Saints Starters Not Expected to Play Long Thursday Night

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Titans players said this week they want to see how they match up with the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, but the measuring stick may not be completely accurate.

Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher anticipates that New Orleans (2-1) will limit the playing time for their starters in preparation for the Saints' Sept. 9 season opener against Minnesota. The preseason finale for the Saints and Titans kicks off at 7 p.m. Thursday at LP Field.

"I would guess that most of those guys that got rings won't be playing," Fisher said. "They're going to put 11 out there. I can't predict what they're going to do."

Fisher said the focus of the Titans (1-2) will be winning the game, evaluating players and preparing for the team's Sept. 12 season opener against Oakland at LP Field. Fisher, entering his 16th full season as head coach, said the lack of starters lining up across from Titans players will not make evaluating Tennessee players more difficult.

 All NFL teams must have their rosters cut down to 53 players by Saturday evening.

Saints coach Sean Payton told www.neworleanssaints.com to expect "a lot of guys with the second teams. They're battling for spots, so they're going to have a lot of playing time. Some guys are going to play close to a full game. Hopefully that gives us a better look at some of these players."

Tennessee Pro Bowl running back Chris Johnson, who has been used sparingly in basic offensive packages, said he is intrigued by matching up against the defending champs but added he is more eager to start his third regular season.
"It's going to be very interesting to see how we match up against them, even though it's preseason," said Johnson, who gained an NFL-record 2,509 yards from scrimmage last year and became the sixth player in league history to rush for more than 2,000 yards. "We're ready to get the season started. This is the time where I start getting ready for Oakland."

Rookie linebacker Patrick Trahan, a New Orleans native vying for a roster spot, is looking forward to lining up against a franchise that became a championship organization last year.

"It's crazy now that they're winning," Trahan said. "When I grew up, they didn't win too many games. I think they had one playoff run when I was in high school. Everybody back home is a die-hard Saints fan all of a sudden."

Trahan said the Saints' lack of success during his youth helped him better appreciate football in its entirety rather than focusing all on one team.

Rookie wide receiver Marc Mariani, a seventh-round draft pick, said Thursday's game will wrap up a preseason that's been "surreal."

"You've got the best of the best out there," Mariani said. "There is no greater football than here on the face of the earth."

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