Saints players say they're ready for rival Falcons

Saints head coach Sean Payton addresses the media.
Saints head coach Sean Payton addresses the media.

METAIRIE, LA (WAFB) - New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton said he won't update the status of linebackers Martez Wilson and Junior Galette until Wednesday.

He was equally vague about linebacker Jonathan Vilma and what role he might play Sunday in the season opener against the Atlanta Falcons.

"It's a tough challenge right to start, so we're going to have a good work week and play real well," Payton said.

The Falcons have been picked by almost everyone to win the NFC South. The Saints want to send an early message that those predictions are wrong.

"If we get off on the right foot now, we're two games up in the division against Atlanta; that's always a good thing, knowing that they're going to be in it at the end," said Saints safety Roman Harper.

The intensity should be raging. Not only is it a season opener in the Mercedes Benz Superdome, it's against a team the Who Dat Nation loves to hate.

"The fans don't like each other, not so much as players because the fans are what make the rivalry really go," Harper added.

"It's been a rivalry for many years," explained Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton, a former Falcon. "It's gone back and forth. And, the last seven to 10 games came down to one possession."

The Saints first round draft pick has already been well schooled at what's at stake.

"On Twitter, I think a fan every day lets me know how heated this rivalry is," said Saints rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro. "So, I'll be ready for it. I understand how important this game is for the city."

This will also be the first opportunity for young Saints wide receivers Nick Toon and Kenny Stills to make a big impact in an NFL regular season game.

"My job is to be ready when my number is called," said Toon. "When my number is called, I go out there, do my job, catch the ball and make plays. That's what I was brought here to do, that's what Kenny was brought here to do and that's what we do as receivers."

"It's football," added Stills. "After the first play, after the kickoff, it gets down to one of those things where it's just football again. I'm excited to get in there, but I have to keep calm, cool and collected and make sure I make plays."

The countdown has begun to noon Sunday, when it gets rocking for real.

The game will air on FOX.

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