METAIRIE, La. – Darren Sproles turned to head up the field, wide open space the only thing in between the New Orleans Saints running back and the end zone.
Only, he did it the same time the ball arrived at his fingers from quarterback Drew Brees.
The end result?
A rare drop from the consistently clutch running back, a mistake that he went over in mind against and again and one that played a part in the Saints losing at Green Bay this past Sunday.
“I lost some sleep over that play, but I made a point to go out after practice just to catch a little bit to get my confidence up but I’m fine now,” Sproles said Wednesday. “It killed me, but it’s in the past now. I’ve just got to go out and make another play.”
Indeed, Brees and Sproles spent time after practice running the same play over and over. The quarterback made sure to add that each time they ran it, the pass was completed.
He took the play personally.
“Oh yeah, especially when I feel like I let my team down,” Sproles said. “That messed with me though, you know what I’m saying, so I spent a little time after practice getting it right. ... It was a game-changer. If I would have just caught it, we had the first down and then we could have run a little more time out of it.”
One player who expects Sproles to bounce back is Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who played with the running back before he came to New Orleans.
And Rivers was effusive in his praise of Sproles.
“He’s going to bounce back huge,” Rivers said. “One thing about Darren is he cares as much or more than anybody in that locker room. He’s so dependable. Anytime he was to have a negative play when he was here, which is very rare and I’m sure it has been there, he’s the kind of guy that’s on to the next play. As strong as tough as he is physically, he is the same way mentally.”
Sproles was all but bottled up against the Packers, finishing with just 64 total yards on offense and 95 yards on kick returns. He had a critical fumble on a kick return, one that was recovered by Green Bay but he was wrongly ruled down by contact and the Packers couldn’t challenge.
In other words, Sunday wasn’t one of his better days as a Saints player.
Still, Brees isn’t concerned with any of that.
“He’s a go-to guy in all situations, especially critical situations,” Brees said. “It doesn’t change my opinion about him one bit, but just to you know about the type of guy he is, he cares a lot and he wants to be that guy and he is that guy.”