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Deke Bellavia

Join Deke and the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert for live, local talk about the Saints, LSU, Pelicans and much more on "Sports Talk!" 

Weekdays 4-8pm

Twitter: @dekebigchief
Email: bigchief@wwl.com

Deke: Are the Saints a team in transition?

Let's face it, football is still a sport - but on the pro level, it's now more business than ever before. Loyalty, dedication and longevity are terms that apply to those players and coaches that hang around in the NFL far more than those who do not.

Just go look in your closet and you will find the evidence. Many of your long time favorites no longer wear those Black and Gold jerseys because they are no longer here.

We know that eventually all good things do come to an end. Look away from the Big Easy for a moment and look up in the Far East. The New England Patriots parted ways with 15 year veteran and four time Super Bowl champ Vince Wilfork. And in the Steel City of Pittsburgh, the word is "Retire or we're gonna cut you" for future Hall of Fame star Troy Polamalu.

Does seeing those franchise staples let go make things any less emotional for members of the Who Dat Nation when they see their favorites given their walking papers? Absolutley not! But it does most certainly point out that no one - and I mean no one - is above being cut or released from their team.

READ MORE: Kristian: Saints free up some cash by restructuring Colston

As the New Orleans Saints front office continues to make moves to free up money and try to become more of a factor in this year's free agent market, Black and Gold fans are seeing the last few faces from the Super Bowl title team slowly fade away.Veteran leaders on and off the field have moved on. Guys that Who Dats will always be thankful for in helping bring the city its first title will never be forgotten.

LB Jonathan Vilma, DE Will Smith, WR Lance Moore, RB Pierre Thomas, safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper along with OT Jermon Bushrod, LB Scott Shanle - these men represent not only good team play but locker room leaders that got it done.

It would be hard for any club in any sport to withstand such losses of good players and great leaders without some type of drop off. And the Saints first hand learned that painful lesson in 2014.

And the upcoming 2015 season will more than likely be the last for more longtime favorites. Now to sit here and guess at who I think will and will not be here a year from now would be kind of like playing a game... so I'll steer clear of that. But all of you can do the math and factor in years of service, price, production and performance. Are the Saints a team that is in transition? I'd say somewhat that they are.

The goal for every team is to put together the right mix of players that has some youth, some wise savvy veterans, and some new faces that can help make an impact and lead a team to the post season.

Las Vegas says the Saints are still an elite team that should contend for the title in 2015. So is a team in transition a legit Super Bowl caliber team? We're going to soon find that out because it's clear that the Saints are looking ahead to what they hope will bring back some history. And that history is winning a Super Bowl!

READ MORE: Don't you dare call Drew Brees greedy
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Deke: Who Dats are sad about letting PT go

Well it's the nature of the business. It can happen to anyone, and it has. But that does not make today's news any easier for members of the Who Dat Nation. Running back Pierre Thomas was informed today by the Saints that he would be released, ending an eight year run of the once-Cinderella story in a Black and Gold uniform.

"Obviously this is a tough decision because Pierre meant so much to the Saints on the field, and he was loved off the field. I would assume that the money saved by cutting Pierre will be used to try and re-sign RB Mark Ingram," said the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert.

I think that this is strictly a business move from the Saints standpoint. But what concerns me is that what if the Saints can't re-sign Mark Ingram? Is Sean Payton comfortable enough to let RB's Khiry Robinson and Travaris Cadet be the top two returning veterans? Or do the Saints have another player in mind that they plan on signing? I guess we will soon find out the answers to those questions.

As far as the reports about the Saints supposedly shopping LB Curtis Lofton to other teams, I'll wait and see if there is any real merit to this rumor. After all, Ian Rapaport has missed far more times than he has hit when it comes to reporting Saints news!

Curtis Lofton is one of the very few players on defense that I think are true keepers. All Lofton does is his job, he's a tackling machine and he leads by example. "In the NFL in order to get something of value you have to give something of value. I don't know if the Saints really are interested in trading Curtis Lofton. But I can tell you that other teams know how good a player he is and the Saints would be able to get something in return for Lofton in my opinion," said Bobby.

