NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Joe Vitt coached to the very last minute, sprinting down the field and screaming for a timeout as his team moved into scoring territory.
Meaningless preseason game? Hardly. The New Orleans Saints' interim coach gave his team everything he had in a 10-6 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Thursday night. It may have been meaningless to most, but it was full of import for Vitt, who now starts a six-week suspension for his role in the Saints' bounty scandal.
"I just told the guys it's been my honor and my pleasure and it really has been," Vitt said. " ... The only person who's dreading this more than anybody is my wife."
Vitt believes he delivers the Saints to their Sept. 9 opener against the Washington Redskins in the best shape possible. Not only are they as healthy as any Saints team he can remember, every player is on the same page following a tumultuous offseason that's brought scandal and storms and every kind of distraction imaginable.
"I'm proud of the way they went through OTAs," Vitt said. "I'm proud of the way they went through training camp. I'm proud of the way they stuck together. And this week, we got displaced yet again and we had not one man late for a meeting. Everybody came together here and got the work done that we had to get done."
That showed against the Titans. Vitt scratched 26 players, and the reserves left on the field outplayed Tennessee, which held out a few stars but played most of the regulars along with quarterback Jake Locker.
Also taking on a larger role in the game was Aaron Kromer, the next interim coach in line. He'll be New Orleans' field leader for six games and Vitt said his role against the Titans expanded quite a bit and included game management issues like replay challenges.