Wednesday, 18 May 2011 14:29

New Orleans Saints: Payton Plans For Pack; Knight, Bruce Miller Inducted

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"The longer the lockout goes on, the more difficult it becomes for our coaches to develop a plan and prepare for the season, but again, we'll deal with the circumstances as they're dealt," said Saints general manager Mickey Loomis on Tuesday. "Hopefully this situation will get resolved and we'll be able to plan and get together soon and we'll be able to play the regular season."

Saints coach Sean Payton is working on the game plan for the opening game against the Packers. He is encouraged that the Saints players have taken on it on themselves to organize their own workouts, even if he can't attend.

"I like to hear  them doing that," said the coach. "I can't see them doing that (laugh). We've got a veteran locker room and we've got great leadership. Hopefully, sooner or later, we'll have a chance to join them with everyone."

Payton said that he'll likely have to change the staff's normal vacation plans because of the lockout. He said he's likely move them to early June in case the season abruptly begins.

Payton also attended the Molly Ringwalds concert and talked about the Saints draft backstage. The Molly Ringwalds are the No. 1 '80s tribute band in the Southeast.

Former Saints safety Sammy Knight has been elected to the Saints Hall of Fame while former pressboxer Bruce Miller has been chosen to receive the Joe Gemmelli Fleur De Lis Award. Both will be inducted at a ceremony this fall.

Knight, who played six seasons with the Saints from 1997-2002, was part of the first Saints team in history to win a playoff game in the 2000 season under Jim Haslett.

Signed as a free agent put of USC in 1997, Knight led the Saints in interceptions in five of  his six seasons in New Orleans and he remains the all-time leader in interception returns for touchdowns in franchise history with four.

Miller, who worked in sports media for 50 years, came to New Orleans in 1957 and never left other than serving three months in Lake Charles in 1974, worked at WDSU TV (1961-1973), WDSU Radio (1957-1961), WGSO Radio (l974-1980) and WWL Radio (1980-2000).

Although he covered the Saints for more than two decades, he was best known as the radio voice of the Tulane football team.

Sammy Knight came to the Saints as an undrafted free agent after playing linebacker at USC, He transitioned to safety as a rookie in 1997 and made an immediate impact for the Saints by leading  all NFL rookies with five interceptions.

After leaving the Saints, Knight played six more years with Miami, Kansas City, Jacksonville and the New York Giants and wrapped up his career with 42 picks total. Now he has moved on to starting his coaching career as a graduate assistant at USC.

"I'm really proud to have chosen to join the Saints  Hall of Fame," said Knight. "This is really an exciting time in mine and my wife's families and we're happy to be able to share it with the fans."

He's joining former teammates such as Joe Horn, Wayne Martin, Willie Roaf and Joe Johnson in the Hall of Fame.

After a  news conference and luncheon for his election, Knight sat down for a Q&A  session.

Q: How proud are you of your 12-year playing career, given how you had to start as an undrafted free agent in 1997 and that you had a longer and more productive career than most players picked that year in the first round of the draft, never mind over-all.

A: I felt very good about my career, I was very fortunate first of all for God keeping me healthy throughout most of my career. That was the first thing as a lot of people had serious injuries. After that, I was fortunate to be put in the right situations where I was able to showcase my skills.

Q: Even though you later played for other teams, what do you think of the most recent developments with the Saints and their recent success?

A: My hat is off to Sean Payton and what he's done here. I remember coming here in 2007 as a member of Jacksonville and Drew Brees was outstanding, Between Coach Payton, Drew Brees and the defense, they have done a great job.

Q: After finishing your playing career, what did you do for a couple of years?

A: Everybody told me I'd be a pretty good coach. I wanted to stay in touch with the game somehow. When I was in broadcasting, I'd see a lot of football, but it was frustrating because there were a lot of things going on that you though would change. All you could do was comment on it though. I  realize the work coaches pu tin as well as the thought process."

Q: Can you go back to you rookie year, your expectations as an undrafted free agent and what do you credit towards inching into the starting  lineup and enjoying a long  and productive career?

A: My mindset after not being drafted was that everybody was going to pay. I told myself I had to go out and play and show everyone what I could do. Right after I wasn't drafted everybody called up and said you'd have a shot to make their team. I just looked at all the teams and I felt New Orleans was a team where I could play. They didn't have a lot of great safeties here, so I felt I could go showcase my skills. I talked to coach Mike Ditka and he said he's give me a fair shot to make the team.

Q: What set your time in New Orleans apart form other stops?

A: The number  one thing was the fans. This city is very warm, very cultured, a loving city. It embraces you no matter where you're from or  how much money you make. The embrace you as a person. Our team took on the same mindset of the city and the organization did, too. After practice, you would have conversations with people, whether it's laughing with  Chief (Dan Simmons) or Silky (Glennon Powell). You don't do that everywhere. This is a special place. (Simmons is head equipment manager and Powell is an assistant equipment manager).

Q: What was your most special moment as a Saint?

A: There were a lot of them. The playoff game was really a big moment. My first start, because it was unexpected. I was a strong safety for the first four games and right before the game on game day, they told me I'd be starting at free safety. I t was a shocker. Back then the safety positions weren't as interchangeable as today. I felt  like I had to go play. It doesn't matter if it's free safety or strong safety.  It's football.

Q: Are there some former teammates that you talk to a lot from the old squads?

A: I talk to guys all the time. There are guys I talk to  from those teams more so than others. I talk to Kevin Mathis, Fred Thomas, Jay Bellamy, Alex Molden, Keith Mitchell, La'Roi Glover. We're constantly in contact. We talk five, six, seven times a year if not once a month. Those are the  guys that are good friends.

Q: Was there a particular pick, or big play that you remember for more significance"

A: There are a couple. I remember a pick I had in Arizona for a touchdown return against Jake Plummer. I remember the last time I had played in that stadium (with USC), they (Arizona State) had beaten us in double overtime.I remember one in 1998 against the Vikings because Chris Carter, he and I were both slow and I was chasing him. He said he never thought he had seen a guy slower. I also remember the playoff pick against Kurt Warner.

Q: What has coaching been like so far and not looking far ahead, do you think this will be your career moving forward?

A: It's been great. It's not easy. It's tough work. You're away from your family.That's the tough part. The rewarding part is seeing these kids play. Through them you see yourself 15 or 20 years ago. You're just trying to put them in some of situations that you've been though, help them learn, while also helping them learn from some of the things you've done.

by Ed Staton

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Ed Staton

Ed Staton is a former sports writer for the Times Picayune and New Orleans States Item.  He also served as the New Orleans Saints Information Director.  He has won 43 media awards in writing, design and photography. | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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