By Phil Terrigno
WHNO’s audience has expectations.
It knows what the TV Guide in New Orleans says. And it says The John Fourcade Show airs Thursdays at 6 p.m.
There’s no asterisk that says: Fourcade may be squinting because his vision is sensitive to light. If he’s slow to respond to a question, it’s because he’s probably battling a headache. Also, his back is most likely throbbing.
Those things are true. Except, it’s not the audience’s problem.
So, Fourcade opines about the state of the New Orleans Saints on television, even if glare from the set lights bothers him.
“It’s like you’re driving a car and all of a sudden, (another) car’s lights hit you,” Fourcade says of his sensitivity to light. “I start squinting pretty bad. It’s unbearable to see.”
Fourcade is certain his medical problems come from the years he spent playing quarterback in the NFL and other pro leagues. Now, he’s one of more than 4,000 former players who are part of a class-action lawsuit against the NFL, accusing the league of withholding information related to concussions and head trauma.
“Once you’re done playing, you try to go and find out why you have headaches,” Fourcade said of the estimated six to eight concussions he suffered. “Why am I forgetting things? Why do I take things slow? Why does my body ache?”
In January, Judge Anita Brody of the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia rejected a proposed $765 million settlement in order to review financial information from both sides.
“It’s not about dollars and cents,” Fourcade said. “I’d like to be able to say ‘I want to go see a doctor because I feel this is hurting me.’ I would like to find out the medical aspect of what’s wrong and tied to concussions, if they lead to this or that. The NFL should take care of what we have done for them over the years instead of out of sight, out of mind.”
After breaking several of Archie Manning’s records at the University of Mississippi, he bounced around in the early 1980’s before getting his first break as a replacement quarterback during the 1987 NFL player’s strike.
“He rounded up those good ol’ boys and said ‘Hey, let’s take a shot at this. Don’t worry about what people are going to think. Let’s go out and play the game.’ He was able to lead and keep everyone focused,” said former Saints replacement punter Tommy Barnhardt.
Fourcade was 2-1 during the strike and was kept on as the Saints third string quarterback. The following season, he became Bobby Hebert’s backup and went 3-0 in 1989 when Hebert was benched.
In four seasons from 1987 to 1990, Fourcade appeared in 24 games (making 11 starts) and completed 159 of 313 passes for 2,312 yards, 14 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
Sports Illustrated’s Peter King called Fourcade a “powerful testimony to perseverance” in 1990 after he was traded or released nine times in eight years from teams in the NFL, Canadian Football League, the defunct United States Football League and the Arena Football League.
“He was a really talented guy, but he never was one of those talented guys that was going to take a starting quarterback job away from someone,” former Saints offensive lineman Steve Korte said. “He was an extremely confident, brash guy to sort of lay it out on the line. He was as competitive as anybody.”
The Saints released Fourcade during the 1991 training camp after he tore his rotator cuff and an elbow ligament. He never found another NFL roster spot after a year-long recovery.
Mike Detillier co-hosts The John Fourcade Show and does what he can to make things easier for the 53-year old Fourcade when they film remote shoots at a sponsor’s auto dealership, including moving window panels to block light or changing the direction Fourcade faces to protect him from the light
“If John was a senior this year, he would be what a lot of teams are turning out,” Detillier said. “He was a new age quarterback before the new age quarterback.”
His mobility as a player may make for interesting broadcast perspective, but it wasn’t always convenient for his teammates. “At times, it could be frustrating from an offensive line standpoint because you didn’t really know where he was,” former Saint offensive lineman Chuck Commiskey joked about losing track of Fourcade in the pocket.
In reflecting on his playing days, a period he says left him dependent on Tylenol and Bayer Aspirin, there was no single colossal storybook hit that left Fourcade sprawled out underneath trainers waving smelling salts in his face.
There were just plenty of violent hits that are now a fragment of blurred memory: a left shoulder to his head in a preseason game against the Colts. Getting leveled by Buffalo’s Bruce Smith. Being plastered to the Minnesota turf in 1990.
They are the reason why he spends extra time in a hot shower to try to loosen his muscles and the reason the space between his temples is filled with constant pressure.
“My whole body hurts,” Fourcade said. “There’s not a bone in my body or a part of my body that I don’t feel pain. Knees, shoulders, neck. Every morning I get up, it’s a chore to get out of bed.”