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New Orleans Saints recognize Jacob Blake at Thursday training camp practice

'The idea of just putting his name on everyone's helmet was something that we felt would be appropriate'

Photos from New Orleans Saints training camp practice on Thursday, August 27, 2020.

On Thursday, during the ninth New Orleans Saints training camp practice this year, center Jacob Blake shotgun snapped the ball to quarterback Jacob Blake, who avoided a closing rush by defensive end Jacob Blake and pin-pointed a pass to receiver Jacob Blake, just past the outstretched fingers of cornerback Jacob Blake.

On his way back to the offensive huddle, fellow receiver Jacob Blake and tight end Jacob Blake congratulated Blake on the catch, while defensive end Blake snarled over the sack that got away.

Every Saint was Jacob Blake on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020.

Each player had that name taped across the front of his helmet, where players' last names usually are located. On Tuesday, Blake, in an encounter with police in Kenosha, Wis., was shot in the back seven times.

As information and specifics are parsed about what happened and why, Saints players and Coach Sean Payton didn't require further dissection to formulate an opinion and to take a stance. Payton, at a team meeting Wednesday night, decided the taped name would be one way to honor Blake, who reportedly is paralyzed from the waist down because of the shooting.

"The thing I mentioned last night to the team is, I think we've got a really good, close locker room, and if they came up with something that they felt they wanted to do, I would support it," Payton said. "And I think that there still might be something they wish to do. The idea of just putting his name on everyone's helmet was something that we felt would be appropriate, and I think they were for it."

The topics of police brutality, systemic racism, social injustice, inequality, and others have been bubbling over for years.

"I think that history would tell us that that, look, we've seen this before," Payton said. "And I think part of coaching is teaching them (that) they have a voice, and a very powerful one. Understanding that and respecting everyone's voice.

"So collectively as a team, a lot of things can be done to encourage change and be a part of change. That's part of the teaching element of what we do as coaches. It never changes, regardless of the level. It's more than just football."

For receiver Emmanuel Sanders, it's more than football and, perhaps, more exhausting than football.

"For me, to keep having these same conversations over and over and over, and really not seeing any change, it just keeps re-happening – it becomes exhausting," Sanders said. "To be able to even use this platform that we athletes are on, it's amazing. But to keep talking about the same thing when truthfully, you just want to live in a world, live in a nation in which you're not judge by the color of the skin, but by the content of your character, like (Rev. Dr.) Martin Luther King (Jr.) once said.

"I'm over here talking to you guys (the media) when my job is, truthfully, to play football. But I have to speak on these issues, I have to talk about these issues and address these issues because of the platform we're on. It is a problem in America. I just hope that some type of change comes.

"I just got off the Rich Eisen show and I just told how exhausting and draining it is that you put so much energy and so much emotion into it, and you think that change is going to come, and then four or five months later, it happens again. It happens again a year later. And I'm sure in two years, we're going to be talking about the same thing over and over.

"So for me it's like, when are we ever going to stop? When is the change actually going to come? I pray it happens from a legislative point or from the government or something. I hope that they're listening and they're trying to make some type of change."

Sanders and linebacker Craig Robertson agreed Thursday's gesture was a good start for players, and hinted that more is coming.

"That's not our main thing that we're doing," Robertson said. "We're trying to do some other stuff to honor (Blake) and (call attention to) everything that's going on, just put a word to it and just let everybody know that we're not going to stand for that."

Sanders said finding the right thing to do is an ongoing process, and that aren't exactly sure what that is. But he is sure of one thing.

"We all know that emotionally, we're drained," he said. "We're drained of talking about it, we're drained of it happening over and over again, we're drained of trying to make a change but change not coming, we're drained of it happening over and over again. We're drained.

"Just emotionally drained, and it's sad to see it because what a lot of people don't understand – 'Why are you drained?' It's because if you were in the same situation, you know that that could easily be you in that situation. That could easily be one our loved ones in that situation.

"You say, 'Yeah, resisted arrest.' It's like, at the end of the day, 'Oh, yeah, he resisted arrest and that caused him to be shot seven times in the back.' That's just ridiculous, when it's three or four cops there that could have tackled this guy to the ground. And if anybody says that that should have happened in that situation, they're out of their mind.

"And so, that's just draining because every time I see that situation, I say that could easily have been me. That could easily be one of my cousins, that could easily be one of my uncles. And the reason why I say that is because I'm an African-American in America.

"It's sad to say – not all cops, but it seems a majority of these cops, when they see an African-American, I feel like they don't value our life as much as they value anybody else. That's just what I believe. What I see in terms of these videos and just how they're just brutally murdering and taking their pain or whatever it is out on us, it just goes to show that my theory is semi-correct."

Payton said the fact that not everyone in the country understands what is going on is one topic, but that the ability to make change and move forward in a positive way is a different matter.

"We're right in the middle of an election year," he said. "We had the Democratic convention last week, this week the Republican convention. All of those things are taking place at the same time.

"It's never easy and yet, these topics, sometimes aren't easy. And yet, there's an old adage: The obstacle is the way. It's not going around; it's understanding and going through it and addressing it, even if it means uncomfortable conversations and topics that make people somewhat uneasy."

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