Coming off two straight Pro Bowl seasons, SS Roman Harper, an unrestricted free agent, says he's prepared to do what's best for his family — whether that's re-signing with the Saints or not — when the lockout is over and free agency begins.
He's participated in workouts organized by Drew Brees with Saints players at Tulane University and before he gets a chance to figure out whether he'll still be practicing with them when football resumes, Harper is planning some events that he hopes will improve the lives of kids growing up around his hometown, Prattville, Ala.
Harper will host his second annual "Sainted Weekend" to benefit Harper's Hope 4*1 foundation July 7-9. The weekend events include a free kids day on July 7, a celebrity reception and silent auction on July 8 and a golf tournament on July 9.
"I wish I had this when I was growing up," Harper told PFW. "My parents have always raised me, no matter how much I'm blessed with, to always try to give back to others. Treat everybody the way I want to be treated — my dad was big on that, being a high school teacher and one of my coaches growing up. He was always on me about that. I've been blessed with a lot, so I just always try to give back and take advantage of every opportunity I've been given."
The proceeds go to his foundation, which he formed to help challenged youth and their families.
Children ages 9-15 are invited to participate from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Stanley Jensen stadium in Prattville on July 7. Harper said about 250 children will attend on Thursday and he's expecting 200 golfers. Several NFL players, including Saints OG Jahri Evans, OLT Jermon Bushrod, S Malcolm Jenkins and MLB Jonathan Vilma are expected to join Harper for the weekend.
"They have an amazing golf course there," Harper said. "It's one of the newest ones in the state and it's just a super nice place. They always treat me nice. I love when some of my teammates actually get to come home and see where I'm from."
He said in May that he was 90 percent sure he would re-sign with New Orleans and be playing alongside those teammates whenever the lockout was lifted.
Is he still that confident he'll be back?
"I would think so, but business is crazy," he said. "... I don't really have control over that. If it was me and I'm playing Madden and I'm the GM, of course I'm going to re-sign Roman Harper. But I'm not the GM and I'm not playing Madden. Hopefully I'll be back, but I have to do what's best for me and my family and put myself in the best situation to have as much success as I can."
Sources expect the Saints to make re-signing Harper, a sixth-year veteran, a high priority when free agency begins, and he said that staying put is the outcome he hopes for. He's started every game he's played since getting drafted by New Orleans in the second round of the 2006 draft, and he's only missed two games since '07.
His last game — the Saints' stunning playoff loss to the Seahawks — wasn't his finest, however. He was exposed in coverage on a few occasions and some fans and observers directed blame at him for the loss.
Harper said he's over it, though, and watched some plays from the game for the first time about a month ago during a film session with his teammates, who he said also had not reviewed the tape since the tough loss.
"I'm pretty completely moved on," he said. "That (criticism) is from the outside looking in. People don't understand what really goes on in the ball game and some of the calls that were made. It wasn't all my fault. We lost as a team just like we win as a team. I had like two bad plays. You got to tip your hat. Seattle made a couple good calls on me. They attacked some of my weaknesses.
"We just knew coming into the game that we would have to play bad and they would have to play their best to lose that game and that's exactly what happened."
Despite that difficult outing, Harper is going to draw interest when he hits the open market. The Saints, who have 26 players headed for unrestricted free agency, a contract renegotiation to sort through with Reggie Bush and extension talks with Brees still ahead, will have some difficult decisions to make whenever the owners and players settle on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
A tough call for Harper awaits as well.
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