NEW ORLEANS – Jabari Greer promised week after week that he was nearing the game field again.
And week after week, he remained inactive, stuck in that no-man’s land between healthy and playing and getting healthy yet frustrated while standing on the sideline.
Finally, a week before the playoffs began, Greer returned.
It wasn’t a moment too soon.
Greer finished with six tackles against Carolina, second-best on the team and got that needed game experience he so desperately needed before the Saints host a divisional round playoff game on Jan. 16 at 3:30 p.m.
But it wasn’t because he was rusty physically after missing eight weeks because of a sports hernia. Not at all.
“Communication,” Greer said. “There was one play where they got a play on us, where Mushin Muhammad came across and he had that long catch. It was something that I hadn’t communicated with Tracy for eight weeks. I was locked on my receiver.
“Through that experience, I learned that I had to see the whole field again. That’s what comes. It’s not about tackling. It’s not about not knowing your assignment.
“It’s about the in-game adjustments and being able to respond quickly and if you want to call that rust, that’s what the rust would be. It wouldn’t be tackling or knowing what to do.”
Indeed, the return of Greer and the way he played could be the most positive thing to come out of that 23-10 loss that felt more like a scrimmage than a regular season NFL game.
With Greer back, the Saints have their entire secondary that started the season on the field again for the first time since he went down with what originally was termed a groin pull on Nov. 8.
As the cornerback remained out of the lineup and the Saints lost more starters to injuries – linebacker Scott Fujita (knee), linebacker Scott Shanle (concussion), nose guard Sedrick Ellis (knee), cornerback Tracy Porter (knee) – the games got closer and closer.
Eventually, the weight of missing all those players caught up with New Orleans, which lost the final three games of the regular season.
Now Greer’s back, and other than defensive end Charles Grant, who tore his triceps against the Panthers, the defense is back fully intact.
Greer said that could be key in getting the defense back to its early season form.
“Once we get everybody healthy, there will be an opportunity,” Greer said. “There will be an opportunity to make plays. I think the guys that we’re getting back capitalize on those opportunities.”
But for Greer, getting on the playing field was an important step to complete health.
“Anytime a player gets injured, it’s something that weighs on your mind a little bit,” Greer said. “As a professional and a player, it’s something you want to make sure you can make things happen. I passed that test. I was excited to get out there and it was fun.”