METAIRIE, La. – Willie Snead's disappearance from the New Orleans Saints' offense has been one of the season’s biggest surprises. But the fourth-year pro remains optimistic that his role can expand as the games get bigger in December and January.
Snead said he thinks he’ll have more opportunities Sunday against the New York Jets – even if fellow receiver Ted Ginn Jr. is able to play through the rib injury that has him listed as questionable (Ginn said he expects to play).
“I know the opportunity is coming. Whether Ted plays or not, I’ll have a lot more reps than I’ve had in the past. I’m excited about that,” Snead said. “This definitely gives me a chance to get back in the groove of things and just take advantage of every opportunity.”
Snead is surprised that he has only six catches for 63 yards in a total of eight games played this year. And of course it has to be frustrating, especially since he is in the final year of a contract and was expecting a lucrative deal after flirting with 1,000-yard seasons in both 2015 and 2016.
But Snead does understand what led to his diminished role.
He missed the first three games of the season because of a suspension related to a summer DUI arrest. Then he missed two of the next three games with a hamstring injury.
“I just think when I was absent, guys were doing a really good job,” Snead said. “Like Cole, he’s earned everything he’s getting right now. That’s one of my great friends. I’m happy for him. At the same time, I have to be able to humble myself and know that at any given moment, one of these guys could go down, I have to be ready to go.
“If I didn’t get suspended or injured, then, boom I’m right in there, doing what I’ve been doing in the past. But since those things did happen, and we’ve been on a roll, eight-game win streak, they didn’t want to change up things. That’s cool. I get it.”
Snead quickly added, though, that the Saints might consider changing their line of thinking since they have been struggling on third downs recently – which has been his bread and butter over the past two years.
It’s unclear how much of Snead’s demotion was related to his own performance in camp practices this summer even before the DUI arrest. His playing time had clearly started to decrease in training camp and the preseason, as well. But it’s hard to decipher how much of that had to do with him falling out of favor vs. the Saints getting prepared to start without him for the first three games.
Snead said he doesn’t really think his diminished role is a “punishment” or a performance-based demotion, though. He said coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis have both continued to express confidence in him.
Snead also insisted that he thinks his rhythm and timing with quarterback Drew Brees remains strong.
“I know Coach believes in me, he’s told me that multiple times. So I’m just gonna trust the process,” Snead said. “I know what I can do. My coaches know what I can do. And I feel like at any moment they can come to me, put plays in for me, and they know I’m gonna make those plays. I’m a reliable guy, and I’m gonna make catches and do what I gotta do for this team at any given moment.
“I’m so happy we’re winning, going into the postseason, doing some exciting things. And I just want to be a part of it however I can.”