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saint5221 08-27-2003 06:55 AM

Saints explore RB options

Saints still seeking RB

Haslett says Elpheage was very difficult cut

Wednesday August 27, 2003

By Jeff Duncan
Staff writer

Even though Ki-Jana Carter appears to have won a roster spot, the Saints still are in the market for a running back.

Team officials said Tuesday the club is actively exploring its options in the free agent market and remains involved in trade talks with a couple of teams. Most likely, the Saints will wait to see which veterans become available after final roster cuts this weekend, Saints director of player personnel Rick Mueller said.

"A trade is a possibility," he said. "There's a lot of guys that are going to be out there (after cuts), too. We'll look at both options."

The options are limited at a position for which the demand exceeds the supply.

Several teams, including Dallas and Indianapolis, also are in the market for a running back.

One possibility, however, is Green Bay veteran Lamar Smith, who played for the Saints in 1998 and 1999. He has missed most of camp with a left knee injury and is expected to be released this weekend. He is expected to play in the Packers' exhibition game against Tennessee on Thursday.

The Saints also have expressed interest in Buffalo reserve Sammy Morris, but the former Texas Tech standout is expected to stick on the Bills' roster as the third-down back.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the Saints have continued to express interest in Redskins backups Ladell Betts and Kenny Watson. Both are expected to make the 53-man roster.

"We are always looking for a good one that comes available," Saints coach Jim Haslett said. "That is hard at this date."

TOUGH CUT: Former Tulane and Carver High standout Lynaris Elpheage was one of the team's most difficult cuts, Haslett said. Elpheage, a rookie free agent, couldn't beat out the five cornerbacks with NFL experience.

"Elpheage is a good football player," Haslett said. "It is just one of those things where we have a lot of corners. He is not the biggest guy in the world. He is not the fastest guy in the world. He is a good punt returner, but we already have a pretty good punt returner and kickoff returner. It is one of those deals where it is by the numbers. He really did a good job in camp. He is a good football player."

MEET THE SAINTS: The Meet the Saints luncheon will be held today at noon at the Sheraton New Orleans, 500 Canal St. Tickets for the lunch, sponsored by The Touchdown Club of New Orleans, are $35 per person or a table of nine for $315, with a Saints player seated at every table.

TWO RELEASED: The Saints reached injury settlements with linebackers J.J. Jones and Curtis Holden to reach the maximum roster limit of 72. Jones and Holden had been sidelined with knee injuries for the final two weeks of camp. Holden suffered a season-ending knee injury last preseason and spent the 2002 season on the injured reserve list. Jones played in 13 games in 2002, mainly on special teams.

ETC: Five players did not practice Tuesday and are not expected to play Thursday against Miami. Sidelined were defensive ends Charles Grant (calf) and Darren Howard (knee), Roger Knight (buttocks), Ernie Conwell (hip) and Derrick Rodgers (knee). . . . Three players have changed their jersey numbers in the wake of Monday's cuts. Rodgers will wear No. 59, Henry Ford will wear No. 92 and Carter will wear No. 32. . . . Tight end Walter Rasby (calf), quarterback Chris Finlen (left shoulder) and wide receiver Talman Gardner (cramps) left practice temporarily with minor injuries. . . . Safety Steve Gleason (shoulder) and wide receiver Donté Stallworth (hamstring) returned to practice.

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Jeff Duncan can be reached at or (504) 826-3405.

[Edited on 8/27/2003 by saint5221]

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