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In the end, both Saints players and fans just want the games to go on

Mark Ingram (21) at Heath Evans' Celebrity Softball game.Mark Ingram (21) at Heath Evans' Celebrity Softball game.

No 'Town Hall' call today with Goodell and Saints fans

METAIRIE – They might be locked out from their practice facility but on Tuesday night the New Orleans Saints owned nearby Zephyr Field lock, stock and barrel.  

With split-squads led by defensive captain Jonathan Vilma and offensive captain Drew Brees, the Black and Gold treated an estimated crowd of 10,000 to an evening of fun and entertainment with all proceeds from the 2nd annual charity softball game going to benefit the Heath Evans Foundation.  

Because of the ongoing NFL lockout, the slow-pitch game might end up being the team’s only true “Organized Team Activity’’ of the offseason.  

Earlier Tuesday, the fifth and last court-ordered mediation between league owners and their locked-out players was held in a federal court in Minneapolis. The two sides voluntarily have scheduled to resume CBA discussions June 7.

On Monday, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis granted NFL owners their request for a permanent stay of a prior ruling that halted their lockout. A June 3rd hearing is scheduled by the same three-judge panel to hear arguments on the legality of the lockout.

Wednesday (May 18) marked Day 64 of the lockout with no end in sight.

“We believe the lockout is wrong, legal or illegal, moral or immoral,'' NFLPA assistant executive director George Atallah said prior to Tuesday night's event that helped raise more than $200,000 for bringing awareness and help to victims of childhood sexual abuse. "Given the environment that we’re in as a country, given the success of this game, given the connection between the players, the team and this city, the lockout is wrong.  

“And we’re going to keep fighting.’’  

The labor dispute, now in its third month, didn’t prevent two young Houston women from making the six-hour drive East on I-10 to Zephyr Field to watch their heroes, including number one draft pick Mark Ingram, who hit the first offering he saw in the third inning high over the 400-foot sign in right center field.  

Arinn Bogarty, 25, and Sarah Grace, 24, were among the first to purchase tickets online after learning of the game two months ago.  

“I follow Heath on Twitter and I immediately called Sarah,’’ Bogarty said. “I’m a big Saints fan. I probably love them more than my own hometown team. They better get this settled.’’  

“I think it will work itself out,’’ Grace said. “It’s a $9 billion sport. There is plenty of money to go around.’’  

Tell that to Saints WR Lance Moore, whose current status as a restricted free agent after five NFL seasons remains on hold while owners and players wrestle with the complex issues of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.  

Moore did not attend Tuesday night's game, nor is he participating in the “players’ only’’ non-contact workouts at the Westfeldt Practice Facility at Tulane. Before the lockout, the Saints placed a second-round tender on Moore for the third consecutive season, which potentially could cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars in an open market.

Teammate and fifth-year strong safety Roman Harper finds himself in a similar position as Moore. Harper, too, is a restricted free agent under the 2010 CBA and was offered a one-year tender by Saints officials before the lockout.  

“My parents didn’t have me earlier enough; I was one year off,’’ Harper quipped with a straight face. “It’s just one of those things, man. It’s a process. Everybody has to go through it. I promise you I’m not the only one who has to deal with this. Lance (Moore) is having to go through it. Pierre (Thomas) went through it last year. Jahri (Evans) went through it for two years before he got his deal.  

“It’s OK,’’ Harper said. “I’m not too worried about it. Everything will be handled when it needs to be. The game is bigger than me. No one player makes this game what it is. It’s a team game. We got to handle it as a team. We got to stick together as players and don’t turn our backs on anybody. It’s a process. Nothing happens overnight. United States wasn’t built overnight. Nothing was done overnight.  

“We’re going to play football. That’s all we want to do … is play ball.’’  

NOTES: Drew Brees won the pre-game Home Run Derby, besting backup QB Chase Daniel in a sudden death swing-off. Each player ended the 10-out format tied with 11 HRs apiece, forcing extra swings for the fences. … RB Reggie Bush flew in Tuesday from Los Angeles for the game and hit a HR. … Free agent FS Darren Sharper is leaving Wednesday for Europe and will be out of the country for the rest of the month. … There is no "Town Hall'' conference call scheduled today between NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and selected Saints fans as SportsNOLA.com reported Tuesday night. The commish recently has held such calls with fan bases of numerous NFL teams, including Indianapolis, the site of Super Bowl XLVI on Feb. 5, 2012. At some point in the coming weeks, Saints spokesman Greg Bensel said, a conference call might take place between fans and Goodell, but not Wednesday. Also, former Saints QB and local radio personality Bobby Hebert said unspecified logistics prevented him from talking with Goodell on behalf of Who Dat Nation but that day, too, might come. ... Because of the lockout, the Saints wore Black and Gold nameless jerseys Tuesday night minus the team's signature trademark Fleur de Lis.  

Saints beat writer Brian Allee-Walsh can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

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