Tight end has harsh words for Benson, Haslett
Thursday, September 23, 2004
By Jeff Duncan
Staff writer
Rams tight end Cam Cleeland had some harsh words for his former team and coach when speaking with St. Louis area reporters Wednesday.

"It's just I want to kick the living tar out of these guys," Cleeland said. "More than anything. Coach (Jim) Haslett, he's a coach. . . . If there's a chance for me to be on the sideline on a flat route, I don't know, let's just say he'll be looking for me probably. . . . As often as I get in there, I'm going to try to beat him (Haslett) up, do as best as I can to win this game."

The Saints chose not to re-sign Cleeland when he became a free agent after the 2001 season. He signed a one-year deal with New England in 2002 and has played in St. Louis, along with former Saints teammate Kyle Turley, since 2003.

"Kyle and I both feel the same way," Cleeland said. "We both were treated in a manner -- it's just how that organization is. It's great to be part of a first-class organization like this, and you get a chance to get away from that aura down there. . . . Let's put it this way. I'm very excited to be out of there and be on this team."

When asked to compare the mindset of the two organizations, Cleeland said they were completely different.

"I mean, you have a car salesman running the team (in New Orleans)," Cleeland said. "Compared to people that are world-renowned owners, people that are extreme corporate leaders. They know how to run organizations. They know the type of people to bring in here. Down there, they just don't have the right people."

Cleeland, New Orleans' second-round draft pick in 1998, said he knows what Haslett is telling the Saints this week.

"I know what they're preaching down there," Cleeland said. "I know what they're telling them. That we're soft, we're weak, 'we've beat 'em up before. They're going to turn the ball over a ton.' I know exactly what they're saying."


HOWARD BACK AT WORK: Darren Howard donned a neck roll Wednesday and practiced for the first time since being sidelined with a neck injury in the second game of the preseason. Howard worked with the first team at right defensive end and said he plans to start Sunday against the St. Louis Rams.

Saints officials want to see how Howard's neck responds in practice before determining his playing status. Coach Jim Haslett said if Howard checks out, he will start ahead of rookie Will Smith, who started the first two games and has one sack.

"I thought (Howard) was OK," Saints coach Jim Haslett said. "We'll look at him on film and see how his neck held up. We'll go from there and see how he feels tomorrow (Thursday)."

Howard, a fifth-year veteran, injured his neck while making a head-first tackle against Green Bay on Aug. 21. He played sparingly against Chicago, then experienced pain and swelling in his neck the next day. An MRI revealed a bulging disc in his lower neck.

After the bulge subsided last week, doctors cleared Howard to return. Haslett, however, chose to wait a week before returning Howard to full-time duty.

"It's something he's going to have to get used to playing with, and hopefully it doesn't re-occur," Haslett said. "If he feels fine, then I'm fine. If there is any question about it, we won't play him."


INJURY REPORT: Cornerback Jason Craft returned to practice for the first time since he sprained his right ankle against Chicago in the third week of preseason. Craft is listed as questionable. . . . Joe Horn (left knee) and Brian Young (hip flexor, groin) are also listed as questionable. Both practiced Wednesday and are expected to play, Haslett said.


ROSTER MOVES: The Saints re-signed tight end Zachary Hilton to the practice squad Wednesday. Hilton was waived Monday to make room for running back Ki-Jana Carter. Running back Nick Maddox (5 feet 11, 209 pounds) was signed to the practice squad.


ETC.: Rookie wide receiver Devery Henderson joined Maddox in taking handoffs from quarterback Kliff Kingsbury after practice Wednesday. Henderson began his career at LSU as a running back. . . . Cornerback Fakhir Brown injured his right shoulder in practice Wednesday and missed the last 45 minutes of drills. He will be evaluated today to determine his status.

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Jeff Duncan can be reached at jduncan@timespicayune.com or (504) 826-3405.