That the New Orleans Saints decided to cut ties with pass rusher Junior Galette surprised Keenan Lewis.
The veteran cornerback said he was on a plane when the news broke Friday.
Lewis, who spent one of his final days before leaving for training camp by hosting hundreds of kids at the Keenan Lewis Foundation youth football camp Sunday at Behrman Stadium in Algiers, said he’d remember Galette as a good teammate.
“That’s a guy who I think is a good guy. Probably made a couple of bad decisions lately, but I don’t want people to judge him,” Lewis said. “Give him a chance, give him an opportunity. Wish the best for him. Don’t talk down on him and say this guy’s that. Like they say, don’t ever judge a book from the first two pages. Always read the middle.”
Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro offered his own thoughts, mostly on Galette’s on-field performance.
“I really didn’t follow all the stuff closely,” he said. “Junior’s a great player; he played his heart out every game. It’s unfortunate that we can’t have him, because he’s a great pass rusher.”
The Saints will take a hefty salary-cap hit after deciding to release Galette after a pair of off-field incidents. His release will not become official until he takes a physical, which is expected in the next few days.
Lewis and Vaccaro are confident the Saints have players who can replace Galette’s production off the edge. New Orleans’ premier pass rusher had 22 sacks over the past two seasons, but the Saints have brought in several players who can play the outside.
“Championship teams, they’ve got to have depth,” Vaccaro said. “(Hau’oli Kikaha), from Washington — great worker, seems like he’s going to be ready. (Anthony) Spencer. We’ve got Parys (Haralson), we’ve got (Ronald) Powell; all those guys have been working super hard, and they all want to play, so we’ll be all right.”
Lewis, who was raised in the Cutoff section of Algiers, welcomed several hundred kids to his free camp, helped by Vaccaro and other volunteers.
“It’s the second year we’ve done this, just to show the youth that their dreams can come true,” Lewis said. “Give a free camp, talk to the kids about the importance of being successful. If it’s not football, even in school, give 100 percent at all times.”
Lewis sees the camp as an opportunity to steer kids away from some of the adversity he saw growing up.
“I take 20 to 30 minutes out of every camp just to show them the importance of life,” he said. “You know, a lot of these kids don’t have the opportunity to have that voice they need to let them know that violence isn’t the answer. Education, helping out in your community, that means a lot.”
Vaccaro, cornerback Delvin Breaux and safety Jairus Byrd all sat out portions of the Saints’ mandatory minicamp with minor injuries, but Vaccaro is expecting the secondary to be at full strength when the Saints open camp Thursday at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.
“We’re good going into camp,” Vaccaro said. “Football’s not (always played at) 100 percent, but right now, everybody’s good, so that’s a plus.”