Observers at the New Orleans Saints camp say the quarterback battle is dead even between Jeff Blake and Aaron Brooks.
If it's still even after the Saints play the Dallas Cowboys on Aug. 18, coach Jim Haslett will likely name Brooks as the starter to open the regular season.
Why? As good as Blake was in 2000 before he was sidelined by foot surgery, Brooks has "so much upside," according to a Saints source, that it will be improbable for Haslett to bench the younger quarterback (Brooks).
In other words, Haslett believes he can be a playoff contender with Blake at the controls. But Brooks' development could mean a Super Bowl payoff.
Meanwhile, No. 1 draft pick Deuce McAllister, whose contract negotiations have stalled, has not enamored himself with Haslett. Haslett's disgust is not a surprise -- what coach loves a holdout? -- but the one part of McAllister's contract demands that turned Haslett off was the request to wear uniform No. 22, the running back's number at Ole Miss.
Saints cornerback Fred Thomas wears No. 22. Traditionally, new players have to personally negotiate with the veteran player who owns the number. Prices can range anywhere from $1,000 to $20,000 -- the latter figure sending a distinct message to not even bother.