It’s hard to imagine. The physical sacrifices NFL players make to play the game they love and entertain the fans in the stands are, in many cases, extreme. For former New Orleans Saints guard Brad Edelman, the game of football has taken its toll on his body, but certainly not his spirit.
Brad Edelman: An Artist on the Offensive Line
When asked if he was currently living with any health issues, Edelman said in jest, “Oh, do I!” The former Pro-Bowler started rattling off some of the issues he lives with every day.
“I did have a hip replacement in 2012,” he noted. “I have a shoulder that needs to be replaced which I’m putting off until absolutely necessary. My neck, all the way to my lower spine, are massively degenerated with multiple nerve, muscular and disc conditions. My knees are the best of the worst; bone on bone without any cartilage. I think that rounds everything out.”
But in true Brad Edelman form, he lightened the mood by stating, “My ankles and my wrists are great! The rest of it needs work.” It’s tough to get through more than a few sentences with Edelman without hearing his smile come through the phone.
But we’re jumping ahead. Brad Edelman had a great deal to share about the Saints of yesteryear and some memories of his career.
As the New Orleans Saints second round selection in the 1982 draft, Brad Edelman played guard during one of the toughest times to do so, 1982-1989. When asked who he remembers as being the toughest opponents, Edelman rattled of a ‘who’s who’ of the era.
“Randy White was one,” Edelman began. “Like getting thrown right into the frying pan playing against him.”
When it took Edelman a moment to remember Singletary’s last name, he joked that he should have remembered it since his neck still hurts because of him.
“The guys that I had the hardest time playing against were the guys that were fast and very strong and made it difficult for you to get your hands on them,” Edelman explained. “They got a great start off the line of scrimmage. The only upside to them is usually if you kept on them and you stayed on them, they’d give up the play after a little while. When I played those guys, I knew I was gonna have to be on them all the time.”
As far as his favorite team to beat, Edelman had some obvious answers.
“Certainly Atlanta was our rival,” he emphasized. “So, all of us got a great deal of satisfaction beating them in those days. When I played, we didn’t have the illustrious careers they’ve had in the past few years, so then it was a pleasure to beat anybody. San Francisco too because they were the kingpin in that division in my era. When we were winning in the fourth quarter or going into the last few minutes of the game we never felt comfortable, especially if (Joe) Montana had the ball.”
The Saints of the 1980s
Things would develop quickly for Edelman under the tutelage of offensive line coach Carl Mauck and head coach Bum Phillips. After being drafted as a center and practicing at tackle, Edelman found his way to a more natural position of guard, where he could take advantage of his 6’5”, 265 pound frame. To put that in perspective in today’s NFL, that’s like Cam Newton playing guard.
“It was certainly great to have a back like George Rogers behind me early in my career,” Edelman remarked. “When Reuben Mayes and Dalton Hilliard were playing, those guys were fun to block for because if you did what you needed to do, they did a good job to make some things happen. It was line up, smash them in the mouth, and run them over.”
The Cajun Cannon
When asked who the biggest personality he ever played with, Edelman offered up an obvious choice, Bobby Hebert. Hebert, the Saints signal caller from 1985-1992, was as big a personality as there was in the Big Easy.
“Bobby (Hebert) was a lot of fun to play with,” he mentioned. “Bobby was intense about the game and he would also let us know how he felt about what was going on out there which was great. I like Bobby because he’s a great competitor and he’s like a big kid. He loved the game and he just enjoys what he does. Whether he’s on the radio or out at an event, every time I see him he seems to be in good spirits and he likes being around people. He was just a great guy to play with, a good leader, and a big personality. Everybody enjoys Bobby.”
Brad Edelman on Today’s Saints
You can’t have a conversation with a former Saints Pro-Bowler without asking about the current squad. When asked about his thoughts on the upcoming season, he offered an optimistic assessment.
“I’m encouraged,” Edelman stated. “I believe that the Saints organization wants to create an environment for the next two to three years where they can find themselves back to the Super Bowl.”
With the combination of veteran leadership and young talent, the 2017 squad resembles the 2009 Super Bowl champions in many ways, per Edelman. The solidification of the defensive side of the ball was also came up, especially through the draft.
“I think they had a very good draft this year,” he said. “And it will be very important for these guys, at least a couple of these guys, to come in and be effective right away.”
Early contributions from this new batch of picks may push the Saints back into the playoffs in Edelman’s opinion.
Brad Edelman developed an organic love of the arts from an early age. Sculpting, photography, acting and music have been a source of solace, motivation and inspiration throughout his life. Whether it was singing along to his mother’s records, performing in a barbershop quartet or gearing up for a game on the team bus with his Walkman on his head, music specifically has played a prevalent role in Edelman’s life.
“Now I’m back to playing the keyboards and playing the drums again,” he noted. “Playing the drums, I didn’t think I would be able to do, but it turns out that it’s actually very good rehab for my shoulder. Proper techniques are forcing that shoulder to increase the range of motion.”
These days everything, even playing the drums, seems to lead Edelman back to his health.
“It’s really a big part of my lifestyle now,” he emphasized. “With all the disciplines I practice now, my number one emphasis is my health and therapy every day. Whether it’s at the gym or at home, wherever it ends up being, I’m doing therapy every day in some way or another. It’s a matter of maintenance like it is for a lot of guys. When I lose the will or the physical ability to try to maintain myself and do these therapies, it’s going to be a quick slippery slope down. So, I’m hopeful that I can continue to have the will and the physical ability to maintain myself.”
The aforementioned physical issues have progressed throughout the years, but any help from the NFL has not.
“There is no health care for players, at least the players of my generation once they left the game,” Edelman said. “There was no care. You’re pretty much on your own. You get 18-months of Cobra. I know I went eight or nine years after I played without insurance because no one would cover me. It took me many, many years and distance from surgeries and major conditions to get someone to finally insure me.”
Regardless of the uphill climb Edelman faces every day, he continues to attack them all head on, not unlike those NFL defensive linemen of the 1980’s. And I’m sure, whatever he is up against, he’ll be doing it with a smile. Perspective is one art that Edelman has truly mastered.