Monday Morning QB (cont.)
Posted: Monday August 13, 2007 7:57AM; Updated: Friday August 17, 2007 9:02AM
5. Scott Fujita is getting a bad rap. You probably read the other day about how Fujita, a starting linebacker for New Orleans, was injured horsing around at a water park near the Saints' training camp in Mississippi. He injured his right heel at the park and missed a preseason game over the weekend. He'll likely miss another one this weekend.
Who knows why impressions get started -- in this case, I think it may be because the Saints were not forthright in releasing details about the injury right away -- but Fujita had read and heard enough about how irresponsible he and coach Sean Payton were. Over the weekend, he told me his side of the story.
"What really disappoints me," he said, "is the perception that's out there -- that I was just fooling around, not taking my job seriously and not caring about the team. When we got off the buses to New Orleans for our game this weekend, I saw a couple of fans look at me when I came off, just shaking their heads like I'd let them down.''
Here's a little background. Last year, Payton canceled a practice on a scorching day and took the team to the water park and arranged a five-on-five offense-versus-defense contest on the water slide. The defense slid the farthest in the contest, led by champion slider Fujita. It was so much fun, and the bonding so valuable, that Payton arranged for another trip this year, for the middle of last week.
"So there was a lot of talk about who could beat the great champion Scott Fujita on the water slide," the linebacker said. "There was a lot of trash-talking back and forth, just good, fun team stuff. When it was time for me to go, I really had a good slide going, and the slide wasn't long enough. I probably went 20 feet further than the end of it and slammed feet first into some 2-by-4s. Luckily, my foot went right through it because I was going so fast. Who knows how bad the injury would have been if the wood didn't break.
"So I go crashing through the fencing, and there's just silence for a few seconds. I was OK, but a few seconds later, my foot was throbbing. It turns out I hurt my plantar fascia in my right heel. And right now, still, I'm having trouble putting my full weight on the heel.''
I'm sure some of you will read this and say, "That is irresponsible. Why can't the players play cards or horseshoes for fun competition?" You might be right. This may turn out to be one of those axes-in-the-locker-room things that got Jack Del Rio in so much trouble a couple of years ago, when his punter was hurt playing with an axe put in the locker room to emphasize to his team to "keep chopping wood.'' I asked Fujita about it.
"It's just a freak thing, a freak accident that could have happened anytime,'' he said. "If you've been to an NFL training camp, particularly in a really hot one, you realize the importance of taking breaks to break up the monotony of camp. Anything you can do to break up the monotony of camp, I'm all for.''
I'm sure Payton will find another activity for the players next year. But let's not make this Slip-and-Slide-Gate either.