When Zach Strief’s time as a New Orleans Saint comes to an end, the veteran tackle has no plans to move on, find another team and continue playing.
Even if he’s offered the chance to be a starter.
Strief, who is at the end of his 10th season in New Orleans, has known ever since the Saints drafted Andrus Peat with the No. 13 pick in the draft that Peat was selected to eventually replace him. If Peat takes over that role this offseason, Strief will not leave New Orleans in search of another opportunity, a rarity in a league where a lot of veterans try to max out every possible season as a starter.
“You get to a point where it’s like, what are you playing for?” Strief said. “At this point in my career, I’m not playing for money, I’m not going to go somewhere just to make another year’s (paycheck). To me, it’s more beneficial, since I’m going to stay here, I’m going to live here, to say, ‘No, I refused to play for anybody else but the Saints.’ ”
Strief, on the other hand, feels such a strong loyalty to the Saints that he’d have no problem coming back as a backup.
The veteran, who didn’t earn a permanent spot in the starting lineup until his sixth season in the league, would have no problem shifting back into the role Peat has played this season as a swing tackle backing up both of the starters.
What matters to Strief is being a member of the New Orleans Saints.
“I will come back here until they tell me to stop coming,” Strief said. “That’s how I’ll be here. And that’s the reality of it.”
Strief, who started the first 14 games of this season and played all but one snap before an elbow injury forced him to sit out against Jacksonville, believes he still has something to offer New Orleans, whether it’s as a starter or a backup.
But he’s realistic enough to know that there’s a possibility the Saints could decide to move in another direction, and that he could be playing the last game of his career on Sunday against Atlanta. A decade in the NFL has made it clear that there’s always the possibility of the end, particularly for a player like Strief who doesn’t want to chase another opportunity elsewhere for the sake of simply playing.
“No matter what, at this point in your career, you start saying every one of these last games could be your last game,” Strief said. “That’s the reality of it. No. 1, I can’t control it, and No. 2, I don’t feel like I’m done. You kind of move on and keep working and move into the offseason like you normally would and get prepared, and they either say you’re coming back or you don’t. ... I’m proud of being here as long as I have.”
Every offseason, veterans across the league — from legends on down to core starters — leave the city where they made their name in order to get another shot at the starting lineup. Strief plans to be the exception to that rule.
“I feel like, for me personally, I’m happier saying that I only played for this team and this organization,” Strief said.