NEW ORLEANS – While the New Orleans Saints players are enjoying a week away from the practice field following an emotional, hard-fought 26-23 overtime victory over the Atlanta Falcons, they're still making an impact off the field. Several players have participated in community service projects this week to help benefit charitable causes both nationally and regionally. Below is a summary of these projects:
*Will Smith Foundation/Bridge House/Grace House NFL Celebrity Waiters Luncheon – While defensive end Will Smith certainly made a big impact with his tackle on a fourth-and-inches play against Atlanta on Sunday in overtime, today the defensive team captain spent three hours looking out for his community. He and his "Where There's a Will There's a Way" foundation were present at the NFL Celebrity Waiters V Luncheon at the New Orleans Marriott to benefit Bridge House/Grace House. Smith, LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar and CB Tracy Porter took orders from participants for a multiple-course lunch, with tips and sponsorship participation supporting Bridge House/Grace House in its mission to serve the indigent and homeless who are attempting to recover from substance abuse in the greater New Orleans community.
"Substance abuse is a real issue in our community. It affects not only the individuals, but the families of people who are affected by this problem," said Smith. "This event was a great way to help support these people in their recovery efforts, as well as helping them find a place to live and enter the workforce again, allowing them to support both themselves and their families."
*Saints Players donation to NavySeal Foundation – Through the leadership of another team captain, quarterback Drew Brees, Saints players have collected and donated over $43,000 to the Navy SEAL Foundation, whose mission is to provide immediate and ongoing support and assistance to the Naval Special Warfare community and their families.
"We, as Saints players, have so much respect for the men and women in our armed forces," said Brees. "We recognize and appreciate greatly the sacrifices they make for us on a daily basis. They are always in our thoughts and prayers and we wanted to all contribute to the Navy Seal Foundation as a way of supporting those who have lost their lives defending our freedom."
*Visit by Saints to Lusher Charter School to promote healthy teen relationships and prevent teen relationship violence – T Zach Strief had an outstanding day on Sunday at the Georgia Dome as he and his teammates on the offensive line kept Brees' jersey clean for the second consecutive week. Today Strief worked to make an impact in the community as he visited Lusher Charter School uptown, where he, S Malcolm Jenkins and CB Leigh Torrence participated in Verizon's "Training Camps For Life Initiative". Strief and his teammates, as well other NFL alumni and executives from Verizon and the NFL Players Association, addressed topics with students such as overcoming adversity, decisions and consequences and healthy teen relationships. At the end of the event, Strief led the students in taking the "Live Respect Pledge", a commitment to end teen relationship violence, and to speak out against abuse.
"Today was a great opportunity to be able to reach out to a large amount of students on several important issues," said Strief, who is in his first year handling starting right tackle duties. "What I try to tell them is that they have their entire lives ahead of them and having the right habits and choices when they are younger will give them better opportunities in the future."