Craig Robertson: 'I've watched them study so I know how committed they are to the game'
For the time being, there's no decimation to speak of.
Of course, contact on the field hasn't commenced, and the NFL season isn't officially slated to kick off for the New Orleans Saints until Sept. 13.
But today, the team's linebacker corps is somewhat intact, and that's much more than can be said for what happened to the unit last season.
Then-rookie Kaden Elliss was injured and lost for the season in preseason. Alex Anzalone made it through the first two regular-season games before an injury ended his season. Kiko Alonso got through the regular season, but tore his ACL in the Wild Card playoff game loss to Minnesota.
So linebacker Craig Robertson can't help but like what he sees as the Saints enter the weight lifting and conditioning phase that will precede pads and contact in a couple of weeks. Two of the three aforementioned teammates (Anzalone and Elliss) are available, while Alonso currently is on the Physically Unable to Perform list, with the hope that he also will return.
"Those are great ballplayers," Robertson said. "Any time you can add another great ballplayer to your room like with them coming back from injury, that just makes the position group stronger.
"Any time you can add a good ballplayer is awesome, but those guys in particular, I've watched them work. I've watched them study so I know how committed they are to the game. So having them back is going to be huge for our room."
Having Robertson for the last four seasons has been just as significant for the Saints. He started 27 of 31 games his first two seasons in New Orleans, and totaled 208 tackles, three sacks, three interceptions, six passes defensed, a forced fumble and three fumble recoveries.
The last two seasons, as one of the team captains, his on-field value mostly has come on special teams. He has picked up two sacks, but he mainly has been a core special team player (he deflected a punt last season).
Robertson also has embraced the opportunity to play special teams. Possibly, it's what helped him land an NFL roster spot initially as an undrafted rookie, though that opportunity will be limited for players with that status this year, since there will fewer chances to shine because of no preseason games.
"I think that kind of rolls onto what we'll be doing at practice," he said. "Obviously we don't have all the details yet, but I think it'll be more game-tempo type practices later on in training camp so they can see if they can get a correlation of what people are doing now and see if that matches and kind of (simulates) expectations of what they may be doing on Sundays.
"Man, look, I came in during the lockout year. Coming in that time was kind of a little bit different than what they're going through now. We didn't have meetings with coaches to help us. It was like, hey, you come in and go.
"But, yeah, preseason games definitely help because you can have guys that are practice field All-Americans, and then get on the field in the preseason game and the lights may be too big for them. But that's just going to have to be the GM's deal now to see what they see in somebody on the practice field and hope that that translates on Sundays. It would have been tough for me without a preseason game, but guys that typically do well in preseason games do well in practice as well."
The season also will be different for Robertson in that he will be in New Orleans without his wife and children. They will remain in Texas as a safety precaution, while Robertson plays.
"Me and my wife, we talk about everything so it was a talk that we had," he said. "But it was never in question for me to opt out just because me and my family, we're in a safe place of, hey, if it goes crazy, I'll be in New Orleans and you guys would be home in Texas and be safe.
"It's hard to say that being a father, being a husband, that you would be away from your kids to play a game, but I watched my dad do it when I was younger (minor league baseball). It just comes to a point, you only get to play this game for so long, you might as well go out and give it everything you got while you got it.
"That's just a sacrifice that you have to make that you'll look back on later. You want to live life with no regrets. Just going at it full steam ahead is just the way to go in my opinion."