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JOESAM2002 07-30-2003 02:26 PM

Haslett impressed with Elpheage and more......
Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Haslett impressed with Elpheage
Michael Krieg

July 30, 2003

METAIRIE — The odds are against Lynaris Elpheage, but each day he makes life a little tougher on the New Orleans Saints’ coaching staff. The free agent cornerback out of Tulane is a longshot to make the team, but had another solid practice Tuesday during the Saints’ afternoon session.

Elpheage picked off a Todd Bouman pass intended for Will Pettis during 11-on-11 drills.

“My goal is to just try my best,� Elpheage said. “That’s all I can ask for. If I keep making plays, hopefully everything will fall into place.�

Elpheage had record-breaking success during his junior season at Tulane. The 5-9, 179- pounder became the first player in NCAA history to score touchdowns on an interception return, fumble return, kickoff return and punt return that year.

He also had 171 tackles, 14 interceptions and 56 passes defended during his three seasons with the Green Wave.

“I think he is a good football player,� Saints coach Jim Haslett said. “He is not the biggest guy in the world. He is not the fastest guy in the world. He is really instinctive.

“He has great ball skills. He is a good returner. He plays faster when people time him. He is a heck of a football player. I don’t know if he will make the team or not. That is something that will play out. I think there is a good chance he can play in this league.�

Meanwhile, Elpheage is enjoying his time in camp.

“I’m starting to get the hang of everything,� Elpheage said. “It’s a new experience being a free agent in the NFL.�

FORCED INSIDE: The Saints were forced inside for Tuesday’s afternoon workout because of heavy rain and lightning.

BANKS SITS: Running back Tavian Banks sat out Tuesday’s practice after experiencing tightness in his hamstring Monday night.

Banks is attempting a comeback after a three-year absence from the league. Banks hasn’t played since suffering a serious knee injury in 1999.

“He pulled a hamstring,� Haslett said. “I don’t know his status. It is something that he has had on an off the whole offseason.�

HAT TRICK FOR FINLEN: Chris Finlen, a longshot at quarterback to make the team, was impressive during Monday night’s pre-workout drills.

Finlen and fellow quarterbacks threw fade routes into a garbage can in the corner of the end zone. Finlen was the only quarterback to toss the football in the garbage cans from 5, 10 and 15 yards out.

Projected third-string quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan sank one from 15 yards out while starter Aaron Brooks and backup Todd Bouman failed to sink one from any distance.

KELLY OUT: Rookie wide receiver Kareem Kelly sat out of Monday night’s indoor practice and missed Tuesday’s afternoon practice as well.

Kelly watched, with his right ankle taped, as fellow receivers participated in drills.

“He has a slight ankle sprain,� Haslett said. “It’s going to be day to day.�

HIT OF THE DAY: Fred McAfee unloaded on linebacker James Allen during backfield blocking drills.

McAfee (5-10, 193) took Allen (6-2, 240) to the ground in one-on-one blocking drills. McAfee, a 12-year veteran at running back but more noted for his outstanding special teams play, immediately celebrated conquering his bigger opponent.

Cornerback Steve Smith drilled Curtis Keaton in Tuesday’s afternoon practice. Keaton grabbed a pass out of the backfield from Aaron Brooks, but was nailed by Smith as he tried to turn the corner.

GOOD HANDS: Jerome Pathon made a couple of outstanding grabs during Monday’s indoor practice. Pathon scooped up a pass before it hit the ground during 7-on-7 drills with Brooks.

Pathon also made a nice one-handed grab in the corner of the end zone with Dale Carter draped all over him in 11-on-11 drills.

Derrick Lewis suffered a drop and a fumble, while Curtis Keaton had two slip through.

QUARTERBACKS SHINE: Brooks was 40-for-64 during Monday and Tuesday’s 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills, while Bouman was 23-for-29.

Bouman, however, was picked off by Allen during Monday night’s practice. O’Sullivan combined to go 2-for-3 during both practices.

LEWIS BETTER: Return specialist Michael Lewis was still in some pain Tuesday afternoon, but he was up and around.

“I’m just a little stiff and having some muscle spasms,� Lewis said after practice. “I’m feeling better. I’m not as sore as I was.�

Lewis was removed from the practice field on a stretcher on Monday after a collision with a teammate. He was taken to the hospital for a battery of test which showed no major injury.

“It was scary when it first happened,� Lewis acknowledged. “But not for long. I knew I hadn’t lost any feeling.�

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