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Washington Redskins tackle Jammal Brown looks for a fresh start in D.C.
"This may sound odd because I was the only guy on the team who lost my house, got all my stuff destroyed, but I felt blessed," Brown said. "I told myself, I better not be upset.
"I'm in position where I had insurance, very financially stable, a top-15 pick. I took it as, 'Wow, look how blessed I am, look at the position God has put me in.' "
The Saints played their home games in New York, San Antonio and Baton Rouge. They finished 3-13 that year and Haslett was fired at the conclusion of the season. But Brown had established himself as an anchor on the line. The following season, he moved from right tackle to left, and in 2006, he was named to his first Pro Bowl.
Brown finally sold the damaged home earlier this year, and he's retired the wristband.
"For other people, it ruined their lives forever," he said. "They lost houses, family, friends; I just lost material things."
Watching a championship
In 2009, Brown was coming off his second Pro Bowl appearance, but he never made it beyond the preseason. He'd played through a torn labrum the previous year but in overcompensating, he damaged his groin.
As New Orleans opened its season, Brown had two surgeries in two weeks, the first a sports hernia operation in Philadelphia and the second on his hip in New York.
The Saints placed him on the season-ending injured reserve list after Week 3.
His teammates, meanwhile, won the first 13 games of the 2009 season. While the entire city enjoyed an emotional resurgence of sorts, just four years after Katrina, Brown was living out of the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, going through rehabilitation.
The Saints finished the year 13-3, beating the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC championship game. Along the way, Jermon Bushrod, a tackle who'd played only three NFL games prior to 2009, replaced Brown in the starting lineup and made many forget about the injured two-time Pro Bowler.
Brown was still part of the organization, but he didn't feel like a part of the team.
So when the Saints arrived in Miami for the Super Bowl, Brown was there and took part in the celebration. But he couldn't hold back the tears in the moments before the kickoff against the Colts.
After the win, as the city of New Orleans erupted into a giant party, Saints players sprayed champagne and took turns groping the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
"I said, 'Not me,' " Brown said. "My teammates were all, 'J, you were part of this. You helped build this.' But I still wanted to have something to look forward to. When I play in the game and then we win, then I'll hold that trophy up high. Higher than anyone."
The Saints held a ring ceremony on June 17 at The Roosevelt Hotel in downtown New Orleans. Hoping for a trade, Brown skipped the event, just as he'd skipped the team's offseason workouts.
Two days later, he signed a one-year tender for $3.62 million and was traded to the Redskins in exchange for a conditional draft pick.
He did receive his championship ring from the Saints but didn't once slip it on his finger. Instead, he gave it to his father, who also has the Oklahoma national championship ring.
"It's him, how he's built," said Charles Brown. "Everyone else knows what he meant to the team and to the city. But it's him. He didn't think he contributed. It's like he got a sip of it, but didn't get the full drink. So he's still thirsty."