Cam Jordan kept it secret last year. Each week, there was a course of rehab and other actions taken to ensure he could get — and stay — on the field.
The New Orleans Saints defensive end was playing through a lower-back injury that required surgery following the season. But each week, he kept putting up stats and getting after the quarterback, making it impossible to detect that something was wrong with his body.
“It’s something that happened early on in the season and something I had to fight every day and rehab to get back to games and be ready,” Jordan said this past week during a “Play 60” event at McDonogh 32 charter school. “But clearly it couldn’t hold us back at all. We got through the season and corrected some stuff.”
How could anyone know? Jordan finished with 10 sacks and was on the field for 92 percent of the snaps. He then played in the Pro Bowl before having an arthroscopic procedure. A source told The Advocate that the injury was relatively minor, and Jordan is optimistic about his prospects moving forward.
He is still working to receive full clearance on his back and just got back into shape in the past couple of weeks. Jordan still has not received the green light to take part in organized team activities, which begin this week.
“It’s going good. I’m feeling better every day,” Jordan said. “(It’s hard) when you’re supposed to take it down to a slow pace because your inner athlete wants to show out all the time. Cut down on a lot of stuff.
“Still working up to (being full), sadly. As anybody knows once you get injured, you have to go through some rehab time. I’m still — quote, unquote — working up to it.”
If working through the injury was difficult for Jordan, being sidelined this week will be just as frustrating.
While many national media outlets are still down on the Saints defense after it finished near the bottom of the NFL in yards and points allowed per game last year, Jordan is optimistic about a 2016 turnaround.
He pointed to the revamped linebacker group, which brought in James Laurinaitis, Craig Robertson and Nate Stupar this offseason, as a reason for optimism, as well as having Dannell Ellerbe healthy. He also likes the additions of Nick Fairley and Sheldon Rankins on the interior defensive line, which should help Jordan and whoever else is coming off the edges collect more sacks.
“I might be jealous come OTAs because, if I’m not allowed to go full-go, I’m going to be watching a whole bunch of guys who I think have tremendous talent, tremendous potential, and I’m going to push myself probably harder than I need to go,” Jordan said. “They’re moving really well on the field right now. Can’t gauge anything until you get some live bullets going, especially preseason and beyond. Just looking forward to getting to actual camp, putting some pads on, seeing if they can hit, seeing where they end up.”
Jordan also feels good about the prospects of the defensive end position, even though it’s still not clear who will line up on the other side.
It’s possible that Bobby Richardson, who hooked on as an undrafted player last season, could again start there. But with Stephone Anthony moving to strongside linebacker, the idea has been presented that Hau’oli Kikaha could move down to defensive end — where he played as he racked up 19 sacks as a senior at Washington.
Davis Tull, who spent his rookie season on injured reserve, and Obum Gwacham also could provide some help at the position in subpackages.
“Early on, (Kikaha) provided a pass rush from the other side,” Jordan said. “He had some ankle injuries that can keep you from being exactly where you want to be. He’s progressed. He’s beyond that. He’s healthy, and he’s looking good. Gwacham shows a lot of potential. Then, of course, you got Tull, who is going to come up and provide some stuff as well.
“There’s a lot of potential. On paper, as you know, it never really works out. I’m just excited to go to camp with these guys.”
A healthy Jordan and optimism at some other spots look better than how it appeared on paper for the Saints last year.