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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Bucs punter Michael Koenen has no problem being part of Saints' statue

1

August

For Michael Koenen, there are few more frustrating plays than getting a punt blocked.

But the Tampa Bay Buccaneers punter said he’s honored one of his failed attempts has been immortalized by the Saints, partly because he’ll forever be partnered with a man who continues to inspire him.

The Saints recently unveiled a nine-foot statue outside the Superdome, entitled “Rebirth,” that depicts former safety Steve Gleason fully outstretched in blocking a punt from Koenen – then with the Falcons – on Sept. 25, 2006. It was one of the biggest plays of New Orleans 23-3 victory in its first game back at the rebuilt stadium following Hurricane Katrina.

Gleason, 38, who is retired and battling ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease), has said the statue symbolizes the perseverance and commitment the city took on before the game. Koenen, 30, got to meet Gleason last year, when the Bucs played in New Orleans, and when he heard about Friday’s statue ceremony, he tweeted at him, “Awesome day for an inspirational man…God bless you in your fight partner!!. Half of me likes your statue (smiling face emoticon).”

“He’s got an amazing fight on his hands, and he’s a real quality guy,” Koenen said Wednesday after practice. “I have no problem with celebrating somebody’s triumph, and (the Saints) definitely have that.”

The statue doesn’t have Koenen’s name or a Falcons logo on it because the Falcons refused to grant the sculptor permission, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune; Falcons president Rich McKay told ESPN.com that while it was an "incredible" moment for New Orleans, after discussing it with the league, they didn't think it was "appropriate" to have their marks on it.

Koenen, for his part, said he wouldn't have minded if they used his name, and might check out the statue when the Bucs head to New Orleans this fall.

“At the time, it was very frustrating and I never want that again,” Koenen said of the blocked punt. “But for him, I’d never change it, and I’m happy for them. I’m glad they’re able to celebrate.”

JOE SMITH

joesmith@tampabay.com

 

[Last modified: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 3:33pm]

    

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