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Raffle for Saints punter Thomas Morstead’s What You Give Will Grow Foundation

There’s been floods of bad news coming out of the NFL lately, but here’s a chance for Saints fans to benefit a couple of good causes while also getting a shot at winning tickets to each one of their team’s home games in 2014 for $2.

Saints punter Thomas Morstead is holding a raffle to raise funds for his What You Give Will Grow Foundation, whose mission is to support causes and charities that work with — among others — cancer patients and underprivileged children in the region. Fans can purchase tickets for the raffle at saintsraffle.com.

Aside from a pair of tickets to every Saints home game (the first of which is Sunday at noon against the Vikings), the winner will receiving lodging and other gifts. Among the other gifts are a diamond fleur-de-lis necklace, a dinner with Morstead and his wife, Lauren, a signed Morstead Saints jersey and the complete collection of the Sprout6 T-shirt line, whose sales benefit What You Give Will Grow Foundation.

The deadline to buy tickets is Thursday at 11 a.m.

Drew Brees congratulates ex-teammates Darren Sproles, Malcolm Jenkins for roles in big Eagles win on Monday Night Football

After former Saints running back Darren Sproles and safety Malcolm Jenkins made crucial plays to help Philadelphia win at Indianapolis on Monday Night Football, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees tweeted out congratulations to his two ex-teammates.

“My boy Darren Sproles had a big night tonight,” Brees wrote on his Twitter account. “And (Malcolm) Jenkins. Happy for them both. Two great teammates! Wish them the best.”

Sproles had seven receptions for a career-high 152 yards as well as four rushes for 26 yards and a touchdown in Philadelphia’s 30-27 victory against the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Jenkins intercepted a fourth-quarter pass.

They’re each in their first season in Philadelphia. The Saints traded Sproles in March to the Eagles in exhange for a fifth-round draft selection they used to acquire rookie linebacker Ronald Powell as well as to clear up salary-cap space. Jenkins signed in free agency after his contract with the Saints expired.

Sproles was in New Orleans from 2011 to 2013 and set an NFL record for all-purpose yardage in his first year with the Saints. His first year in San Diego was Brees’ last year there before he arrived in New Orleans in 2006 via free agency.

Jenkins won Super Bowl XLIV with the Saints at the end of the 2009 season, his rookie campaign.

The Eagles were 2-0 after Monday night. The Saints were 0-2 after being defeated in Cleveland on Sunday, ranking among the NFL’s best offensively but worst defensively.

Browns pass-rusher Paul Kruger bedeviled team that coveted him in free agency as Cleveland beat Saints in Week 2

CLEVELAND — Back in the 2013 offseason, before they reached an ill-fated deal with Victor Butler and Junior Galette had a breakout campaign for them, the Saints pursued former Baltimore Ravens pass-rusher Paul Kruger in free agency.

The 6-foot-4, 265-pound Kruger joined up with the Browns, however. And when the Browns hosted the Saints on Sunday and defeated them 26-24, he showed all day why New Orleans wanted him in black and gold.

It began with his first-quarter sack of Saints quarterback Drew Brees. At left outside linebacker, on a Saints first-and-10 from New Orleans’ 8, Kruger was first engaged by second-year tight end Josh Hill, who nudged the Browns defender toward veteran tight end Benjamin Watson.

Watson then tried to pick up the block on Kruger, but the defender quickly stepped to his right and around the tight end, who almost fell in his attempt to keep pace. Kruger then rumbled toward Brees unimpeded and slammed the Saints quarterback down at the 1 of New Orleans, who three plays later punted for the second of three times in a first quarter that saw Cleveland seize a 10-0 advantage.

The havoc Kruger created Sunday didn’t stop there — it continued with a second-quarter pressure on Brees that produced six points for the Browns.

The Saints had an empty backfield on that play from their 44. Lined up with his hand in the dirt on Brees’ blind side, he charged toward New Orleans’ QB with left tackle Terron Armstead in his way. Kruger briefly tussled with the second-year tackle, executed a swim move with his right arm and managed to get inside and past Armstead.

Kruger barreled into Brees an instant after the quarterback fired a deep pass down the middle of the field to tight end Jimmy Graham that appeared to be affected by the oncoming Kruger. The pass came out high, sailed over Graham’s outstretched hands and was intercepted by Browns safety Tashaun Gipson.

