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Friday, Sep 19, 2014
Pro Football

Saints wait anxiously to learn roster moves

Published:   |   Updated: August 29, 2014 at 11:22 PM

METAIRIE, La. (AP) Saints rookie linebacker Ronald Powell said he felt as if he was waiting for a call-back after a job interview.

Powell is one of several first-year players and veterans that will learn by Saturday afternoon if they've earned a spot on the Saints' 53-man regular-season roster.

The roster was at 75 when the Saints played their final preseason game on Thursday night, losing 22-13 to Baltimore.

Coach Sean Payton and his staff have to trim 22 players, and make a number of difficult choices in the process.

For a player such as third-year receiver Nick Toon, all there is to do, for the first time in months, is wait.

There are no more routes to run, defensive backs to block, or passes to catch before final cuts are made.

"At this point, all of us have put our resumes out there," said Toon, a former fourth-round pick who competed for snaps at training camp and in the preseason against Joseph Morgan and veteran Robert Meachem for one of the last receiver spots.

"It's in the mail. You can't get it back."

Beyond deciding which players to let go, there were some starting roles that had to be decided before preparations begin for the Sept. 7 opener at Atlanta.

Veteran Jonathan Goodwin and second-year pro Tim Lelito were the top two candidates to take over as starting center.

Fifth-year pro Patrick Robinson and 12-time Pro Bowl player Champ Bailey, who both struggled with injuries last season, were competing for the starting cornerback job.

The Saints must also decide between kickers Shayne Graham (4 for 4 field goals, long of 39; 4 of 5 PAT) and Derek Dimke (4 for 4 field goals, long of 49; 5 of 5 PAT) and a host of backups that also contribute on special teams. Among those are undrafted free agent safety Pierre Warren. His preseason highlights on defense include an interception against Baltimore.

"I feel like I've done a lot, made a few plays," Warren said. "But I've still got more work to do."

Earlier this month, the NFL announced practice squads will increase from eight to 10.

"I'm sure it's difficult; it's just wanting to know," Payton said. "There's a lot invested by every one of those guys. A lot of work. A lot has gone into putting themselves in position to make a team and stick."

On other NFL teams, Powell might be more confident. He was a fifth-round selection in the draft. Yet the Saints have created a culture which grades players on their efforts, not past accolades or where they were drafted.

In 2007, undrafted rookie running back Pierre Thomas made the roster ahead of fourth-round draft pick Antonio Pittman of Ohio State.

"Especially here, we're all the same," Powell said. "I feel like we're all on the same scale."

Last season, six rookie free agents made the roster out of the preseason. Later in the season, a seventh quarterback Ryan Griffin moved from the practice squad to the 53-man roster.

"Everybody is definitely anxious, especially if you're a first, second-year guy, guys on the bubble," said Griffin, who spent preseason competing with veteran Luke McCown to be star QB Drew Brees' backup. "I was in that position last year, but I don't think you ever get used to it. It's a weird feeling."

Enough to make players and interested observers alike search for clues.

For example, starters typically sit out the final Saints preseason game. Goodwin watched that game from the sideline. Also, Goodwin recently changed his jersey number from 51 to 59.

Is that a clue?

"I hope so," he said, smiling.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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