Lipps paying service to Saints now

September 29, 1992|By Thomas George | Thomas George,New York Times

NEW ORLEANS -- Louis Lipps did not figure it would work out this way.

When he first used the threat of free agency through the courts, he looked upon it as a way of inducing the Pittsburgh Steelers to come closer to the contract terms he sought. Instead, the Steelers released him and last week he signed a two-year deal with the New Orleans Saints.

You spend eight years with one team and then poof!

You start all over.

"I've got some adjustments to make, no doubt," said Lipps, a receiver who grew up in Reserve, La., 25 miles west from here. "I've got to turn a negative into a positive. Sure, I thought I would spend my entire career in Pittsburgh. I was active with charities, with an annual telethon and did a lot of work with Coca-Cola there. You up and leave all that and it's tough. They welcomed me with open arms when I first got to Pittsburgh. But with a new regime in there, changes came and I guess I was one of the changes."

Lipps was one of the 10 players who did not have contracts when the courts recently struck down the NFL Plan B system of free agency in the Freeman McNeil case.

Now that Lipps, 30, has tasted free agency, he is not so sure that it will be as sweet as he expected.

"Players will look at their freedom in different ways," Lipps said. "I still believe it is important to have freedom, but making a change like this late in my career is not easy for me. I am interested in benefits and pensions, the whole pie, not just free agency. You've got to have somebody, especially the older players, stand up for all of it, just like Freeman McNeil has. He stood up not only for himself but for every player in the league. We need that for more integrity in the league and for the integrity of all players."

Lipps appears in a relative state of shock. He signed with the Saints only a week ago, and he is coming to grips with his new life.

He had been a role model for the Steelers. During his Pittsburgh career he scored on 39 passes, 4 runs, and 3 punt returns. He averaged 16.8 yards a catch and played in two Pro Bowls. Lipps signed with the Saints after receiving interest from Miami, Kansas City and Buffalo.

"The Steelers tried to sign me last year before the season was over, but I wanted to wait," Lipps said. "We did not talk on a regular basis prior to training camp. I made $750,000 there last year and they came and put an offer on the table and told me to take it or leave it. That is no way to negotiate. They ended up wanting me for $500,000, and that was ridiculous."

Now, here he is with the Saints, a team heavy on defense and limping on offense.

That was quite evident last Monday night when the Saints defense held the top-ranked San Francisco 49er offense to a touchdown and three field goals and still lost.

The defense kept getting the ball back for the offense, which in the closing seconds drew as close as the 49ers' 2-yard line. But the Saints eventually lost, 16-10, when Bobby Hebert was intercepted in the end zone with 10 seconds left.

Lipps played sparingly. The Saints were in their two-minute offense for much of the second half and Lipps did not know enough of Hebert's checks at the line of scrimmage to play much. One wonders, though, how the Saints will choose to use him.

They already have too much offensive firepower going to waste. The Saints' offensive schemes -- although effective in showing more flexibility against the 49ers -- still rely too much on the idea of trying to stay close in games and protect leads rather than simply playing to win.

The Saints' defensive coaches at halftime on Monday night offered a tounge lashing for the defense. This after a 10-10 first half. That's a shame. If anybody deserves a tongue lashing, it is the Saints' offensive coaches.

New Orleans needs a lot more of the approach it used at times against the 49ers, but over all, there just simply isn't enough creativity or imagination here.

Their offensive approach, at best, is sluggish and archaic.

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