METAIRIE, La. – In this galaxy, Olin Kreutz is not the star around which all planets orbit.
He’s just another player.
The former University of Washington star lineman goes about his business quietly at the New Orleans Saints’ camp, almost inconspicuously.
The center wears No. 50 because the number he wore for each of his 12 NFL seasons with the Bears, 57, already had been assigned.
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He shrugs. A number is a number.
Kreutz, 34, was brought in to plug a hole in the middle of the Saints’ offensive line. He doesn’t lay down the law in the locker room. He isn’t a conduit to the head coach. He isn’t a team spokesman. He doesn’t set the pace; he’s trying to get in step with it.
Drew Brees, a former offensive player of the year and five-time Pro Bowl player, is the man here. And everyone knows it.
Kreutz never has worked with a quarterback like this.
“I don’t want to compare Drew to Jay (Cutler), but he is everything you people say he is,” he said.
Kreutz isn’t even being asked to handle the protection adjustments at the line. That’s Brees’ job.
So, for now at least, Kreutz is just a follower.
“You don’t lead until you earn respect,” he said. “They have enough leaders. I just need to do my job.”
Sometimes, blocking the guy in front of you is enough.
“He doesn’t have to be what he was in Chicago,” said defensive end Alex Brown, who has been Kreutz’s teammate in both cities. “It’s a different group of guys around him. All he has to do is his job. For the first time in his career, that’s all he has to do.”
A part of Kreutz is revitalized.
“Leaving Chicago was a downer,” he said. “But coming here, being the new guy, the guy who has to follow what people are doing, trying to learn a new system, screwing things up, in a weird way it’s fun. It’s extremely different, but it’s something good to experience before it’s all over.”
Kreutz has had to spend a lot of extra time learning a new offense and trying to get in sync with Brees. The two often can be seen talking through situations and different looks.
Even though Kreutz is a lot quieter in New Orleans, the way he approaches his job can affect his new team.
“He’s nonstop,” Brees said. “I love that mentality. I love the sense of urgency he brings. He’s an intense guy.”
That’s part of what attracted coach Sean Payton to Kreutz.
“I like him a lot,” Payton said. “He’s a throwback.”
The feeling is mutual.
Kreutz wanted to play for a contender. The Saints are one year removed from being Super Bowl champions. They finished 11-5 last season and lost in the wild-card round of the playoffs to Seattle but reloaded in the offseason with some fine veteran and rookie acquisitions.
“The talent level here is unbelievable,” Kreutz said. “It’s a really good thing going down here.”