Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Writer
METAIRIE, La. ― Alex Brown stood amongst reporters Friday, dancing around questions about what exactly it is that Saints coach Sean Payton looks for when signing veteran free agents.
There was one question, however, that he answered immediately, that made him light up.
“Are you glad he (Olin Kreutz) is here?” a reporter asked.
“Hell yeah,” Brown quickly responded. “I never watched (Matt) Tennant. Just my humble opinion. I think he makes us better.”
Payton thinks that, too.
That’s why he brought in the 13-year veteran who has earned six Pro Bowl berths and two All Pro honors.
The Saints were in need of a center with experience after Jonathan Goodwin, who started the past three seasons at the position, didn’t re-sign with New Orleans, opting instead for a three-year contract worth reportedly $10-plus million.
Kreutz flew to New Orleans in time on Thursday to take in Saints practice. He was supposed to leave Friday morning, but stuck around. He signed a one-year contract in the morning and by the afternoon, was working with the first-team offense.
“He looked at this as an opportunity and he left a couple of other options on the table that paid a lot more money,” Payton said. “His main interest is finding the right fit and the right team. He felt pretty good about what he saw.”
For much of the time in his first practice with the Saints, it appeared to be a seamless transition for Kreutz.
That didn’t surprise Brown, who played with the 6-foot-2, 292-pounder.
“He’s a man,” Brown said. “He’s the real deal. Every year I was there in Chicago, he made a ton of Pro Bowls. He’s 290 pounds, 295, whatever he is, he’s the toughest S.O.B. I’ve ever seen. He really is. … He never misses. He’s always there. If you look up tough, he’ll be there.”
The signing of Kreutz doesn’t end Tennant’s time at center. It just gives him more time to learn the job; Tennant is entering only his second year in the NFL.
“I would say the situation is fantastic for Matt,” Payton said. “He has a chance now to continue his growth. He’s going to compete and he knows he’s competing. That being said, he has the chance to spend time with a 14-year veteran and see what are the things this guy has done so well to play this long and play at such a high level.”
Kreutz didn’t speak with the media Friday, saying instead that he’ll take questions on Saturday, his third day in New Orleans.
For Brown, it was just good to see a familiar face from his past back on the same practice field, especially one he has so much respect for.
“I had an idea he was coming down,” Brown said. “But to see him at practice the following day, the day he signs, I think that says a lot about him. He’s ready. He’s always ready.”