The New Orleans Saints received a shock Friday when two-time All-Pro center Olin Kreutz, who signed a one-year contract with the club in August, left the team.
Kreutz, who played 13 seasons with the Chicago Bears before joining the Saints in training camp, did not practice Thursday for personal reasons, and agent Mark Bartelstein told the New Orleans Times-Picayune on Friday his client left because his passion for the game waned in recent weeks.
During his daily news conference, coach Sean Payton said Kreutz met with he and General Manager Mickey Loomis earlier in the week but offered no information on what led the six-time Pro Bowl pick to walk away.
Payton said he was a little surprised by the decision made by Kreutz, who received a one-year, $2 million contract from the Saints after having a falling out with the Bears.
“Earlier in the week, we had a chance to visit and sit down and just talk about a lot of things,” Payton said. “It’s always difficult, especially when you talk about a player that I think is a Hall of Fame center.
“I think the challenge for all of us, when the train begins to slow down and you feel like maybe it’s that time, and, make no mistake about it, it happens for every player, every coach, and every owner. There are a lot of emotions involved in that.”
“He has to feel really good about the passion he has got for the game and the love he has got for the game,” Bartelstein said. “He felt that slipping away, and he’s just not someone who can go to work every week and collect a paycheck.”
Kreutz, who’ll be paid only for the time that he was on the 53-man active roster, did not receive a signing bonus from the Saints.
He hurt his left knee in a Week 3 game against the Houston Texans and was inactive for two games before returning to the lineup for last week’s contest with the Tampa Bay Bucs. The injury ended a streak of 137 consecutive starts for Kreutz, which at the time was the second-longest streak among active players.
Brian de la Puente, a second-year player who filled in admirably when Kreutz was injured, will return to the starting lineup for Sunday night’s game against the Indianapolis Colts in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“I felt I had played well and had shown I can play the center position well, and that I can step in and play,” de la Puente said. “It’s really no different than if he were injured right now.”
De la Puente said he knew something was up when he took snaps with the first-team offense on Wednesday, but didn’t know Kreutz had left until Friday.
“I just prepared like I’m playing, and that’s kind of the approach I took all week,” said de la Puente. “It turns out I’m getting the start.”
Payton said tight end Jimmy Graham and middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who did not practice Thursday, worked on a limited basis Friday and were listed as probable for the game against the Colts.
Graham had ankle soreness, while Vilma has been slowed by a knee injury.
Defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis (ankle) and defensive end Turk McBride (shoulder) also were limited Friday and are questionable for Sunday’s game. Tight end John Gilmore (neck) was also limited and is probable.
Tackle Zach Strief (knee), tight end David Thomas (concussion) and strongside linebacker Will Herring (hamstring) were ruled out of the game.
For the Colts, former LSU running back Joseph Addai (hamstring) had full participation Friday after missing Sunday’s game and the first two days of practice this week, but is questionable.
Former LSU defensive tackle Drake Nevis (back) did not work for the third straight day and is also questionable along
with tackle Ryan Diem (ankle) and wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez (groin).
Quarterback Peyton Manning will not play as he continues to recover from two neck surgeries.
Mora, Johnson to visit
Former Saints coach Jim Mora and former linebacker Vaughan Johnson will greet and meet fans Sunday at the Saints Hall of Fame Museum, which is located at Gate B on the Plaza Level of the Superdome.
Johnson will be on hand from 5-6:15 p.m. and Mora will appear from 6:15-6:45 p.m. The Vince Lombardi Trophy the Saints won in Super Bowl XLIV against the Colts will also be on display from 5-6:30 p.m.
Admission to the museum is free to all ticketholders.
The Associated Press
contributed to this report.