You may remember rookie Pierre Warren from the New Orleans Saints’ training camp and 2014 preseason.
You may not have heard of Jamarca Sanford, a sixth-year NFL veteran who last week signed with the Saints.
Moving forward, you’re going to hear a lot more about one of them — if not both.
With Rafael Bush out for the season because of a broken fibula — the second season-ending injury at free safety — Warren, who signed this week, or Sanford will likely start Monday night against Baltimore (6-4) at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Saints middle linebacker Curtis Lofton remembers Warren’s play this summer at The Greenbrier in West Virginia, and during the 2014 preseason when he notched an interception against the Ravens.
“He was here not only during training camp but OTAs,” Lofton said. “I was really surprised he didn’t make the team, but at the same time, this is a very tough team to make.
“I think he’ll be up to speed, and being here (before) will give him a little bit of a foundation and hopefully, he remembers everything that he learned and can acclimate really quick.”
Warren was signed off Minnesota’s practice squad. Previously, he had a brief stint on the Saints practice squad.
Lofton said both players have already started the process of learning the Saints defensive playbook. The Saints will need them against Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (2,521 yards, 17 touchdowns) old Saints nemesis Steve Smith (728 yards, four TDs), formerly of the Carolina Panthers.
“He looked really good during training camp, and we’re glad to have him back on the team,” Saints defense end Cameron Jordan said of Warren. “The organization believes in him, so I believe in him. It’s not like he’s unfamiliar with our defense. Sure, he had only a training camp with us, but he’ll take a few days to familiarize himself and we’ll be alright.”
Sanford, meanwhile, has 41 career starts, all with Minnesota. He’s also notched two career interceptions and 72 tackles.
Johnson hangs tough
Saints fullback Austin Johnson spent Tuesday evening in his No. 35 Saints jersey, perhaps his first time in at least half-uniform since a knee injury suffered during an Oct. 26 win against Green Bay ended his season.
It marked the start of a awful journey for Johnson, who in less than one season transformed from a practice squad player to a starter when free agent signee Erik Lorig was injured throughout training camp. Johnson then played in the first seven games of this season, creating rushing lanes for Mark Ingram and others.
Monday’s game against Baltimore marks the fourth game Johnson will be on the sideline.
“It’s defintely been a tough pill to swallow,” he said. “I felt like I stepped in, was able to do a good job in the role that I had. I finally got an opportunity. It was tough to go down like I did, but I’ll be back stronger next year.”
Monday’s game will also mark Lorig’s fifth game back from a leg injury.
“It’s awesome to see how well Mark’s running. It’s great to see him having a big year, a breakout year. I always want him to do awsome, and it’s great to see that. The other back are beat up a little bit, but they should be back soon. Once we get everybody healthy, that running game is going to be a threat.”
So will Johnson — next season.
“(The injury) just makes me want it even more,” he said. “I feel like I got that experience under my belt, a few starts in the NFL and now, I know what it takes, I know what I need to do during this offseason to get ready for (2015).”
Meachem: no favorites
When veteran Saints receiver Robert Meachem scores a touchdown, he doesn’t try to figure out which fans to give a scoring souvenir to.
“To me, I don’t pick,” Meachem said, two days after longtime Saints season ticket holder Tony Williams faced national critisim for catching a tossed football from Cincinnati receiver Jermaine Gresham in the direction of Bengals fan Christa Barrett.
“I just underhand it and throw it up. Whoever gets it, gets it. If I ever (wanted to give a football to one person), I’m actually going to point to the person I want to give it to (and make sure the football goes to the right person).”
Still, Meachem is sympathetic to Williams, who opted to keep the football.
“I know that’s a tough deal,” said Machem, who has scored 25 of his 27 career TDs with the Saints. “I know he’s a season ticket holder.I understand. That’s hard. Real hard.”
Supporting the food bank
On Tuesday evening, the Saints participated in an event at Winn-Dixie on Airline Highway to support Second Harvest Food Bank.
“Donations of this kind, they provide for so many families,” Saints owner Rita Benson LeBlanc said. “I’m so inspired that the kids are wearing their ‘I donated’ stickers. You get to see some of the players, come for the autograph session.”
Saints on hand included Lofton, Johnson, Jordan, Meachem defensive end Akiem Hicks, quarterback Ryan Griffin and long snapper Justin Drescher.
“For me growing up, Thanksgiving and Christmas was such a huge time to eat great food and mingle and hang with the family,” Drescher said. “So I think this is a way to get that kickstarted for the holiday season.”