METAIRIE, La. – Malcolm Jenkins and his New Orleans Saints teammates sat at their hotel in Cincinnati on Tuesday night and Wednesday, watching as Hurricane Isaac slowly destroyed parts of southeast Louisiana.
And they felt for the victims, knowing just how strong the bond is between the city, the region and the team.
“It’s not like a burden, like we’re going in to entertain people,” Jenkins said. “We’re feeling it just as much as they are. We care about the people in LaPlace and Plaquemines Parish like they’re our own. These are the people that support us on a daily basis. We go into it with a family mentality.”
The Saints arrived back in town Friday morning from what turned into a week-long sojourn to Cincinnati and Nashville to get away from Isaac and then play a preseason game.
But while physically they were miles away, mentally they were still in New Orleans.
“The Gulf Coast is always on our mind,” interim head coach Aaron Kromer said.
The experiences some of the team’s fans are going through currently are eye-opening, providing Kromer and the coaching staff with lessons to teach their charges.
“I talked to the team this morning about adversity and that this isn’t adversity, having a new coach game one, having Joe Vitt during the preseason or having Sean Payton have to leave when he did,” Kromer said. “That is not adversity. Rather, it is opportunity for all of us to step up. Adversity is when your house is flooded and you can’t go home.
“That’s what we talked about. Those are the things in life you are going to find out about yourself.”
Kromer pointed out the resiliency of the people in southeast Louisiana, acknowledging that they often bounce back regardless of what’s thrown at them.
Jenkins said that, for at least three hours Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the team will get to give back to the fans what the fans did for them this offseason.
“Just like we’re frustrated about this offseason, we know they’re just as frustrated,” Jenkins said. “They’re right there with us when we battle. When our city goes through things, we go through it, too.”
This won’t be the first time the Saints have “played for” their fans. They did it in 2006 the season after Hurricane Katrina and again in 2010 when the Deepwater Horizon exploded, sending oil along the Louisiana coast.
“I think we’re all excited just to get back into the Dome and really playing for the fans,” Jenkins said. “I know they’re really excited to see us back out there.”
Added Kromer, “We will play with heavy hearts this week. That is for sure. For the people in Laplace, Slidell, Pearl River, the whole Gulf Coast that got flooded. You can’t imagine until it happens to you.
“When you walk home and you can’t get into your house because it is flooded and all of your stuff is ruined. Our guys will play with a heavy heart for that.”