Thursday, October 2, 2003
As a starter, Delhomme faces old team
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- New Orleans Saints coach Jim Haslett was
not impressed the first time he saw Jake Delhomme.
The quarterback was fresh off eye surgery, and Haslett said
Delhomme was "tripping and falling and stumbling" as he struggled
to complete an agility drill.
"I went right upstairs after that and said to the quarterback
coach, 'What the heck is this?' " Haslett said. "He was bumbling
around and it was part of (the eye surgery), but that was my first
introduction to Jake."
Haslett warmed up to the quarterback and kept him around as a
backup to Aaron Brooks in New Orleans for four seasons. Now
Delhomme is a starter for Carolina, preparing to face his old team
Sunday in an NFC South game.
"It's going to be exciting," Delhomme said. "I have a lot of
old friends there."
Playing in New Orleans was a dream job for Delhomme, who grew up
in Breaux Bridge, La., rooting for the Saints.
As ideal as it was -- having his family nearby, and being able to
help out his new wife and daughter -- Delhomme wanted a chance to be
a starter. He knew he'd never unseat Brooks, so he left over the
winter for a shot to start in Carolina.
For Haslett, saying goodbye to Delhomme was like sending one of
his children off to college.
"When we got him he was an unpolished quarterback," Haslett
said. "It's tough when you're with somebody for three years and
you see them grow and then they leave.
"But it's also rewarding to see what he's doing with a good
After replacing Rodney Peete midway through the season opener,
when he threw three touchdown passes to lift the Panthers to a
victory, Delhomme has guided the Panthers to a 3-0 start and the
top of the division standings.
He's coming off his best game -- 168 yards passing and a 5-yard
touchdown pass to Ricky Proehl, with no interceptions for the first
time -- in a 23-3 victory over Atlanta last Sunday.
Now he wants to beat the Saints, but not because he's got hard
feelings against his former team. If he could have competed for the
starting spot, Delhomme never would have left New Orleans. And the
Saints would have loved to have kept him, as well.
"They didn't let me go -- it's not like I was playing for them
and they said, 'He's not good enough. We're going to let him go,"
Delhomme said. "I have no grudge against them. They wanted me
"When I said I was coming here, I talked to Haslett that day.
All he could wish me was best of luck. He said, 'We wanted you
here. It didn't work out. I'm going to pull for you for 14
Delhomme does the same, rooting for the Saints when they aren't
playing the Panthers. That and a freezer full of Louisiana
delicacies helps keep him from getting homesick.
Delhomme, a true Cajun with a full accent and appetite to match,
has enough crawfish stocked up to remember home.
"I had shrimp gumbo Monday night," he said. "I'm not