Behind the scenes Saints
Mike Finger: Behind the Saints' scenes
Web Posted: 01/05/2006 12:00 AM CST
San Antonio Express-News
It was still well before sunrise Sept. 2 when the New Orleans Saints first stumbled into their downtown San Antonio hotel. They had just flown in from Oakland, Calif., where they had played an exhibition game a few hours earlier, and they were all eager to find their rooms and hit their beds.
At the same time, a small, bleary-eyed throng of media was waiting in the lobby, hoping to get a couple of comments from the city's newest guests. When a Saints staff member ran interference, insisting that players weren't going to talk, a TV reporter became enraged and loudly voiced his frustration.
Such confrontations over player access aren't unusual in professional sports. But the staffer's measured response ÃƒÂƒÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â€ÂšÃ‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? which essentially ended the argument for good ÃƒÂƒÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â€ÂšÃ‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? was.
"Dude," he told the reporter, "we don't have homes."
Right then, it was clear this wasn't going to be a typical NFL season.
Over the next four months, the Saints' bizarre stay in San Antonio ÃƒÂƒÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â€ÂšÃ‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? which featured walk-throughs in parking lots and Alamodome concourses, makeshift locker rooms, near-constant scheduling issues and an infamous circus-tent weight room ÃƒÂƒÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â€ÂšÃ‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? was well-chronicled.
There were, however, a few noteworthy behind-the-scenes happenings that didn't get much attention. So with the franchise packing up and heading back to New Orleans, here's a look at some of the award-worthy accomplishments that many people missed during San Antonio's brief run as an NFL city.
Best impersonation of a parking-lot attendant: Alfred Fincher
Fincher, the Saints' rookie linebacker, had the misfortune to be stuck with the stall adjacent to a bank of electrical outlets in the team's Alamodome locker room.
That meant that every day, he had to climb over an army of scooters ÃƒÂƒÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â€ÂšÃ‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? from Aaron Brooks' high-dollar Segway to the cheaper models purchased by tight end Ernie Conwell ÃƒÂƒÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â€ÂšÃ‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? charging their batteries.
Just about everyone at the Alamodome got a kick out of watching 300-pound linemen zip up and down the expansive hallways on their motorized toys. Everyone, that is, except for Fincher, who vowed every week to start charging his teammates for parking at his locker.
And every week, the answer was the same ÃƒÂƒÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â€ÂšÃ‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? "I'd like to see you try, rookie."
Best indications that your quarterback's heart isn't in it: Brooks
Saints fans had complained for years that Brooks wasn't enough of a leader. For those who just started watching the team this year, it didn't take long to understand why.
Walking back to the locker room in Minnesota after playing horribly in a loss to the Vikings, Brooks smiled at a group of reporters and asked, "Did you enjoy the game?" After throwing the third of four interceptions in a loss to Tampa Bay in Baton Rouge, Brooks was seen squirting water at teammate Lamont Hall on the sideline. And in a meeting with players-union chief Gene Upshaw late in the season, Brooks was allegedly disruptive and belligerent.
When he was benched for the last three games of the season, diehard Saints fans had to ask ÃƒÂƒÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â€ÂšÃ‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? what took so long?
Best use of a Chris Rock quote: Tony Bryant
Bryant, the Saints' reserve defensive end, grabbed some unwanted notoriety in Week 6, when he was flagged for defensive holding on the play that gave Atlanta a second chance to kick the game-winning field goal.
When he emerged from the shower after the game and saw tape recorders and cameras waiting at his locker, he muttered the "bad-gets-worse" phrase Rock made famous in the movie "Boomerang."
"First the Fat Boys break up," Bryant said, "and now this."
Best post-practice snack: Donte' Stallworth
Late in October, the Saints were still using the locker rooms in the Alamodome, but bussing elsewhere for practice because the facility was housing the Builders Showcase Expo.
After returning from one Friday workout, Stallworth, safety Dwight Smith and defensive end Will Smith were curious about the Expo, so they snuck through a curtain ÃƒÂƒÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â€ÂšÃ‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? still in full practice gear ÃƒÂƒÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â€ÂšÃ‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? and wandered through the show, looking at the model homes and checking out the hot tubs.
When they walked past a concession stand, one of the people attending the Expo insisted that Stallworth take his nachos. Stallworth obliged, and took the cheesy snack with him into the locker room before being chastised by fullback Mike Karney for "not eating like a champion."
Best locker-room conversation-starter: The Vikings' pleasure cruise
Maybe it was because the Saints were happy to see that another NFL team was dealing with its own off-the-field chaos. Or maybe they were just as eager as everyone else to hear all the salacious details. Whatever the reason, there was no better way to get New Orleans players talking than to bring up the Minnesota sex-boat scandal.
One day, several Saints were speculating about which of their teammates would have been involved if the cruise had taken place on the River Walk. At that moment, 62-year-old defensive line coach John Pease came strolling by.
"I know you would have been on that boat, Coach Pease," Dwight Smith said.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Pease said, "but I've got nothing to do with it."
Worst fashion idea: Charles Grant
After a loss in St. Louis that left the Saints 2-5, defensive end Charles Grant was determined to let everyone know he didn't think the season was lost.
So sitting at his locker at the Edward Jones Dome, he responded to every question the same way.
When he was asked about the team's mindset?
"Eleven-and-five," Grant said, presumably referring to what he hoped would be the Saints' final record. "Print up the T-shirts."
When he was asked about the play of the defense? Or a key play late in the game?
"Eleven-and-five," Grant repeated. "Print up the T-shirts."
Fortunately, no one did.
And finally, the worst effort to become a hotel's TV spokesperson: Wayne Gandy
Because hotel space was limited in Baton Rouge after Hurricane Katrina, the Saints had a difficult time finding enough rooms for the entire team for their four games at LSU. One of the hotels they used was the Holiday Inn Select, which Gandy repeatedly referred to as the "Holiday Inn Express."
Although he is arguably the most thoughtful, well-grounded player on the team, Gandy is particular about his beds, and he wasn't too pleased with the accommodations in Baton Rouge. So when someone jokingly asked him about the "I-stayed-at-a-Holiday-Inn-Express-last-night" commercials, Gandy just shook his head and grimaced.
"I don't know how you can feel so smart," Gandy said, "when you're back's hurting all day."
RE: Behind the scenes Saints
It's great to see Aaron Brooks getting accolates and national recognition :)
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