Who let the Docs out!
This play on words of a popular Who Dat chant has been rattling around in my head ever since New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton fired two team orthopedists at mid-week after they apparently misdiagnosed a player’s injury.
Ochsner Hospital-based doctors Misty Suri and Deryk Jones were dismissed after third-year cornerback Delvin Breaux received an outside opinion that revealed he had suffered a fractured left fibula and not a contusion as the Saints’ orthopedists originally diagnosed several weeks ago.
Based on that opinion by noted orthopedist Robert Anderson, Breaux underwent surgery Thursday in Green Bay, Wisconsin, to repair the same leg that he broke in Game 1 last season. Breaux missed seven games in ’16. He is expected to be sidelined six weeks with the latest injury, causing him to miss season-opening games against the Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots at the bare minimum.
These stunning developments came soon after the New Orleans Advocate reported that Payton had grown increasingly impatient with Breaux and team officials were exploring a trade. A starter the past two seasons and widely regarded as the team’s best cover corner, Breaux had been demoted to back-up status. Payton later acknowledged he was “pushing (Breaux) based on the information I was given.’’
It’s unfortunate that Breaux’s injury wasn’t correctly diagnosed at the outset for several reasons. One, the Saints would have a good cornerback back by Week 1; two, Payton might not have rushed to judgment; and three, Breaux might not have been looked upon as a malingerer by his bosses.
The strange turn of events prompted Payton to address the matter in a team meeting. He stressed the importance of accountability at all levels of the organization, team doctors included. The danger for a coach is losing losing the trust of both his current players and any potential free agents down the road who might want to play in New Orleans.
But these things happen. Medicine is not an exact science. Doctors make mistakes, though one mistake by them is one too many. Obviously, the Breaux incident was a tipping point for Payton, who said “it was not one event, this probably builds up over time.’’
That said, it’s highly unusual for sports franchises to fire team doctors midway through a training camp, one month from the start of the regular season. Changes to medical staffs typically occur after a season and are done quietly, making the timing of Payton’s actions and the public display all the more curious.
“Sean was really giving it to (Breaux),’’ one team source said. “They were trying to trade him. Missing the diagnosis on Delvin was inexcusable. That put the player-and-coach relationship in a bind. Heads had to roll once the truth came out.’’
It should be noted that Suri and Jones are employed by Ochsner Hospital, a major business partner of the Saints organization. Two weeks ago, the mega health system announced a long-term agreement for the naming rights to the Saints and NBA Pelicans training facilities in Metairie, Louisiana. The facilities now answer to the name Oschner Sports Performance Center.
Breaux, 27, has returned to New Orleans and begun rehab. Assuming he and Payton make peace, a healthy, happy and productive Breaux can make an impact on a defensive unit ranked among the league’s worst the past five years.
Meantime, training camp and the preseason continues. The Saints will play the Los Angeles Chargers at 7 p.m. Sunday(NFL Network) at the 27,000-seat StubHub Center in Carson City, California. On Thursday, the Saints will practice against the Houston Texans in Metairie leading up to their exhibition game at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
And the search is ongoing by Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis to rebuild the team’s medical staff.
Next doctor up!
Brian Allee-Walsh, a longtime Saints reporter based in New Orleans, can be reached at email@example.com.