Gipson ran the interception back 62 yards for a touchdown that put Cleveland up 16-3 before a failed two-point conversion.

Kruger subsequently quieted for a bit but resurfaced in the fourth quarter with about seven minutes to go and New Orleans leading 24-23. On a first-and-10 from New Orleans’ 37, Kruger swatted down a quick throw Brees aimed at Watson, running an out to the right.

For the ensuing snap, Kruger lined up on the right edge of the Saints’ offensive line, and New Orleans brought left guard Ben Grubbs over from his spot to tussle with the Browns defender. Kruger nonetheless managed to work past Grubbs and hurry Brees up into throwing away a pass to avoid another sack.

The Saints converted the ensuing third down and eventually drove as far as Cleveland’s 31 on that drive. But that’s when Browns linebacker Karlos Dansby sacked Brees for a loss of 7 on a third-and-5, forcing a punt. Cleveland (1-1) then drove for a 29-yard, game-winning field goal to vanquish the Saints (0-2), who had lost their season opener at Atlanta on Sept. 7.

Kruger’s sizable contribution to Cleveland’s victory over the Saints was not lost on Dansby. “Oh, he’s awesome — Paul is playing out of this world right now,” Dansby said of Kruger, whose sack against the Saints was his second of the season. “I love every second of it. I get to watch it up close in person.”

All of which also presented a reason to revisit the Saints’ interest during the spring of 2013 in Kruger, who was with the Ravens his first four years in the NFL from 2009-12 and helped them win a Super Bowl against the 49ers in New Orleans with nine-regular season sacks in his final campaign in Baltimore.

The Saints were reported to have expressed a high degree of interest in Kruger, alongside the Browns and Colts. The Browns outbid the Saints and Colts with a five-year, $40.5 million contract, and Kruger has since recorded 6.5 quarterback sacks for Cleveland.

New Orleans then landed Victor Butler — who had spent four seasons in Dallas — on a two-year, $3 million deal. But Butler didn’t play a single game for the Saints, sitting out 2013 with a knee injury, missing much of this year’s training camp with a hurt ankle and then being released.

Ultimately, as the Saints held opponents to the fourth-fewest yards in the NFL in 2013 and made the divisional round of the playoffs, New Orleans’ Junior Galette had a career-high 12 sacks, the sixth-most in the NFL and second-most for the Saints behind Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Jordan’s 12.5. Galette recently signed a four-year, $41.5 million extension that will keep him under contract for the Saints through 2019 (he had been due to become a free agent in 2015).

But, at the beginning of their second year under coordinator Rob Ryan, the Saints’ pass rush has been less productive. The Saints only have a pair of sacks through their first two games — one by Galette on Sunday and another by defensive lineman Tyrunn Walker in Week 1.

The Saints averaged slightly more than three a game in Ryan’s first year.

“We’re disappointed, but we’re not discouraged at all,” Galette said in Cleveland about the Saints’ slow start in 2014. “We’re going to get this right, and we’re going to be the team that everyone expects us to be — the team we expect us to be.”

Among the reasons that Saints aren’t that at the moment was a standout day by Kruger.

Video of Saints coach Sean Payton yelling at defensive coordinator Rob Ryan lights up Internet

Apparently a game wasn’t the only thing Saints coach Sean Payton lost in Cleveland.

Payton, noted for his icy, cold demeanor on and off the field, lost his cool and yelled at defensive coordinator Rob Ryan late in the fourth quarter of the team’s 26-24 loss.

The video is courtesy of Fox Sports, which broadcast the game, and The Big Lead:

It’s tough to read Payton’s lips because of the microphone hanging from his headset.

Still, you get the idea.

Payton was mad at Ryan for something.

Payton downplayed the incident with Ryan after the game.

When asked if it was normal to have animated discussions with assistant coaches during games, Payton said that it happens “every game.”

And in this day and age when something happens there usually are cameras there to catch the action and show it to the world.

Welcome to Cleveland for today’s game between the Saints and Browns

browns

Welcome to First Energy Stadium for today’s game between the Cleveland Browns and New Orleans Saints. Both of these teams will be looking to avoid starting the season 0-2.

