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Former Saints player Steve Gleason is working on building the biggest ALS research project ever

In a story by Emily Kaplan on SI.com, former Saints player Steve Gleason talks about building the biggest ALS research project ever and his fourth year of life with the disease.

Gleason, who speaks through eye-tracking software through his computer, has given fund-raising speeches to increase money to battle the disease and is working with neuroscientists, researchers, academics and pharmaceutical companies in his efforts.

Gleason

Gleason is quoted in the story as saying: “I believe with the right amount of funding and with the right people, most things are possible. Yes, I believe there can be a treatment or cure in my lifetime.”

Here is a link to the story.

Saints sign rookie punt returner/receiver Jalen Saunders from Seattle’s practice squad

A day after placing rookie receiver/punt returner Brandin Cooks on season-ending injured reserve with a fractured thumb, the Saints on Wednesday signed rookie former fourth-round draft choice Jalen Saunders to the 53-man roster, according to an NFL source.

The Jets drafted Saunders, who returned six punts for 26 yards over three games for them. New York cut him in late September after he muffed punts in back-to-back games. He turned the ball over to the Jets’ opponent on one of the punts he muffed.

Saunders subsequently spent a total of six games in Arizona and Seattle but didn’t stick with either team or record a statistic. He was on the Seahawks’ practice squad when the Saints signed him away on Wednesday.

In a related transaction, a source said the Saints cut running back Brian Leonard, who was in New Orleans (4-6) for one game.

Saunders’ signing indicates that he could audition to handle some of the punt return duties Cooks vacated when he broke his thumb in Sunday’s loss at home against Cincinnati. And Leonard’s departure could mean Khiry Robinson or Pierre Thomas — running backs who have been out injured the past four games — may soon return to action.

The 5-foot-9, 157-pound Saunders returned 20 punts for 308 yards with two touchdowns last year in college for Oklahoma. The diminutive receiver caught 61 passes for 729 yards and eight touchdowns. He ran the 40-yard dash in an impressive 4.44 seconds at the scouting combine in Indianapolis.

Saunders joins a receiver corps that includes veteran Marques Colston, second-year pro Kenny Stills (also out of Oklahoma), Robert Meachem (who’s missed a couple of games with a hurt ankle), Joseph Morgan and Nick Toon. The vast majority of the production out of that group comes from Colston (34 catches for 536 yards and a touchdown) and Stills (31 grabs for 431 yards and two TDs).

Cooks, a first-round draft selection out of Oregon State, was second on the Saints in receptions (53), receiving yards (550) and touchdown catches (three), one of which was a 50-yarder. He had also carried the ball seven times for 73 yards and another touchdown when he got hurt and was shut down for the rest of the campaign.

The Saints host Baltimore (4-6) on Monday night.

Nick Underhill contributed to this report.

This post has been updated since it was first published, mostly to add details.

Saints LB Curtis Lofton: ‘You don’t express (frustrations) to the media’

Members of the media love how frank and honest second-year Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro is with reporters.

New Orleans Saints' Curtis Lofton (50) on the sidelines against the Carolina Panthers during the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014. The Saints won 28-10. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

New Orleans Saints’ Curtis Lofton (50) on the sidelines against the Carolina Panthers during the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014. The Saints won 28-10. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

After a conference call Monday, it appears New Orleans linebacker Curtis Lofton is less enamored with that aspect of Vaccaro’s being.

Lofton addressed frustrations Vaccaro expressed after the Saints lost their sixth of 10 games so far this season on Sunday by a score of 27-10 at home to Cincinnati.

Among other things, Vaccaro wondered whether the Saints’ makeup was altered by the offseason departures of defensive veterans such as Roman Harper, Malcolm Jenkins, Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma, all owners of a championship ring from New Orleans’ victory in Super Bowl XLIV on Feb. 7, 2010.

The “vibe,” Vaccaro said, was different on the field. To be fair, Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis communicated similar thoughts, but Lofton was asked to comment Monday on what Vaccaro had said.

Lofton remarked, “When you express your frustrations, you don’t express them to the media. You keep that in house. He’s not the only player that feels that way. There’s been numerous guys that have expressed the same feeling, but there’s a different way of doing it. That’s how it’s been handled here in the past, and that’s how it needs to be handled here in the future, too.”

