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Craig Robertson enjoyed his NFL career, and it was evident

"I treated it like it was supposed to be fun"

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The playing portion of Craig Robertson's NFL career officially concluded Friday, when the linebacker retired from the game as a New Orleans Saint.

But emphasize "play" and "game" when it comes to Robertson, because the overwhelming majority of his 10-year career was Robertson unleashing unbridled joy throughout the week.

"I used to say this all the time, that it's a kid's game and us grownups get to do it," said Robertson, who played his final game in the 2020 season. "When you treat it like that, it's fun. It's meant to be fun, and I lost some of that when I was in Cleveland (from 2011-15). It started to feel like work. It started to feel like I was clocking in, like I had to finish the day every day. We weren't winning, so that didn't make it any easier."

Cleveland's best record was 7-9 during Robertson's tenure, but he said he made a conscious decision just to enjoy the game.

"I was going to have fun and I was going to prepare like I always did because I respected the game," he said. "But I treated it like it was supposed to be fun, and that's when I started to gain a lot of respect in Cleveland. They're looking at me like, 'We're 1-7 and he's having a blast.' (I said), 'There are people that would die to have your seat right now.'

"When you treat it like that, it's infectious and everybody just wants to be around people having fun. It's a known fact."

Also known is that Robertson wanted to retire as a Saint, having joined the team as an unrestricted free agent in 2016 and as a four-time captain on special teams, helped New Orleans win four consecutive NFC South Division titles.

"From 2011 as an undrafted free agent, to play a 10-year career in our league – 556 career tackles, nine sacks, 10 interceptions, 27 passes defensed, three forced fumbles, eight fumble recoveries in 10 seasons – that's pretty impressive," Saints coach Dennis Allen said.

"In 2016, when I took over as defensive coordinator, we were looking to kind of rebuild the defense. And Craig was one of the guys that we looked at to really kind of help us establish our culture.

"We talk a lot about – in the draft – prototype, measurable, height, weight, speed, all of the things that allow you to be successful in our league, and Craig didn't have any of them. But what he did have is all the intangibles that we look for: Tough, smart, highly competitive, great leader, great energy, great enthusiasm. And he was really part of the foundation of building the culture in the way that we wanted to operate defensively, and that carried over into all aspects of our team.

"Probably one of the best leaders that we've had here at the Saints, and I think that's saying something about a guy when he's not necessarily your premier player, for him to have that type of effect on our team, on our organization, I think says a lot about who the guy is and what he's all about."

Robertson said he understood his role with the Saints.

"I'm not here to be a star," he said. "I'm here to make everybody laugh in the locker room. I can play football, too, but on gamedays, man, things get tight. Let's just focus on something else and when you get to it, all your instincts are going to take over. That's why your preparing and your process makes it easy."

Nowadays, the husband and father of four prepares for different processes; he's involved in the oil and gas industry in Texas, where he also has a trucking company, and spends time as a volunteer coach for his children's teams.

But he knows exactly how he wants Saints fans to remember him.

"Fun," Robertson said. "I was the energetic guy. If Coach (Sean) Payton was here, he'd tell you I was loud. Because I was. I cared about my teammates. That's the image that I want to leave.

"How did you affect your teammates? How did you affect your brothers? That's what you really leave when you're done playing. The stats, they're going to be there. There's going to be somebody else that's going to have more stats, somebody's going to have less stats.

"But how did pour into your teammates when you were here? Like, every time they see you, it's like, 'Man, we miss you.' It's not like, we miss you running down on a punt, or we miss that move that you did. It's not about sports, it's about people. So when they actually miss you because of you, it's a whole lot deeper than anything about sports."

Former New Orleans Saints linebacker Craig Robertson announced his official retirement from the NFL on March 11, 2022.

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