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Official John Parry: Not enough evidence to overturn Jimmy Graham fumble

Here is official John Parry’s explanation for why Jimmy Graham’s fourth-quarter fumble was not overturned to a touchdown following a replay:

 On what Parry saw on the replay: “We spent the full 60 seconds, and we looked at every (replay) angle. We primarily focused on the angle that was – I wouldn’t say exactly – but was pretty close to being down on the goal line to try to determine if it was either a score and/or a catch-fumble recovered by Atlanta. There was nothing clear and undisputable to make a change to the ruling from the field. If we would have ruled score, it probably would have stayed as a score. If we ruled catch-fumble, recovered Atlanta, nothing enough to change it.”
On if he had trouble seeing the ball on the replay because of the Saints’ black jerseys: “I don’t think that was an issue. It just wasn’t enough to say this amount of football has clearly penetrated the goal line to make the change.”

Star Falcons receiver Julio Jones will be good to go against the Saints: Reports

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) just misses catching a TD pass as New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins (27) defends in the second half of the Saints' 31-27 win at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome over Atlanta in 2012.

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS — Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) just misses catching a TD pass as New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins (27) defends in the second half of the Saints’ 31-27 win at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome over Atlanta in 2012.

Julio Jones, the Falcons’ star wide receiver, will play at New Orleans on Sunday, according to multiple media reports.

Despite missing last week because he was hurt, Jones is second in the NFL in receiving yards (1,428). He is also second on the Falcons in touchdown catches (six), behind only wideout Roddy White (seven).

Jones — who sat out team drills all week and was questionable — will be a tough test for the Saints, and at the minimum he will be a decoy New Orleans will need to account for. He had 116 yards on seven catches in a 37-34 win for Atlanta over New Orleans at the Georgia Dome on Sept. 7. The Saints prepared all week as if he was going to play, coach Sean Payton has said.

Another Falcon who was questionable, safety William Moore (foot), will play, per the NFL Network. Wide receiver Harry Douglas (foot) will play after being probable. Guard Jon Asamoah (back) will not be active, and Gabe Carimi will start in his place, the NFL Network added.

The Saints’ inactives have not been announced.

The Saints (6-8) can clinch a division title and a playoff berth if they beat Atlanta (5-9) and Carolina (5-8-1) loses to Cleveland (7-7) on Sunday. Alternately, they can be eliminated from playoff contention if they lose to Atlanta and Carolina beats Cleveland.

Welcome to the Superdome

football

The NFC South title is on the line today.

Maybe. Kind of. Possibly.

If the Saints drop the Falcons today at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, and Johnny Manziel and the Cleveland Browns take care of the Carolina Panthers, then New Orleans would claim the division crown.

If the Saints lose, and Carolina wins, then the winner of next week’s game between Atlanta and Carolina would go through to the playoffs.

So this one is sort of a must-win situation.

JULIO OR NO: Still no official word on whether or not Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones will play today. If he doesn’t, it will obviously be a big advantage for the Saints. (UPDATE: He’s playing)

SAFETY SHUFFLE: From a New Orleans perspective, one area to monitor is the strong safety position. Jamarca Sanford, who started in that spot last week, is nursing a hamstring injury that kept him out of practice all week. If he is unable to play, Kenny Vaccaro could move back to that spot.

OFFICIAL BUSINESS: John Parry’s crew will be handling the officiating duties today. His guys call an average of 14.23 penalties per game, which is about one more than the league average.

Junior Galette expects to be limited against Falcons

The Saints were forced to limit Junior Galette’s snaps last week against the Chicago Bears due to a knee injury that he’s been managing. He doesn’t expect his situation to change Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.

“Basically the passing situations, probably the same thing going into this game,” Galette said. “Trying to ease off the knee a little bit.”

Galette played 29 snaps against the Bears during Monday’s win. He did, however, manage to record two of the seven sacks New Orleans recorded.

Galette leads the Saints with nine sacks.

Though he’s admittedly not 100 percent, Galette was not listed on the injury report earlier this week.

When he returns to full health, Galette is not sure if he will go back to playing a full slate of snaps.

“Whatever is working for the team right now,” Galette said. “Right now, my knee is not 100 percent. So just being smart and making sure I’m not playing 60 snaps on half of a knee.”

Star Falcons receiver Julio Jones is questionable to go against the Saints on Sunday

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) just misses catching a TD pass as New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins (27) defends in the second half of the Saints' 31-27 win at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome over Atlanta in 2012.

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS — Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) just misses catching a TD pass as New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins (27) defends in the second half of the Saints’ 31-27 win at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome over Atlanta in 2012.

Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones is questionable for Sunday’s game against the Saints in New Orleans because of a hip injury, Atlanta announced Friday.

Despite missing last week because he was hurt, Jones is second in the NFL in receiving yards (1,428). He is also second on the Falcons in touchdown catches (six), behind only wideout Roddy White (seven).

Also questionable for the Falcons are safety William Moore (foot) and guard Jon Asamoah (back).