So the breaking news NFL off-season is in full swing and with a team like the Saints in dire straits to free up some money, expect more news sooner than later involving the Black and Gold.
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Deke: Norris Cole's impact huge for Pelicans

He's been an impact player since GM Dell Demps traded for him last month, and now he's a key figure in the Pelicans playoff push. Norris Cole is happy to be a member of the New Orleans Pelicans.

"Everyone has treated me well and welcomed me here with open arms. I just want to go out and give my best each night we are out on the floor," he told us. The two-time NBA Champ with the Miami Heat brings experience, veteran leadership and solid play to the Pelicans backcourt.

Bobby and I visited with Norris after the Pels' Monday night loss to the Dallas Mavericks. "We competed hard. We did not play a terrible game - Dallas went on a run and played better down the stretch." The Pelicans saw their five game win streak snapped as Dallas won 102-93.

Cole said he and his Pelicans teammates have to shake off the loss to the Mavericks and get ready for the Detroit Pistons. "Every game counts. We are focused on one game at a time. We are all expected to do our jobs. You can't look too far ahead, and you have to take things one game at a time."

New Orleans will look to start another win streak as they host the Detroit Pistons Wednesday night at Smoothie King Center. Cole says that he likes what he sees on his new team here in the Big Easy. "I think we have a lot of young talent on this team. I've been on two championship teams and I think we (Pelicans) have the pieces in place to become a championship caliber team," Cole said.

You can listen to our entire interview with Norris Cole by clicking below.

FULL AUDIO: Norris Cole visits with Bobby and Deke
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Deke: Saints have fiscal work going into free agency

If history tells us anything, the New Orleans Saints are right where they want to be. Ha! The Saints are as in as tight of a financial situation as any of the 32 teams in the National Football League. With that said, in past years, facing similar situations, the Saints were able to land some of the top available free agents.

"Mickey Loomis and his Front Office have done some amazing things in the past," said the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert. "Being able to land guys like Curtis Lofton and Jairus Byrd when things were tight was incredible. I don't know if the Saints will be able to free up that kind of money this year. But in the past they have," said Hebert.

If you're looking ahead to what the Saints might do in-house, here's a few names to keep in mind. Veteran players like Offensive Guards Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs along with veteran WR Marques Colston could all be players that are kindly asked to take pay-cuts.

Both Colston and Grubbs would count about nine million dollars against the cap and Evans would cost 11 million from a cap standpoint. Being able to loosen up some payout on those three players would bode well in keeping proven veteran players intact and also helping the Saints front office be more flexible in the free agent market.

"I think that those three players are guys that the Saints will and possibly already have approached about taking a pay cut," said Larry Holder of nola.com and the Times Picayune. Holder said that the Saints have some work to do in order to free up some usable money this off season.

Some players that might become cap casualties that means possibly being cut outright include Linebacker David Hawthorne, Defensive Lineman Broderick Bunkley and Defensive Back Corey White.
"Bunkley and Hawthorne will count about four and a half million against the cap and White's cap number has elevated to about a million and a half dollars." Holder said that paying nearly two million dollars to a back-up CB in White might be too much for the Saints to pay out to Corey White in 2015.

The Saints also have to deal with the future of RB Mark Ingram. Ingram is coming off his best season yet as a pro but if the Saints can land one of their two first round picks from the 2011 draft to a long term deal with take some work and probably some compromise from both sides.

I think the Saints feel like that Mark Ingram is more valuable to them than that of any other team. But will the Saints be able to land Ingram at the price that they feel is right?
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Deke: Mainieri says Tigers are in perfect position

Coach Paul Mainieri and his #2 ranked LSU Tigers enjoyed another solid week on the diamond that included a third straight weekend series sweep of an opponent. The 10-1 Tigers took down the Princeton Tigers 3-0 this weekend including a 15-4 series finale blowout win Sunday at Alex Box Stadium.

