Saints place DE Grant on IR

This is a blow to the Saints’ defense. Charles Grant’s season is over, per

New Orleans Saints starting left defensive end Charles Grant has had surgery to repair a torn triceps injury and has been placed on injured reserve, the Saints announced Tuesday.

It appears the injury occurred in the second quarter of Sunday’s 23-10 season-finale loss to the Carolina Panthers.

Grant was one of the few starters that the Saints didn’t rest.

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Saints welcome Sanchez to the NFL

It was bound to happen.

Mark Sanchez couldn’t continue to play like he was Joe Montana week after week without suffering a setback. The Saints proved to be Sancehz’s setback on Sunday by constantly harassing the rookie into three huge mistakes in the New Orleans’ 24-14 victory at the Superdome.

Sanchez’s first mistake came early in the second quarter when Darren Sharper intercepted his pass on the goal line, then returned it 99 yards for a touchdown. Two possessions later while backed up to his own end zone, Sanchez held onto the ball too long on a 2 and 7 from the 5-yard line and was sacked by Will Smith. Remi Ayodele recovered the fumble in the end zone to give the Saints a 17-0 lead early in the second.

Down 14 points with about five minutes remaining, Sanchez made his final mistake on a desperation fourth down play in which he was once again intercepted by Sharper. For as much swagger as Sanchez had played with throughout the year, he looked like a beaten rookie on Sunday.

This loss doesn’t fall squarely on the shoulders of Sanchez, though. New York offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer didn’t do the rookie any favors by failing to offer him max protection when the Saints proved early in the game that they could generate a pass rush with only their four down linemen. On multiple occasions, Charles Grant came off the edge untouched and forced Sanchez to scramble in attempt to make something happen.

It’s great that the Jets have confidence in Sanchez to make plays in the passing game, but Schottenheimer’s play-calling was atrocious and he should re-visit how he plans on protecting his quarterback in future weeks.

For the Saints, this win further proved their elite status in the NFL. Drew Brees and the passing game was held in check throughout the game, but Pierre Thomas and the Saints’ rushing attack racked up 153 yards and often kept the chains moving. Hopefully Sean Payton was paying attention to how hard Thomas ran throughout the game, so he doesn’t continue to leave the talented back on the sidelines in short-yardage situations.

The Saints defense has improved dramatically this season. Sharper has played like a man possessed and veterans like Roman Harper and Jabari Greer have stepped up in the secondary. New Orleans’ front four is as good as anyone in the league, too.

The NFC South is the Saints to lose, if not the conference.

Marvez: Starcaps case a blow to NFL drug policy

Now that Charles Grant, Will Smith, Kevin Williams and Pat Williams all escaped suspensions, Alex Marvez of FOX writes that the Starcaps case is a blow to the integrity of the NFL drug policy.

Not even the thousands of NFL steroid tests administered each year are enough to catch all the cheaters. For all we know, some players are taking “exotic” boosters either undetectable or unknown through testing. The steroid nicknamed “The Clear” was one of those once-untraceable designer drugs that surfaced earlier this decade in baseball and football.

Human growth hormone use is an even bigger problem. The only reliable testing method involves the drawing of blood, which the NFLPA will not allow. A player hell-bent on using HGH for a physical edge despite potential long-term health effects can get away with it. You’d be naïve to think that isn’t happening.

That’s the ultimate goal the NFL and NFLPA should share — catching the cheaters who threaten to undermine the game’s credibility like Barry Bonds and Co. did in Major League Baseball. Protecting athletes who want a level playing field is even more important. The NFLPA agreed to drug testing in the late 1980s after late union chief Gene Upshaw was approached by players who didn’t want to take the health risks inherent with steroid use to compete against their peers.

Here’s hoping the NFL and NFLPA can compromise and work through their differences to achieve those ends. That would be the only positive result to come out of the Starcaps spectacle that has taken some of the shine off a once-respected NFL drug testing program.

As the article suggests, if the NFL and NFLPA can’t work together, then the league will never be able to have a full chokehold on its drug testing policy. The NFLPA’s sole purpose is to protect the interest of the players. But in doing that, it sometimes impedes the progress the league is trying to make in keep performance-enhancing drugs out of the game.

As the NFL heads for an un-capped 2010 season, it’s clear that the league and the NFLPA can’t get on the same page in regards to big issues like contracts and drugs. It’s too bad, because it’s the fans who suffer the most – not the players, owners or coaches.

Daily Six-Pack: NFL Preseason Friday

NFL preseason action continues tonight with four games on the schedule. Below are six quick-hit thoughts and things to watch for during tonight’s slate of games.

1. Are the reports true about Palmer?
All indications from Bengals camp is that Carson Palmer is in the best shape of his career after missing virtually the entire 2008 season with a right elbow injury. Palmer is expected to get 12-15 snaps tonight when the Bengals travel to New Orleans to take on the Saints. Just as the Patriots were hoping for a strong showing from Tom Brady last night (he threw for 100 yards and 2 TDs, by the way), Cincinnati is hoping that Palmer flashes the arm strength that once made him the top overall pick. Another thing to keep an eye on is how the young Cincinnati offensive line looks in protecting Palmer. The Bengals have a physical unit in Andrew Whitworth, Anthony Collins, Kyle Cook, Nate Livings and Bobbie Williams, but they’re an inexperienced unit on a whole and Cincy would love to see some cohesion from the group tonight.

2. The starting quarterback battle for the Vikings begins tonight.
Head coach Brad Childress reported that Sage Rosenfels will get the start Friday night against the Colts, which isn’t a huge surprise considering Tarvaris Jackson missed some time in camp with a sprained knee. Still, Rosenfels getting the starting nod tonight may be an indication that he’s pulled ahead in the race for the Vikes’ starting quarterback job. Rosenfels doesn’t have a high ceiling in terms of potential, but he’s steady and could be a good game manager for a Minnesota team that is expected to keep the ball on the ground a lot with Adrian Peterson. While Jackson will certainly get his opportunity to start in preseason, a strong first impression tonight would go a long way for Rosenfels.

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Minnesota judge says Williams Wall can play

A Minnesota judge has ruled that Vikings defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams, who were appealing four game suspensions for violating the NFL’s policy on anabolic steroids, can play the entire season according to a report by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Per the report, the only way this ruling won’t be upheld is if a federal court claims jurisdiction over the Williams Wall’s lawsuit, challenging the NFL’s drug-testing procedures.

(District Court Judge Gary) Larson stayed action in his courtroom until the U.S. District Court determines whether it has jurisdiction on some of the players’ claims. U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson said the court does not, but a federal three-judge panel is hearing an appeal of his ruling in St. Paul on Aug. 18.

If the federal court determines the case should be conducted in state court, Larson wrote, “it is not likely that the [Hennepin County] court would, or could force [the players] into trial during the middle of a playing season, based on the court’s schedule.”

This is obviously huge for the Vikings, who have the best run defense in the NFL with the Williams Wall intact. If Minnesota hopes to build upon the success it had last year, than it’ll need their stud defensive tackles manning the interior of its defensive line all season.

I wonder what this means for Saints defensive ends Will Smith and Charles Grant, who, like the Williams Wall, were given four-game suspensions as well. I’m assuming that since the Williams Wall will be able to play, so will Smith and Grant.

This is the never-ending saga.

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