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Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Reporter
Email: bhandwerger@wwltv.com | Twitter: @wwltvsports

METAIRIE, La. Scott Shanle hasn't played in seven consecutive games for the Saints.

Sunday likely will make it eight straight and, with that, Shanle's career with the Saints will quietly come to a close.

For 10 players, in fact, New Orleans' (7-8) home finale against Carolina (6-9) could mark their last time donning the black and gold as they're set to become unrestricted free agents.

It's a sad reality in professional sports, the dirty underside of what, ultimately, is a game.

'You get to the offseason and it goes from being this game that you've always known and this kind of do whatever you can for this team to now all of a sudden it's an industry and it's a business,' Saints tackle Zach Strief said. 'I think that's tough for players.'

Of those out of contract, the biggest name free agents will include Shanle along with defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis, left tackle Jermon Bushrod and receiver Devery Henderson.

Additionally, for salary cap reasons, the Saints may be departing with others, including defensive end Will Smith ($14 million next season), linebacker Jonathan Vilma ($8.6 million) and safety Roman Harper ($7.1 million).

Henderson has been with the Saints since being drafted by New Orleans in the second round of 2004. His 17.9-yard per catch career average is tops in Saints history. The Opelousas, La., native isn't relishing Sunday's game.

'It's the reality but I try not to think about that,' Henderson said. 'I just take things day-to-day and worry about what's happening now instead of trying to worry about things that I really have no control over. Whatever happens, happens. I'll deal with that when the day comes.'

Shanle, though, is nearly assured of not returning. After playing in the first seven games, he hasn't seen I the field in eight of the past nine.

But he doesn't regret coming back to New Orleans when he signed a two-year contract in 2011 and he thinks he still has miles to go on his legs.

Regardless of what happens, he'll always cherish his time in New Orleans.

'Obviously for the rest of my life I will be grateful to Sean Payton for bringing me here and giving me a chance,' Shanle said. 'I spent a couple of years with him in Dallas and he traded for me. I experienced a lot of great things because he was willing to make that move. I'll forever have that bond for coach Payton.'

At the very least, because of the situation, Shanle said Sunday won't be all that hard to take, not with the way his past six weeks have happened.

'But I've had a lot of time over the past six weeks to kind of look back at all the things that have been great about being part of this organization,' Shanle said. 'And like I was saying before, whatever happens I'm ready for, regardless. If it's going somewhere else, if it's coming back, if it's doing something entirely different in my life, I'll be ready for it.

'And I'm just thankful that I've been able to do it for 10 years.'

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