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Craig Robertson works to fuel his New Orleans Saints teammates

'He's Craig The Juice Man for a reason'

Game action photos from the New Orleans Saints playing host to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season.
Game action photos from the New Orleans Saints playing host to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season.

There's Flavor Flav, and everyone else. But Craig Robertson has done what he can to separate from the secondary pack.

An exaggeration, possibly, given that the unofficial poll results contain a twinge of bias, with the belief that Flav – co-founder of the rap group Public Enemy – occupies three of the four profiles on the face of Mount Hype Man (one profile reserved for Flav's clock, of course).

But as NFL noisemakers go in this fan-less or fan-restricted season, Robertson, the New Orleans Saints linebacker, has made a move for the vacant facade.

Robertson seemingly always has appeared to be voluble and visible. This season, when almost all of what happens on the field can be heard in cavernous stadiums, when the Saints play, Robertson's voice drowns others. With New Orleans, 1-1 entering Sunday night's game against Green Bay (2-0) in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, not having seen a fan inside the venue for its first two games, Robertson has been a non-stop human fog machine, loudspeaker, cheerleader and opponent heckler.

The man has enough energy to restore power in a blackout.

"Listen," defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins said, after a quick laugh. "If the stadium was full, you would hear Craig. It doesn't matter how much noise they pump into it.

"He's Craig The Juice Man for a reason. He provides that energy for us. Practice, game, playing cards, playing Nintendo, walking into meetings – that's just who he is, and that's big for us."

"I love his enthusiasm," Coach Sean Payton said. "When we're playing, you've got to play this game with some enthusiasm. His energy is contagious. He's one of our leaders. You can't help but notice the way he plays and even when he's not in the game."

When he's not in the game may be when Robertson is most noticeable. Absolutely, it's when he's most heard this season.

"That makes it fun," Robertson said. "Just from our first game, I had guys like, 'Man, I needed that.' That's who I am anyway. When we have fans, obviously, guys can draw from fans, plus me, because I'm always saying something, always talking.

"When guys make plays, the energy – it's a different sense on the sideline. And just not having all that going on at one time with fans and everything, you've got to draw it from somewhere. So if I want to put it on my shoulders, I'll do it. I'm going to do it anyway."

Robertson dances during team stretch. He daps up teammates – there's a personalized handshake for several of them. In practice, he might leave the defensive side of stretch, walk over to an offensive player and playfully mimic a loosening technique he has seen that teammate use.

He might turn lyricist and follow along with the song over the loudspeaker. Depending on whether it's a date of significance in the history of his fraternity – Omega Psi Phi, Inc. – he might break out a step and draw in the other Omegas on the team.

Little wonder, Robertson, a valued member of the special team units, is a team captain.

"You are who you are," he said. "Guys, especially in the NFL – but (also) your college, your high school – they can see through fake energy. As long as you're the same guy every day, it's genuine. This has just been me, this is how I am throughout life."

It's a role he grew into.

Robertson said his mom was the, 'Get 'em!' parent from the stands when he was playing during his youth. He was a bit more bashful, until later.

"I'll be honest: I was one of those kids that was scared when I was young," he said. "But, more so, (the energy poured out in) high school. Like, you're playing with all your friends and just having fun and just enjoying life.

"College (at North Texas) was tough on me because I was just like this, but we were losing a lot. So from one standpoint it was hard to be it. But it was who I was, so from that standpoint it was easy, because a lot of my teammates needed it. A lot of guys, when you're losing, a lot of guys check out, they want to get ready for next season, stuff like that. So going through practice is something that's tough.

"I learned that, man, I'm enjoying every day like it was my last. In college, we didn't have a bunch of guys go to the NFL. So I'm enjoying practice, whether or not I was a freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, like it was my last one. And once it really became my last one, I felt like I accomplished something.

"Even though we didn't have a ton of wins, when guys look back and they're like, 'Man, you were on TV, talking trash,' and they're like, 'Bro, you haven't changed one bit,' I take pride in that. Because you want to be the same person every day, and when you've got people that tell you that you haven't changed one bit, that's what you want to hear."

It doesn't change at home, either, for the husband and father of three. Likely, the Robertson household is more boisterous than most.

"How you see me at practice is how you see me around the house," he said. "They feed off it, really. That's just who I am, so really it's becoming them as well. My daughter is just like me, my son is just like me and my youngest, she's starting to become an energy ball, too, as she gets older. It's really just becoming who they are.

"I just want to be that fun Dad, that's always having fun. My wife is a fun wife, as well, so at all times, we're just trying to have a good time and make sure our kids are enjoying every day."

While the kids enjoy, Dad works to make sure his teammates are fueled with emotion, and opponents are aggravated to distraction.

Yes, some opponents tell him to shut up, mostly in good fun.

"Man, a lot," he said. "But it's mostly guys that I know, coaches that I know, that I've played with or played against before, where it's a mutual respect thing. I'm going to talk regardless. That's just who I am.

"But it's always funny when you can get a coach to be like, 'Hey, man, just be quiet and play football.' And I'm like, good, I'm under somebody's skin. That means it's working."

Pregame photos from the New Orleans Saints warmups in Allegiant Stadium ahead tonight's Week 2 "Monday Night Football" matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders.

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