The Saints will be without one of their top offensive performers for the start of the season.
Wide receiver Willie Snead will be suspended for the first three games of the season. Coach Sean Payton confirmed the news. The suspension stems from Snead being arrested on the morning of June 11 in Kenner on allegations of drunk driving.
"We are aware of it, on top of it and that will factor into how we go into planning the early part of this season," Payton said. "Obviously it’s unfortunate, and I think knowing Willie, a bit surprising. So we kind of go from there."
"We are aware of the news regarding Willie Snead's suspension," general manager Mickey Loomis said in a statement. "Our focus is on finalizing our roster and preparing for the beginning of the 2017 regular season and working with the players on our team."
In a report, Kenner police allege that Snead crashed into another car in the 1100 block of Joe Yenni Boulevard about 6:55 a.m., less than a half-mile away from his home. Police said Snead's 2017 Jeep Wrangler had "heavy front-end damage" and was facing westbound in the eastbound lanes of travel when an officer spoke with him.
The officer noticed "the slight odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating from his breath" as well as bloodshot eyes, police said in the report.
Police allege that Snead said he had three glasses of Maker's Mark whiskey in downtown New Orleans earlier that night but had stopped drinking hours beforehand.
After performing poorly on a field sobriety test, he agreed to submit to what is commonly referred to as a Breathalyzer test — and he registered a .125, above Louisiana legal limit of .08.
Snead was jailed on counts of first-offense driving while intoxicated — a misdemeanor — and failure to maintain proper control of a vehicle, and his Jeep was towed. He posted $1,150 bail for his release the same day.
Snead is due for a hearing at 1st Jefferson Parish Court in Metairie that is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 11, the same day New Orleans opens its season against the Minnesota Vikings. The Saints have been aware of the arrest since June even though it is just now becoming public, according to a source.
"I am truly disappointed (and) embarrassed by my actions that have lead to this decision," Snead said in a statement, later adding that "I can't change what happened, but I can make sure that this never happens again. I won't let this careless act define my career in the NFL or in life."
The news is a big hit for the Saints, as they'll now be without one of their top receivers for games against the Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers. Snead caught 72 passes for 895 yards with four touchdowns over 15 games last season.
Snead will not count against the 53-man roster and will be placed on a reserve list. Teams have until 3 p.m. Saturday to trim rosters down from 90 players. New Orleans started the process Friday but still has several cuts to make.
Without him, the Saints could turn to Brandon Coleman to play a bigger role, though he doesn't typically operate out of the slot. It could potentially create an opportunity for Tommylee Lewis to make the team and potentially have a bigger role early in the year after only making seven receptions for 76 yards last season.
It could help Travaris Cadet, who split out on 81 plays last season and made 12 receptions from the slot. He enters the final cuts on the bubble.
Payton was asked Friday if Snead's suspension made Lewis a lock for the roster. He was not willing to commit to any possible ramifications on how the roster will be constructed.
"Again, I won’t get into the specifics roster-wise. ... There’s a lot in flux right now roster-wise, and I wouldn’t want to speculate either way," Payton said.
Snead has not practiced as of late and did not appear in the final preseason game.
The suspension continues what has been a somewhat unfortunate offseason for New Orleans regarding player availability for the start of the season. Offensive tackle Terron Armstead (shoulder) and cornerback Delvin Breaux (fibula) are expected to miss the start of the season, and defensive tackle Nick Fairley will miss the season due to a heart condition.