Allen Park — Lions wide receiver Lance Moore spent nine years with the Saints, experiencing the pinnacle of success and the cruel business of the NFL.
On Monday night, he’ll be on the visitors sideline at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for the first time in his career. He plans to avoid wasting energy thinking about the past, though he admits it might be awkward.
“Once I get out there and it’s time to warm up, it’s time to go to work,” he said. “I can’t worry about any of the past events that took place there or any of the moments that I had in that stadium. It’s all about business.”
Moore failed to make the Browns roster his first training camp, and spent most of his rookie year on the Saints practice squad after going undrafted in 2005. He made his first career catch in 2006 before returning to the reserve group.
In 2007, he caught his first touchdown shortly after his grandfather died. In 2008, he led the team in the primary receiving categories with 79 catches for 928 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Then, in 2009, the Saints started 13-0 en route to winning the Super Bowl. Even though he played seven regular season games that year, Moore made a couple key plays in the playoff run, including converting a 2-point conversion to give the Saints a 24-17 lead in the fourth quarter of a game they won 31-17 over the Colts.
Moore had his first 1,000-yard season in 2012, but a little more than a year later, his time with the Saints ended unceremoniously.
New Orleans released Moore in March 2014 to create cap space. And he learned of the news on Twitter.
“That was a tough situation,” he said. “I’ve been cut several times in my career, so that wasn’t anything new to me. But kind of the way that I found out through Twitter, that was kind of a gut punch.
“But that’s this business. It’s not personal, and with the way social media is these days it’s hard to keep anything under wraps.”
The Saints made Moore part of an exodus of players from that Super Bowl roster.
“A lot of guys that played a lot of ball there were gone at the same time, and that’s the business,” he said. “You can’t be too emotional about it or anything. I was disappointed because I spent so much time there but life goes on and thankfully for me, I found work.”
Moore joined the Steelers in 2014, and in 14 games caught 14 passes. When he was a healthy scratch in the postseason, it seemed his future in the NFL was in doubt.
Then in May, the Lions signed Moore, reuniting him with offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi — a longtime Saints assistant fired in October — and backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky — one of Moore’s offseason workout partners.
Now 32, Moore has been a reliable No. 3 receiver for the Lions with 27 catches for 321 yards and four touchdowns in 11 games. In a Week 6 victory over the Bears, he had his first 100-yard game since 2012.
“I almost feel like it’s kind of re-energized my career,” Moore said. “And hopefully playing well this year will allow me to play a couple more.”
Moore said he’s received generic letters from Saints coach Sean Payton wishing him well in training camp the past two years. Even though New Orleans let him go, Payton remembers Moore fondly.
“I just see him and remember him all of the time as a guy that came up big in so many games,” Payton said.
Moore’s former coach praised his intelligence, saying he’ll know every players’ route on a given play. Payton also said Moore has a good feel for how to get open against man and zone coverage, but that’s not always enough to stick around.
“The challenge every year is, as newer players come on to the roster, you’re trying to make room from a salary cap standpoint,” Payton said. “I don’t know if it was one specific thing (for why we cut him) and yet, you never transition immediately losing a player like him.”
Moore never reached superstar status, but he was a key fixture on a Saints team that featured one of the most consistently high-powered offenses since Payton took over in 2006.
“I remember him growing up as the dude who used to do the goofy dances all the time,” Lions running back Ameer Abdullah said. “He’s a wise player. He knows what’s coming before it happens a lot of the time. He reads coverages really well, and he’s really smooth.”
Abdullah, a rookie, said Moore helped improve his route running last summer, too.
Even though Moore didn’t circle this game on the schedule, the matchup gave him a chance to recall the memory of that championship team.
“We had played together for a long time,” Moore said. “We were in that offense for four years and for whatever reason, everything just kind of gelled that year.
“Especially early on, we just felt like we couldn’t lose. It was weird, we’d be in tough situations in games, and we’d find a way to win. That’s what great teams do, and hopefully we’re building something like that here.”
Lions at Saints
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. Monday, Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
TV/radio: ESPN, Ch. 7/97.1
Line: Saints by 3
Records: Lions 4-9, Saints 5-8
Series: Saints lead 12-10-1 (Lions 24-23, Oct. 19, 2014)