Jones — who sat out team drills all week — will be a tough test for the Saints if he’s healthy. He had 116 yards on seven catches in a 37-34 win for Atlanta over New Orleans at the Georgia Dome on Sept. 7. The Saints have prepared all week as if he is going to play, coach Sean Payton said Wednesday.

“Obviously the way Julio has been playing it is important to know where he is at on the field,” Payton said. “But I am sure they will be capable if he is not able to go so we have to prepare like he is playing.”

The Saints (6-8) can clinch a division title and a playoff berth if they beat Atlanta (5-9) and Carolina (5-8-1) loses to Cleveland (7-7) on Sunday. Alternately, they can be eliminated from playoff contention if they lose to Atlanta and Carolina beats Cleveland.

Kenny Vaccaro happy with role change: ‘I got caught up in trying to be simple’

Kenny Vaccaro went through the reports written about him last season. He didn’t like what he was reading.

The critics called him a jack of all trades, someone who was good at a lot of things but was great at nothing. Vaccaro wanted to be considered great. That’s how he views himself and he believes he can be that player. But he also realized he wasn’t going to get the recognition he desired if he continued in the role he filled as a rookie.

“Like (San Francisco’s) Eric Reid, for instance,” Vaccaro said. “He plays free safety. He’s sitting back there and that’s all he’s doing. He went to the Pro Bowl his first year. I’m like, ‘Dang, maybe if I played one position.'”

So, beginning in training camp and at various moments this year, Vaccaro expressed a desire to play strong safety exclusively. His wish was granted, but he struggled at times and was moved back to the role he filled as a rookie following a meeting with coach Sean Payton last week.

The move was initially described in the media as a demotion. Vaccaro, however, does not view it that way. He says his “natural habitat is being” around the ball. In his current role, which requires him to cover slot receivers, line up in the box, and do whatever else is asked of him, he’s always right in the thick of things.

“I like when Rob puts me in those positions and counts on me that much and makes me step my game up that much more,” Vaccaro said.

“I thought (moving to strong safety) might help me make more plays, I guess,” Vaccaro said. “But not really though. The position  I was in last year — that’s where you want to be. You want to be that guy (defensive coordinator Rob Ryan) designs the whole thing around.”

Instead of serving exclusively as a strong safety, Vaccaro has now set his sights on becoming a player like Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu, who moves about the field and could probably be best labeled as a playmaker.

In time, Vaccaro said he would like to develop into being an elite strong safety. But for now, he’s happy to be the chess piece that moves around the defense and fills in wherever he can. It suits him.

“I got caught up in trying to be simple,” Vaccaro said. “Maybe simple isn’t me. Maybe I can be great at all of them.”

Saints sign kicker Dustin Hopkins to practice squad

The Saints filled up an open spot on their 10-man practice squad by signing free-agent kicker Dustin Hopkins.

Hopkins was a former 2013 sixth-round draft selection out of Florida State for Buffalo.

He made the team at the end of his rookie training camp over veteran Rian Lindell, but a groin injury to Hopkins’ kicking leg forced the Bills to sign Dan Carpenter.

Hopkins took longer than expected to recover, and Buffalo sent him to season-ending injured reserve. He tried out again for the Bills in 2014, but he lost out to Carpenter.

When he spoke to reporters on Wednesday, Hopkins said he hadn’t tried out for another team because he was focused on rehabbing the lingering injury “until a couple of weeks ago.”

Hopkins said the Saints were his first tryout since being let go by Buffalo. It’s relatively rare for NFL teams to stash kickers on their practice squad, and Hopkins said he hopes it indicates New Orleans has high expectations for him they think he can fulfill.

“I’m glad they gave me an opportunity,” said Hopkins, who claimed Houston as his hometown. “Obviously, there’s a lot of work to do.”

Hopkins worked out for the Saints last week alongside Garrett Hartley (now with Cleveland), Zach Hocker and Derek Dimke. Those four all worked out three days after Saints kicker Shayne Graham missed a field goal in New Orleans’ 41-10 defeat at home to the Carolina Panthers.

Saints coach Sean Payton said Hopkins “opened some eyes” during his workout.

As for Graham, who is on a one-year contract with the Saints, he then missed another field goal in the Saints’ win at Chicago on Monday night. He is 19-of-22 this season for the Saints (6-8), who can clinch a division title on Sunday with a win over Atlanta (5-9) and a loss by Carolina (5-8-1) over Cleveland (7-7).

The Saints’ practice squad as it stands is quarterback Ryan Griffin, wide receiver Brandon Coleman, running back Edwin Baker, fullback Toben Opurum, linebacker Jerry Franklin, tackle Tavon Rooks, tight end Orson Charles, wide receiver Willie Snead, guard Andrew Miller and Hopkins.

