METAIRIE, La. -- Jeremy Shockey is headed back to Miami, where the flamboyant tattooed bachelor with long blond locks is no stranger to the South Beach social scene.
The New Orleans Saints' star tight end doesn't sound like he's in any mood to party just yet though. For the second time in three seasons, his team is in the Super Bowl, and this time he expects to play.
"We just have to be smart in every aspect (and avoid) guys going out, doing stupid stuff, getting in trouble," said Shockey, who made news last offseason by passing out, dehydrated, at a pool-side party in Las Vegas. "A lot of people put a lot of hours, time in, injuries and so on ... so I think everyone is mature enough in this locker room to know how much is at stake."
Although Shockey is still dealing with right knee soreness that has limited him in New Orleans' two playoff games -- and kept him out of Thursday's practice -- the Saints hope to have him on the field. Including the playoffs, New Orleans is 15-0 when Shockey plays, 0-3 when he doesn't.
With four catches for 45 yards and a TD in two playoff games, Shockey sounds confident he will play in the Super Bowl against the Indianapolis Colts -- and play better.
"The last two games you guys have seen me play, it wasn't really me," Shockey said Thursday. "I was out there on one leg. It felt like being on a pogo stick. This week I'll have two pogo sticks instead of one."
Earlier this week, Shockey flew to Birmingham, Ala., to get a second opinion from noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews on what coach Sean Payton described as "more of a bruise."
Payton and Shockey said the examination left them encouraged.
"There's no holding the reins back," Shockey said. "I'll do everything I can, even it that requires hurting myself, to win the game because you got a lot of time to rehab and things of that nature to get right in the offseason."
Shockey, who starred in college at Miami and has made south Miami Beach his home, watched from a suite two seasons ago as his New York Giants won the Super Bowl.
The four-time Pro Bowler had missed the last month of the 2007 regular season and all of the Giants' climactic playoff run with a broken left leg. He said later that he felt alienated from the organization during the playoffs. He did not travel with the team to the Super Bowl, or stay in the team hotel, or watch from the sideline as most injured teammates would.
Shockey then worked out on his own in Miami instead of attending the Giants' voluntary workouts, hoping for a trade that eventually came when he was shipped to New Orleans days before 2008 training camp.
He still got a Giants championship ring, which he sent to his mother. He said he'd do the same even if he won another ring with New Orleans.
"I don't wear rings," he said, smiling playfully as he held up his left hand. "I'm not married -- not married at all."
Shockey was bitter about the way his time in New York ended, but maintains he was delighted to see Eli Manning lead the Giants' to a dramatic victory that ended New England's bid for a perfect season.
"It was a great feeling watching my teammates have success and enjoy it and deserve what they got," Shockey said. "They deserved that championship, Eli and all those guys."
Shockey wanted to come to New Orleans, where he could be reunited with Payton, who was the Giants' offensive coordinator for Shockey's first two years in New York. In his rookie season, Shockey set what are still career highs for catches (74) and yards (894).
Payton remembered those days fondly as well and wanted Shockey back. Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said Payton asked him constantly about trading for Shockey throughout that offseason. The Giants finally agreed in exchange for second- and fifth-round draft picks.
Payton liked Shockey's outward intensity and saw it as something that could be an asset, giving his offense more of a swagger.
"It's important for a player to be himself and that is something that I think he's done ever since we had him as a rookie in New York, so we're very comfortable with that," Payton said. "There is a confidence level he brings to the huddle."
Shockey's first season in New Orleans did not go as hoped. He pulled up lame in training camp with what was thought to be a hamstring injury, but was later found diagnosed as a sports hernia. He missed four games, played hurt in others and wound up with 50 catches for 483 yards and no touchdowns.
For most of this season, he was healthy, catching 48 passes for 569 yards and three TDs. Even when he didn't have a lot of catches, his presence appeared to be a distraction for defenses, creating opportunities for teammates. Fellow tight end David Thomas had his best day as a receiver when Shockey was on the field.
After hurting his foot in the Saints' 13th game of the season in Atlanta, he missed the last three games, then hurt his knee in New Orleans' first playoff game against Arizona. The injury occurred before he hobbled 17 yards to make a touchdown catch on the goal line. He saw limited action the following week against Minnesota and had only one catch for 9 yards.
Still, the Saints were happy to have him out there and think he can make a difference if he plays in Miami.
"I know how much he wants to be a part of this game," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. "I know he's going to be ready and just having him out there, most great tight ends are big-time matchup problems for teams just because it's a safety (or) it's a linebacker having to cover them. We feel good about that."