New Orleans unveils statue of ex-WSU player Steve Gleason's blocked punt | NFL
The blocked punt that etched ex-Washington State player Steve Gleason into Saints lore and became symbolic of New Orleans' resilience in the face of disaster is immortalized in a 9-foot statue outside the Superdome.
NEW ORLEANS — The blocked punt that etched Steve Gleason into Saints lore and became symbolic of New Orleans' resilience in the face of disaster is immortalized in a 9-foot statue outside the Superdome.
"That statue is not about football," ex-Washington State standout Gleason — straining to speak because of the effects of Lou Gehrig's disease — said moments before the formal unveiling Friday. "It's a symbol of the commitment and perseverance that this community took on before that game.
"There were 75,000 people in that stadium and a few hundred thousand others outside the stadium who had already committed themselves to coming back and rebuilding this community. So that statue is a symbol of what they did."
Gleason famously blocked the ball off the foot of then-Atlanta punter Michael Koenen and into the end zone for a Saints touchdown Sept. 25, 2006, the night the rebuilt Superdome and New Orleans hosted an NFL game for the first time since Hurricane Katrina. Koenen played at Western Washington.
The statue, titled "Rebirth," depicts the 35-year-old Gleason fully outstretched in a dive, his hands smothering the ball as it leaves Koenen's foot.
Gleason said, "The last time I had a 9-foot statue of me unveiled was — never. So this is a little bit overwhelming."
Gleason, who retired from the league in 2008, was diagnosed in early 2011 with Lou Gehrig's disease. He gets around on a motorized wheelchair.
• Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez, 36, said he is 95 percent sure the upcoming season will be his last, but he wasn't ready to completely rule out a return in 2013.
"I've had a great run," the 12-time Pro Bowl selection said.
• Detroit running back Jahvid Best, 23, hasn't been cleared for full contact — a fact he attributes to the new league protocol for dealing with concussions.
Best missed more than half of last season after getting a concussion in an Oct. 16 game against San Francisco.
• A day the San Francisco 49ers had waited for since losing to the New York Giants in overtime of the NFC Championship Game in January finally arrived, beginning training camp in Santa Clara, Calif., ahead of the franchise's most anticipated season in more than a decade.
"You sense so many emotions," said ever-enthusiastic Jim Harbaugh, the reigning league coach of the year. "They're off-the-charts kind of emotions. There's extreme excitement. There's nervousness. There's anticipation. There's angst. How do I know they have the emotions? Because I've got them, too."
• Second-year 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith, 22, apologized for two off-the-field incidents in the offseason. In his first public comments since he was stabbed at his home in San Jose, Calif., on June 29, Smith said "letting everybody down was probably the saddest part." He also was charged in late January with driving under the influence in Miami Beach, Fla.
Smith said he had staples inserted to close the stab wounds and is recovered and won't miss time in camp.
• The Steelers signed receiver Antonio Brown, 24, to an extension to keep him in Pittsburgh through 2017. He will earn $42 million over the next six seasons.
• Browns owner Randy Lerner has started talks with truck-stop magnate Jimmy Haslam — a Steelers fan — on giving up controlling interest while committing to keep the team in Cleveland, team president Mike Holmgren said. Holmgren is a former Seahawks coach.