To paint a complete picture of the matter, Saints coach Sean Payton weighed in as well, and he didn’t mind Vaccaro’s stance.

“When you watch that game towards the end and there was a pretty good chance the score was going to end in their favor, I love how (Vaccaro) was playing,” Payton said. “I love the attitude and the toughness he brings and the frustration that comes with it.”

Vaccaro’s and Lewis’ statements came after New Orleans’ defense — ranked 21st in the league before Monday Night Football — had let the Bengals convert 9-of-13 third-down situations, a big reason why the Saints had lost at home for the second straight week.

They’d dropped a contest to San Francisco seven days earlier after winning the previous 20 games at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome that Payton had coached them.

Despite the difference in opinion on venting to reporters, Lofton and Vaccaro are both among the Saints’ most productive players on defense.

A Saint since 2012, Lofton leads the team in tackles with 90 (63 solo), and he has a fumble recovery to his name this year. Vaccaro — a first-round draft selection out of Texas in 2013 — is third on the team in tackles (49 solo), and he has an interception and a quarterback sack this season.

Note: This post has been updated to include a comment from Payton. Guerry Smith contributed to this report.

Saints wideout Brandin Cooks has surgery on broken thumb, will be out 4-6 weeks, agent says

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks (10) carries on a pass play in the first half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Rogelio Solis)

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks (10) carries on a pass play in the first half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Rogelio Solis)

Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks has had surgery to repair the thumb he fractured in Sunday’s 27-10 loss to Cincinnati at home, and doctors estimate he could be back in four to six weeks, his agent Jeff Sperbeck announced via Twitter on Monday.

Cooks’ verified Twitter account sent out its own messages Monday attempting to assuage the concerns of Saints fans.

“People, there is nothing to worry (about),” read the dispatches from Cooks’ account. “This is a part of his plan. I just smile … (and) just watch and see God … work.

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks (10) fumbles while being tackled by Cincinnati Bengals outside linebacker Jayson DiManche (51), Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver James Wright (86), and Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Darqueze Dennard (21) in a NFL football game in the Superdome in New Orleans, La. Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014. Cooks broke his thumb on the play.

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON–New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks (10) fumbles while being tackled by Cincinnati Bengals outside linebacker Jayson DiManche (51), Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver James Wright (86), and Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Darqueze Dennard (21) in a NFL football game in the Superdome in New Orleans, La. Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014. Cooks broke his thumb on the play.

“The devil saw an opportunity to try to break my relationship with Christ, but little did he know. Death nor pain can do that Haha devil is wack.”

Cooks’ positive outlook may not do much to console distressed Who Dats.

His importance to the Saints is obvious to even casual observers. The rookie first-round draft selection out of Oregon State is second on the team in receptions (53), receiving yards (550) and touchdown catches (three), trailing only star tight end Jimmy Graham (59 grabs for 623 yards and seven TDs). He’s also carried the ball seven times for 73 yards and another touchdown, and he’s been the primary punt returner for the team.

These are crucial times for the Saints (4-6), who have six games left this regular season. Despite dropping their last two games, both at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, they sit second in a weak NFC South whose leader, Atlanta, is also 4-6. Atlanta is technically in first place because it beat the Saints at the Georgia Dome in Week 1, but the teams play each other again in New Orleans on Dec. 21.

All division victors in the NFL are guaranteed a home playoff game.

Under Cooks in the Saints’ pecking order are veteran receiver Marques Colston (34 catches for 536 yards and a touchdown) and second-year pro Kenny Stills (31 grabs for 431 yards and two TDs, including a 9-yarder against the Bengals). Below Colston and Stills are players such as Robert Meachem (five catches for 85 yards), Nick Toon (no receptions) and Joseph Morgan (one grab for seven yards). Stills and Morgan are obvious candidates to replace Cooks at least in returning punts, given their speed; and so is backup running back Travaris Cadet, who handles fielding kickoffs.

It’s not been confirmed when Cooks was hurt. But he fielded a punt Sunday at the Saints’ 17 with about 3:30 to go, returned it four yards and fumbled the ball after he was hit in the right hand by the helmet of Bengals defender Jayson DiManche. The Saints recovered the fumble; but Cooks walked away from the pile of players over the ball clutching the area above his right wrist with his left hand, and he grimaced in apparent pain in view of a television camera.

