Injuries are no worse for New Orleans Saints than that of, say, New England

Posted by John DeShazier, The Times-Picayune November 19, 2008 12:00PM

I’d feel a lot sorrier for the New Orleans Saints if it wasn’t for New England.

I’d be a lot more inclined to give more credence to New Orleans’ injury situation being a reason for its 5-5 record – giving the Saints an out that, to their credit, the players and head coach thus far have refused to take – if not for the Patriots, who arguably are in a worse injury fix and are 6-4.
When reserve running back Aaron Stecker was placed on injured reserve Tuesday he became the 13th Saints player this season to join the list. Likely, the franchise never has had a season like this when it comes to losing players to season-ending injuries and the potential that it could get worse, since there are six regular-season games remaining, is too real.

Saints fans have lamented the loss of, roughly, a player per week and it’s impossible to not say all the injuries haven’t had an effect on the team. The constant shuttling ravages continuity. The fill-ins, obviously, aren’t as good as the guys they’re replacing – otherwise, they wouldn’t have been fill-ins in the first place.

Those things put a franchise at a disadvantage and it’s hard to keep up with the Joneses when the vast majority of the Joneses aren’t as beat up as you are.

But, Saints fans, before you let the woe-is-us chorus grow too loud, before you continue to proceed with the thought that your Saints are injured at an unprecedented level and that any team in a similar situation would be as inconsistent, look at New England.

The Patriots are in no better shape injury-wise but, all things considered, certainly seem to have been a lot less inconsistent on the field.

New England has 10 players on injured reserve and, yes, that’s three less than the Saints. But if we’re talking value, there’s no comparison.

Three of the Patriots who are out for the season are quarterback Tom Brady, safety Rodney Harrison and running back Laurence Maroney. Take the best four Saints on injured reserve – defensive end Charles Grant, cornerbacks Tracy Porter and Mike McKenzie and defensive tackle Brian Young – and the Patriots’ three are more accomplished than the Saints’ four. Truth be told, the Patriots’ three are more accomplished and very well could carry more impact than the Saints’ entire 13.

New England’s three is comprised of a league MVP, multiple Super Bowl winners and multiple Pro Bowl players. The Saints have some guys who are valuable (particularly McKenzie and Porter, the starting cornerbacks), but Brady is a former Super Bowl MVP who is bound for the Hall of Fame.

And yet, New England has managed to rally behind a quarterback (Matt Cassel) who hadn’t started a game since high school. The Pats are tied for second in the AFC East, a game behind the Jets; the Saints are last in the NFC South, three games behind Carolina.

Granted, it helps the Patriots that they’re playing in a weaker division (6-4 gets you third place in the NFC South). But New England lost its best player, Brady, in the first game of the season, Maroney had just 28 carries and Harrison started six games before heading for the sideline.

You see that, and it’s hard to feel as sorry for the Saints as you otherwise might feel.

The good thing – the key thing – is that the Saints publicly haven’t bothered feeling sorry. Correctly, players and Coach Sean Payton have maintained that injuries simply are part of the game. While fans debate whether the Saints’ training camp work and conditioning drills directly have been responsible for the rash of injuries, the team has done the only thing it can do, move ahead and expect the replacement to play as well as he can.

But while Saints fans are lamenting and feeling as though their beloved franchise is hexed this season, they’d do well to take a peek at the Patriots.

New England’s schedule hasn’t been particularly murderous and it doesn’t look specifically punishing down the stretch. But all a team can do is play the opponents on the schedule and see where it stands. That the Patriots have done so, without three players everyone would consider more critical to what New England does than they would consider the top four Saints to what New Orleans does, and have a winning to show for it says something about the Patriots.

Here, it says not to feel so sorry for the Saints – or, at least, not as sorry as you might feel otherwise.

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