Veteran tight end Michael Hoomanawanui’s season is already over as a player.
Hoomanawanui suffered an injury during training camp, and the Saints placed him on injured reserve during the initial league-mandated roster reduction to 53 players, so he cannot return during the season.
But Hoomanawanui is still highly involved with the tight ends. Hoomanawanui is working with assistant coach Dan Campbell and the rest of the tight ends as an extra assistant.
“It’s a way to stay engaged,” Hoomanawanui said. “It’s kind of a unique situation.”
A veteran of eight seasons in the NFL, Hoomanawanui has started the season on injured reserve twice in the past three years, but the Saints have a recent history of giving veterans a chance to dip their foot in the coaching game.
Fullback John Kuhn spent time with the coaches, both on the field and in the film room, last season after tearing his bicep.
“Coaching is something that never would have crossed my mind,” Hoomanawanui said. “it’s a good way to get a look at it.”
Veteran tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, who played 468 snaps as the Saints’ best blocking, in-line tight end last year, is finally healthy after sitting out most of the first week of training camp on the non-football injury list.
Hoomanawanui was on his way back from an offseason neck injury.
“Just wanted to double and triple-check some things,” Hoomanawanui said. “Any time you’re working with that area of the body, it’s pretty important. Can’t go out and get a new neck. You can have surgery and all that, but for the most part, you only get one of them.”
Hoomanawanui has 17 catches and four touchdowns in his time with the Saints, and he rejoins a tight end picture that looks a little different. Coby Fleener is out, veteran Benjamin Watson is back and the Saints have a pair of promising youngsters in Deon Yelder and Dan Arnold.
Now, Hoomanawanui can start figuring out where he fits in that new picture.
“Sitting out at any time is hard, but it was what was best for me, working with the trainers and getting my situation right,” Hoomanawanui said. “All that’s in the past. I’m ready to move forward.”
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Mark Ingram gave the Saints much more than the first-down run they needed to wind down the clock on the Jets.
His determined burst across the line of scrimmage thrust him into New York’s defensive backfield with too much speed and vigor for anyone to catch him — a fitting finish to one of his better days in a memorable season.
Ingram ran for two touchdowns and gained 151 yards from scrimmage , capped by his late 50-yard TD run, and New Orleans overcame three turnovers to defeat the reeling Jets 31-19 on Sunday.
“Getting the ball into his hands is obviously what we want to do,” Saints center Max Unger said of Ingram, who has eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing…
For the second year in a row, the New Orleans Saints have had a veteran player and former Super Bowl champion assist the coaching staff while on injured reserve.
However, before comparing what tight end Michael Hoomanawanui has done this season to what fullback John Kuhn did for the Saints in 2017, it’s important to break down his injury, because it’s one of the most alarming ailments a player could suffer.
Hoomanawanui has been in the concussion protocol since Aug. 3. The brain injury he suffered in training camp was at least the fifth of his nine-year NFL career, and the scariest thing for Hoomanawanui is he honestly doesn’t know how many he has suffered.
“I feel normal as of the last month or so,” he said last week. “It’s been a long process, and it’s slowly getting better, and that’s all I can ask for at this point.”
The 30-year-old tight end, who’s set to become a free agent in March, said he hasn’t yet decided how he’ll approach his future. He’s still hoping to clear the final hurdles of the NFL’s concussion protocol, but during this unfortunate situation, he has found a way to help the Saints this season.
A week before the 2018 season began, the Saints placed Hoomanawanui on injured reserve, and that’s when coach Sean Payton approached him about assisting the coaching staff, which Kuhn did in 2017 after suffering a torn biceps early in the season.
“When he first asked me what I thought about coaching, I told him, I’m like, ‘There’s no way,’” Hoomanawanui said. “‘There’s no way. I see the time you guys put in and the sleepless nights, and I’m not looking for that when I’m done.’
“When I’m done, I want to be done, but you never say never.”
Right place, right time. That’s the goal for all of us, but especially those who play a sport. Know where to go and get there efficiently.
Michael Hoomanawanui always seemed to be there. You remember that about him as a tight end and defensive end at Central Catholic High School.
It made sense. He grew up in the game, with his father, Isy, having played at Illinois State and served as a Saints’ assistant coach.
Young Michael was a water boy/ball boy in the early sightings, tagging along to practices and helping on the sidelines on game nights. Even then, when the coaches screamed “Water!” or “Ball!” he seemed to have it in hand or know where to get it.
“As early as I can remember when Isy was coaching, Michael would come,” said Bobby Moews, Hoomanawanui’s head coach at Central. “He’s been around it (football) his whole life really.”
Later, in a Central uniform, Hoomanawanui rarely appeared out of position. He chased down quarterbacks and running backs, typically anticipating where they were headed. On offense, he blocked when called upon and caught passes like no one we’d seen in The Pantagraph sports department.
At 6-foot-4, he was a big target. He ran good routes, got himself open despite being the focal point of enemy defenses. Beyond that, he caught everything near him, on multiple occasions while leaping with one hand extended toward the night sky.
Was it “right place, right time?” Yes, or close enough.
We bring this up because Hoomanawanui’s instincts and intellect for the game seemed as essential to his success as his size and athleticism. He seemed to think like a coach and now, he is one.
A concussion suffered in August put Hoomanawanui on injured reserve all season with the New Orleans Saints. He has had multiple ones in his nine-year NFL career as a tight end and will become a free agent in March. At 30, his future as a player is uncertain.
However, during what might have been a lost season, Hoomanawanui has served as an unofficial assistant tight ends coach. Saints head coach Sean Payton suggested the role shortly after Hoomanawanui was injured and recently told Josh Katzenstein of The Times-Picayune that Hoomanawanui has been experiencing the long hours and late nights of NFL coaching.
“We’ve had him up in the offensive meetings, and, man, he’s hanging in there,” Payton told Katzenstein. “There’s some dark circles under his eyes right now, but he’s still standing.
“I love what Mike brings. He’s a throwback player. He’s tough. I think he’s well-respected. I know he is in the locker room. He’s one of those guys you want around.”
That may be news elsewhere. Here, it merely confirms that Hoomanawanui has not changed since he was running water out to a Central Catholic huddle or catching last-second touchdown passes.
His feel for the game has stayed true, serving him well at the University of Illinois and with the Rams, Patriots and Saints in the NFL.
“He always knew where he was supposed to be and knew his assignments,” Moews said. “He knew what he was doing and was expecting everybody else to do the same. He was one of those guys you would think would be a good coach someday.
“I think that’s helped him keep a job in the NFL. He knows what the idea and the thought of the play is and what’s supposed to happen. They (coaches) can know they can count on him on the field. I’m sure Coach Payton probably saw that in him.”
Hoomanawanui was traded to New Orleans in 2015 after winning a Super Bowl ring with the Patriots. His plan was to be on the field this year for the Saints’ championship quest, but his impact has come largely in the shadows, mentoring young tight ends.
There has been talk about how 40-year-old Saints quarterback Drew Brees has a chance to win a second Super Bowl and add to his Hall of Fame resume. Hoomanawanui isn’t on a Hall of Fame track, but a second Super Bowl ring would be a fitting reward for all that he has invested in football.
It’s enough to make you a Saints fan Sunday when New Orleans plays host to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game.
Hoomanawanui may not desire to make coaching a long-term pursuit, but with his background, knowledge and personality, he is well-equipped for the job. If nothing else, this season has exposed him to the possibility.
Could be he is in the right place, right time.