5 former Vikings now with Saints: 'A lot of it has to do with just timing'

Christopher Dabe

When the New Orleans Saints needed a running back during the offseason, they signed Latavius Murray. When they needed an interior offensive lineman, they added Nick Easton.

Then came the addition of Marcus Sherels as a primary punt return option.

All three played last season with the Minnesota Vikings.

The trio of former Vikings joined a Saints roster that already had quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and fullback Zach Line. Both also spent time with the Vikings before coming to New Orleans.

That's five former Vikings on the current Saints roster -- all set to face their former team in the preseason opener Friday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

What gives?

"I think sometimes it's coincidence," Sean Payton said.

The coach declined to read much into the influx of players who made similar address changes. Instead, he saw those additions as players who could fill areas of need after former Saints running back Mark Ingram left for the Baltimore Ravens and veteran center Max Unger unexpectedly retired.

That they all had experience with the same team was happenstance.

"A lot of it has to do with just timing," Payton said.

Close friends with Vikings coach Mike Zimmer from when they worked three seasons together under Bill Parcells with the Dallas Cowboys, Payton said how he and Zimmer, who the Vikings hired in 2014, have similar shared experiences that could impact them as head coaches.

"There's that old saying misery loves company and we were both challenged by Parcells to be real good coaches," Payton said. "(Zimmer is) a close friend, but a lot of (the Saints having five former Vikings) is more coincidence."

All five former Vikings could see extended playtime Friday for the Saints. Payton said Bridgewater "is going to play a lot this week."

Drew Brees has not played in the preseason opener in four of the last five seasons. The Saints have only Bridgewater and Taysom Hill as other quarterbacks on the roster, so it stands to reason that Bridgewater could get more than a full half of playing time.

“I don't expect them to take it easy or anything like that,” Bridgewater said. “It's preseason. They have some things that they want to work on and some things that they want to see in this matchup and we have some things that we we've been working on that we want to see.”

Bridgewater stayed in touch with some current Vikings -- cornerback Xavier Rhodes and wideout Adam Thielen among them -- through the summer but hasn't contacted them since the start of training camp, he said.

Among the five former Vikings now with the Saints, four were on the Minnesota roster for the "Miracle" game in the 2017 playoffs. Murray led Minnesota in rushing with 50 yards and a touchdown that day. 

Sherels returned the punt on which Thomas Morstead sustained a rib injury that led to a inspirational fund-raising drive. Bridgewater was inactive. Easton was on injured reserve because of a neck injury that ultimately kept him from playing in 2018. 

Line, whose time with the Vikings ran from 2013 to 2016, played 14 total snaps -- eight on offense and six on special teams -- for the Saints in that postseason game.

Last season, the Saints and Vikings played again, with the Saints winning in primetime on the road. This time, the game in New Orleans will have much less at stake. Still, the familiarity is there.