For four years, New Orleans Saints linebacker Michael Mauti said, he had been able to manage his ulcerative colitis well enough to play football. Finally, nine games into his fourth NFL season, he no longer could.
Mauti was placed on the Saints' Reserve/Non-Football Injury list Monday, six days after doctors told him that he will need surgery for the condition, and will miss the rest of the season. Mauti said the surgery is not career-ending.
"For the last maybe four years, since I was diagnosed, I've had ulcerative colitis," he said Tuesday. "It's something I've been struggling with and managing, I've got a great team of doctors that have been helping me out as I've progressed with my career. It just got to the point this season where they felt like it was best that I take care of it for good.
"Unfortunately, I won't be able to finish the rest of the year. It just got to the point where I had to look out for my long-term health and this is the best move for me. I spent a lot of time thinking about it, praying on it, and I've had a lot of great support here from the training staff and Coach (Sean) Payton. At this point, we're going to take the rest of the year here and just focus on getting back for next season and getting healthy."
Mauti has been on medication to mute the effects of the condition and attempted to continue to play through, but finally was told by doctors last Tuesday that he had to shut down.
"The meds that you've got to take to suppress the things that are going on, it's kind of just a mess," he said. "It's doable. It just adds something extra to the equation. It's something I'm going to get through. We'll take care of it and I'll be ready to go.
"It's something I've played through, and it's something that I played through as long as I could physically this season. I gave everything I had to this team. I emptied the tank here and I can lay my head down at night and rest about that. But at the same time I've got to look out for my long-term health here and I think this is the smartest move for me moving forward, so I can be a contributor again in the fall."
Mauti, a former standout at Mandeville High whose father, Rich, was a Saint from 1977-80 and 1982-83, was named special teams Most Valuable Player by the coaches last year. He had 12 special team tackles and blocked a punt, which he recovered for a touchdown, in the Saints' Thursday night, nationally televised, 31-21 victory over Atlanta.
He also started two games and registered 26 tackles. This year, he was named special teams captain and in eight games (two starts), he had 40 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble, and seven tackles on special teams.
"I can't play the rest of this season but I plan on being back next season and being able to contribute here for the Saints, or wherever that may be," he said. "This isn't the end of my career by any means.
"I think it's just something where I'm looking out for my long-term health here."