Saints release 16, including Fontenot and Darrin Smith
NEW ORLEANS -- With one player suspended for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy and one unable to play, the New Orleans Saints released 15-year veteran center Jerry Fontenot, linebacker Darrin Smith and 14 other players Sunday.
Fontenot, 37, started all 80 games the past five seasons and was selected as a Pro Bowl alternate last season. He said he was disappointed but would not have been surprised whether he was kept or dropped.
Since signing with New Orleans as an unrestricted free agent in 1997, he started every game he played for the Saints -- 100 in all. He re-signed with the Saints as an unrestricted free agent in May, saying he decided to return as a backup because he felt the Saints had a chance of a Super Bowl run this season.
Smith had been with the Saints since July 2000 and started nine of 14 games last year, finishing fifth on the team in tackles.
The NFL suspended linebacker Sedrick Hodge for four games, and the team put defensive end Willie Whitehead on the physically unable to perform list. Whitehead is out until after the sixth regular-season weekend.
In addition to Fontenot and Smith, cuts made Sunday were defensive tackle Kenderick Allen, guards Ben Archibal and Chad Setterstrom, wide receivers Nathan Black and Derrick Lewis, cornerbacks Fred Booker and Ahmad Brooks, tight end Dan Curley, safety Brett Hafford, kicker Rob Hart, fullback Nate Schurman, linebacker Billy Strother, running back Lamar Smith, and center Terry Wagner.
The ability of guards Kendyl Jacox and Jamar Nesbit to also play center, and the versatility of reserve tackles Jon Stinchcomb and Spencer Folau, who also can play guard, ultimately made Fontenot expendable.
"I hadn't been aware that they were thinking of only keeping eight linemen," Fontenot said Saturday. "The only real disappointment is that (if) it would have happened at the first cut so I could get a preseason game somewhere else.
"I certainly hold my head high, knowing that I did everything the coaches asked of me and everything the organization asked of me. I feel very blessed in my career."
Fontenot said he is confident he can still play in the NFL, and a handful of teams have expressed interest.
If that doesn't work out, Fontenot said coaching or broadcasting would be possibilities. He said the Saints have approached him about a possible future coaching job as an offensive assistant.
"I'm going to explore all of my options," Fontenot said. "My first option is to play. But obviously, with the business, age becomes an issue. I'm sure there are teams that value my experience. We're shopping."
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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