For those who visited New Orleans last week for the NFC Championship Game, there was no questioning the loyalty of their fans. From Bourban Street to the Garden District to the 9th Ward to points in between, it wasn't hard to find residents that were decked out in something Saints-related. From jerseys to hats to pins to gold satin stretch pants, the fans were paying homage to their team like few fan bases ever have.
It wasn't all positive. Many of those who traveled to the Big Easy last weekend can probably go a lifetime just fine with never again hearing the phrase "Who Dat?" – much less having a drunk 20-something walking alongside a fan in a Vikings jersey repeating the phrase over and over and over again. Aside from their strange community fascination with Michael Jackson, whose music and image were visible throughout the city for no explainable reason, their love of and loyalty to the Saints is epic.
But, for at least one Viking, the loyalty of Saints fans stretched a bit too far last Sunday.
When Brett Favre
was the recipient of a vicious high-low hit from a pair of Saints defenders and crumpled to the ground in agony, his teammates winced. The hearts of Vikings fans skipped a beat. Head coach Brad Childress lost his breath. Favre's wife shielded her eyes. And Saints fans cheered.
One of the first people on the sidelines to check up on Favre was long snapper Cullen Loeffler
. He went over the training table where Favre was laid out and heard some of the things the fans were saying. He said he's heard some awful things in the past – it comes with the territory in the NFL – but he was shocked with what he heard.
"It was incredible," Loeffler said. "They were cheering and saying they hoped his leg was broken and he'd never walk again. I know fans are out to cheer for their team, but I couldn't believe some of the garbage I was hearing. I could have expected something like that from Philadelphia fans because they kind of pride themselves on being jerks and being hard on everybody. They were the guys that threw snowballs at Santa Claus. I get it. But everything we had heard about Saints fans was that they were going to be loud. They were. But some of things they said to Brett was way out of line and really pathetic."
Favre would return to the game, perhaps spurred on by some of the taunts he heard from Saints fans. He's endured the worst fans have had to offer over the last two decades, but for a player like Loeffler, the fan reaction was an eye-opener. Just as many former players reacted to cheers from the crowd at Veteran's Stadium when Michael Irvin of the Cowboys was momentarily paralyzed on the turf, Loeffler said what he saw and heard last Sunday was the worst he has ever seen from fans and hopes to never see it again.
"I know fans are passionate about their team, but, in the end, it's still a game," Loeffler said. "It's a game that we play and injuries are part of it. But to have fans cheering when you get injured and hope that it is serious enough that you not only can't play again, but you can't walk? That was just sick. I know those fans have been through a lot and they love the Saints, but there was no call for that. I'm just glad Brett was OK because he could hear what they were saying just as easily as I could. I would hate to think that his last memory of playing in the NFL would be hearing the stuff he heard. That would have been pathetic."
The backlash against Bryant McKinnie has been stiff and almost universally brutal in light of him being dismissed from the Pro Bowl squad Saturday. Most national media outlets referred to the situation as inexcusable and disrespectful. Fellow University of Miami player, running back Willis McGahee of the Ravens, had a one-word response we can't print here, but let's just say it was a reference to bovine excrement. According to observers who were there, McKinnie missed four of the five practices and attended only one team meeting. He also missed the team photo session. Because of the lateness of his dismissal, he won't be replaced on the Pro Bowl roster. The NFC will play with only two offensive tackles and, if an injury should occur, Dallas guard Leonard Davis could move over to take some snaps at left tackle if needed. While McKinnie was suffering from injuries late in the season, it still seems hard to fathom why he would accept his first career bid to the Pro Bowl, not show up for the practices, but get spotted all over Miami nightclubs celebrating. He has given both the organization and himself a black eye that will likely result in many of those players who put his name on the Pro Bowl roster reason enough never to do that again.
In an interesting story in the Philadelphia Daily News, Eagles President Joe Banner said the team has not made a decision on its quarterback situation for next season. That would contradict the words of head coach Andy Reid, who said Donovan McNabb would continue to be the starter in 2010. Banner said the decision could be to remain with the status quo or make change. He also said he didn't feel there was any point in trying to elaborate on the comments made by Reid. There are many in the Philadelphia media, as well as their vocal fan base, that would prefer to see youngster Kevin Kolb get his chance as the starter. Be careful what you wish for, Eagles fans.
Mike Martz was the latest to interview for the offensive coordinator position with the Bears. On Thursday, Vikings quarterbacks coach Kevin Rogers interviewed for the position. While quarterback Jay Cutler has met with all of the O.C. candidates when they have visited Halas Hall, it was pointed out that Martz was the first one to travel to Cutler for the meeting, getting together in Cutler's hometown of Nashville on Saturday to meet face to face. Martz is viewed as the current frontrunner for the position, but Rogers hasn't been ruled out, since Rogers operates a West Coast offense Cutler is extremely familiar with and Martz has a playbook the size of a New York City phone book with new terminology Cutler and the rest of the Bears offensive players would have to learn.
Jaguars general manager Gene Smith laid out the team's plans for 2010 Saturday at a season-ending press conference and said that former Viking Troy Williamson remains part of the team's plan and will be counted on to push the wide receivers ahead of him on the depth chart.
Fran Tarkenton just won't let it go. Jumping on the anti-Brett Favre bandwagon early, he called his signing with the Vikings "despicable" after playing for the rival Packers for 16 years. This week, he continued his ranting, saying Favre's "stupid play" in the final minute of regulation is what cost the Vikings the game. He also pointed out that his last play with the Packers was an interception in overtime in their home loss to the Giants.
The NFL took offense at the high-low hit Brett Favre took in the NFC Championship Game, but some Saints fans were hoping Favre was injured worse, according to long snapper Cullen Loeffler. "They were cheering and saying they hoped his leg was broken and he'd never walk again," Loeffler said.
Some Saints fans were hoping Favre was injured worse, according to long snapper Cullen Loeffler.