CHARLOTTE – Safety Roman Harper loved his time in New Orleans, but he'd love nothing more than to leave New Orleans on Sunday afternoon with a victory over his former team.
"There's no better feeling than going into a tough environment and coming out of there knowing that you did it," Harper said. "I've been looking forward to this game for a while."
Harper, who played his first eight NFL seasons with the Saints before signing with the Panthers this offseason, still has a home in the Warehouse District of New Orleans and has no plans to part with it.
But now his focus is on helping his new team beat his former team while ending a six-game losing streak in one fell swoop.
"We're very capable of beating this team," Harper said. "We haven't won in weeks, but we're still a hungry and together team. The locker room is not split or anything. Everybody is still pushing forward, pulling in the same direction."
That type of spirit is something that Harper also relished in New Orleans, an approach that extended well beyond the locker room and showed up in the stands every time the Saints played at the Superdome.
"Their fans are great. They're dedicated," Harper said. "They love the Saints. Unlike most big cities, nobody really moves to New Orleans for jobs, so everybody that's there is raised there, and all they've ever known is Saints football.
"They grow up loving the Saints as bad as they were and now as good as they are. They always ride with their team."
Harper, who leads the Panthers with three interceptions, said the Panthers defense played well when the Saints visited Charlotte in Week 9 and claimed a 28-10 victory. That game was scoreless heading to the final four minutes of the first half before a Carolina turnover set up a four-yard touchdown "drive" and then a pass interference call led to a last-second score that made it 14-0 at halftime.
"We thought we played them well, but we had a pass interference right before the half that gave them momentum," Harper said. "If you take that away, we're right there, but our whole season has been that way."
The whole season could come down to Sunday. Lose, and the Panthers would be pushed to the brink of mathematical elimination from playoff contention. Win, and they suddenly have new life at the expense of Harper's old team.
"I'm looking forward to the challenge against these guys and actually going and playing at the Superdome on the other side," Harper said. "We haven't reached a point where we've given up on the season or anything like that. We've got four games left. We've got to finish."