The injury is the latest frustration in a season where little has gone to plan for the Saints. Aside from the lackluster record, there’s been numerous key injuries, including the season-ending knee ligament tear to three-time Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd ahead of Week 5.

Another key member of the Saints’ offense missed three games earlier this season with a broken thumb: running back Mark Ingram, who has racked up 618 rushing yards, 138 carries and six touchdowns to head the Saints’ ground game this year.

A second safety — rookie Vinnie Sunseri, a mainstay on the special-teams coverage units — fractured his arm in a loss to San Francisco on Nov. 9.

Yet another safety, Rafael Bush, broke his right fibula making a tackle late in the loss to Cincinnati.

Bush was hurt about 80 seconds before Cooks was in terms of elapsed game time. Both Cooks’ and Bush’s fractures occurred while the Saints were down by the final score of 27-10; and there was essentially no chance of a comeback at that tardy stage of the game, enhancing the general sense of frustration surrounding the injuries.

Saints coach Sean Payton on Monday declined to discuss the injuries to Cooks and Bush, who initially believed he had a more serious tibia fracture but could nonetheless also miss four to six weeks.

Perhaps second-year safety Kenny Vaccaro best summed it up for the Saints after the Bengals game when he wearily said, “We’re banged up.”

The Saints host Baltimore (6-4) next Monday night.

Note: This post was edited to mention that it was Bengals defender Jayson DiManche’s helmet which hit Brandin Cooks in the right hand, caused the fumble and apparently caused his thumb fracture. The official game book credited Darqueze Dennard as having hit Cooks on the fumbled punt return.

Brandin Cooks out 2-4 weeks with broken thumb, per reports

Take it as proof that things can always get worse — Saints receiver Brandin Cooks broke his thumb in Sunday’s 27-10 loss at home to Cincinnati, according to reports Monday from multiple media outlets, including Cox Sports Television, ESPN and NFL Network.

Estimates are that Cooks will be out two to four weeks for the Saints (4-6), who currently sit second in a weak NFC South whose leader is Atlanta, also 4-6. Atlanta is in first place because it beat the Saints at the Georgia Dome in Week 1, but the teams play each other again in New Orleans on Dec. 21.

Cooks’ importance to the Saints is obvious to even casual observers. The rookie first-round draft selection out of Oregon State is second on the team in receptions (53), yards (550) and touchdown catches (three), one of which was a 50-yarder. He’s also carried the ball seven times for 73 yards and another touchdown, and he’s been the primary punt returner for the team.

Under Cooks in the Saints’ pecking order are veteran receiver Marques Colston (34 catches for 536 yards and a touchdown) and second-year pro Kenny Stills (31 grabs for 431 yards and two TDs, including a 9-yarder against the Bengals). Below Colston and Stills are players such as Robert Meachem, Nick Toon and Joseph Morgan. Stills and Morgan are obvious candidates to replace Cooks at least in returning punts, given their speed.

It’s not been confirmed when Cooks was hurt. But he fielded a punt Sunday at the Saints’ 17 with about 3:30 to go, returned it four yards and fumbled the ball after being hit by Bengals defender Darqueze Dennard. The Saints recovered the fumble; but Cooks walked away from the pile over the ball clutching the area above his right wrist with his left hand, and he grimaced in view of a television camera.

The injury is the latest frustration of a season full of them so far. Aside from the lackluster record, there’s been numerous key injuries, such as the season-ending knee ligament tear to three-time Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd ahead of Week 5 and the right fibula fracture another safety — Rafael Bush — sustained in the loss to Cincinnati.

Still another safety — rookie Vinnie Sunseri, a mainstay on the special-teams coverage units — fractured his arm in a loss to San Francisco on Nov. 9.

Bush was hurt about 80 seconds before Cooks was in terms of elapsed game time. Both Cooks’ and Bush’s fractures occurred while the Saints were down by the final score of 27-10; and there was essentially no chance of a comeback at that late stage of the game, enhancing the general sense of frustration surrounding the injuries.

