Friday, October 19, 2007

Horn comin back to the N.O.

I'm going to say it: Joe Horn was New Orleans' favorite son.
We miss him. The receiving corps is not the same without him.
He feels the same way.
"I miss New Orleans. I miss the fans. I miss the people that were real there with Joe Horn," said the outspoken receiver with the predilection for referring to himself in the third person. "I love New Orleans. I get chills when I think about coming to New Orleans."
Horn was one of the best receivers ever to play in a black-and-gold uniform, and the most popular. He was a part of the Saints' last two playoff teams in 2000 and 2006, had his own radio show, and was among the first to show up at shelters to cheer up evacuees after Hurricane Katrina.
In the offseason, the Saints went out and picked up a couple of receivers to join the audition for Horn's vacant spot -- one of which was three-time Super Bowl champion David Patten. The other was Tennessee standout Robert Meachem, whom the Saints selected with their first pick in April's NFL draft.
"They made it pretty clear that they were bringing me in to replace Joe Horn," Patten said. "They wanted a veteran, someone who had been around a while and could kind of help the younger guys out.
"I understood my role and I accepted the challenge. It doesn't matter where I go, my goal is the same. I want to help the team win."
But something happened on the way to replacing Horn.
Meachem and Patten both missed parts of training camp for various reasons. To make matters worse, Henderson opened the 2007 season with a case of the drops.
He said bitterly that New Orleans apparently wasn't big enough for him and new Saints coach Sean Payton.
The Saints and Falcons have one win apiece.
This week, Payton downplayed any animosity, speaking only of his admiration for the receiver who had 679 yards receiving and four touchdowns in 10 games for the Saints last season. Because of a nagging groin injury, Horn missed six regular-season games and both Saints playoff games, although Horn contended he was healthy enough to play in the NFC championship game against Chicago.
"He's someone that's been a great competitor, has had a great career and has worked his tail off," Payton said. "Through determination and hard work, he's someone that persevered and made himself a special player in our league. I was fortunate ... to have been able to coach him for a year and have the success we had with him. Now it becomes about two teams playing in a game that is important for both teams because both teams are sitting here at this time of the year with just one win. Both teams are trying to get something going and not dig themselves into too deep a hole."
Horn also resisted any temptation to take a shot at the Saints. He said he went to Atlanta because his wife's family lives in the Southeast, not because the Falcons are historically the Saints' oldest and biggest divisional rivals.
"I know you guys think I'm probably trying to play it down," Horn said. "I'm going to try to do my best and do my job as far as playing for the Atlanta Falcons because that's my new team now, but I'm not coming back for hurrah or trying to embarrass somebody or make somebody feel bad. That's not where I'm at right now. We're 1-5 right now."
Horn, 35, has struggled a bit himself. Lining up as the Falcons' third wide receiver, he has 11 catches for 117 yards and no touchdowns. Atlanta has yet to profit from the type of game-breaking performance Horn provided New Orleans on numerous occasions.

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