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QBREES9 02-03-2010 09:31 AM

When the Saints lost their star left tackle, 'Big Neck' rose up to protect the blind side
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When the Saints lost their star left tackle, 'Big Neck' rose up to protect the blind side
By Brett Martel (CP)

MIAMI Jermon Bushrod wasn't blind to the daunting responsibility the New Orleans Saints gave him when they lost the services of former All-Pro left tackle Jammal Brown to a preseason injury.
Bushrod hadn't played a single regular-season snap on the offensive line during his first two seasons as a pro. Suddenly and unexpectedly, the 2007 second-day draft choice out of Towson was expected to protect quarterback Drew Brees' blind side.
"I was kind of unsure how everything was going to turn out," Bushrod recalled Tuesday. "It's my first opportunity in this league. A lot of people say it's like my rookie year."
No one in New Orleans is complaining about how Bushrod handled his first year - not with the Saints in the first Super Bowl in the club's 43-year history.
"My hat's off to Jermon Bushrod," Saints running back Pierre Thomas said. "The things he's been doing and the guys he's been going against. I mean, he's been holding it down.
"I'm surprised he wasn't in the Pro Bowl, honestly. For a first-year (starter), you're doing the things you're doing protecting Drew Brees, and now you've protected him long enough you're in the Super Bowl. He stepped up for this team a whole lot."
For the last couple decades, NFL teams have invested high draft picks and a lot of money in left tackles, who have to be both big enough and quick enough on their feet to stop some of the most fearsome pass rushers in the NFL.
Brown was a first-round choice - 13th overall - in 2005 out of Oklahoma. The popular Sandra Bullock film, "The Blind Side," recounts the story of Michael Oher, the Baltimore Ravens' first-round choice last year.
Bushrod played in a low-profile college program and hadn't even been heard of by members of his own family. Of course, that's changed in the past five months.
"I have a lot more cousins and all that good stuff. It's a great opportunity just to meet all the family that I didn't know I had," Bushrod said, stressing that he was not in fact joking.
He said numerous distant relatives have contacted him on his Facebook page on the Internet, congratulating him on his success and wishing him well.
"I don't really get aggravated by it. I kind of enjoy that," he said. "Coming from a small town, I'm not used to this whole situation. It's all a blessing to me."
Few college scouts came to see Bushrod play in high school in the small town of King George, Va. Towson was one of the few choices he had for college.
He thrived there and was picked as an All-Atlantic 10 in 2006. The Saints used a fourth-round draft choice on him in 2007. It was second year in a row New Orleans had drafted a lineman from a relatively small college program. Jahri Evans, a 2009 All-Pro, came out of Division II Bloomsburg in 2006.
Bushrod's playing time in his first two seasons was limited to a couple games on special teams
This season, he helped anchor one of the top offensive lines in the NFL. Brees was sacked only 20 times in the 15 games he played.
Colts left tackle Charlie Johnson said that although Bushrod didn't play during his first couple years, it's important to consider he was behind a former All-Pro.
"He's been in the system for a couple years. They see him in practice every day. They see him work. Obviously they wouldn't have kept him around for a couple years if he couldn't play," Johnson said. "You only dress so many linemen. You've got to have two or three guys that you believe in that can play. From what I've seen, he's an athletic guy who's doing a great job."
In the NFC title game against Minnesota, Bushrod kept conference sack-leader Jared Allen from bringing down Brees. If All-Pro Dwight Freeney's right ankle has healed enough for him to play on Sunday, then that's who Bushrod will have to block.
At 6-foot-4 and 325 pounds, the man teammates call "Big Neck" eagerly awaits the challenge.
"He's one of the most athletic offensive linemen we have. He's got some of the best feet on the whole team," said left guard Carl Nicks, who coined Bushrod's nickname. "He hasn't got his name out there yet because this is his first year starting, but in two or three years everybody will know who he is."

The Canadian Press: When the Saints lost their star left tackle, 'Big Neck' rose up to protect the blind side

Rugby Saint II 02-03-2010 11:14 AM

Re: When the Saints lost their star left tackle, 'Big Neck' rose up to protect the blind side
He will have some help, depending on who he is playing across from. There is going to be some chipping going on in the backfield.

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