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Getting to know the Saints' new faces

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This offseason was one of the Saints' busiest in recent memory. The team signed a number of free agents and traded up in the draft to land defensive tackle Johnathan Sullivan. Gambit Weekly caught up with some of the Saints' newest members for three questions.

Wayne Gandy, Left Tackle

Q: What's the biggest difference for you so far between the Steelers and the Saints?

A: The heat and humidity is the biggest difference so far (laughs). Other than that, the terminology; here it's the West Coast system, so there's a little more terminology going on. With the Steelers, we'd line up, hit you in the mouth, run the same routes, get open, that kind of stuff. Here it's sophisticated. I've been here for the last four-five weeks. There's a lot of young guys here, so it takes getting used to. This is my 10th year, and in this locker room, there's maybe five guys in here that are over 26. The rest of 'em are young. But with that comes a lot of energy and athleticism, with youthful players. And hopefully the veteran guys add our knowledge to that, and jump over that hurdle that's escaped the Saints the last couple of years.

Q: What's your favorite thing about New Orleans so far?

A: I'm from Florida, so I like the sunshine. It's different in Pittsburgh, where the sun rarely shines. Here it does come out, and it's just a good environment. The food's good, and better than I thought. I like the guys on the o-line. They're a young group, and they told me, most of them, it's only their second year, too. So we're in the same boat, of trying to learn and get familiar with the offense and the city.

Q: Every game's important, but is there any particular game or individual on the schedule this year you're really looking forward to matching up against?

A: You always want to play your best against the best, like Simeon Rice (Tampa Bay) and Michael Rucker (Carolina). I think we've got Hugh Douglas [of the Philadelphia Eagles] on the schedule. You know, guys that have been to the Pro Bowl, so you always want to play your best against them. My whole thing is just trying to be a foundation on that left side. The thing about here that people don't understand is that the Saints haven't really been bad. You've had some great people here: Willie Roaf is one of the most dominant left tackles, especially early on in his career. Even Kyle (Turley), Kyle wasn't a bad left tackle. His problem didn't have anything to do necessarily with his play. So a lot of people want to seem like [the Saints] were slacking. That wasn't their problem. They brought me here for that same type of player, but with a different kind of mentality.

Derrick Rogers, Linebacker

Q: What's the biggest difference for you so far between the Steelers and the Dolphins?

A: Different colors, real dark -- they're a little bit more menacing than the aqua jersey was (laughs). One of the biggest differences is the tradition of winning. The Dolphins have a long lineage of all these people. We've got a lot to build on here; we can go up. For them, they're living up to a lot of great teams. For us, we're starting our own history, our own dynasty. That's a big difference, living more hungry. Teams that haven't been winning for years, they don't have a model. With the Saints, there's a lot of room for improvement, and that makes people hungry. So I'm hoping a lot of players feed off of that, because that's what I'm feeding off of, the chance to make something great happen.

Q: What's your favorite thing about New Orleans?

A: The food, always. Great cooking, always. That and the fact that I have people and family here that I know from growing up. And the people are so laidback.

Q: Every game's important, but is there any particular game or individual on the schedule this year you're really looking forward to matching up against?

A: All of them mean a lot, but the one that means the most is the last one. I hope that that's our best game, you're trying to always build and improve and making sure that our last game is our best game. If we do that, our last game will be the Super Bowl.

Johnathan Sullivan, Defensive Tackle (Rookie)

Q: What's the biggest difference for you so far between the University of Georgia and the Saints?

A: Mainly the pace of practice; it's a whole different speed. There's a lot more plays, and relating to different situations. It's basically learning plays.

Q: What's your favorite thing about New Orleans?

A: Right now I haven't been able to get out of here, because I've just been studying my playbook and sleeping.

Q: Every game's important, but is there any particular game or individual on the schedule this year you're really looking forward to matching up against?

A: Atlanta. Just because I got a chance to see the New Orleans-Atlanta game last year, and I want to be a part of it.

Orlando Ruff, Middle Linebacker

Q: What's the biggest difference for you so far between the Chargers and Saints?

