Interview enough NFL players and you come to anticipate certain answers. At some point you’ll hear, “I just go out there and give it 100 percent.”
Then there’s the old classic, “I just want to do my best for this organization.”
And every now and then they throw in a “no comment” for good measure.
But Charles Grant has seen the ugly side of the NFL. And once you’ve seen what he’s seen, politics takes a backseat to passion.
In a recent interview with chicksinthehuddle.com, the Saints defensive end talked about the upcoming fundraiser for his S.A.C.K. Success Foundation, his humble roots in Colquitt, GA, and, of course, football.
But it was an innocent question that I posed to the seven-year vet that seemed to open up a can of worms.
“What free agency move surprised you the most?“
“Deuce," he said. "That one shocked me. He’s been around that city for a long time. He’s one of those guys you look at as a role model. That made me sick.”
It’s no secret that Deuce McAllister and Grant go way back.
Charles was drafted to play with the Saints one season after Deuce. McAllister, the consummate big brother, took Charles and the other rookies under his wing. They’ve been “besties” ever since. Deuce even took part in Grant’s star studded “Boys Night Out” event in Atlanta last year.
“God puts great people in your path and he’s one of those great people that taught me all sorts of things," he said. "His brother died...my brother died...He’s one of those people that when things are going bad, I can always talk to him.”
So, just like many of us Saints' fans, Grant found the news of Deuce’s release hard to swallow. But contrary to what you’d expect from someone in his position, he had the guts to say it out loud.
“Just for your loyalty to the man, give him a pay cut," he said. "Give him a chance to come back from the injury, not somewhere else but in a city he loved to play in. People love him. I didn’t think that was fair. They don’t care about the sweat, the blood, the tears, all the moving around (you) do for an organization. They don’t care. He’d spent eight years in New Orleans.”
Got goose bumps yet, Saints' fans? Oh, don’t worry, it gets better.
You see, no matter what you think of Grant, you have to respect his honesty and his loyalty to his teammate. No canned sports answers: Not when it comes to someone he didn’t just work with, but cares about.
“In my seven-year career, I’ve seen 150-200 guys come and go," he said. "I played with the great ones: Joe Horn, Norman Hand, Darren Howard, Ashley Ambrose...I played with some great guys who told me how this business is and I didn’t believe it until they cut my man...I can’t control that.”
It seems that when Deuce got the boot, the other shoe dropped for this Saints' player, who hadn’t quite yet accepted the reality of life in the NFL. At the end of the day, it’s a business. Sure, the Saints' organization respects Deuce and players like him. But respect doesn’t pay the bills.
In the midst of all the drama, Grant says that he’s found peace this offseason by getting back into his two-a-day workout schedule down in Georgia.
There’s nothing better than a little T.L.C. and a home-cooked meal from mom in the quiet of the country. Charles is also looking ahead to next season and engaging in a familiar ritual with his teammates.
“Every Thursday night we have a d-line dinner," he said. "A different guy treats every week.”
So, what’s Grant’s restaurant of choice back in the big easy? A soul food restaurant on N. Derbigny.
“I love my girls at Two Sisters, baby!" he said. "I eat everything, man! I like my lil' wings, my lil' collard greens...whatever. I love good people, man.”
One thing Grant likely doesn’t look forward to is the tough talk from many Saints' fans who seem to have lost faith in him. Grant says while he gets some of the criticism leveled at the defense, he doesn’t believe all of it is merited.
“They pay season tickets to come and they support us," he said. "Some of them, though, some really don’t understand. I think some of them are negative for (no) reason.”
As much as this guy opened up, it almost seems hard to believe that he’s in the public eye. It was like talking to an old friend or the cool guy in the neighborhood who watches out for everyone.
But one more question remained.
How many games does Grant think the Saints will win next season?
“Nah...no predictions," he said. "I’m not predicting nothing.”
Ah, yes...the beloved “safe” NFL player answer. Now the interview is complete.