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Saints roundup: 'Press clippings' won't be a problem next year

METAIRIE, La. -- Offensive tackle Zach Strief said he’s not sure if too many guys bought into the preseason hype and lofty expectations surrounding the New Orleans Saints this year.

Strief said he’s been around long enough to know that those things don’t mean anything. But he knows he doesn’t speak for everybody -- and he has been very blunt this season about how not everyone on the team “understood the amount of intensity, the amount of work and energy that’s needed to be successful in this league.”

I wrote about this idea on Thursday, how I think motivation can play at least a small role in a team’s success -- comparing it to the way the Saints played in 2010 in their “Super Bowl hangover” year. And I think that hype particularly affected a young defense that had such a breakout year in 2013 before falling back this year.

Cornerback Keenan Lewis acknowledged Wednesday that, “A lot of guys, we read a lot.” And high expectations can be a negative if you get “caught up into that and you’re feeling yourself.” And safety Kenny Vaccaro has been open about his own second-year struggles and how he needed to get back "that dog in me."

“I’ll tell you this, we won’t have to deal with it next year,” Strief said. “We won’t have any questions about, 'Did you read the press clippings?' in the offseason going into next season. And that’ll probably be a more comfortable situation.”

Worth a click:

  • Times-Picayune columnist Jeff Duncan wrote an awesome Christmas Day story about how Drew Brees has personally inspired so many fans who have named their children after him – including a baby born this month with a rare genetic disorder.

  • Former Saints kicker Garrett Hartley shared an emotional personal story with Cleveland.com about how he and his girlfriend lost their baby due to complications in the mother’s pregnancy. Hartley gave the eulogy for his daughter two days before returning to the NFL to kick for the Browns this past Sunday.

  • Rookie Saints cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste talked more in-depth to The Advocate’s Ted Lewis about the frustrations of not playing this season. “I really don’t know what the plans are for me. I’m feeling lost right now,” Jean-Baptiste admitted.

  • The NFC South is not the worst division in NFL history, according to FiveThirtyEight.

  • For information on this week’s opponent, check out ESPN’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers team page here. And follow Bucs reporter Pat Yasinskas on Twitter @PatYazESPN.

Worth repeating:

Tampa Bay quarterback Josh McCown had some good stories about the intense brotherly rivalry between him and Saints backup QB Luke McCown growing up. The best was the time when Josh was admittedly not being a good sport after beating Luke in basketball and rubbing it in -- which caused their older brother Randy to shove Josh to the ground. And Josh inhaled a grass burr, which led to a trip to the hospital.

“Whatever game or sport we were playing was just a precursor to the fight, that’s all it was,” Josh said. “All the game let us do was let us know who was going to throw the first punch, that’s what the game did.”