He was born and raised in Louisiana and played college football at Tulane, which is located in New Orleans.
That has put Rams defensive lineman Tanzel Smart in a tough spot ever since last season’s NFC Championship game, which was won by the Rams in a game that will forever be remembered by the Saints and their fans for a non-call on obvious pass interference by Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman.
“Everybody I know is a Saints fan,” Smart said Monday, “so I hear an earful.”
The Rams play the Saints on Sunday at the Coliseum in one of the most highly anticipated matchups of the NFL season.
A day after the Rams defeated the Carolina Panthers in their season opener, the Saints were staring Rams coach Sean McVay in the face.
The Saints played the Houston Texans on “Monday Night Football,” and McVay answered questions from reporters during a news conference that was conducted while the first half of the game played silently on a television in the room.
McVay, of course, is familiar with the Saints. Last season, the Rams played them three times in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, including the final preseason game, a Week 9 game won by the Saints, and the NFC Championship game won by the Rams in overtime.
Will personnel changes by the Saints — Latavius Murray, for example, has replaced Mark Ingram as the running back to complement Alvin Kamara — change the Rams’ preparation?
“I’ll be able to better answer after you at least see one game of real inventory from ‘em,” McVay said.
The Saints defeated the Texans, 30-28, on a last-second field goal, the first time the Saints won an opener since 2013.
The previous season-opening setbacks did not stop coach Sean Payton, certain Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints from advancing to the divisional round of the playoffs in 2017 and the NFC championship game last season.
The Rams won that game, 26-23, in overtime on a 57-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein that sent the Rams to the Super Bowl.
The NFL has since adopted a rule that allows coaches to challenge non-calls on pass interference.
During preseason games, McVay challenged non-calls three times to educate himself about the process.
“We’ll be ready for the new changes from the rules,” McVay said.
The change came too late for Saints fans.
Smart said he has been getting messages since the offseason that point to Sunday’s game.
“I get a couple slick comments,” Smart said, “but I don’t say anything. It is what it is.”
Safety Eric Weddle was “asymptomatic” Monday but he remains in concussion protocol, McVay said. “There’s a lot of tests he’s got to go through to get the thumbs up” to be cleared, McVay said, adding, “We’re hopeful he’ll check out.”… Center Brian Allen, who started for the first time against the Panthers, played well, McVay said. “For us to not have any pre-snap issues on the road in a hostile environment … I thought he did a really nice job,” he said…. Nose tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day also had a “solid” performance in his first NFL game, McVay said. “There’s some things that he can certainly do at a higher level,” he said, “but for the most part with his assignments and what he was asked to do… he did a fairly good job.”