Jabari Greer carried out his final days with the Saints gallantly: Commentary

New Orleans Saints cornerback Jabari Greer (33) acknowledges the crowd as he is carted off the field in the first half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

New Orleans Saints cornerback Jabari Greer (33) acknowledges the crowd as he is carted off the field in the first half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Saints cornerback Jabari Greer was sitting on the back of the medical cart, having maimed his knee leaping up to deflect a pass against the San Francisco 49ers on Nov. 17.

Yet he wasn’t worried about whether he had played his last down for the New Orleans Saints or what implication his injury may have on his career.

He only wanted his wife, his two children and his mother — who were all watching the game — to know he felt fine, at least under the circumstances.

And he wanted his teammates to know the same so they could concentrate on finishing up the game.

“When something like that happens, … life is put into perspective,” said Greer, who later learned he had torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, a devastating setback for any athlete. “The only thing that mattered were my loved ones and … my teammates.
“I wanted to make sure they knew I was OK.”

But there wasn’t much time before the cart drove him off the field, through a tunnel and to an ambulance waiting in the bowels of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. So he did all he could.

Clad in his black No. 33 jersey, he choked back the tears, raised his right arm and waved at the crowd of more than 73,000, who applauded him wildly. He pointed at the sidelines — at his teammates — and soon was gone.

The Saints, 7-2 at the time, ultimately defeated San Francisco, who qualified to Super Bowl two seasons ago and the NFC Championship this past year. No one can say how much, if anything, Greer’s evocative gesture had to do with the victory.

But no scene better illustrated the gallant way Greer carried himself during what proved to be his final season in black and gold.

Greer was among four defensive veterans the Saints on Wednesday said they’d cut ties with. New Orleans was estimated to be $14 million over the 2014 salary cap, more or less.

The decisions to release Greer, safety Roman Harper, defensive end Will Smith and to not re-sign free agent-to-be Jonathan Vilma — all of whom had a hand in winning Super Bowl XLIV, the Saints’ sole world title — reportedly got the Saints more than $2 million under the salary cap.

Of the four outgoing Saints, Greer was the only one to not represent New Orleans in a Pro Bowl. Yet, with all due respect to the on-field accomplishments by and off-field charity work from Harper, Smith and Vilma, it could be a long time before the Saints find another player who represents them as well as Greer did.

What follows is no exhaustive, behind-the-scenes look at the end of Greer’s tenure with the Saints. It’s just a vignette that begins to hint at the kind of person and football player the Saints had in Greer, who’s portrayed here in his lowest moments preceding lower ones — the one against the 49ers and the one Wednesday.

Greer did not have as much fun as his teammates did during the Saints’ 26-18 win at Chicago on Oct. 6, New Orleans’ first triumph at Soldier Field in four tries under coach Sean Payton. He gave up a touchdown, 128 yards and completions to five separate players.

A reporter approached him about the frustrating outing he had against Chicago, and Greer — perpetually polite — said, “I’ve played in this league long enough to know every week isn’t a Pro Bowl-caliber game. … I definitely have reset my focus, I’m preparing myself to have a much better game, and I’m excited.”

He wouldn’t have a better game. He traveled to New England with the Saints and let Patriots receiver Kenbrell Thompkins slip behind him and into the end zone as New Orleans tried to preserve a four-point lead with 5 seconds left in the contest.

Tom Brady zipped the football inches above a leaping Greer’s outstretched left hand and connected with Thompkins, who secured the 17-yard pass in the rear left corner of the end zone to give New England a stunning win.

Greer was waiting at his locker when the media herded around him. He told the first reporter, “Good to see you, man.” He asked how the reporter’s trip had gone.

Then, Greer got down to business, answering question after question. Will Thompkins’ score haunt him? What was it like to be so close to handing New England a rare home defeat in the fall, only for it to fall apart in the last seconds? Will the Saints be able to work past this?

Among his answers: “You never want to hurt your team.” “To have it slip through our fingers like that is tough to swallow.” “This doesn’t define who I am. This doesn’t define this team.”

A quarter of an hour passed before the questions stopped and the herd dispersed. He told the last reporter, “Can I help you with anything else?” When the reporter said, “No,” he said, “Thanks for coming by. It was good to see you.”

On a New Year’s Day at the Saints’ facility, Greer implied that it disturbed him the last image fans had of him was his being whisked away by a medical cart into a dark tunnel.

“I guess it’s kind of eerie,” Greer said.

What followed sounded worse — he remained in his football pants for the next 24 hours as various doctors examined him, and it was numerous days before he could take a proper shower. “Suffice to say, I had a good stank on me,” Greer said.

So, do Jabari a solid. Don’t let any of those be the last images you have of him in a Saints uniform. Instead, cut the memories off an instant before his injury, when he broke a pass up.

Before going down, he led his team in those, you know.