"Our goal is to be at our very best once SEC play begins. Certainly we want to win each time we step out on the field. I think that we are in perfect position the final week before Southeastern Conference play starts. Certainly we would have liked to win the one game we lost but I'm truly happy with where we are as a team," Mainieri said.

LSU beat Southeastern in a slugfest last Thursday night 9-8 and then nipped Princeton 3-2 on Friday; "I used to get upset on those nights when we did not hit the ball well and came out of a close game. But after my father pointed out to me, those close games help your team get into tight situations that allow the team to gain poise, keep their composure and gain confidence in tight games," Coach continued.

The Tigers have their final few tests before SEC play begins next weekend when they entertain the Ole Miss Rebels. The Tigers have five games on this week's schedule. LSU plays host to Stephen F. Austin on Tuesday followed by another home game against in-state foe Grambling State.

This weekend the Tigers face their stiffest competition of the season as they participate in the 2015 Houston College Classic in Houston, Texas. LSU will take on the team that knocked them out of the post season last spring in the 8th ranked Houston Cougars. The series takes place all weekend long at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

"Those are three very good teams with some big time players. We all know how good Houston is, Stephen F. Austin always plays us tough and Nebraska comes from a power conference that is well coached. It's going to be great competition in a Major League Venue and we are expecting a lot of Tigers Fans with us in Houston this weekend."

The Tigers will also battle Big XII foe Baylor and LSU wraps the weekend with a non-conference tilt against Big Ten foe Nebraska.
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Deke: Some sights from my trip to Disney World

Well the long trip to WDW (Walt Disney World) was a little shorter than planned as our oldest child, the lovely Emma Claire came down with the flu. On Mardi Gras Day my wife Richelle spent pretty much the entire day in the urgent care with her, so our trip had to be altered some.  

Instead of being in WDW for the rest of last week, I was back home on Wednesday afternoon.  But man oh man did we all have a great time!  We got to see the Yeti, rode everything we wanted to at Magic Kingdom and I got my Pork Shank from Gaston’s Tavern.

Jackie was once again all hyped up when we got to the Thunder Mountain Ride and for the first time in my life, I got wet riding Splash Mountain. Spending time with the family was fun and much needed.  

I got to see so many great hometown folks while I was in Orlando.  Thanks to all of you for being so kind to me and my family. You know the kid in us all shows up and comes out quite often when visiting Disney World! 

I’m already looking forward to going back with my girls hopefully again soon.  So here are a few more pictures from last week’s Disney World trip.


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Deke: Tigers ranked #2 in Baseball America poll

Even after a midweek loss to Nicholls State, the LSU Tigers are once again off to a hot start.  LSU is now 6-1 after their second straight weekend sweep of the season.  “We want our starting pitchers to pitch efficiently and effectively.  I thought we did both last weekend.”

LSU Coach Paul Mainieri visited with Bobby and I Monday night on Sports Talk.  “I thought our pitching was outstanding this past weekend.  I thought Jared Poche did a decent job and then Alex Lange came back and pitched extremely well on Friday Night against Boston College,” he said. The Tigers swept the BC Eagles in a three game series.  

The Tigers improved to 6-1 overall on the season and LSU is currently ranked #2 in this weeks Baseball America Top 25.  LSU has a midweek game against in-state foe Southeastern Thursday night at 6:30pm (originally scheduled for Wednesday but rain's coming). The LSU Tigers then host the Princeton Tigers for a three game series beginning Friday at Alex Box Stadium.

“This might be the best year I’ve seen Louisiana Baseball Team’s as a whole.  The entire state is playing well and all of the teams are good.  The midweek games in the state have become extremely challenging and that’s what you want.  You want your team to be challenged.”  

You can listen to our entire interview with Coach Paul Mainieri by clicking below. 

