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No picnic for special teams

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Players hoping to stay on the roster work hard By LARRY HOLDER JACKSON -- Special-teams practices are supposed to be the change of pace workouts for the New Orleans Saints to combat the up-tempo sessions during training camp. While most ...

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Old 08-09-2007, 08:02 PM   #1
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Cool No picnic for special teams

Players hoping to stay on the roster work hard

By LARRY HOLDER



JACKSON --Special-teams practices are supposed to be the change of pace workouts for the New Orleans Saints to combat the up-tempo sessions during training camp.

While most of the established players get to sit back and enjoy, those practices and playing time in preseason are crucial for a roster spot.

Linebacker Trev Faulk signed with the Saints in the hopes of landing a spot with on the coverage unit. He was flagged twice in the opening preseason game against Pittsburgh on special teams. He was cut on Wednesday.

"I think they begin to understand that, unlike the college roster where you're carrying a larger number of players, our roster at the start of the (regular) season is 53 and then we reduce it each week for a game," Payton said. "A player has to be able to play snaps and help us on special teams. I think all of those guys understand that."

Players like safety Steve Gleason, wide receiver Michael Lewis and linebackers Terrence Melton and Alfred Fincher were used solely on special teams last season.

Those players were never used on offense and defense, leaving Payton with little flexibility. Lewis and Melton are no longer on the roster, Gleason was placed on injured reserve and Fincher could be on his way out.

Payton's philosophy leans more toward having capable backups playing special teams. Wideout Lance Moore has been trying to prove he's an NFL capable receiver and kick returner.

Moore spent the vast majority of his professional career on a practice squad. In Payton's eyes, he is making a solid impression.

"He's always had that drive," Payton said. "To his credit he's a hard worker and I think he's having a good camp. I think he's done a great job in the offseason with his body weight and his strength. He's a very committed player and he's very intelligent.

"He brings some versatility to the table. He's worked hard to put himself in this position. He has a little wiggle to him. He has strong hands. He's going to be in the mix. He's going be somebody that these preseason games are important to."

Jamal Jones earned his way onto last year's roster the same way. With the absence of Lewis and Jones injured, Moore's chances are better than not.

"The last two years I've been up and done from the active roster and the practice squad," Moore said. "I realize that's how it goes sometimes. Not everybody gets in right away and I realize that I have to wait my turn sometimes and just keep making plays. Hopefully my time comes."

The Saints added wide receiver Terrance Copper last season following training camp for his versatility. Copper started off primarily as a special teamer, then emerged into a starting receiver once Joe Horn went down with an injured groin.

"As a coach, you have to be able to look at your game day roster and ask how many snaps is this player going to get if he's not getting in the game at receiver?" Payton said. "That's also where the competition exists with the third tight end spot and additional linebackers and defensive backs."

The team also carried two kickers for much of last season as John Carney was used for place-kicking, while Billy Cundiff was brought in specifically for kickoffs.

Trading for kicker Olindo Mare opens up a roster spot because he's an accurate kicker and one of the league's best on kickoffs with 24 touchbacks a season ago.

"I think clearly he's someone that has confidence in his kickoffs," Payton said. "He had 24 touchbacks a year ago. He's somebody that has a strong leg. What you're hoping for is the consistency and accuracy on field goal attempts and the distance on kickoffs. When you can receive that from one player, it's a plus."

The punting duties are up for grabs with incumbent Steve Weatherford and veteran Chris Hanson battling it out. Hanson also has experience as a holder on field-goal attempts, but Weatherford has taken more snaps on field goals during camp. This race likely won't be decided until the end of the preseason.

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Old 08-10-2007, 07:50 AM   #2
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Re: No picnic for special teams

A big area of need.
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