Watson, Clark, with ties to N.O., fall short
For a moment, it seemed likely the next NFL Players Association president was going to have ties to the New Orleans area. But neither Saints tight end Ben Watson nor Ryan Clark — a Marrero native who played football at Archbishop Shaw and LSU before to making it to the pros as an undrafted free agent in 2002 — won in the three-way election for the union presidency Wednesday.
They were beat out by free-agent tackle Eric Winston, who has previously been a player rep for the Chiefs, the NFLPA announced. Team player reps chose Winston to replace outgoing union president Domonique Foxworth, who completed a two-year term and wasn’t eligible for another one because he wasn’t on an NFL roster at the start of the 2013 season after retiring.
Watson sat on the union’s executive committee and was re-elected to it, the NFLPA said. Clark, a safety, will be a new member of the executive committee. He has been a player representative for the Steelers in the past, though he was a free agent at the time of the election.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees and former New Orleans linebacker Scott Fujita had been members of the executive committee, but they won’t be returning, the NFLPA said. Brees had indicated he would not get back on the committee in part to have more time with his family; and Fujita, like Foxworth, was retired when the 2013 season began.
Brees, in a statement, said: “I am excited to see young leaders in this league step into this role and continue to advance the cause of our Union and the future of our league.”
Collins following Lombardi
After the Saints let him hit the open market, fullback Jed Collins is headed to a reunion with a former New Orleans coach who is now the offensive coordinator in Detroit, the Lions announced Wednesday.
Collins signed a one-year contract with the Lions, whose offense is under the command of first-year coordinator Joe Lombardi, the Saints’ quarterbacks coach from 2009 until January. It was reportedly worth a veteran minimum of $645,000.
News of Collins’ agreement follows the Saints’ announcement Tuesday morning that they had agreed to a four-year deal with free-agent fullback Erik Lorig, who had spent the previous four seasons in Tampa Bay.
Collins spoke with ESPN on Wednesday and claimed he was told his home would be New Orleans in 2014. But then Collins said he was told the Saints had found an upgrade at the position and that the team was moving on without him.
“If they feel they got a better player, that’s their decision,” Collins reportedly said to ESPN’s Lions writer, Michael Rothstein. “I’m excited about the opportunity come up here and continue to work and prove that I’m a top-tier fullback.”
Collins is a different player than Lorig, who has only one touchdown reception and doesn’t have a single carry in the NFL but is known as a premier run blocker. Collins caught four touchdown passes and rushed for three scores during his time in New Orleans.
Aside from Collins and Lombardi, other former Saints now with the Lions are safety Isa Abdul-Quddus, and running backs Reggie Bush and Joique Bell.
Loyola to honor Gleason
Former Saints safety Steve Gleason, who famously blocked a punt on the night the Superdome re-opened for the first time after Hurricane Katrina, will be the latest person to strengthen the bond between his old team and Loyola University New Orleans.
Gleason — an advocate for people fighting amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neuromuscular disease he has — will be given an honorary degree from the school during its May 10 commencement, which is at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the school said. Gleason will be honored for teaming up with his wife, Michel Gleason, to launch a foundation and initiative dedicated to providing technology, equipment and services to people battling neuromuscular diseases or injuries.
Gleason will soon be one of many links between the Saints and Loyola.
For example, Saints co-owner and Vice Chairwoman of the Board Rita Benson LeBlanc is a member of Loyola’s board of trustees. Saints President Dennis Lauscha earned a master’s in business administration from Loyola. Loyola’s president, the Rev. Kevin Wildes, S.J., is often seen at Saints games with team owner Tom Benson. Benson was enrolled at Loyola for a time in the 1940s. His cousin Bob was a star basketball player who helped Loyola’s team reach the semifinals of a national tournament in 1946.
Gleason, who wore No. 37 for the Saints, turned 37 Wednesday. The team gave him a No. 37 Saints jersey with “Birthday” as the name on the back.
Free-agent center Brian de la Puente, who has been a starter for the Saints since 2011, is scheduled to visit with Washington, ESPN’s Adam Caplan reported Wednesday. ... Free agent Charles Brown, who began the 2013 season as the Saints’ starting left tackle but was benched in favor of rookie Terron Armstead late in the year, is scheduled to visit the Giants, Caplan also reported Wednesday. ... The Saints’ re-signing backup linebacker Ramon Humber and wide receiver Joe Morgan was officially processed by the NFL on Wednesday. ... Backup defensive lineman Tom Johnson, who had been with the Saints since 2011, is leaving New Orleans for the Minnesota Vikings in free agency, an NFL source said. Johnson agreed to terms on a one-year deal that could be worth up to $1.45 million, the source said. The deal — pending a physical scheduled for Thursday — includes a minimum of $850,000, a $100,000 signing bonus, a $100,000 roster bonus and a $600,000 incentive package.