Saints LB Kikaha Ready To Forget Forbidden Phrase


With the recent rash of injuries at NFL teams rookie mini-camps, the forbidden phrase that no one wants to see is “ACL” — anterior cruciate ligament — which is the main ligament that helps give the knee its stability, and is one of the most common types of knee injuries in all of sports.

Dehydration? No problem. You get an IV and lesson learned on being aware of the climate you’re in and hydrate better.

Tweaked hamstring? Not to worry. Get some rest, treatment, and be smart about the injury.

But an ACL??? Your season is OVER — and you start to prepare for a loooooong rehabilitation process, which for a rookie can be a mental setback as well.

Fans of the New Orleans Saints remember one of their most beloved players, running back Deuce McAllister, suffered two ACL injuries, one in his left knee and one in his right.

While McAllister came back strong after his first injury gaining 1,057 yards rushing in 2006, the second one proved to be his hardest with only 418 yards rushing in 2008 and he was released in the offseason.

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The Saints are coming off a 7-9 season where injuries forced defensive coordinator Rob Ryan to get creative with the players he had in a futile attempt to recapture their dominance from 2013.

With their second round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Saints chose a player that they felt could be a solid addition to their linebacking corps as well as be a dominant pass rusher: Hau’oli Kikaha from the Washington Huskies of the PAC-12.

Nov 29, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies defensive end Hau

While at Washington, Kikaha displayed a violent, relentless style of play that garnered him 19 sacks in 2014 alone.

After the pick of linebacker Stephone Anthony at #31, talk began of possibly the Saints double-dipping into the linebacker spot.

There were plenty of options such as Denzel Perryman, Benardrick McKinney, or one of the highest rated linebackers left, Eric Kendricks.

Kendricks was thought to go to the Green Bay Packers in the first round at #30 so this scenario was playing out perfectly.

The selection of Kikaha was considered to be a “steal” following the draft due to the fact that he slid so far and was in talk of being a first round pick at certain points in the draft process.

Head coach Sean Payton lamented on the young player saying,

"“So Hau’oli Kikaha was a guy that we spent time with, a lot of time with.  He has great football DNA.  He is tough.  He is physical.  We would check the box with pressure player in that he is someone that we feel like rushes the passer exceptionally well.  Occasionally there are players that you hope you have a chance to coach, this guy would be that player for us going through the process.”"

So why the fall from possibly being a first round pick?  Well, the dreaded three letters that were mentioned earlier…ACL.

Kikaha suffered an ACL tear in 2011 in his left knee and then re-injured the same knee in fall camp the following year.

Nov 22, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies linebacker Hau

While that was years ago, players often become branded with those dreaded three letters no matter if you’re in college or the NFL especially if it’s multiple times.

It was no different for the dominant player originally from Hawaii who understands that his injuries are the reason why he may have fell some in the draft.

In some recent mock drafts, he was even slotted to fall as far as the third round due to the overwhelming crop of other linebacker prospects as the weeks ticked by to the draft.

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But Kikaha is putting all that in the past and whenever he is asked about the injuries he is blunt and indifferent when he speaks about it.

In a conference call following the draft he answered the local media on the subject by saying,

“They’re in the past and I’ve overcome those things along with my family’s help and support and Coach and friends that brought me through those times. It was a rough period, and I’m glad those are long in the past. I’ve been able to excel since then.”

He constantly refers to them as being in the the past even though they are usually the forefront of any discussion with the media and scouts.

In the same conference call Kikaha was asked to clarify which knee the injuries had occurred in and after answering punctuated it with, “I almost forgot which one it was.”

Although his injures were years ago and his 2013 and 2014 seasons were stellar Kikaha will still likely have to answer the obligatory question after practice:  “So how’s your knee holding up?”

As both he and the Saints begin the journey to the 2015 season starting this weekend, they’ll both try to leave the injury storyline in the same place — the past………

Next: Saints Rookie Mini-Camp: 3 Things to Watch