Much has been made of the apparent reclamation of the still unproven cast of newcomers that is the Saints' defense. On paper, the Saints appear to have refortified their most glaring deficiencies-adding talent, experience, youth, and a highly coveted defensive coordinator in Greg Williams.
But in spite of their high profile off season acquisitions, the old adage still stands true, football is played on Sundays, not on paper. Still, its nearly impossible to envision the upcoming season as anything but a success-by Saints standards anyway. That is until cynics A.K.A. Saints fans like myself kick the proverbial tires and conjecture about the significance of every modicum of minutia and hearsay that pass for headlines. But even though New Orleans has taken great strides to ensure that 2009 will be the year of the Saint, there's still a dark and ominous cloud looming over the start of the season.
The Star Caps scandal involving Saints' defensive ends Charles Grant, Will Smith, and former Saints' running back Deuce McAllister threatens to sideline the bookends of New Orleans' now vaunted defense. Smith, Grant, and McAllister all tested positive for the banned diuretic bumetanide last summer-which, though not listed, is in fact an ingredient in the weight loss supplement Star Caps.
Diuretics like bumetanide are banned by the NFL because they can mask the use of steroids. But the players maintain that the NFL, despite knowing that the diuretic was used in Star Caps, neglected to inform them. The NFL's position is simple. Players are responsible for knowing the ingredients of any and everything they might put into their bodies.
The NFL's Players' Association filed an appeal for the Saints players facing suspension with the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in Minneapolis-hoping to rescind the previous verdict passed down by U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson. Unfortunately, Magnuson dismissed the Saints' claims-a major set back for New Orleans.
So far no new court date has been set. If the ruling isn't overturned Smith and Grant could each face a four game suspension ,which would be disastrous for the "Black and Gold. Their first four games are against Detroit, at Philadelphia, at Buffalo, and against the Jets. So regardless of all their off season maneuvering if Smith and Grant aren't in the lineup the Saints would start the season off at a big disadvantage. We've all seen what happens to New Orleans' defense in the absence of a pass rush, and it "aint" pretty.