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BillyCarpenter1 08-05-2003 07:41 AM

Sullivan gets in the groove

Johnathan Sullivan gets in the groove
Nakia Hogan / The Times
Posted on August 5, 2003
METAIRIE - It's all starting to come together for Johnathan Sullivan.

The extra study sessions with defensive line coach Sam Clancy are beginning to pay dividends as Sullivan, the Saints first-round draft choice, is knocking off the rust from a five-day, eight practice holdout.

During drills, he's displayed power - bull-rushing offensive linemen - and speed. It has been enough for Sullivan to be re-inserted into the starting lineup at one of the defensive tackle positions.

"He's still a little bit overweight, but he showed good strength and quickness," Saints coach Jim Haslett said of Sullivan, who reported to camp at 323 pounds, 18 pounds more than his playing weight at Georgia last season. "He's got great feet and hands. He plays with very good leverage. He is a guy that has a chance to be a very good player. I think he'll be ready to go full speed in about a week or so."

The Saints are trying Sullivan at the "three-technique" tackle because of his quickness, and athletic ability to penetrate the line of scrimmage. The position, which lines up opposite the guard's outside shoulder, is the same one La'Roi Glover excelled at during his Saints career. Sullivan played the nose tackle position, which is currently manned by Martin Chase, during the off-season.

"At first it was kind of hard because I was just coming back and was behind," Sullivan said. "But day by day I am progressing."

- Rainy day: The Saints got a break late in practice Monday when a storm passed over the team's Metairie headquarters.The first part of the afternoon workout was done under a glaring sun and 97-degree temperatures, with a heat index of 110.

The rain cooled off practice, and even shortened the workout by 10 minutes.

- Under the knife: Tight end David Sloan missed Monday's practice and will be out for at least a week after having minor surgery on his right shoulder Monday evening.

Haslett said Sloan had some loose cartilage in the shoulder and had it scoped. He could return to running in a week, but likely won't be able to compete in full-contact drills for two weeks.

- Play of the day: Wide receiver Michael Lewis, who made his return to the practice field on Monday after being carted off to the hospital last week with a sprained cervical spine, turned in the most exciting play of Monday's practice.

Lewis, running a "go route," beat rookie cornerback Lynaris Elpheage down the left sideline, only to have to slow up for newly acquired quarterback Tory Woodbury's pass. Elpheage appeared ready to intercept the pass. But Lewis stepped in front to score a 60-yard touchdown.

"The ball was dropping and (Elpheage) was kind of positioning himself for the interception, but he was off-balance and I put one hand up," Lewis said. "Then I just leaned over and the ball just kind of fell in my pocket."

- Field of dreams: The Saints are hoping that the AstroTurf in the Superdome will be replaced, if not this season but the next, with a state-of-the art synthetic grass like the rubberized type that carpets the team's practice facility.

"Basically, the sooner the better," Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis said. "If there was a way it could be done this year, we'd be absolutely in favor of that."

- Change of venue: The training camp practice scheduled for Mandeville High School tonight has been canceled.

The practice was scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and was the second of four night practices held away from the Saints facility. Last Wednesday, the team practiced before 3,600 fans in Destrehan High School. The Saints will hold future practices at West Jefferson High School on Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Tad Gormley Stadium in New Orleans on Aug. 19 at 7:30 p.m. The team will instead workout in its indoor facility.

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