Veterans react to Gardner-Johnson trade

Published 2:42 pm Wednesday, August 31, 2022

By Josh DeShazier

New Orleans Saints

METARIE, La — Safety Tyrann Mathieu made three stops in his NFL career – the Cardinals, Texans and Chiefs – before signing with his hometown New Orleans Saints as an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Linebacker Demario Davis made two stops – with the Jets and Browns, then back to the Jets – before he joined the Saints as an unrestricted free agent in 2018.

Each made at least one move that he didn’t want to make prior to the path leading to New Orleans, but each quickly learned that the business of the NFL is strictly business.

So neither sounded totally blindsided Tuesday about the Saints trading defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson to the Philadelphia Eagles less than two weeks before the regular season is set to open on the road against Atlanta.

“I just got here four or five months ago,” Mathieu said. “(But) he’s been a great teammate, a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm. He really loves to play football. That’s just the unfortunate part of this business, sometimes you have to make difficult decisions. Obviously, we wish him well.

“I’ve grown to really have a good relationship with him, I’m hoping that that can continue no matter where we are in this world. But just really wishing him the best. But more importantly, I think we’ve got a good room, I think we’ve got a deep room and no matter who’s in there, I think we’ll be ready to roll.

“Yeah, I’m always surprised when good players find themselves in those kinds of situations. Just wishing him the best, really hoping the best for him and his family going forward.”

Davis was Gardner-Johnson’s teammate for the past three seasons and watched him grow from rookie to vital part of one of the best defenses in the league, as a top-notch slot cornerback.

“At this point in the league, you’ve seen almost everything,” said Davis, who’s entering his 11th season. “So there’s not much that actually shocks you. It’s part of the game, it’s part of the business.

“He’s a phenomenal player, been a phenomenal part of what we’ve done. Good players in this league are hard to come by, but it’s a next man up business.

“It’s a tough day (on Tuesday). Not just with that, but they’ve got to cut the roster down to 53. It’s a business, and you understand that. But it’s still relationships, and it’s not like you lose those relationships. It changes the dynamic of your locker room when guys were once there, and then they’re not there. That’s just the reality of what we deal with on a regular basis. It’s not just our team, every team is dealing with that. It’s nothing unique. But being a human being, you have emotions when somebody is beside you and all of a sudden, they’re not.

“I trust our organization and the decisions that they make, the guys that are out there are going to be able to get the job done.”

Still, Davis said, it can be an unsettling situation because of the off-field dynamics.

“The game is easy,” Davis said. “The game is the game. It’s a next man up business, this is the NFL. You lose good players all the time. Some Hall of Fame players were on a team, and then they weren’t. And so, how do you replace a void like that? We’ve had to do that here at quarterback, losing one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time (in Drew Brees).

“So the game goes on. That’s the easy part. The life part is what’s challenging. You develop great relationships with individuals and they’re close to you. And I guess the fortunate part of it is it’s life and they’re just moving to a different location. But just not being able to see that person every day, being able to laugh and hang out and chat with somebody that was a comrade, that was right beside you. Those emotions don’t go away.

“Imagine being in high school and having your buddies and then your parents come tell you that you’re moving, and now you have to go. You experience that on both sides – the kids experience the hurt because they’re not able to go hang with their friends, that’s the first thing they think about, and then the parents have to deal with the dynamics of moving, getting adjusted. And that’s what players and families have to go through that no one sees.

“Everybody sees the game, but they don’t see what’s going on in life behind that. You have to sell your house, you have to move your stuff, you have to find new schools for your kids, you have to build new relationships. And every dynamic that everyone anyone has going on in life, that’s what we have going on. And so, the game is easy. It’s the life part that’s challenging.”