Despite only 9 games played due to the NFL Players Strike, Bum Phillips and the New Orleans Saints had plenty going on.
The off season had more than just the draft in the news. Several Ex-Saints were allegedly involved drug use that included Saints Runningback George Rodgers. Rodgers admitted buying over $10,000 dollars worth of cocaine, most of it from former Saint Mike Strachan. Chuck Muncie testified in San Diego that Rodgers had borrowed money from him at the Pro Bowl to buy the coke. As the NFL began to crack down (pun intended) on drug use more players came forward. Nose tackle Monte Bennent and defensiveback Dave Waymer both admitted using cocaine during the season. Former Saint Don Reese, ever the trouble-maker, interviewed in Sports Illustrated saying that the NFL was unaware of how bad the drug problem was. George Rodgers entered a Louisiana addiction treatment center for a 3-day treatment vowing "it will never happen again".
The 1982 draft did produce a few names to note. While the first rounder, Lindsay Scott of Georgia, didn't do any earth shaking, the second pick, offensive guard Brad Edelman from Missouri, would play 7 years in New Orleans and make the Pro Bowl in 1987. Also taken were kicker Morten Andersen of Michigan and Nose Tackle Tony Elliott of North Texas St. Elliott remained a mainstay of the Saints defense until 1988 and Morten Andersen would experience a legendary kicking career that extended beyond his 13 seasons with New Orleans. Bum also continued his facelift by signing veteran linebacker Dennis Winston from the Steelers and releasing longtime fan favorite defensive lineman Elois Grooms.
Even as the exhibition season began the changes continued. Starting quarterback Dave Wilson went down with a knee injury against Houston and Bum picked up recently released NFL legend Ken Stabler from Houston. The writing was on the wall for Saint's fan favorite Archie Manning.
In the season opener, the Saints could get nothing going in a 7-27 loss against St. Louis. Stabler was replaced by Archie Manning in the third quarter. It would be his last game in a Saints uniform as he completed just 1 pass in 7 attempts with 2 interceptions. To make matters worse, rookie Morten Andersen was hit from behind on the opening kickoff and lost for most of the season.
The following Friday, a news conference was held. Archie Manning, the 11 year veteran was traded to The Houston Oilers for offensive tackle Leon Gray. "I need an offensive tackle" Phillips explained, " and Archie doesn't tackle." By the end of the following season, Gray would be out of football and Manning would be in Minnesota.
In game 2, Wayne Wilson rushed for 138 yards as the Saints shut out Mike Ditka's Bears 10-0. Two days later, the NFL went on strike.
When play finally resumed November 21, less than 34,000 fans showed up in the Superdome to watch the Saints defeat the Chiefs. The following week brought a 23-20 win over the 49ers. That win gave the Saints a 3-1 record. The best winning percentage ever in Saints history.
Things had just been going to good as the Saints hit a downslide and dropped 4 of the last 5 games to yet once again miss the playoffs. During the slide the offense struggled. In the 4 loses, the best the offense did was 10 points or less, not to mentioned being shutout in the Falcons game.
George Rodgers led the team in rushing with 535 yards and 3 tds on route to another Pro Bowl. Backup running back Wayne Wilson had 413 yards filling in and had a total of 5 touchdowns -- 3 rushing and 2 receiving. Jeff Groth hauled down 30 passes for 383 yards and 1 score. Wayne Wilson, ever the workhorse, had 25 grabs and 175 yards. His 2 receiving touchdowns tied him for the team lead with Kenny Duckett.
Stabler's numbers passing were 189 attempts -- 117 completions -- 61.9% completed for 1343 yards and 6 touchdowns, 10 interceptions. Kicking wise, former Oiler Toni Fritsh hit 4 of 7 fieldgoals for a total of 20 points. Russell Erxlebean was confined to punting and turned out a 43 yard average.
While the offense struggled, the defense played vey well. In the 9 games of the season, they recorded 33 sacks, with Bruce Clark leading the team with 5.5 -- Rickey Jackson had 4.5. Dennis Winston and Russell Gary each had 2 interceptions.
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