental preparation as physical, and I think the question will come down to more, ‘Am I mentally ready to do what’s necessary to play another season?’”

With rumors swirling that the veteran OT is set to retire, it sounds like the mental side of the game is no longer worth stepping into the ring with Hulk Hogan.

Alas, despite only participating in two games on the year, Strief was a mainstay in the locker room helping out in any way he could.

It was his words prior to the Dec 24th matchup with the Falcons that would eventually spur the Saints to victory, as guys roughly a decade younger than he would find inspiration in his speech. Respect is a common word that gets thrown around anytime the wily old veteran is mentioned.

“This is my first year being around Strief, but I think the impact that he has on this team is tremendous,” rookie running back Alvin Kamara said. “You could see it when he was talking last night. I got the utmost respect for him as a player and a person. ... He motivated us last night, and I respect him for that.”

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So, is it true? Could the 12-year veteran be ready to call it quits?

Not sure, for some the thought of not being the starter is one that is hard to grasp. Yet, all it takes is an injury and he’d be asked to be in that position if he returned as the 6th offensive lineman in the rotation. While he effortlessly passed the baton to Ramczyck last year, as a competitor, I wonder if there is a sour taste in his mouth about the way the season ended?

That’s possibly the reason that after the news surfaced he was going to retire he immediately dispelled it saying he was still mulling his options and planning to talk to Sean Payton about his future.

That doesn’t sound like the words of a man quite ready to hand over his keys yet.

It sounds like a man that’s still curious about the vision that the staff may have for him should he return for his 13th season in the NFL. Like a man that has some gas left in the tank if the organization is prepared to take him for one more 16+ game stroll around the league.

“I will come back here until they tell me to stop coming,” Strief said. “That’s how I’ll be here. And that’s the reality of it.”

For the Saints, bringing him back for one more year may be in their best interest. The possibility of losing Senio Kelemete is real, and Andrus Peat just finished his 2nd season on IR, while Terron Armstead has played in only 17 of a possible 32 games the last two seasons.

So for all intents and purposes, the need for him continues to exist as what was considered a deep offensive line last year is on the verge of being shaky only 7-8 months later.

However, if it is time to part ways you will surely be remembered Mr. Strief as one of the key pieces brought in during a historic 2006 draft class that helped turn around the fortunes of a much maligned franchise.

Fans no longer wear brown paper bags, and Zach Strief had a big hand in that!