JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -Special teams standout and reserve safety Steve Gleason, whose blocked punt led to a touchdown in the New Orleans Saints' home opener in the Superdome last year, is out for the 2007 season.
Gleason, 30, was put on injured reserve.
``It's frustrating because he's someone that's been a big contributor,'' head coach Sean Payton said Thursday at the Saints' training camp at Millsaps College. ``The tough part for Steve and for us was how long it's going to take to rehab.
``We'll miss him. You can point to specific plays, but more than just a blocked punt against Atlanta, there were a lot of things he did to help us as a team.''
Gleason had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in June, after the team's minicamp. The procedure creates holes in bones around the knee joint to stimulate the growth of cartilage. Generally, the knee can't bear weight for several weeks.
He would have missed about half of training camp or more if he tried to come back from the injury, and coming back early was a risk, Gleason said, because if the newly generated cartilage popped loose, the operation would be wasted.
``Right now, I'm just really focusing on getting myself in full health so I can be competitive for next year,'' Gleason told The Associated Press in a phone interview from New Orleans. ``When I had the surgery we knew this was a potential outcome. ... I'm frustrated I can't be out there with the team and doing great stuff on the field but I think for my health and my career it's probably the best move.''
Gleason, who is slated to become a free agent after this season, said he will stay in New Orleans during his rehabilitation and hopes to support the Saints and the city of New Orleans in any way he can throughout the season.
He and general manager Mickey Loomis have spoken, he said, although not specifically about a new contract.
Gleason has played 83 games in six seasons with the Saints, making 98 special teams tackles and blocking four punts.
Known for his scrappiness, his long, sandy brown hair, and his approachability in public, he was popular among fans, whom he said he'll be rooting with this season.
``Although I can't do great stuff on the field, I'd like to continue to do great stuff off the field within the community and be associated with the Saints in any way that I can help this team,'' Gleason said. ``I do have so much faith this team can go all way. Any way I can help make that happen and win a Super Bowl ring, that's what I'd like to do.''
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