A quartet of Broncos will be playing against their hometown team when the Saints come marching into town on Sunday.
Quarterback Peyton Manning, wide receiver Brandon Stokley, tackle Chris Clark and cornerback Tracy Porter, who played four seasons with the Saints to open his career, grew up in the New Orleans area.
“It’s always fun to play the Saints,” Stokley said. “You know all your friends and family from where you grew up back home are watching the game, so it always is a bit extra special to play them.”
Even though he grew up rooting for the Saints, Manning has been in the league long enough that it doesn’t faze him to play against them.
“Certainly when you get to the NFL, when you get drafted by a team and that becomes your new favorite team,” Manning said. “Everybody has a favorite team growing up but I certainly think anybody that plays in the NFL, I would hope the team they play for is their favorite team at that time. Certainly I have great friends in New Orleans, family is still there, brother is still there, but I’ve been with two different NFL teams now so I’m a pretty loyal fan to the team that I play for, I like to think.”
Porter, who was selected in the second round of the 2008 draft by New Orleans, said he’s focused on the game, not catching up with old teammates.
“If I see those guys pregame, I’ll talk to them,” he said. “Other than that, I know they’re on a mission (and) I’m on a mission. Once we’re between the white lines, it’s all business, but they’re still my friends at the end of the day.”
Having played 43 career games with New Orleans, Porter has been a resource for Broncos players looking for tips on playing against the Saints’ defense.
“It’s always nice to have a guy that has spent a lot of time on an opponent’s team that you can self-scout and get some little feedback or tricks that you can look for in a game,” Decker said. “I think we’ll take advantage of that.”
Though Porter can help Decker and the rest of the Denver wideouts, the familiarity goes both ways.
Porter practiced against Drew Brees and the Saints’ receiving corps day in and day out in New Orleans, giving both sides plenty of reps against one another.
“It can be an advantage both ways,” Porter said. “That’s the good thing about it. That’s why you play the game, to see who’s going to have the better game. We can go with speculation, me knowing them, them knowing me, but at the end of the day, it’s just playing football. I have to cover those receivers and intercept the ball when I get the opportunity, and they have to catch the ball when they have opportunities.”
Head Coach John Fox has seen the Saints plenty as he faced New Orleans twice a year as the head coach of the Carolina Panthers for nine seasons.
“Again, there’s familiarity, but that works both ways,” Fox said. “I know I have great respect for their organization and their team having competed against them a bunch. Like always, every week is a tough experience.”