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Wabash Valley connections add spice to Colts opener against Saints

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Wabash Valley connections add spice to Colts opener against Saints By Tom James Tribune-Star Correspondent INDIANAPOLIS — Tonight’s 2007 NFL season-opener between the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts will have a definite Wabash Valley flavor to it. Yes, the ...

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Old 09-06-2007, 10:34 AM   #1
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Wabash Valley connections add spice to Colts opener against Saints

Wabash Valley connections add spice to Colts opener against Saints
By Tom James
Tribune-Star Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS — Tonight’s 2007 NFL season-opener between the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts will have a definite Wabash Valley flavor to it.

Yes, the game will match up one of the NFC’s best teams against the defending Super Bowl champions. And it could very well be an early preview of February’s Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Arizona.

But for football fans in Terre Haute, Charleston, Ill., and the surrounding area, this evening’s nationally televised contest means that former Eastern Illinois quarterback Sean Payton and ex-Terre Haute North punter Steve Weatherford are coming back home to play in front of friends and family.

Payton, who began his college coaching career at Indiana State as the quarterbacks coach for former Sycamores head coach Dennis Raetz, knows that he’ll be seeing more than a few familiar faces among the sellout crowd at the RCA Dome.

“I’ve gotten a lot of ticket requests. My wife’s family is all from Indiana. My in-laws are in the northern part of the state. My brother and sister-in-law are down by Greenwood. Obviously, for me, my first job was at Indiana State and Terre Haute. So I’ve got a friends and family and a lot of people that I’ve worked with through the years that live in that region,” the second-year Saints coach said earlier this week.

“It’s a place where I’m at every summer. And so, by nature, where I’m from is the Midwest up in Chicago-land [Naperville, Ill.] and I went to school in central Illinois, so it seems like that area for me there’s a lot more people that I’ve either worked with or gotten to know over the years.”

Weatherford, meanwhile, will be New Orleans’ starting for the second straight season. A standout at the University of Illinois before signing a free agent contract with the Saints last year, the Terre Haute native averaged 43.8 yards per kick as a rookie in 2006. He beat out former Jacksonville punter Chris Hanson for the job last week.

“He’s done well. He was in a pretty good battle. He won the position. He’s returning from last year. He’s someone that I think can improve. He’s a real good athlete. We’re looking to see him make some strides in his second year. We’re excited to have him back,” Payton said. “I know he’s a Terre Haute native and played at Illinois. He’s doing a good job.”

• Player notes — Tight end Bryan Fletcher did not play in three of the Colts’ preseason games due to a sprained ankle. He has practiced in the week leading up to the Saints’ game and is expected to be available to play tonight. … Strong safety Bob Sanders is healthy and will start. Sanders, who had surgery on his shoulder during the offseason, returned to practice prior to the Detroit Lions preseason game and played in that game. He was held out of the final preseason game against Cincinnati. … Defensive end Dwight Freeney has practiced all week and will start against the Saints. Freeney has been bothered by a bruised quadriceps for the last two weeks. … Defensive end Josh Thomas has been bothered by a sore ankle for the last couple of weeks. Thomas has practiced this week and will play against New Orleans. … Strong safety Matt Giordano appears to have recovered fully from foot injury that he incurred in the preseason game with the Lions. He did not play against Cincinnati last week in the preseason finale, but has practiced the entire week.

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