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Centre Olin Kreutz walks away from Saints after losing his passion for football

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METAIRIE, La. - Centre Olin Kreutz has told the New Orleans Saints that his playing days are over, informing the team that he has lost his passion for football.

"He has to feel really good about the passion he has got for the game and the love he has got for the game," his agent Mark Bartelstein said Friday. "He felt that slipping away and he's just not someone who can go to work every week and collect a paycheque."

Kreutz, 34, was unavailable for comment.

The passion began to wane a few weeks ago, Bartelstein said, and earlier this week, Kreutz met with Saints general manager Mickey Loomis and coach Sean Payton.

Though Payton wouldn't discuss what was talked about in that meeting, he said there had been no hint that this was the decision Kreutz would eventually make.

"I think it probably manifested itself later as the season went on," Payton said. "And it was something we had a chance to discuss quite a bit this week."

Payton said the Saints won't make a roster move yet, meaning they're still at the 53-man limit.

For Kreutz, it's yet another change. In August, he couldn't agree to a new contract with Chicago, the only other NFL team he has played for, before signing a US$2-million, one-year contract with the Saints.

Kreutz's deal with New Orleans didn't include a signing bonus, so he'll be paid only for the weeks he was on the 53-man roster while forgoing the rest of his contract.

That's not something that will bother Kreutz, his agent said.

"He could have stepped back with a guaranteed contract and collected the money but that's not him," Bartelstein said.

After starting the first three games with New Orleans, Kreutz missed two with an injury — ending a string of 137 consecutive starts. He was a six-time Pro Bowler and earned All Pro honours twice.

Meanwhile, Brian de la Puente, who started New Orleans' wins in Jacksonville and Carolina in place of Kreutz, will once again take over at centre.

That experience, he said, will help him.

"I felt like I had played well and shown that I can play the centre position well and that I can step in and play," de la Puente said. "It's really no different than if he were injured right now."

The new centre didn't find out Kreutz had left the team until Friday, though he suspected earlier in the week something was amiss.

"I knew Wednesday when I was playing, getting reps, that something was going on," de la Puente said, "so (I) just prepared like I'm playing and that's kind of the approach I took all week. It turns out I'm getting the start."

Though he was in New Orleans for just 2 1/2 months, Kreutz left his mark on Saints — earning praise from his now former teammates.

"I think he's a true pro," quarterback Drew Brees said. "He has been a great player for a long time. I learned a lot from him and consider myself fortunate to have played with him."

Added left tackle Jermon Bushrod, "He's a veteran that has been in this league a long time. Just having the honour and just being around him and getting the chance to play with him and listen to some of the things he went through was cool."

In the end, Payton said he understands Kreutz's decision and how tough it was to make.

"It's always difficult, especially when you talk about a player who I think is a Hall of Fame centre," Payton said. "I think the challenge for all of us when the train begins to slow down and you begin to maybe feel like it's that time — and make no mistake, the happens for every player, every coach, every owner — there's a lot of emotions involved in that."

Notes: Saints tight end Jimmy Graham and linebacker Jonathan Vilma were limited in practice Friday but both are probable for Sunday night's game against Indianapolis. Tight end David Thomas, who practiced this week after missing three weeks because of a concussion, was deemed out for the game.

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