So Hall of Fame defensive back Ronnie Lott was catching flak from San Francisco 49ers fans this week for talking to the New Orleans Saints before the two teams met Monday night.
Lott should give those fans the finger. No, not the middle finger, but the left pinky on which the tip is missing. He had it amputated in 1985 after suffering an injury playing against Dallas.
That's right. People talk about leaving 'it' on the field. Playing with blood and guts and giving their all for the team. Lott's pinky was mangled when it got stuck between a helmet and a shoulder pad as he tackled Cowboys running back Timmy Newsome.
Lott, who said the finger was split wide open, had it temporarily treated so he could play the following week. After the season, Lott had the tip of it taken off after doctors suggested that was the best course of action to continue his career.
As for this recent criticism regarding Lott speaking to the Saints, he merely was honoring a request from Saints coach Sean Payton. The Saints are attempting to repeat as NFL champions and Payton believed Lott's experiences with the Niners, who went back-to-back in 1988 and '89.
Honestly, I don't know the entire story or what criticism has been expressed. However, I got into the car Wednesday evening, turned on the radio and heard Lott speaking with KHTK-1140's Mike Lamb.
Lott basically was explaining how he came to speak Monday with the Saints, whom he'd twice spoken to last season, upon request by Payton.
I recognized Lott's voice on the radio immediately because we go way back, though not in depth. I covered the Niners off and on during his early years, lived around the corner from their Redwood City headquarters back in the day and often frequented some of the same night time establishments on the San Francisco peninsula.
We also used to hoop at Stanford during the Niners' off-season. Actually, I was closer to cornerback Eric Wright than Lott. However, Lott always has been the picture of class and respect in any situation or scenario. Win or lose, he brought the real.
I've spent enough time around and with Lott to know few people live their lives with more class and integrity. To question Lott is an exercise in self-incrimination or an indication that one is unaware of what the man is made.
It's not as if Lott was sharing defensive schemes or secrets with the Saints. Or if he ever would consider sabotaging the Niners' efforts.
The man won four Super Bowls with the 49ers and was the team's unquestioned leader. And mind you, this was a team rolling with Hall of Famers, quarterback Joe Montana and Jerry Rice and coached by Hall of Famer Bill Walsh.
Once again, the man had the tip of a finger removed so he could continue playing for the 49ers with as much heart and courage as anyone who ever put on their uniform.
Ultimately, any condemnation of Lott's intentions is a testament of our society's deterioration. It's so easy for many people to criticize others without knowing of what they speak.
However, anyone who calls themselves a 49ers fan or considers themselves knowledgeable about football should reassess how they look at the game and what competition truly is about.
Then and perhaps only then will they realize Lott had more competitive spirit and nature in the amputated pinky tip he surrendered to the game than they'll ever have.