“We’re banged up,” second-year safety Kenny Vaccaro said wearily after the Bengals game.

Another key member of the Saints’ offense missed three games earlier this season with a broken thumb: running back Mark Ingram. Ingram has racked up 618 rushing yards, 138 carries and six touchdowns to head the Saints’ ground game in the seven games he has played.

Cox Sports’ Victor Howell first reported Cooks’ injury. It was then confirmed by ESPN’s Mike Triplett and NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. All cited league sources.

Source: Saints safety Rafael Bush has broken fibula, not more serious fractured tibia

Advocate staff photo by ELIOT KAMENITZ-- New Orleans Saints free safety Rafael Bush (25) is carted off the field with a leg injury in the fourth quarter in a game against the Cincinnati Bengals at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, La. Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014.

Advocate staff photo by ELIOT KAMENITZ– New Orleans Saints free safety Rafael Bush (25) is carted off the field with a leg injury in the fourth quarter in a game against the Cincinnati Bengals at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, La. Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014.

The leg fracture Saints safety Rafael Bush suffered in Sunday’s 27-10 loss at home to Cincinnati may not be as severe as first thought.

Bush told reporters after the game that he hurt a leg making a tackle with fewer than five minutes left in the contest. He said the diagnosis after an initial examination was he had broken the primary weight-bearing bone in his right leg, or tibia, but he was expecting to be evaluated further.

On Monday, a league source said Bush learned he had actually fractured another bone: his right fibula. The fibula runs parallel to the tibia — or shinbone — and carries less weight on it. Because of that, a fractured fibula is considered less serious than a broken tibia.

Published medical literature generally estimates it can take four to six weeks for a fractured fibula to heal. After Sunday’s defeat, there are six games left in the regular season for the Saints (4-6), and their mathematical possibilities of making the playoffs are very much alive because they have the same record as the first-place team in their division, Atlanta.

Atlanta is in first place at the moment because they beat the Saints at the Georgia Dome in Week 1. The Saints and Atlanta play each other again on Dec. 21 in New Orleans.

Bush’s injury leaves the Saints with three healthy safeties for now: Kenny Vaccaro, in his second year with the team; Marcus Ball, who’s in his first NFL season after beginning his pro career in the Canadian Football League; and Jamarca Sanford, who signed with New Orleans last Wednesday.

Bush is the third Saints safety this year to suffer a major injury. Jairus Byrd suffered a season-ending knee injury in a practice prior to Week 5, and Vinnie Sunseri fractured his arm during a loss to San Francisco a week ago.

Starting ever since Byrd was lost for the season, Bush was second on the Saints with 49 combined tackles heading into Sunday (41 of them were solo). He was in a three-way tie for third in passes defensed (three).

Bush added five tackles (three solo) to his totals in Sunday’s setback to the Bengals.

“Obviously, you don’t want those things happening that late in the game,” Bush said of his injury after the game against Cincinnati (6-3-1) while he sat at his locker with crutches at his side and his right leg enveloped in ice and a bandage. “But … being (a) competitor and continuing to fight — that’s … all I was doing. It was … a freak accident. There’s nobody to blame.”

Saints cheerleaders give Cincinnati Bengals player Devon Still a care package for his daughter, Leah

Devon Still saints cheerleaders (WWLTV)

Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Devon Still was inactive on Sunday when his team defeated the New Orleans Saints 27-10 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday.

But that didn’t stop the New Orleans Saints from giving Still a care package for his 4-year-old daughter, Leah, who is battling pediatric cancer.

The Saints recognized Devon and Leah in the break after the second quarter with a photo of the two on the video board.

Earlier this season, Saints coach Sean Payton bought 100 Devon Still jerseys to support pediatric cancer.

Payton and Still shared a warm embrace after the game in their first ever meeting.

Saints fan steals football thrown to Bengals fan

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Jermaine Gresham tried to give a woman wearing a Bengals jersey during Sunday’s game a souvenir.

Instead, the woman caught a elbow to the chin and was left empty handed.

Here’s what happened:

After Gresham caught a touchdown pass in the third quarter of Sunday’s 27-10 Saints’ loss, he saw fan in the front row dressed in Bengals gear, ran toward her, and tossed the ball her direction.