A: The level of talent here is so great that there's little room for mistake. The intensity level is so high; I've never been on a team where, but this team as opposed to the Chargers, every single day the intensity level offense and defense is so high, you only can get better every time you step on the field. You don't find that all over the NFL. Some days some teams are up, other days they're down. The intensity level is so high because the talent is so high.

Q: What's your favorite thing about New Orleans?

A: I love the free spirit of the people. I've only been here for two months now, and I already feel at home. You go out, and this is a football town. Everybody's always like, "Welcome to the city, let us know if we can do anything to help you." I didn't have that in San Diego. When you have the love from the people and the community coming back to you, it makes you that much more focused on, 'I'm representing the city when I step on the field.

Q: Every game's important, but is there any particular game or individual on the schedule this year you're really looking forward to matching up against?

A: For me, I break the season into four quarters: first, second, third and fourth. It's important to come out of the gate. It's hard to win in the NFL on any given Sunday, but if you're able to establish momentum early, it helps you in terms of going into the first half of the season. Most teams toward the end, they have a problem winning for whatever reason. So it's important for us to come out the gate first quarter and maintain. We want to maintain that for quarters two and three, and in the fourth quarter we've got to step it up. Whoever's on the schedule for us those last four, will be most important.

Mitch Berger, Punter

Q: What's the biggest difference for you so far between the Vikings or Rams and Saints?

A: The Vikings are so much different now. I would say more than different, there's similarities in that there's a lot of talent, and a lot of young talent, and the potential to go all the way with this team. I feel real confident that this team's got an immediate future and a long-term future, and I felt the same way when I was in Minnesota, that there was a lot of young talent, and we did go far and we did do well.

Q: What's your favorite thing about New Orleans?

A: When people come and visit me this year, they're going to have a really good time. They had a good time in Minnesota, but St. Louis was really, really boring. So I'm going to feel good that I can let people go out and have a great time and have a great weekend.

Q: Every game's important, but is there any particular game or individual on the schedule this year you're really looking forward to matching up against?

A: Not really. I guess I'd say the first game. I'm looking forward to going out. The first game's in Seattle, and I'm from Vancouver, British Columbia, and I'm looking forward to having a good start and doing a good job for this team and getting a win in the first game to start my Saints career.

Ashley Ambrose, Cornerback

Q: What's the biggest difference for you so far between the Falcons and Saints?

A: There's really no big difference. I think a lot of guys act in similar ways probably on each team you go to. One thing I can say that I like about this team, is that everybody's trying to help each other's back. It's good to see that here, because if we can come together as a team, that brings you closer to the championship. I can see these guys know each other really well and do a lot of things together, and that's a good thing. Only thing different that I can say, this team has the most potent offense I've ever been affiliated with. With Atlanta, it was really just Michael (Vick). Warrick (Dunn) did a lot of things too, but you've got a lot of guys here, with Deuce and Joe and Jerome, you've got so many weapons, even the tight ends we've got. Anybody who touched it, they can score, and it's unbelievable to see that. It's hard to believe you got so many talented players on the roster because it's so hard with the salary cap stuff.

Q: What's your favorite thing about being back in New Orleans?

A: I look at David Robinson. He got an opportunity to finish his career in San Antonio, and San Antonio's like home for him. I'm excited that I got an opportunity to come back because I feel like this is a team that can possibly be in a championship. I think we have all the ingredients, and it's just a matter of keeping them together during the second half of the season. One thing, I've been in the playoffs a few times in my career, but growing up here in New Orleans and cheering for the Saints through all those rough times, I think it'd be a big thing for me if I got to the playoffs with this team. Just to see how the fans would react and just to be a part of it.

Q: Every game's important, but is there any particular game or individual on the schedule this year you're really looking forward to matching up against?

A: I'm really looking forward to the matchups in this division. I think everybody in this division is good, and we're just looking forward to this challenge. By far, this division is the best in the league, and I think every week you're going to get challenged when you're playing Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Carolina. They're very good football teams, and we're going to find out where we stand when we play them.

New Saints Ernie Conwell (tight end), Todd Bouman (quarterback) and Tebucky Jones (safety) could not be reached by presstime.

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