STILLS BACK: This week marks the return of Kenny Stills, who missed the opener due to a quad injury. It appears the Saints expect him to be a big part of the offense today since wide receivers Joe Morgan and Nick Toon have been made inactive.

WEATHER: It’s a little cold compared to New Orleans’ standards, but the weather is pretty nice for the Great Lakes region. The sun is shining and temperatures are supposed to remain in the 60s. It does not currently appear there is much wind blowing.

BROWNS MISSING STARS: Cleveland tight end Jordan Cameron and LB Barkevious Mingo have both been ruled out with shoulder injuries. That’s a big blow for the Browns. Cameron is one of the better tight ends in the league and a focal point of the offense. Cleveland will need to find a way to make up his production.

ZEBRAS: Craig Wrolstad is the referee. He previously served as a field judge for the last 11 seasons.

Projecting the Saints’ inactives vs. Cleveland

Predicting the seven Saints who will be inactive against the Cleveland Browns;

OL Senio Kelemete – One of the offensive linemen have to fall off the list. The guess here is that it will once again be Kelemete.

S Marcus Ball – He has been ruled out to a hamstring injury.

FB Erik Lorig – Lorig has been ruled out with an ankle injury.

CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste – Jean-Baptiste will remain on this list until the Saints feel he is ready to contribute. Brian Dixon gets the nod for now due to his ability to contribute on special teams.

WR Nick Toon – Toon was a healthy scratch last week.

WR Joe Morgan – Morgan can still help this team if Kenny Stills returns from a quad injury. This is the toughest one to gauge and it wouldn’t be a big surprise if this is wrong.

DL John Jenkins – Was Jenkins inactive last week because he is still getting in shape or has he been jumped on the depth chart?

 

Kenny Stills says he’s holding nothing back in practice and wants to get back on the field

Officially, Kenny Stills is listed as being limited in practice the last two days. But the wide receiver says he is holding nothing back in practice and believes he is on the right track in his return from a quad injury.

“I’m going full go. I feel good,” Stills said. “If coach wants to put me out there and I can get the reps I will be happy to do so.”

Stills suffered his initial quad injury during the first day of training camp and then aggravated the injury during a preseason game. He missed the season opener against the Atlanta Falcons, but said he thought he was healthy enough to play in that game.

Being sidelined for much of the offseason and the first game of the season was frustrating for Stills, but he does not feel the re-injury was due to being too aggressive in his return.

Now he’s just ready to play.

“Obviously I’m extremely anxious. I haven’t really played since camp,” Stills said. “I want to go out there and play and make the next step and improve from last season. … The injury has kind of been nagging me a while. Hopefully I’m putting it behind me and can go out there and play.”

Stills caught 32 passes for 641 yards last season. With him sidelined last week, Joe Morgan received reps with the first-team offense. Morgan will likely remain in that role if Stills cannot play.

Sean Payton: Supporting Devon Still a worthy cause

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton smiles before an NFC divisional playoff NFL football game in Seattle on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton smiles before an NFC divisional playoff NFL football game in Seattle on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

It was after driving home and hearing a story on the radio about a member of the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad whose 4-year-old daughter had cancer that Sean Payton ordered and purchased 100 of the player’s jerseys, the Saints coach said Thursday.

Proceeds from sales for Devon Stills’ jersey are benefitting Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and pediatric cancer care and research; and, in a statement released by the team, Payton said he was moved to support the cause because he’s a father to a son, Connor, and daughter, Meghan.

“As a parent myself, I couldn’t help to think about the situation he was in,” Payton said of Still in the statement. “What I did was just a small token to a very worthwhile cause. I wish them nothing but the best and am hoping that his daughter will make a full recovery.”

Still, a defensive tackle, was waived by the Bengals at the end of the preseason. But the Bengals signed Still to their practice squad to provide him health insurance to care for his daughter, Leah, who’s been battling cancer. Cincinnati promoted him to its 53-man roster Wednesday.

“Only one word to describe everything,” Still wrote on his Twitter account about the Bengals. “AMAZING!!”

Payton lauded the Bengals’ treatment of Still.

“I thought it was a class move by (Bengals owner) Mike Brown, (head coach) Marvin Lewis, and the entire … organization to keep him on their roster and allow him to get the proper benefits so he could give the best care to his child,” Payton said.”