Last Modified: Saturday, August 04, 2012 8:18 PM
OK, so all the pieces are not in place.
Doesn’t matter. The season has arrived. Ready or not, the fun is set to begin.
The puzzle that is the New Orleans Saints has more than a few missing parts as they get set to open a most interesting season tonight.
Their Hall of Fame game battle with the Arizona Cardinals will be more of a celebration than anything else. It will also be the first time they will be on the same playing arena as the man who many believe made a mess of this season, Commissioner Roger Goodell.
While it is just an exhibition game, and camp itself is only a few days old, there is no time to waste for this crew. The Saints are on the clock when it comes to winning a second championship.
Yes, Drew Brees is back, a lot richer and perhaps a little wiser, but who’s missing is the shadow that’s been cast over this still-promising campaign.
For that, they have Goodell to blame.
There is a linebacker who is fighting to stay around, a head coach who definitely won’t be around and an interim head coach who will only be around some of the time.
Meanwhile, tattooed across the logo of this once feel-good story franchise is the word “bounty.”
For some this season will be about redemption, the making good of the Saints’ name once again.
For others it will be about revenge. They are angry at how they have been portrayed and now want to get back at their accusers.
And for still a few others it will be about moving forward.
That’s really what the Saints must do now, move forward. They have a lot to play for and should have a very big chip on their shoulders.
For many of them and their fans, they have been wronged by Goodell, singled out as the only villains in the violent world of pro football, and made as scapegoats for a league searching to stop the increasing number of lawsuits being filed by former players.
Whether that is true doesn’t matter. Perception has become their reality.
In a way Goodell gave the Saints and their fans the perfect foe and a battle cry all in one. It is them against the world now, but that is a story line that will take them only so far.
While still complaining about the league, it is now time to turn all attention toward the new season, one with still a high-powered offense and what the fans hope is an improved defense.
We all get our first real look at that tonight.
With Brees at quarterback anything is possible. The Saints have ridden his right arm out of the darkness and into the spotlight of the league, winning one championship along the way. This team has the potential to make a giant run at another.
While they should not be considered the favorite, the Saints are in position to play in the Super Bowl, which will be held just off Bourbon Street in February.
That is, if the defense comes along for the ride.
The team’s window of opportunity is closing fast, but it is still open. Now the defense must do something novel in these parts — tackle.
Forget hurting or putting people out of games, how about just putting the guy with the ball down on the ground. Big hits should be replaced by solid tackles.
Let the offense get the headlines, it is the Saints defense that will decide the club’s fate.
Of course, it is Brees who got all the money.
The Saints defense may look different at the start, with linebacker Jonathan Vilma paying the heaviest price in Bountygate with a season-long suspension, but truth is the club could be fine without him.
Jim Gazzolo is American Press managing sports editor. Email him at email@example.com