Today, the New Orleans Saints did their best to bring their support to the Gulf South region that has been fighting a Gulf of Mexico oil spill that now threatens the coastline of four states when they headed to Buras, Louisiana to view some of the aftermath, participate in the rally and help uplift the spirits of local residents.
Saints Owner Tom Benson, his wife Gayle, Owner/Executive Vice President Rita Benson LeBlanc, the entire coaching staff, players and other front office staffers boarded busses this morning at the club's practice facility for the hour and a half trip to Fort Jackson in Buras.
Upon arrival at Fort Jackson, which has served as a staging area for wildlife recovery from the oil spill, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal greeted the entire team. Then, groups of players and coaches toured the Fort Jackson Wildlife Center, where workers brought them to various stations, showing them the different steps that birds which have been covered in oil are cleaned up, nurtured back to health and eventually released back into the wild.
"It was amazing to see the whole process that they go through to save these birds and these other wildlife," said RB Heath Evans. "This was a great idea on behalf of our team to make this trip down here and to show our support for these people and these important causes."
Following the tour of the wildlife center, the club and Governor Jindal took part in a rally to support coastal Louisiana. After his opening remarks, Tom Benson, Rita Benson LeBlanc, Head Coach Sean Payton, QB Drew Brees and RB Reggie Bush all spoke to the crowd at the event, which was open to the public. During his address to the fans, Brees announced that the club is going to raffle off a Super Bowl XLIV Championship ring to benefit those affected by the oil spill.
"If people didn't see a bond between the team and the city and region before the Super Bowl, I think everybody sees that now," said Brees. "I think it's been highly publicized and well-covered. Now you have another event like the oil spill. You could say that Hurricane Katrina was the biggest natural disaster in the United States and now this is the biggest environmental tragedy. We have a great sphere of opportunity to raise awareness, but to do some things to help the people down there and throughout the Gulf Coast region."
Following the rally, members of the Saints ate lunch with, took photos with and signed autographs for first responders from the local parishes affected by the disaster that were able to attend.
OTA Resumption:The Saints will return to the fields on Wednesday and Thursday for two more OTAs. The club's offseason strength and conditioning program for veterans will conclude following four more workouts next week. The entire team will then reconvene for the start of training camp in late July.
Raffle:Fans can enter the raff to receive an authentic Saints Super Bowl Ring, by entering at saintsgulfcoastrenewal.org. Tickets start at $2.00 each and decrease for orders or five or more tickets. Entries will be taken until 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, September 9 and the winner will be announced at the NFL kickoff game on that evening between the Saints and the Minnesota Vikings.
Awards: The Pro Football Writers Association announced their annual awards today and Brees was voted the winner of the organization's Good Guy Award, which goes to the NFL player who best helped the media do its job.
"I am honored to be recognized by the Professional Football Writers Association with their annual Good Guy Award," Brees said. "The media is our strongest connection to our fans and it is important that we make ourselves available and be accountable when the time calls for us to meet with the media. The media tell our story and I recognize the important job that they have. Joining a select group of previous winners such as Kurt Warner, Brett Favre, LaDainian Tomlinson, Tiki Barber and Jerome Bettis.
Longtime New Orleans Times-Picayune columnist Peter Finney was named the winner of the organization's McCann Award, which honors a PFWA member for long and distinguished service to the profession. Finney is in his 64th year of covering sports in New Orleans. New Orleans' representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame's board of selectors, he has covered 40 straight Super Bowls, including Super Bowl XLIV.