'Comfortable' atmosphere sold Hakim on N.O
'Comfortable' atmosphere sold Hakim on N.O.
Receiver spurns Kansas City to sign with Saints
Thursday, June 23, 2005
By Mike Triplett
Az-Zahir Hakim didn't offer specifics about his last-minute decision to leave Kansas City last week and sign with the Saints instead of the Chiefs.
"I'm a New Orleans Saint. That's it," said the veteran receiver, who had met with the Saints earlier this month on a brief free-agent tour and said he wound up going with his "gut feeling."
Hakim, 28, had agreed to terms with the Chiefs, where he was reunited with former St. Louis Rams coach Dick Vermeil. But he had a change of heart after spending a few days at Chiefs camp.
"When I first took the trip down there (to New Orleans), the guys made it so comfortable for me," Hakim said of new teammates Aaron Brooks, Joe Horn, DontÃƒÂƒÃ‚Â© Stallworth and former Rams teammates Wayne Gandy and Ernie Conwell. "Like I said, I just had a gut feeling that I wanted to be in New Orleans, so I pretty much re-chose. Dick Vermeil understood what the deal was, and he let me go. It was a decision I had to make."
Both teams were offering one-year contracts. Reportedly, the Chiefs' offer was at or near the veteran minimum of $665,000 and the Saints offered more. But terms of the deal have not been disclosed.
Hakim said he doesn't dwell much on the past. The same goes for his most famous moment in the Superdome.
While with the Rams in 2000, Hakim dropped a punt in the final minutes, helping the Saints clinch a 31-28 playoff victory -- the only postseason win in franchise history.
Hakim said he quickly forgot about the fumble and didn't even think about it when he visited New Orleans. But he said he liked what Coach Jim Haslett suggested he say when he got down here.
"Jim Haslett said I helped them win their first playoff game, and I can help them win a lot more," Hakim said in a phone conversation from Southern California.
Hakim is expected to battle for the third receiver job with Devery Henderson, among others. The fast and elusive 5-foot-10, 189-pounder also is an experienced punt returner, though that job currently belongs to Michael Lewis.
"I'm going to come in and play wherever the coach wants me to play. That's the kind of player I am, I'm a team player. I don't really have a role yet," said Hakim, who spent four years in St. Louis as a No. 3 receiver before signing a five-year, $16 million contract with the Detroit Lions in 2002.
Hakim became a starter in Detroit, but his three years were hindered by various injuries, including a season-ending hip injury in 2002. He started 27 games in three seasons with the Lions, catching 117 passes for 1,523 yards and 10 touchdowns.
"I think I was very productive in Detroit, but at the same time I was nicked up every year," Hakim said. "I think the most devastating blow was the hip injury, but over the course of my career I feel pretty blessed. I'm a healthy guy and a guy people can count on."
Hakim said he plans to come to New Orleans soon and find a place to live before training camp starts July 29. He also plans to bring his charity work to town. The Az Hakim Foundation focuses on helping children with parents who are incarcerated.
Hakim's father, Abdul Hakim Sr., spent nearly seven years in a Las Vegas prison for cocaine possession with intent to sell. He was released on parole earlier this year, and Hakim still counts his father as one of the closest people in his life.
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Mike Triplett can be reached at email@example.com or (504) 826-3381.
uhm... something worth mentioning is that the contract KC-Hakim signed was DENIED by the NFL. He wasn't let out by KC. Since the NFL denied it he wasn't officially a Chief.
What I do like is that he was comfortable and the Saints liked him personally it seemed so there won't be any bad things happening on that point.
Hakim is just another midget WR with marginal skill. I'd like for him to be helpful for the team, but I'm just not seeing this signing as anything too exciting.
well said Kool, we might not catch a lot of first downs, but we sure in the hell could win the Nfl relay race!!!!!
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