Junior Galette, a previous winner of the Jim Finks Good Guy Award from those who regularly cover the Saints, was a no-show in the locker room Thursday during the team’s first veterans’ media availability of the offseason.
Which is too bad.
It would have been the perfect opportunity for Galette to address his Jan. 5 arrest at his Kenner home on battery charges after an altercation with a woman there, and its subsequent ramifications for him personally and professionally.
Instead, Galette did not make an appearance during the 30-minute window. In fairness, neither did a lot of other players.
And actually, the details of what happened are unimportant. Suffice it to say that the criminal charges against Galette and his cousin, Terrance Banks, were dropped and a threatened civil suit is in limbo since the woman’s original attorney quit and a new one has not surfaced.
What started out looking like a likely six-game suspension from the NFL might even go away entirely.
In a time when the focus on domestic violence has put pressure on the league to deal out severe punishments and players who have supposedly served their time, such as Ray Rice, find themselves virtually blackballed after reinstatement, Galette is certainly fortunate in that regard.
But still, on a team whose lack of leadership and discipline played a large role in 2014’s disappointing 7-9 record, to start 2015, to have the defensive captain, someone who had been rewarded with a four-year, $41.5 million contract extension in September and is the team’s longest-tenured defensive player, get involved in an at-best unseemly and by any standard embarrassing incident isn’t a good thing..
Notice we said “was” the defensive captain.
On Thursday, defensive end Cam Jordan indicated Galette’s re-election wasn’t a lock.
“Junior had a role last year,” he said. “This year we’ll see the emergence of a lot of things.
“If the ‘C’ on your chest means that you’re a captain, then go for it. But realistically we know there are going to be times, places and roles for everybody. And everybody needs to step up and be a man of their own worth.”
But at least Jordan said Galette had learned from the experience.
“Junior’s become a better person,” Jordan said. “Clearly, off the field he now has to be aware who he’s around, and he gets that.
“He was put in an unfortunate situation, and I’m glad we came out it because we all know that Junior’s a good guy.”
By all accounts, Galette has cleaned up his act. He’s spent most of the offseason in Kenner, wisely largely confining his excursions to the Saints’ practice facility and reducing the circle of those who pass through his home.
On the field, Galette’s place as a starter is no sure thing either. We’re only in the first week of OTAs, but on Thursday newly acquired veteran Anthony Spencer was lining up with the first defense in team drills.
And defensive coordinator Rob Ryan wasn’t throwing special roses Galette’s way.
“Junior’s working like all of the other guys,” Ryan said. “We’re all working hard.
“They’ve all got (name) tape on their foreheads. We’re all starting from Day 1.”
Saints coach Sean Payton was only slightly more complementary.
“With regards to his preparation, he’s been good, focused,” Payton said. “I think he’s in shape and going through this program like everyone else.”
But certainly, even if there are no league penalties, the Saints’ brass isn’t happy with Galette. General Manager Mickey Loomis made that clear in his end-of-season news conference, which occurred on the morning after Galette’s arrest.
There were reports the Saints tried to trade him, but found no takers because of his contract.
It’s not about his ability.
Going into his sixth season, Galette, who turned 27 in March, is a productive player (22 sacks in his past two seasons) in his prime with the potential to be a star.
Already, his personal story —– an immigrant from Haiti who became a citizen last year, an undrafted free agent from Division II Stillman College (he had been kicked off the team at Temple for what he’s called “bonehead mistakes”) and the proud father of a toddler whose lifestyle he’s promised will never see the hardship he experienced — plus his energetic playing style and James Hardenesque beard, had made Galette one of the most popular players on the team.
And fans, particularly Saints fans, tend to be forgiving sorts, especially when the details of what happened are murky.
Plus, don’t forget the Good Guy award he received from those who congregate around his locker. Instead of an inquisition on Thursday, he likely would have faced an open-minded if not sympathetic gathering.
At some point in time, Galette will have to publicly speak to his situation. A good airing out of things never hurts.
There’ll be another media availability next Thursday.
We’ll be there, Junior. Will you?