Saints grind by Cardinals in Hall of Fame game

Published 1:53 pm Wednesday, August 8, 2012

CANTON, Ohio (AP) – The bronze busts were impressive. Willie Roaf was magnanimous. And Drew Brees? Same as always.

It added up to a great weekend for a team that really needed one about now.

Brees produced a touchdown on his only series in the Hall of Fame game Sunday night, leading the New Orleans Saints to a 17-10 victory over the Arizona Cardinals that topped off a fine time.

“Just to be up here and see all those guys get inducted and take a tour of the Hall of Fame, that was really special,” said Mark Ingram, who scored the first touchdown on a 1-yard run. “For us to all be here, it puts a lot of things into perspective going into this football season.”

It wasn’t perfect by any means. The reserves were sloppy, as expected. And the fill-in officials had some bad moments, too.

The game was canceled last year for the first time in 45 years, a casualty of the NFL’s lockout of the players. Labor issues also came into play in Sunday night’s game – the seven officials were replacements.

It showed. The referee announced the result of the coin flip incorrectly and there were some other communication problems as well for the first-time crew.

No one was too hard on them.

“Hey listen, it was their first game, just like it was my first game, just like it was our team’s first game,” Saints interim coach Joe Vitt said. “Everybody’s getting the rust off. I thought the flow of the game was good.”

The weekend was especially nice for the Saints whose offseason was dominated by their bounty scandal.

Suspended coach Sean Payton got the league’s permission to attend a dinner for Saints tackle Willie Roaf and the other five Hall of Fame inductees on Friday night. Payton isn’t allowed to have any contact with the team this season as punishment for the team’s bounty program.

Players got to tour the hall and sat in the back three rows of the stadium for Roaf’s induction on Saturday, wearing black t-shirts with his No. 77. It was a proud moment for a franchise that’s been overshadowed by the bounty scandal all offseason.

Then, Brees showed that the Saints offense is still a point of pride as well.

Brees was sharp on the 10-play drive, completing 4 of 5 passes for 41 yards with one off-target throw. Brees skipped offseason workouts and minicamp because he was unhappy getting the team’s franchise tag. He later agreed to a five-year, $100 million deal.

Nothing has changed.

“Drew was Drew,” Vitt said. “That’s the first unit. There’s high standards here.”