Parys Haralson adds veteran presence to 'D'

METAIRIE, La. -- Parys Haralson has mostly flown under the radar since being traded from the San Francisco 49ers to the New Orleans Saints during the preseason. But the veteran outside linebacker has been a steady part of the rotation and a respected leader for a young defense that has far exceeded expectations.

“There was a good fit, not only physically as a football player, but also as one who has had experience and been part of a winning program,” Saints coach Sean Payton said of Haralson, whom the Saints reportedly acquired for a seventh-round pick after they lost their own veteran leader, Will Smith, to a season-ending knee injury.

“There’s a confidence level about him that he brings, and it really worked out well for us, just with his level of expertise of playing outside linebacker,” Payton said. “He is versatile in that he can give you rush snaps, and I think he is an outstanding teammate.”

Haralson has played 30 percent of the Saints’ snaps this season, with two sacks (including one last Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys), 14 tackles and a pass defensed. Haralson (6 feet, 255 pounds) has long been considered a strong run defender -- and he has been used more heavily against run-heavy offenses this season. That means he might see more playing time than usual this Sunday against his former team.

“I really look at it as it’s a regular game,” Haralson insisted this week. “I don’t say that because it’s probably the right thing to say -- you don’t want to go out and say something hurtful. But that’s really how I feel. There’s a bunch of guys I played with over there. I’ve got a bunch of friends still in that locker room. But I’m a New Orleans Saint, and I want to go out and help the Saints win. That’s what I’m focused on doing, going out and doing what I’ve got to do to help us earn a W.”

San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh said it was hard to trade Haralson, but that he’s happy for him. Haralson, who missed all of last season with a triceps injury, became expendable because of the 49ers' linebacker depth.

“I can’t wish him as much luck this week, but (I have) nothing but great respect for Parys Haralson as a player and a person,” Harbaugh said. “A-plus. A-plus-plus.”