<span>For the Saints it was business as usual this afternoon as they prepared for game four of the preseason.
Although the squad is working on an slightly abbreviated and shortened practice schedule this week as the team prepares for it's fourth-and-final preseason game on Thursday night against the visiting Miami Dolphins, the Saints wrapped up their second heavy practice in as many days this afternoon.
Tomorrow the team will conduct a normal day before the game walkthrough as the team finalizes its preparations for the Dolphins.
Saints Head Coach Sean Payton said today that he doesn't believe he will play starting QB Drew Brees and a few other selected players in the game on Thursday evening, but stated that some veteran players, such as RB Deuce McAllister and CB Mike McKenzie, could receive some playing time at the beginning of the game in an effort to knock a little bit of rust off.
Payton indicated that veteran QB Mark Brunell would start the game for the Saints before giving way to first-year man Tyler Palko at some point.
"I just want to get in there and treat it like a normal game," said Brunell. "I want to continue with the rhythm we have worked to establish and run the offense and make sure that there is not drop off and to execute the plays that are called."
Payton also said that he hopes to see from Palko continue maturation as an overall leader of the offense. "(I would like to see) some consistency and the elimination of some of the minus plays. I'd like to see him put a few good series together. He's going to play a lot; I've said that he's going to play about two-thirds of the game. We're going to start Mark Brunell and then Palko at some point in the second quarter. He'll have a lot of reps."
For his part, McAllister said he is looking for the opportunity to continue on his comeback trail from knee surgery and that he covets the chance to play in a game. "Everything happens a bit quicker out there and the live hitting gets you back in the flow of what we can expect when the season gets started," the Ole Miss product said. "It's a chance to get re-acclimated with game conditions, this will be my third preseason game in a row now and each week gives me another opportunity to get ready for the regular season."
With the deadline for rosters to be trimmed to 53 players by Saturday at 3:00 p.m., Payton said that this is one of the most difficult times that a head coach faces.
"I've said before that one of the more difficult things in the job is releasing players; not just in the final cut, but the five guys I had to release yesterday and before that up at Millsaps with the players that we released throughout camp," Payton said. "A lot of these guys have gone through your offseason program, your spring and your conditioning. You have a lot invested and it's hard being the one to tell them that it ends here right now. It's always a difficult time of the year. I've been in their shoes before; I've been released a number of times and it doesn't get any easier."
Notes: Payton answered a few questions from the local media assembled after practice about the possibility of the team's preparations with Hurricane Gustav in the Caribbean. When asked if the team had a hurricane plan in place, Payton stated, "Yes (we do have a hurricane plan), but I don't want to elaborate on it. Certainly from the experience before – and I'm talking about (Executive Vice President/General Manager) Mickey Loomis, (Chief Financial Officer) Dennis Lauscha, the Bensons and ownership – we've all had time to put together a clear plan as to how it affects the organization, the team, and the families of the team. One of the things that we've tried to emphasize in the last couple offseasons is not just the New Orleans Saints, but also the people in our community, in general, of making sure that they have a plan."
"We'll monitor where this (storm is and how it develops) and take any needed steps as we go forward with our plan. I don't want to go into detail as to what we do, because what we do is really predicated on when it's supposed to arrive. The good news with a hurricane is that there is advance warning. We'll have a plan; it's currently in place. Having gone through this once before, we'll be thoroughly prepared."
Payton stated that the he wouldn't allow the potential ramifications from the storm to serve as a distraction as the team prepares for the home opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, September 7.
"When it's all said and done, we will be focused and ready to play the Buccaneers. We're planning on that game being at the Superdome but the powers that be will have a clear plan in place if that should change any or if our preparation should have to be somewhere else," Payton said. "It won't be a distraction; we won't allow it to be."
"I think the bigger issue is not the Saints. The bigger issue is those people that it's much more difficult to evacuate or much more difficult for them to prepare. Those are the people that we talked about in the offseason with the public service announcements. Those are the people that we care and are concerned about.
"We'll have a plan in place in regards to how we would practice and how we would play. Right now, we certainly take that threat seriously, but it's still out there a little bit."