Canton, OH – With a month still to go until the games count, the New Orleans Saints took to the field in their first preseason game since the fallout from the bounty gate scandal.
Unfazed by the distractions from a tumultuous offseason, the newly signed Drew Brees led his troops on a methodical 10-play, 77-yard touchdown drive in his only series, and the New Orleans Saints downed the Arizona Cardinals, 17-10, in the Hall of Fame game.
Brees was 4-for-5 for 41 yards on the opening march, which was capped off by Mark Ingram's one-yard touchdown plunge.
New Orleans was without the services of head coach Sean Payton and middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who were suspended for the entire 2012 campaign by league Commissioner Roger Goodell due to their knowledge and involvement in the Saints' notorious "pay-for-performance" system orchestrated by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
Acting head coach Joe Vitt and defensive end Will Smith were also handed big penalties for their role in the program, with Vitt sacked with a six-game suspension and Smith to sit out the first four regular-season contests. Both are eligible to participate in the entire preseason.
Ex-Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo was hired to assume Williams' post as coordinator, with free-agent addition Curtis Lofton stepping into Vilma's spot in the middle.
New Orleans' offseason also contained a lengthy contract impasse between the front office and Brees, but those issues were resolved when the club signed the triggerman to a massive five-year, $100 million deal just prior to the start of training camp.
The Cardinals entered camp searching for a starting quarterback. Arizona thought it had that all-important position solved when it traded for Kevin Kolb last summer and gave the former Philadelphia Eagle a long-term contract. But he went just 3-6 and missed a good portion of the 2011 season with injuries, enabling backup John Skelton to make an impression by engineering five wins in his seven starts.
Kolb was 1-for-4 for four yards and had his first pass intercepted. He left later in the first quarter with a rib injury. Skelton completed 4-of-6 passes for 43 yards.
The Hall of Fame game, which returned after a one-year hiatus due to last year's lockout, was officiated by a replacement crew who were filling in for the officials who are locked out in a labor dispute with the NFL.