Brian Allee-Walsh

Overpriced NFL exhibition game better than no football at all

New Orleans Saints linebacker James Laurinaitis talks to the media after the team practiced with the New England Patriots on Tuesday in Foxborough, Mass.
New Orleans Saints linebacker James Laurinaitis talks to the media after the team practiced with the New England Patriots on Tuesday in Foxborough, Mass. AP

After seven-plus long months, yes, it’s safe to say we are absolutely ready for some football, NFL style.

But what you will see Thursday night and what you want to see may be two different things when the New Orleans Saints and the New England Patriots collide under a setting sun at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. The game will be on NFL Network at 6:30 p.m.

Don’t run to the fridge, bathroom or elsewhere early on because you might miss Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who’s expected to make a cameo appearance with the first unit before retiring for the night.

Not even sure if the Patriots will play quarterback Tom Brady, who’s scheduled to serve a season-opening four-game suspension as part of the Deflategate sanctions. Designated starter Jimmy Garoppolo and third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett are expected to handle the bulk or maybe all the snaps in Brady’s absence.

Look, I get it. This is the preseason, a chance for starters and proven veterans to break a sweat, promising newcomers to show their mettle and coaches to acquire valuable game tape to help them make informed personnel decisions in the coming weeks.

I get it, I get it.

But we don’t need four of these glorified scrimmages leading up to Game 1, not at full regular-season prices, anyway. Two at best.

I wish the GOP and Democratic presidential nominees would make this a campaign issue. Please, Donald and Hillary, debate the merits of fewer NFL exhibitions and cheaper ticket prices for those practice games that are played mostly with backups and not-ready-for-primetime players.

OK, I’ll get off my soapbox.

Plenty of Grayson? Yes, please

That said, I hope we do see plenty of Saints third-string quarterback Garrett Grayson, who remains a mystery to the average fan in Who Dat Nation in terms of his future value to a franchise as a third-round pick in 2015.

Last time I checked, Brees will be 38 on Jan. 15. Plus, we know where backup Luke McCown stands in the pecking order.

Also, I’d like to see Grayson work with the first unit or with a mixture of ones and twos, not just camp bodies.

I’m anxious to see the Saints’ top three draft picks — defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (1), wide receiver Mike Thomas (2a) and safety Vonn Bell (2b).

I want to see several free agents, most notably middle linebacker James Laurinaitis, tight end Coby Fleener and defensive tackle Nick Fairley.

I want to see guards Tim Lelito and Senio Kelemete and tackle-guard Andrus Peat.

I especially want to see what safety Jairus Byrd looks like fully healthy. I can’t remember the last time!

I also want to see what all the fuss is about surrounding these undrafted rookie free agents — cornerbacks Ken Crawley and De’Vante Harris and wide receiver Tommylee Lewis, who came to the Saints’ attention after a glowing recommendation from Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells.

Yes, I’m ready for some football, but I’m really ready for some meaningful football.

What say you?

Brian Allee-Walsh is a longtime Saints reporter based in New Orleans.

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