Between an offseason unlike any other, free agency and drafts from home, and caring for family and loved ones throughout a global pandemic, the New Orleans Saints are already stretched thin heading into the 2020 season.
WebX and Zoom meetings galore as opposed to in-person, real practices and contact have already been a burden on teams. But for the Saints, it did not stop there. The team faced another major obstacle this week with backlash and response to Drew Brees’ comments, or lack of, on a Yahoo! Finance interview Wednesday afternoon.
Brees has since issued an apology and promises further action. In the meanwhile as that situation continues to play out, the team works hard to maintain its locker room. A locker room that is presently figurative as players, again, cannot meet in person. But the locker room is more than just a meeting place.
I would like to apologize to my friends, teammates, the City of New Orleans, the black community, NFL community and anyone I hurt with my comments yesterday. In speaking with some of you, it breaks my heart to know the pain I have caused.
The Saints have been touted, praised, and complimented for their culture and chemistry for years now. They worked incredibly hard to lift themselves from a three-straight 7-9 team to three-straight playoff appearances. A large part of that renaissance began with the changeover of personnel, the attention to personality in scouting, and creating a foundation from the top down on which the organization can stand together.
Now, they are faced with the challenge of maintaining, and perhaps more importantly, fortifying that community. The rifts between Brees in the team felt deep Wednesday night and many began to question the team’s future and even the future Hall of Famer’s. But as the night turned into Thursday mornings, conversations were had, statements were released and the outlook from inside the Saints facility looks to be trending to the positive.
How genuine that is, we will all have separate estimations.
But the bottom line is that leaders within the locker room, including the phenomenal leadership of head coach Sean Payton, must take hold now and begin the work necessary to revitalize the foundation previously laid. Comments from Brees is one part of the equation, but so too are the challenging responses from players like Malcolm Jenkins and C.J. Gardner-Johnson. Even the smallest minutia can be effective at this time such as Marques Colston choosing to say that he “had” respect vs. “has”. It all applies and contributes to what could be the Saints biggest challenge of 2020.
At one time, that biggest challenge may have simply been the Kansas City Chiefs but now, the Saints are facing something much bigger than football.
Discourse is healthy when fortified by common ground and a willingness to listen, share. There is no doubt that the Saints have more common ground amongst themselves than those sparring on social media.
It will take work, it will take action, and it will take time. One can argue that player deserves to be “hated” by their actions, nor do they deserve to be fully exonerated of them. There is time, and time is necessary not only for the mending of this rifts, but also for further actions and further displays of forward momentum.
This is a team and organization that represents the city of New Orleans, the state of Louisiana, and the region of the Gulf Coast which is home to the strongest, most resilient human beings this country has to offer. The Saints not only represent that, but reflect it.
This locker room was built for moments like this. Chemistry, culture, the things we celebrate about this team are not solely about celebrating wins and dancing for fantastic video content. It’s also about rising from adversity. This is a big test. One only a few teams could handle. The Saints shape up as one of the few.