Amid controversy, Saints hanging on

October, 26, 2008
10/26/08
7:27
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

LONDON, England -- As New Orleans Saints history goes, this was a massive moment.

 
 Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
 Deuce McAllister faces an uncertain future after returning to the featured-back role in London.

The only question is how we'll reflect upon it in time.

Say it ain't so, Deuce. Or did the road to the Super Bowl really start in, of all places, Wembley Stadium?

Hey, it's happened before. As the British media were quick to point out and the Saints were incredibly happy to grab onto, the New York Giants won in London last year. But that's just a lifeboat and the Saints have to cross the Atlantic Ocean and get back to the Mississippi River -- and reality -- Monday.

But reality was already hitting Sunday night in the postgame locker room after the 37-32 victory over San Diego when questions turned away from following in the Giants' footsteps. Hit especially hard was Deuce McAllister, perhaps the most popular Saints player in history and an icon up and down the Gulf region, when he sat down in Wembley's theater-style media room.

McAllister -- who has been the most popular man in Louisiana, Mississippi and parts of Alabama for much of his career -- suddenly became the face of scandal. Since Friday, there have been reports that McAllister is one of at least three Saints who have tested positive for a supplement banned by the NFL. Defensive ends Charles Grant and Will Smith are the other New Orleans players who have been identified in the controversy.

Since Friday, the Saints have been silent. That ended after the game, when McAllister stood up and faced the music. He had just stepped back into his featured-back role with Reggie Bush injured and gave the Saints 18 carries, but that wasn't discussed much in the conversation.

When asked how the reports might impact his legacy, McAllister didn't take the company line about how the matter was in the hands of the NFL, which has remained silent.

"You really hate to put yourself in this position," McAllister said. "I've always played by the rules, not only the eight years I've been in the league, but four years in college, four years in high school. I was always one to play by the rules and that's what myself and the others tried to do. I don't know how much you guys know and my counsel will put his case together. There's more to the story than just a couple lines."

Yes, there's something to this story and it's obviously going to play out in the coming days. Grant declined comment, but Smith acknowledged he's heard something from the league.

"I'm not going to comment on that because I just found out about it myself earlier in the week," Smith said. "I really don't feel comfortable talking about that. I just want to let things play out when we get back to the States. I'm not going to elaborate on anything. It's too early. I don't know a lot about it. We're just finding out about it ourselves and we're going to go from there and take the right procedures and figure out what happened."

Suspensions are possible and it's obvious the players are hinting at some legal issues. Perhaps the most vocal player was defensive end Bobby McCray, who obviously would be an automatic starter if Grant or Smith misses any time. But McCray said he's rooting against that and staunchly defended his teammates.

"We know about it," McCray said. "But we've got guys with great character that never had those problems before. We've got guys trying to stay in shape by shaving a few pounds. The way they did it, they didn't harm anybody and they didn't know about it. It's not our guys. They've got great character. It's a lot of other guys elsewhere that got in trouble for it."

Sounds more than a little ominous, but McCray wouldn't elaborate. The Saints have a bye week and some time off as they return home. However, it's obviously not going to be a quiet time back in New Orleans.

But the Saints are 4-4 and that's a lot better than 3-5 when you're facing a 10- or 12-hour flight home. Even with all the other issues, that thought made things a lot more pleasant for Smith and the rest of the Saints.

"We know we have a good team just like the Giants," Smith said. "They weren't playing that well until they came over here last year, and they were great after that. We can look at them and say that could possibly be us."

There's hope for the Saints.

"We have to build on this one," linebacker Scott Fujita said. "We've bounced around .500 too much the last two seasons. We have to build some momentum.''

They've got road games at Atlanta and Kansas City before breaking a 42-day absence at the Superdome with a Nov. 24 contest against Green Bay. By then, the Saints could be like the Giants. Or they could be without several key players.

Either way, the victory and the off-field issues have made sure the Saints, who could have had their season slip out of control, stay relevant.

They might have saved their season. Or just made it hang on a bit longer.

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