METAIRIE - For the second consecutive year, the New Orleans Saints are multi-tasking on the first weekend of September.
While 30 NFL teams can trim their rosters to 53 by 3 p.m. CDT Saturday and then turn their focus to assembling an eight-man practice squad and playing a season opener eight or nine days later, the Saints and Green Bay Packers are game-planning and making final cuts simultaneously, as they are just six days away from the league's Thursday night kickoff.
Friday is essentially a regular-season Monday for Saints coach Sean Payton, Packers coach Mike McCarthy and their staffs.
"It's the third time we've played this game," said Payton, whose team hosted the game last year and traveled to Indianapolis for the 2007 kickoff. "It's really getting your week set ahead of time; it's an earlier week.
"Understanding the type of emotion the game provides for the team that has the home game, that has just won (the Super Bowl) and being able to recognize that. I think just having played in it last year, with us being the home team, you have an understanding of the type of game it is, starting with the kickoff of the season, all the hoopla ... that goes around it."
The fact that Thursday's game is in one of the NFL's cathedrals, Lambeau Field, only adds to the storyline.
"I think it is a special place," Payton said. "I think more than anything, we're looking forward to getting the season started and playing a real good football team, obviously. We've got a ton of respect for their tradition and the success they had a year ago.
"To open the season in a prime-time game against last year's Super Bowl winner, and it happens to be in Lambeau Field, those are a lot of things that get your competitive juices flowing and it'll be a tough environment. It'll be a real good challenge."
The NFL has not notified the Saints as to the status of defensive end Will Smith regarding his three-year battle over a suspension in the StarCaps case. "I haven't heard anything," Payton said.
While Payton understands his team will face a huge test from Green Bay, he understands it comes down to basics.
"Early in the season, it's going to come down to blocking and tackling," he said. "It's going to come down to protecting the football and the execution. That's typically what's going to win or lose games, especially in early September."
The Saints will not likely announce any roster moves until Saturday afternoon, though apparently, transactions are already being made. Cornerback Trumaine McBride indicated Friday afternoon on his Twitter feed that he had been waived.
The team returns to the practice field on Sunday.
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