Each week Saintsinsider.com and Bucsblitz.com will take you inside the top matchup from that week's game. We're not talking about a thumbnail preview. We're going in-depth to show you how this matchup will affect the upcoming game. Today, we tell you which Bucs receiver and which Saints cornerback will deeply impact Sunday's game. Get the scoop right here.
After the city dodged a full-force hit from Hurricane Gustav on Monday and residents started returning to New Orleans on Wednesday, the team's fans, who are eager to talk about anything but tropical systems, got some good news.
With the Saints riding out the fierce storm more than 800 miles away in Indianapolis, four-time Pro Bowl tight end Jeremy Shockey practiced as the team continued its prep for Sunday's regular-season opener with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
What's more, Shockey's name didn't show up on the official injury report coach Sean Payton filed with the league office on Wednesday or Thursday.
Shockey, who was acquired from the New York Giants for two draft picks on July 21, missed all four exhibition games while being brought along slowly after his 2007 season ended last December with a fractured leg.
Barring a late-week setback, Shockey will make his Saints debut on Sunday in the Superdome against the Bucs. He was scheduled to play in the final two exhibition games, but was a late scratch each time by coach Sean Payton.
"I hope so," Shockey said when asked if he expected to play Sunday. "I hope so."
Shockey also told national and local media about his eagerness to finally play for the Saints after watching four straight games from the sideline.
"There's nothing wrong with being a cheerleader on the sidelines, but you want to get in and compete," Shockey said. "I think that's the fun part. You guys kind of speculate, and everyone can write whatever, but the fact of the matter is it's going to be fun to go out and give you guys something to write about besides: 'Is he going to play? Is he not going to play?'"
The Saints also got some good news from running back Deuce McAllister and cornerback Mike McKenzie, who are both coming off serious knee injuries. They both fully participated in practice on Wednesday and Thursday and should be good to go Sunday.
DT Hollis Thomas will not play Sunday against the Tampa Bay Bucs. Thomas will be out until October after tearing his right triceps muscle last month and having surgery.
RB Aaron Stecker did not participate in Thursday's practice because of a slight hamstring injury, according to coach Sean Payton. Stecker's status for Sunday's game will be determined later in the week.
MLB Mark Simoneau, who missed three weeks of work with a back problem, practiced on a limited basis for the second straight day Thursday.
SLB Troy Evans, a key special teams performer, worked on a limited basis Thursday after sitting out Wednesday's practice with a sprained ankle. His status for Sunday was not known.
RB Deuce McAllister participated in practice fully again Thursday and should be ready for the Bucs game.
LCB Mike McKenzie, who had surgery for a torn right ACL last December, worked again Thursday and will likely start Sunday.
DT Brian Young, who's been hampered by a right foot injury, was able to practice fully for the second straight day Thursday.
Each week Saintsinsider.com's Matthew Postins will analyze the top five issues facing the New Orleans Saints that week. In this opening edition, Postins analyzes how the Saints might use Deuce McAllister, why the Saints kept seven cornerbacks and if Martin Gramatica is the answer at placekicker. Click right here.