Sports

‘More rejuvenated than ever,’ Cameron Jordan key to Saints’ life after Drew Brees

MOBILE, Ala. — New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan took pride in being the only active player inducted into the Senior Bowl Hall of Fame on Wednesday, while crediting the “OGs” he shared the stage with — Reggie Wayne, Patrick Surtain Sr., Joe Staley and Fred Taylor.

But Jordan, who ranks second in Saints history with 94.5 career sacks through 10 seasons, is more focused on unfinished business than being reflective.

“I’m more hungry now than ever,” said Jordan, who pointed out that he and his father, former Minnesota Vikings great tight end Steve Jordan, have a total of 23 seasons and 12 Pro Bowl selections between them with zero Super Bowls.

“So this is something that I’m chasing,” said Jordan, who turns 32 in July. “Year [11] is really Year 1 starting back up again. Ten years behind me, ten years ahead of me. … I’m more rejuvenated than ever before.”

Jordan has to lead that charge now. With Drew Brees retiring and the Saints releasing longtime punter Thomas Morstead this offseason, Jordan is now the longest-tenured player in New Orleans.

When Jordan arrived as a first-round draft choice out of Cal in 2011, he was joining an established Super Bowl winner loaded with superstar talent. At the time, it felt like a matter of “how soon and how many” titles he would win in New Orleans.

Now, it has become a glaring “if” after so many gut-wrenching playoff exits. And Jordan has to help the Saints shape a new identity without Brees at the helm for the first time in 16 years.

It’s a role he has grown to embrace.

“This has been my same role the last seven years since we had that big excavation back in ’14,” Jordan said, referring to the Saints parting ways with defensive standouts Will Smith, Jonathan Vilma, Jabari Greer, Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins, before Jenkins returned in 2020. “Guys were looking up to me, and then I didn’t know how to truly handle it. I was just young enough where I was trying to figure out my own way as well.

“But then the last seven years, it’s been the young bucks coming in … and they’re looking to learn and take everything from you in terms of the knowledge that you have to give. You have to be able to disperse that knowledge and you have to be able to push them.”

First-round draft choice Payton Turner, a fellow defensive end who was on hand for Jordan’s ceremony, said he definitely sees Jordan as a face of the franchise after watching him thrive on TV for years and then seeing how much respect Jordan has from everyone in the building.

“You can tell that he’s got that aura around him, just kind of that leader’s mentality,” Turner said. “I think that’s been really good for me to be around.”

Jordan is well aware that he has to keep delivering at an elite level on the field, too. And he insists that he still has plenty left in the tank despite his disappointing production in 2020 (just 7.5 sacks after a career-high 15.5 in 2019).

Jordan said part of the issue last season was how much he pressed while having zero sacks in the first three weeks. But he said he relaxed, reset and “loved the way I played” during the second half of the season.

Jordan has talked for years about studying the list of great defensive linemen who thrived in their 30s.

“You talk about Calais Campbell [who], after he turned 30, had his best year,” Jordan said. “Brandon Graham having his best years after he turned 30. I’ve talked to Bruce Smith and I’ve looked at Mike Strahan’s careers. These are the years where they really made strides for a push-off of being great. It’s like 30 to that 34, 35 era, that you see not only the combination of that physical talent but … [also] the wisdom play in. And that’s what I’ve really been excited about.”

Jordan also believes that the Saints’ defense is ready to become the team’s driving force while either Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill takes over at quarterback.

Led by veterans such as Jordan and linebacker Demario Davis, as well as the emergence of young players such as CB Marshon Lattimore, DT David Onyemata and safeties Marcus Williams and C.J. Gardner-Johnson, New Orleans’ defense has quietly become a huge reason for the team’s success over the past four years (four straight NFC South titles and the league’s best regular-season record over that span).

The Saints rank top five in the NFL in both yards and points allowed since Week 3 of the 2017 season. They rank No. 1 in run defense — which has long been one of Jordan’s underrated specialties.

“I truly believe if we have a couple more turnovers on the defensive side, our offense will be nice — but we hopefully don’t need them,” Jordan said. “We hope we’re able to continue the defensive legacy we’ve been building the last three years.”

Jordan, who spent Tuesday afternoon hosting a pair of youth football camps, has also long embraced his role as a community leader.

He has a prolific track record of community appearances on his “days off” during the season and recently joined an initiative focused on anti-racism and community engagement training for New Orleans police officers.

“I love my role here, I love how I’ve been embraced here,” Jordan said. “And I love finding love here — you know, I found my wife here, made kids here, connections. When you think about the community and what I’ve tried to do here for the last decade, it’s been nothing short of God’s work. The way that I’ve been blessed, I try to go out and bless other people.”



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