After Keenan Lewis’ Falcons funeral remark, Roddy White says Atlanta will do its talking on the field

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White (84) and former New Orleans Saints cornerback Jabari Greer (33) play in the second half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Rich Addicks)

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White (84) and former New Orleans Saints cornerback Jabari Greer (33) play in the second half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Rich Addicks)

Roddy White heard Keenan Lewis say that New Orleans hoped to put the Falcons in their graves on Sunday, but the veteran Atlanta receiver preferred to wait until after the game’s opening whistle at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to offer his response to the Saints cornerback’s funeral barb.

“May we rest in peace,” White said during a conference call Wednesday when Lewis’ remark was brought up. “May we rest in peace.

“When the ball kicks off and we start … to mix it around and mingle out there, then we’ll see who the better team at the end of the game is. That’s all that’s going to matter.”

In speaking to a reporter after the Saints’ 31-15 win at the Chicago Bears on Monday night, Lewis said the Saints couldn’t permit Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan throw for as many yards as he did when Atlanta beat New Orleans 37-34 in overtime on Sept. 7 at the Georgia Dome.

Ryan passed for 448 yards and three touchdowns in what was a career day.

“Hopefully we come in this week and get to the details and try to figure out what Atlanta’s going to try to beat us with,” Lewis said in the visitor’s locker room at Soldier Field. “We’re definitely going to give them their funeral.”

White, though, took a high road in a manner that could be a surprise to some. After all, it was White in 2010 who published a message on Twitter that it was by the grace of God the Saints were able to win Super Bowl XLIV so that New Orleans wouldn’t fall apart.

Many who were offended interpreted White’s tweet to mean the Saints were given their NFL title to console New Orleans for the devastation the city suffered during Hurricane Katrina some five years earlier. The Saints won in Atlanta 17-14 days after White sent that tweet.

On Wednesday, White avoided saying anything that was anywhere near the universe that the aforementioned tweet was in.

“Anything that comes out of their locker room or comes out of our locker room — there’s no kind of motivation that’s going to make us step up and say, ‘Oh, they said this or we said that,'” said White, who is 6-13 versus the Saints all-time and has caught 76 passes for 1,205 yards and eight touchdowns against New Orleans. “We know what it is. It’s Saints-Falcons.”

Falcons coach Mike Smith said he wasn’t aware of Lewis’ funeral comment. However, Smith said, it’s not like he nor his players need any extra motivation in their preparations for the Saints.

Everyone is well aware that, more often than not, the games between New Orleans and Atlanta aren’t typically decided until the final possession. That’s the case even if the Saints are 13-4 against the Falcons since coach Sean Payton arrived took charge of New Orleans’ franchise in 2006.

“It’s two teams that love to compete against each other,” Smith said. “It’s a great feel for the fans of New Orleans and fans of Atlanta when those two teams play.”

In his chat with local writers, White acknowledged the Saints secondary he’d be operating against was most likely going to be different than the one he clashed against a few months ago.

The Saints’ starting safeties in the September game against the Falcons were Jairus Byrd and Kenny Vaccaro, and the cornerback opposite Lewis was Patrick Robinson. But Byrd sustained a season-ending knee injury in October, and Vaccaro was recently moved from his strong safety spot to a role as a nickel defensive back.

In Chicago, the Saints started Terrence Frederick opposite Lewis, and the starting safeties were Pierre Warren and Jamarca Sanford.

Warren had two interceptions in the win over the Bears.

“Those guys have made some plays,” White said. However, White suggested he and fellow Falcons receiver Julio Jones could be more of a handful that the Bears’ receivers were.

Despite missing the Falcons’ loss on Sunday to Pittsburgh (9-5) with a hurt hip, Jones remains second in the NFL in receiving yards (1,428). Jones’ six receiving touchdowns are second on Atlanta only to the seven by White, who is No. 2 on the Falcons in receiving yards (762).

“I don’t think they’ve played a group like ours yet,” said White, who — like Jones — didn’t practice Wednesday. “As far as depth and guys at wide receiver that we could put out there to make plays, it’ll be different in that aspect of it.”

Both Smith and White embraced the fact that the only way this game could carry more meaning for both the Saints (6-8) and the Falcons (5-9) was if it was in the playoffs.

The Saints can eliminate the Falcons and clinch a division title as well as a berth in the playoffs if New Orleans wins and Carolina (5-8-1) loses to Cleveland (7-7).

At the other end of the spectrum, Atlanta could eliminate the Saints with a win in New Orleans and a Carolina victory over Cleveland.

“There’s a lot to be playing for,” Smith said.

White added, “It’s going to be loud and crazy in there. I can’t wait to get down there.”

For emphasis, White repeated, “I can’t wait. I can’t wait to get down there.”

QUOTABLE

“I’m not going to comment on a hash tag or anything. The great thing is this is a popular game — the NFL. We go out and try to do to the best we can. I’ll say this — every week (mostly), there’s 16 of us that are real smart, and there’s 16 of us that aren’t very smart based on the outcome of the game.”

— Smith, on the #SaveSmitty campaign on Twitter started by New Orleans radio personality Gus Kattengell (106.1 FM The Ticket), which expressed mock support for the Falcons coach when his job longevity was in question during a five-game losing streak in the middle of the season.