Thursday, May 21, 2009

Saints Nation: Unsung leaders in the Saints locker room

I asked Jeff Duncan of the Times-Picayune a question about some of the leaders on the Saints and he had an interesting response, check it out (link here):

Saints Nation Question: Jeff, based on your experience around the players and the locker room, who would you say are the biggest leaders/vocal positive influence personalities on the team? We know Brees, Vilma and Fujita are always guys that are named as leaders. I'm looking for more of an unsung hero, maybe a player I wouldn't expect you to name. Anyone that would surprise most fans? Also, which player(s) are the biggest potential for distraction besides Shockey? Any players with more volatile or occasionally selfish attitudes that you've noticed?

Jeff Duncan: Good question. The unquestioned leader in the Saints locker room is Brees. He is the top dog and with Deuce McAllister now gone there really isn't anyone that's a close second. Will Smith, Scott Fujita, Mike McKenzie, Charles Grant and Vilma have been the leaders on defense. Randall Gay has been vocal about stepping into a leadership role in the secondary. I think Darren Sharper, by virtue of his experience and credentials, will naturally become a leader in the position group. Two guys that are kind of quiet behind-the-scenes types are Stinchcomb and long snapper Kevin Houser. Jon Stinchcomb was elected as the team's NFL Players Association rep this year, a sure sign of respect from his peers. He's the leader on the offensive line. Houser is just a great all-around guy and, as the most-tenured Saint on the roster, someone that others can go to for advice and information. He's a registered financial broker and helps a lot of players with business tips, investment portfolios, etc. I think the young trio of Lance Moore, Pierre Thomas and Usama Young has the potential to become core guys and leaders in the locker room. They have become close off the field, do a lot of things together socially and I can see them continuing to grow into leaders with their positive attitudes and work ethic. Equally important, all three are emerging into more prominent roles on the team. That's important because as any player or coach knows, you can't lead from the bench. The Saints have done an excellent job of eliminating problem players in the Sean Payton era. There aren't too many guys, with the exception of perhaps, Jeremy Shockey, that I would label as a possible distraction. Grant and Jammal Brown have had off-field issues that have given some in the organization some concern but I wouldn't label them as selfish or problem players. The term coaches and NFL executives use for these types is "high maintenance." Shockey would definitely qualify for such a label, and this isn't just coming from a media type. There are people in the organization that have no love lost for him, either. Personally, I've never had a problem with Shockey, but there was at least one unreported incident with a local reporter that showed his lack of professionalism. Hey, he's an emotional and passionate guy, and sometimes that emotion is going to boil over (See: Brees at Atlanta). That's part of the package with Shockey and the Saints knew this when they traded for him.