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Saints release Tommy Hodson

February 15, 1997

NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ The New Orleans Saints released linebacker Rufus Porter and backup quarterback Tommy Hodson as the free-agent signing period opened Friday, putting them $10,000 under the NFL salary cap.

With so little money available, the Saints won’t be able to do much in the free agent market right away.

``We’re probably just going to tread water from doing things as we continue to evaluate the market out there and the coaches continue to evaluate our team,″ director of operations Chet Franklin said.

Coach Mike Ditka, hired late last month, said he didn’t want to judge players until he has a chance to meet with them, which he has begun doing.

``It would really be unfair to these guys to just jump to conclusions,″ Ditka said. ``I don’t believe in doing that. Somebody’s been looking at these guys all the time. I’ve got to put stock in what they’ve said. I read the reports. If they say a guy has a chance, I’ve got to look at him and give him a chance. I’ve got to find out.″

Franklin said he thinks that, through additional cuts, the Saints can free up $6 million under the NFL maximum of $41.45 million.

``We’re also going to talk to some people about doing some restructuring on contracts,″ Ditka said. ``Those are only normal. Everybody in the league is doing it. They have to be doing it unless they’re magicians.″

Franklin said the Saints don’t expect to sign any top-flight free agents.

``There probably will be more Darion Conners and Wesley Walls and Richard Harveys than there will be Eric Allens and Michael Hayneses and Mark McMillians,″ Franklin said.

Ditka, whose four-year absence from coaching coincided with the advent of free agency, said he’s not expecting to land big-name free agents.

``A lot of this is new to me,″ Ditka said, ``but I think we can find a couple of people who can come in and help us, maybe as a starter, maybe not. Maybe it will be as a solid backup who’s going to give us great special teams play.″

The Saints made offers to six of their nine restricted free agents _ running back Mario Bates, kicker Doug Brien, linebacker Winfred Tubbs, defensive tackle Austin Robbins, linebacker Brian Jones and quarterback Doug Nussmeier.

Those not offered contracts were linebacker Ernest Dixon, guard Craig Novitsky and wide receiver Steve Rhem.

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