FULL AUDIO: Bobby and Deke talk to Coach Mainieri

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Deke: Tigers lead pack of solid Louisiana baseball teams

The 2015 college baseball season is here! “We are all excited about a new season.  We think we have a pretty good team and we are ready to take on a good Kansas team,” said LSU Coach Paul Mainieri when he spoke to Bobby and I before the Tigers season opener Friday night against the Kanas Jayhawks.

LSU is coming off a 46-16 record in 2014 in which the Tigers earned the #8 National Seed.  Coach Mainieri says that he has a good mix of pitchers this season.  "We are very confident in our pitchers.  We have a good mix of veterans and a good group of freshmen.  I have a lot of confidence in these kids.  They lead me to believe that they are going to handle the bright lights well,” Mainieri said.

Coach Mainieri said that he hopes to have his pitching rotation set by the fourth week of the season.  “We will evaluate where we are as a pitching staff before we go to Houston in four weeks.  Allowing each pitcher to have about 15 innings worked is what we hope to have.” 

Here in New Orleans, the UNO Privateers are on the road to open the season.  Coach Ron Maestri and his club are in Mobile to take on the South Alabama Jaguars.  “I think we’ve got a few more players that can swing the bat.  We lost a lot of close games last season.  We’ve got some good kids back and I’m looking forward to the start of the season.”

UNO was 11-38 in 2014 but lost a lot of close games.  UNO lost 22 games by two runs or less, and Maestri  thinks the Privateers will be better this season.  “The kids have put in good work this off season and I think we will be able to win more of those close games this season.”

In Uptown New Orleans, the Tulane Green Wave are cross country taking on the Pepperdine Wave.  First Year Coach David Pierce makes his debut as the Wave’s new head man.  “It’s the best.  We would like to open up at home but opening up on the road at a place like Pepperdine is a very nice place to be.”

Coach Pierce has been one of the most successful coaches in college baseball with 14 straight post season appearances at while coaching at Houston, Rice and Sam Houston State.  “Our kids have worked so hard in the off season and they are raring to go and I’m looking for to the season.”

The ULL Ragin Cajuns and Southeastern Lions open their seasons this weekend as well.  ULL takes on Texas San Antonio on the road while the SLU Lions will battle the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs up in Hammond.  Bobby and Deke spoke to ULL Coach Tony Robichaux and SLU Coach Matt Riser.

You can listen to our interviews with all four coaches right here.
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Deke: New Saint Delvin Breaux's long road home

Delvin Breaux has signed with the New Orleans Saints as a free agent. He was once one of the nation’s most sought-after high school football prospects when he starred for the McDonough #35 Roneagles.  “It has been a long road. I’ve been through a lot and I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity that I have now before me.”  

Breaux inked a scholarship with LSU but never got to play a single down for the Tigers.  “Once I got injured, it was pretty much trying to get well and be able to get cleared medically to play football again," he mused.
During the 2006 prep football season, Delvin was seriously injured on special teams. Breaux fractured his C4, C5 and C6 vertebrae during a kickoff return.  From that point on, it was not only the athletic future of Breaux that was put on hold, but the everyday life and ability to function properly was at stake as well. “I knew I had a lot of work ahead of me.  Before I could really even truly think about playing again I had to go through a lot.  But keeping my dreams of playing football again was more than enough motivation for me,” Breaux said. 

Breaux signed with the Saints on January 24 and he is expected to come in and compete for playing time at cornerback on the Saints defense this off season.  When asked about his strengths, Breaux told us he’s an all-around complete player. “I don’t shy away from anything.  My strength is being physical.  I don’t think I have any real weaknesses.  I go out and try and compete at the highest level each time I’m on the field and I play to win.”  

Breaux is a proud native New Orleans man that is awfully proud to be with his home team. Back in 2012, Delvin played for the Louisiana Bayou Vipers of the Gridiron Developmental Football League.  Later Delvin played in the AFL with the New Orleans VooDoo and recently played in the Canadinan Football League for the Hamilton Tigercats.  
“It’s great to be able to play for the team in my hometown.  I’m looking forward to working with some of the best players in the NFL and I’ll go out and lay it all on the line each time I’m on the field.”  

