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BillyCarpenter1 07-26-2003 11:18 PM

Ambrose seeks Super Bowl with Saints

Ambrose seeks Super Bowl with Saints

Mary Foster / Associated Press Writer

Cornerback Ashley Ambrose grew up in New Orleans cheering for the Saints.

For years the Saints were the only team he cared about. Now that he's back in his hometown, that's true once more. The difference is, Ambrose is now in a position to help the team do what New Orleans fans once doubted could ever be done.

"It's like a dream, like a movie," Ambrose said. "If I can help this team go to the Super Bowl it will be a story right out of Hollywood."

Ambrose knows there are plenty of doubters that his career can extend that long. That doesn't shake his faith.

When the Atlanta Falcons released him this spring, Ambrose had a lot of teams interested in signing him. But he wanted to return to the Saints because they were not the same team he played for in 1999.

"I've had to face this team twice a year and we had our work cut out for us," Ambrose said. "We had no idea how we were going to control this team's offense. They had that much power."

Ambrose played for the Saints back in 1999 and led the team with six interceptions. But when Haslett took over the following year, the decision was not to keep Ambrose and have to pay him more than $5 million in salary and bonuses.

Ambrose signed a $22.5 million contract with the Falcons, then ran into the salary trap again. Atlanta considered expendable largely because he was scheduled to make a base salary of $4.75 million this year.

That cleared the way for Ambrose to return to New Orleans and the team certainly wanted him to.

"We were excited and happy to have a chance to get him," said cornerback coach Greg Brown. "We knew a back like Ashley could pretty much pick and choose where he wanted to play. I'm sure glad he wanted to play here."

Ambrose, who's entering his 12th year in the league, signed a four-year $8 million deal with the Saints. That throws him into competition with Dale Carter and Fred Thomas for a starting spot.

"It's a good situation with that kind of talent to use," Brown said. "Ashley is right in there. He hasn't lost a thing and he's got all that veteran savvy."

Carter acknowledges the talent level will make it tough to sort out the starting jobs, but said that's all right.

"We don't think of it as competition," Carter said. "We just go in to give each other a breather."

The Saints wanted to improve the speed on defense this year.

"We had to," Brown said. "We face all those big time quarterbacks and you have to be fast for that."

Ambrose fits the bill. His speed has not dropped any, Brown said.

Improving the defense is the step the Saints had to take, Ambrose said. The Saints offense set a team scoring record last season (432 points) and led the NFC. Ten of their 43 offensive touchdowns covered 28 or more yards.

"That's one thing I'm really excited about," Ambrose said. "This is the best offense I've been involved with since I've been playing in the National Football League."

It's what gives Ambrose confidence that the team he rooted for so long is the team that will finally take him to the top.

"I can't say what that would mean," Ambrose said. "To be with my team in my home town and get to the Super Bowl would be the best thing that could ever happen."

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