METAIRIE, La. -- Already in New Orleans for his mom’s 60th birthday party, nine-year NFL veteran Chris Clark got the call he hoped to get from the Saints.
"I kept faith that the Saints would call," said Clark, a New Orleans high school product who remained unsigned as an unrestricted free agent after one season with the Carolina Panthers.
The Saints are trying to fortify their depth on the offensive line behind starting tackles Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk. The team put veteran lineman Ulrick John on injured reserve Saturday, one day after the preseason opener against the Minnesota Vikings.
Clark, 33, said he turned down offers from other teams with hopes that the Saints would call.
He always hoped to someday play for the Saints.
“Something I wished for longer than wishing to play in the Super Bowl,” he said.
His Super Bowl chance came in 2014 with the Denver Broncos in a loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Coach Sean Payton has said experienced tackles are “a little harder to find,” so the Saints should feel fortunate to land one nearly three weeks into training camp. “I think in general, those big bodies in the offensive line or the defensive line are a little bit more of a premium than let’s say a running back or a receiver,” the coach said.
Clark has played 121 career games with 66 starts. He played five seasons with the Broncos from 2010-14 and three with the Texans from 2014-17.
With the Panthers last season, he played 15 games and started 13. He missed most of one game last season against the Saints, which he somewhat jokingly described as a win-win situation because he has always remained a Saints fan.
“Between a rock and a hard place,” was how he described playing against his hometown team.
He could have joined the Buccaneers -- “They called me two or three times,” he said -- but he held out for a chance with the Saints.
The Saints practiced Monday without Armstead -- he has missed multiple practices since playing Friday against the Vikings -- and Ramczyk came off the field with an athletic trainer early in practice. In their places were veterans Marshall Newhouse and Patrick Omameh, neither of whom was with the Saints last season.
Clark was a two-way lineman in high school at McDonogh 35, and he attended Southern Miss with the promise they would let him play offense and defense. They didn’t. Instead, he played primarily tackle after coaches had him add 50 pounds to a body that weighed 235 coming out of high school.
“It all worked out,” he said.
That was then. Now with the Saints, he's hopeful for another positive turn in what has become a lengthy and productive career.