I know we are just days away from the Super Bowl, but after talking to Delvin Breaux there is an exciting feeling that is running through my head right now.  Sure he has a long way to go.  But there haven’t been many that have ever had to travel the road that Delvin Breaux has had.  
Delvin Breaux is back where he belongs, here in New Orleans.  Delvin has taken the long road back home and that’s just fine with him.  And the rest of the Who Dat Nation is behind Delvin in full force! 

To listen to the complete interview with Delvin, click the link below

FULL AUDIO: Bobby and Deke with new Saint Delvin Breaux
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Deke: This Benson situation makes me sad

The legit journalists will point out the bios, history of, the numbers pertaining to and all of the facts dealing with stories they report on.  But this piece comes from pure emotion…feelings.  

We've been hit with a lot of news about the leadership of two of the country's professional sports franchises.  Longtime Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson announced he revised his succession plan.  Less than 24 hours later, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of his daughter and two grandchildren contesting Mr. Benson's new plans.  

Anytime you’re settling an estate, many legal fronts are involved.  So that part is pretty much expected.  But even though situations like this happen a lot in many families, it doesn’t make anything easier or less intense.  I can only tell you what I feel and what I know and that's it.  Folks, this makes me sad.  And I'm most sad for Tom Benson.  

I've interviewed Mr. Benson three times in my career.  The first time I ever personally came into contact with Mr. B was after the Saints 34-13 loss to the Denver Broncos way back on November 21, 2004.  That day I caught him coming off the elevator and he was upset (to say the least) about how the Saints played.  "That's the worst performance I've seen in my 20 years of owning this team.  They looked like a bunch of high school players out there," he told me.

Since then, Bobby and I have been able to sit down with Mr. Benson on three other occasions to talk about him and the two pro sports franchises he owns.  That is the extent of my relationship with Mr. Benson.

I think it's sad to see a man, who worked very hard to achieve great success on many levels in many fields, be subjected to such mean, outlandish and downright cruel treatment.

This is a man who has given millions, a lot of millions to schools, colleges and universities, numerous charities, medical facilities and hospitals. Mr. Benson has made a lot of things possible by his acts of kindness…through charitable donations over the years.

Tom Benson is 87 years old.  He worked all of his life and now has to be called incompetent and not in his right frame of mind?   Man, that's upsetting to me.  When I read the lawsuit contesting Mr. Benson's succession plan, I got emotional. The things Mr. Benson is being called are coming from people who say they love him.  Which leads me to the main question that is simply - how?

How can people love a man who has taken care of them all of their lives and dishonor him this way?  I was raised and taught that if you have something, and YOU want to give it to someone that's your right, isn't it?  To be fair here I'm quite sure there is more to the story and there are a lot of things I don’t  know.  As the coming weeks lead us into deeper territory of the Benson family battle, I hope for the best.

I hope that no more shame, embarrassment and hurt will be heaped on either side.  

Most of all, I hope for the best for New Orleans and Louisiana….regardless of which side you are on…and some of you may not even pick a side.  

I want the best outcome that helps the Saints and the Pelicans remain in New Orleans forever.  I can remember the days after Hurricane Katrina, when we lived amidst uncertainty.  I remember how it hurt to think about the Saints not being in New Orleans ever again.

We overcame that and the rest of the world was moved and began to realize this team is at the heart of this city.  It took over seventy thousand fans packed into the Superdome Monday, September 25, 2006 (the first Monday night football game after Katrina) for some to understand that the Saints are far more than football to New Orleans, New Orleanians and the Gulf South.

The Saints are a beacon of hope, inspiration and motivation for so many people.  Having the Saints remain in New Orleans forever is what Deke Bellavia wants, and I’m sure most of you too.   Yes, I have strong feelings about this.  But nothing - and I mean nothing - supersedes my desire to see New Orleans Saints stay in the Crescent City.  And that's the bottom line!
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