The New Orleans Saints opened Organized Team Activities this week, and early Thursday — two days after the passing of Seahawks Legend Cortez Kennedy — the team unveiled a decal on their gold helmets to honor the Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive tackle.
On Twitter, the Saints announced they will sport a large No. 96 — Kennedy's jersey number — on their headwear throughout OTAs to honor the longtime Seahawk.
New Orleans' relationship to Kennedy stems from Saints general manager Mickey Loomis, who worked in the Seahawks' front office for much of Kennedy's playing career. Kennedy and Loomis became close friends, with Kennedy even taking on the role of godfather to one of Loomis' children and becoming the namesake to another.
"All of us are devastated, would be the way to describe it," Saints head coach Sean Payton said Thursday of Kennedy's passing. "It just was so sudden. It's tough. It's tough. He and Mickey were obviously extremely close and I think Mickey said it best; as great a player as he was — and trust me, if you had to pull a starting lineup out of the Hall of Fame on defense, he's in the starting lineup — but he was that good of guy off the field, friendly to everybody. He'll be missed."
On Tuesday, Loomis released a statement through the Saints on Kennedy's passing.
"Today, the NFL lost a legend and a Hall of Fame player," the statement began. "Joe and Ruby Harris, his parents, lost a loving son, and his beautiful daughter Courtney lost the most caring and best father I know. My wife Melanie and I, my sons Alex and Sam and daughters Katherine and Lucy are devastated by this loss. Cortez is godfather to Lucy and Samuel Cortez bears his name.
"Many who will read about him in the coming days will read of his success on the field as a great Seattle Seahawk and Miami Hurricane; however the full story lies in his loving, fun, positive and giving heart. In my many years working in the NFL, no one better exemplified what it meant to be a great player on the field, and yet that paled in comparison to what Cortez meant to the people who knew him off the field. People of all races, religions and nationalities counted him as a friend; athletes and non-athletes alike. We should all aspire to have as big a heart as his!
"His loving and fun personality was often present in our building. He was very close to our owners Tom and Gayle Benson and our head Coach Sean Payton, but what I loved most about Cortez was the care and time he took in cultivating relationships with the equipment guys, security, ball boys, trainers, scouts, ticketing staff -- the staffs that work long hours behind the scenes, he appreciated their hard work and recognized the contribution they made to any team's success.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with Joe and Ruby, Courtney and the vast number of people who counted Cortez as a close friend; he will be missed by everyone, certainly myself included. We have a lost a true Saint of a person."
The Seahawks paid tribute to Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy on Tuesday night at CenturyLink Field, turning the stadium dark and illuminating his No. 96 jersey on the day of his passing.