METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Barrett Ruud was caught off guard by the Seahawks’ decision to trade him only months after bringing him to Seattle as a free agent.
He wasn’t about to complain about where he ended up, though.
“Usually, when somebody trades for you, they at least want you, so I’m excited,” Ruud said Wednesday following his first practice with the New Orleans Saints. “To go to a team like New Orleans is just a bonus.”
For someone who has never played for the Saints, Ruud knows them quite well. He spent his first six seasons in the NFL with NFC South Division rival Tampa Bay, playing New Orleans twice a year.
Last season, Ruud played for Tennessee and faced the Saints in preseason and again in the regular season.
Then there’s Saints linebacker Scott Shanle, a former college teammate at Nebraska.
“A lot of familiar faces,” said Ruud, acquired in a trade for an undisclosed future draft choice Monday night. “I played against these guys, I think it was 14 times, so I know a lot of these guys, a lot of respect for them. It’s exciting. It’s fun to be here.”
Ruud said he never spoke to anyone from the Saints during free agency, adding that when he was first notified of the trade on Monday, it seemingly came “out of the blue.” Then he learned of New Orleans’ sudden rash of injuries at linebacker.
During last Friday night’s preseason game against Jacksonville, New Orleans had three key linebackers injured. Starting middle linebacker Curtis Lofton sprained his ankle, starting weak side linebacker David Hawthorne tore the meniscus in his left knee and Chris Chamberlain, a top reserve, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, ending his season.
The Saints planned to give Ramon Humber more snaps at middle linebacker, but that was not going to serve as an early season solution because Humber is facing a drug-related suspension for the first three games.
Shanle said the Saints were fortunate to be able to trade for someone of Ruud’s experience and ability.
“He is a heck of a player,” Shanle said. “He has great instincts. I talked to him last night. He’s excited and I’m excited to get him here. Now it just comes down to him trying to cram and learn the defensive playbook as fast as possible. You don’t have to worry about him getting acclimated to the NFL.”
Ruud started 68 games over his first six seasons with the Bucs before moving in free agency last season to Tennessee. He has 642 tackles, 23 passes defended, seven interceptions, six forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries in his career.
Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt said Ruud probably would not play when the Saints (No. 9 in the AP Pro 32) hosts Houston (No. 4) in a preseason game on Saturday night. With Humber having pulled his hamstring this week, the Saints are left with 24-year-old Lawrence Wilson, who does not yet have one full accrued NFL season to his name, as a likely starter at middle linebacker.
The Saints already have a good grasp of what Ruud can do, having faced him so many times. Their concern is getting him ready for the regular season, and they expect him to be able to adjust to new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s scheme during the next two weeks.
“He has a real good feel for the game. He has played at a high level in this league. He has played on some of the top defenses in this league,” said Vitt, who said he worked out Ruud when he was coming out of college. “He’s 29 years old, so he still has a lot of football ahead of him.”
The Saints open the regular season at home against Washington on Sept. 9. Lofton is expected to be ready by then, but Ruud will have to be ready to back him up.
While Ruud said becoming truly comfortable in a new system can take a couple years, he expects to be effective as long as he can master the language the Saints use to make defensive calls.
“It’s kind of like learning Spanish,” Ruud said. “You know what to say, just a different way to say it now.”
There is at least one other thing Ruud would like to accomplish in New Orleans: winning in the playoffs. He went to the postseason twice in his career — with Tampa Bay in 2005 and 2007 — and has yet to experience a playoff victory.
Regardless of the bounty-related suspensions New Orleans will be dealing with this season, Ruud sees the Saints as a contender.
“To go to a team that has a legit Super Bowl shot, that’s extra exciting,” he said.
Notes: Vitt said Humber’s hamstring injury would probably sideline him about 10 days. … Although RB Darren Sproles (right knee) has said he could play right away if needed, Vitt has ruled him out for Saturday night’s preseason game and said the Saints’ coaching staff also would be comfortable with Sproles sitting out the final preseason game at Tennessee on Aug. 30 before returning in Week 1 of the regular season.