But as the ball arrived, an eager Saints fan jumped in front of her and intercepted the pass, elbowing her in the face in the process. Despite fans chanting for him to surrender the ball, he never did.

Chalk it up as another week of fans making the news. Perhaps the Joker could have made up for last week’s gaffe by demanding the fan surrender the ball.

Update: According to the non-profit What You Give Will Grow, its executive director reached out to the fan and gave her a game ball. Click here to read more.

NFL clears Saints in Todd Davis drama

Despite a report from ESPN that the Saints could potentially be in trouble for how they handled a roster move earlier in the week, the NFL on Sunday said New Orleans did not run afoul of any regulations.

“The Saints have been in compliance with league rules regarding (the waiver of backup linebacker) Todd Davis,” NFL spokesman Michael Signora said in an email.

New Orleans cut Davis from its 53-man roster Wednesday and hoped to place him on the practice squad, but he was claimed off the waiver wire on Thursday by the Denver Broncos.

Before the Saints lost to Cincinnati 27-10 on Sunday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the NFL was gauging whether the team had “illegally stashed” Davis at the practice facility after waiving him.

According to Schefter, it was potentially problematic that Davis continued to attend meetings and was treated as a member of the team after being released. And since Davis was with the Saints on Thursday, the Broncos were unable to reach him after claiming him off waivers, which pushed back his arrival to town by a day.

Schefter reported the league was looking into the facts and New Orleans could’ve faced a large fine if they were found to have violated league rules.

News that the Saints were cleared in the matter circulated right as the Bengals put the finishing touches on their victory Sunday, which dropped New Orleans to 4-6.

The Saints are in second place in the NFC South after Atlanta beat Carolina on Sunday to improve to 4-6 — the Falcons own the tie-breaker over New Orleans at the moment because they triumphed in the teams’ only encounter so far this season. The Saints host Atlanta on Dec. 21.

Saints safety Rafael Bush says he fractured a tibia late in loss to Cincinnati

Advocate staff photo by ELIOT KAMENITZ-- New Orleans Saints free safety Rafael Bush (25) is carted off the field with a leg injury in the fourth quarter in a game against the Cincinnati Bengals at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, La. Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014.

Advocate staff photo by ELIOT KAMENITZ– New Orleans Saints free safety Rafael Bush (25) is carted off the field with a leg injury in the fourth quarter in a game against the Cincinnati Bengals at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, La. Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014.

Saints safety Rafael Bush says he fractured his tibia late in Sunday’s 27-10 defeat at home against the Bengals.

The injury left the Saints with three healthy safeties when regulation expired: Kenny Vaccaro, in his second year with the Saints (now 4-6); Marcus Ball, who’s in his first NFL season after beginning his pro career in the Canadian Football League; and Jamarca Sanford, who signed with New Orleans this week.
Bush is the third Saints safety this year to suffer a major injury. Jairus Byrd suffered a season-ending meniscus tear in a practice prior to Week 5, and Vinnie Sunseri fractured his arm during a loss to San Francisco a week ago.

Bush — who was in the locker room wearing an ice wrap on his hurt right leg as well as using crutches — said he didn’t know if he’ll need surgery. But it was clear he expected to land on season-ending injured reserve, where Byrd and Sunseri have already been sent.

The play where Bush hurt himself occurred with fewer than 5 minutes to go, when New Orleans was already down by the final score. In his third year with the Saints, Bush injured himself helping defensive lineman Akiem Hicks tackle Bengals running back and ex-LSU standout Jeremy Hill on a 5-yard gain.

Bush was soon carted off the field at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, and he learned about his injury at the conclusion of an initial evaluation.

“It was just a freak accident,” Bush said. “Obviously, you don’t want those things happening that late in the game. Things (had) already … gotten out of hand, (and) we kind of knew the outcome of this game.

“But being competitors and continuing to fight, that’s just all I was doing.”

Starting ever since Byrd was lost for the season, Bush was second on the Saints with 49 combined tackles heading into Sunday (41 of them were solo). He was in a three-way tie for third in passes defensed (three).

Bush added five tackles (three solo) to his totals in Sunday’s setback to the Bengals.

Note: This post was updated to present Bush’s quote in a clearer manner.