After the debacle we all witnessed last Sunday in New York when the New Orleans Saints were dismantled by the Giants, interim head coach Joe Vitt said, "that was an embarrassment...This was a pounding." As such, the Saints need to take a lesson from three players, (one of whom is a Saint), who sustained career-threatening injuries and just how they achieve a "comeback" after incredible physical and emotional setbacks. Maybe then the Saints might learn how to handle adversity more effectively than what they have demonstrated to their fans so far this season.

While the game cannot go on without players, there are enough players around such that when one goes down due to an injury, somebody always will take his place on the playing field during the commercial break.

Players are waking up to the fact that they are being left with significant damage to their brains and limbs from their weekly train wrecks in the NFL. Just ask all those retired players who are suing the NFL for what they claim to be inadequate attention paid by the NFL to their respective trauma (concussions) with appropriate prevention measures and follow up care.

How about the recent evidence of the trauma to the brain from those NFL players that asked, upon their demise, that their brains be used in research to learn more about the potential damage of such collisions experienced on every play of every down in pro football.

There are, however, great examples of successful "comebacks" in the NFL, after a player sustains a serious injury. Take for instance this season with Adrian Peterson's comeback from what was considered to be a career-threatening knee injury sustained in a game on Dec. 24, 2011, in which Peterson tore his left anterior cruciate ligament and damaged other knee ligaments.

So far this season, Peterson is on track to set a single season career rushing record (with 1,600 yards as of last week), averaging after week 14 157.8 yards per game, seven straight games of more than 100 rushing yards, and eight rushing touchdowns in the last seven games - one of the best seasons of his career. Stories of his commitment to his rehab schedule and his dedication to be the best he can be are all over the Internet.

Lance Green, a mental skills consultant, notes "athletes (like Peterson) must play the game of rehab the same way as they play the game of football." They must become, Green says, "short-term smart rather than long-term stupid."

How about Peyton Manning's comeback from being out all of last season with a history of multiple cervical (neck) surgeries and then being written off by the Colts at the end of the 2011 season. Peyton seems to be flying high in Denver today.

And, let's not forget Drew Brees' comback. Brees was written off by the Chargers in 2006, after sustaining what was thought to be a career-threatening should injury, only to go into the history books this season with the NFL record for the most consecutive touchdown passes in games, recently ended in the Saints' loss to Atlanta.

However, based on Brees' questionable performance in the second half of this season, despite going into the NFL record books, his efforts to earn his $100 million contract are less than adequate of late. Putting aside Brees' excellent work ethic and personal character, pro football, whether on an individual, team, or league level, is a business, where player performance is the basis for compensation, endorsements, and above all respect.

When faced with adversity, such as the Saints have witnessed this season, cream usually rises to the top. But sometimes it can be impersonated by skim milk.

The old adage of "what are you going to do for me today," applies every day in pro sports such as the NFL. Brees threw two more interceptions against the Giants and "has thrown nine interceptions and only two touchdowns since the pick-six by the 49ers' Ahmad Brooks near the end of the first half in week 12." Brees has 18 interceptions - a league high.

Right now the Saints are suffering from one of the most devastating injuries that can befall an individual, business, military organization, or sports team. You cannot find it in the medical reimbursement codes. It is called Loss Of Focus. It can spread as fast as a gastrointestinal flu leaving the afflicted party with a total sense of fatigue, and a malaise which cannot be treated effectively with food, water, IVs, drugs, or even wheel barrels full of money, and guarantees of stardom.

The Times-Picayune in its Wednesday Sports section summed up the effects of the virus I am referring to this way. "But the Saints just keep hitting that self-destruct button over and over again with one of the worst examples of self-sabotage you'll ever see in a 52-27 loss (to the Giants) that somehow took their season to a new low."

Christmas is a time of giving. The Saints are a very charitable organization to our community. But this year, the Saints extended their charitable giving with the gift that keeps on giving - turnovers to their opponents. "Turnovers have been the team's Achilles' heel as its (Saints) handed the ball over 11 times in the last three games. At this point last year, the Saints had only 14 turnovers. This season, they have 23," said | The Times-Picayune reporter Katherine Terrell. So what is the cure for this virus sweeping the Saints' locker room?

The only known cure is called Strength of Character. Each effected individual, or in this case the entire team, must undergo a process very similar to an exorcism where by the demons within are pulled out one by one in a very painful and exhausting process called finishing strong in the remaining three games of the disappointing 2012 football season. Once the season is over and the patient has survived the embarrassment of the process, only then can the reality of the fact set in that all is not lost. Just around the corner sits the next season where all of the past transgressions are forgotten and life in the NFL resumes as normal. Or, so we hope.

The Saints are not alone in the land of mediocrity. Going into week 15 in the NFL, this same virus has afflicted 15 out of the 32 teams (46.8 percent), who possess won/lost records below .500. Time will tell if the cure is successful.

Looking at the Saints' injury report this week, a handful of players did not practice Wednesday. Those players included offensive tackle Charles Brown (knee), cornerback Corey White ((knee), safety Malcolm Jenkins (knee), offensive tackle Zack Strief (ankle), running back Chris Ivory (hamstring), and full back Jed Collins (toe).

Interim head coach Joe Vitt said Wednesday that "they (Tampa Bay) have the best rush defense in the NFL to date," so the new ankle injury to an already ailing groin injury previously sustained by Stief makes for potential trouble, if Strief starts against the Bucs. His backup Charles Brown also continues to nurse an injured knee, as Vitt noted.

Tampa Bay Coach Greg Schiano, in a conference call Wednesday with New Orleans reporters, when asked about "a lot of injuries and problems in the secondary,'' had this comment. "I'm not sure exactly what you're asking, but I think I get it that it's a little disproportionate in being so effective in stopping the run and so ineffective in stopping the pass."

Do we see the potential for Drew Brees to break out of his slump despite the fact that he is vulnerable at the tackle slot with both Strief and Brown sporting injuries by attacking a weak Tampa Bay secondary? Let's hope so.

At practice in Tampa on Wednesday, both cornerbacks - Anthony Gaiter (hamstring) and LeQuan Lewis (knee) - were at full strength. The Bucs, at 6-7, cannot afford a loss to the Saints, or it puts them in the boat where the Saints are now with only two games left to play in the regular season. Should the Saints, at 5-8, lose to the Bucs their season is a loser. So losing is NOT an option for the Saints.

Mackie Spotlight

EJGH’s very own Mackie Shilstone, Executive Director of the Fitness Principle, is in New York working with Serena Williams as she goes for another U.S. Open title. As Williams’s Fitness Coach, Mackie will be part of the team preparing her for matches throughout the tournament. To give everyone a behind-the-scenes look at how Williams prepares for every opponent, Mackie is writing a daily postcard for detailing all the day’s happenings. Check back daily for updates. 8/22/13
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