After noticing that C.J. Spiller was listed as inactive on Sunday against the Raiders, I asked my friend beside me in section 602, "Is he hurt?" "No, he’s a healthy inactive," he responded. I asked him, "What the hell is that?"
Then, he enlightened me. Spiller was indeed healthy, maybe more so than ever in a Saints uniform after starting his career in the Crescent City with arthroscopic knee surgery during training camp. Since that surgery, Spiller has compiled 112 yards on 36 rushes and 239 yards on 34 receptions, including two touchdowns. But after a heathy offseason and a glowing endorsement from head coach Sean Payton, Spiller seemed primed for a larger role with a strong preseason performance.
I failed to see what other savvy fans saw plain as day. The Saints featured Spiller heavily against the Texans and Steelers during the preseason only to help showcase his supposed recovery and return to previous form. The true goal was in fact to draw trade interest in Spiller knowing full well that the Saints would end up splitting the workload between fellow running backs Mark Ingram and Tim Hightower.
So far, even after the Saints released Spiller for nothing in return, the oft-injured speed back has drawn little to no interest on the open market. With multiple teams supposedly interested in former Baltimore Raven Ray Rice, Spiller must be feeling the chill from a frozen market. The Saints simply could not keep waiting for Spiller to draw interest, especially following the injury to cornerback Delvin Breaux. A roster spot was needed asap.
Don’t feel bad if you too were tricked into thinking this might be Spiller’s breakout year with the Saints. Saints season ticket holder Emily Eagan was so impressed with his preseason performance, she drafted him for her fantasy team. Eagan admitted she drafts with bias, often stacking her fantasy teams with Saints players.
But Spiller holds a special place in Eagan’s heart, or should I say mind. Last season, she suffered an unexpected stroke in the middle of the night and was rushed to Tulane Hospital for stabilization. While recovering in Tulane’s first class brain trauma center, Eagan watched the Saints game against the Cowboys from the comfort of her hospital bed.
In overtime, Spiller caught an 80 yard wheel route pass from Drew Brees to win the game. The only New Orleanians who were running near as fast as Spiller at that moment were the Tulane nurses sprinting up and down the ward checking patients as everyone’s heart rate monitors were beeping like crazy as the patients got more and more excited. Eagan said that hearing those monitors going off in concert with the patients’ screams of elation and happiness were her favorite memory from the 2015 season.
Even though the Saints add to their $40 million in dead money for 2016, and have paid Spiller $9 million for 351 yards and two touchdowns, perhaps no moment from 2015 meant more to some Saints fans than his glorious catch and run against "America’s Team." I wish him well. He did what he could with the opportunities given to him. Perhaps general manager Mickey Loomis is the one who should shoulder the blame for yet another high-priced free agent failure.