this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Tuesday August 19, 2003 By Brian Allee-Walsh Staff writer Saints defensive back Michael Hawthorne entered training camp not knowing where his NFL career was headed. But after 25 days, Hawthorne might have landed a spot on the 53-man roster because ...
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|08-19-2003, 04:41 PM||#1|
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Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: CRYSTAL BEACH TEXAS
Tuesday August 19, 2003
By Brian Allee-Walsh
Saints defensive back Michael Hawthorne entered training camp not knowing where his NFL career was headed.
But after 25 days, Hawthorne might have landed a spot on the 53-man roster because of his ability to play safety and cornerback.
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Hawthorne played both positions against the New York Jets on Saturday night, replacing starting free safety Tebucky Jones and reserve cornerback Keyuo Craver, who left the game in the third quarter with a hip injury.
On Monday, Saints defensive coordinator Rick Venturi said Hawthorne now is among those players battling for the fourth cornerback job, behind veterans Fred Thomas, Ashley Ambrose and Dale Carter.
"I've always been a Hawthorne guy from the beginning," Venturi said. "In the back of my mind, I've always felt safety would be a natural position for him because he's been a guy who's played good on the inside part of the field with his face to the ball. So far, he's made a pretty good adaptation to that.
"Also, we've used him some at corner. We're doing all that by design right now because our fourth corner is undetermined. That's not knocking anybody, but nobody has stepped up and won the job. So we're giving Mike every opportunity. Time will tell, but he has a chance to be a combination guy for us."
Hawthorne, the team's No. 6 pick in the 2000 draft, started four of the first six games at cornerback in 2002. But a knee injury sidelined him the next eight games, and he ended the season on injured reserve.
After the season, Saints coach Jim Haslett and Venturi decided to move Hawthorne to free safety. Some perceived it as a demotion, but the former Purdue standout took the decision in stride and tried to perfect his skills.
"Michael Hawthorne will always raise eyebrows, whether it be here or somewhere else," Hawthorne said. "I do what I do. I quietly moved to safety and didn't make any fuss and didn't get any bad press with it. So, obviously, I'm doing something right.
"I just take it as it comes. They could tell me to play receiver tomorrow and I'd have my nose in the playbook tonight. I can catch, and I can run, and I can get physical, too. It just depends on where they want to put me."
Hawthorne, 6 feet 3, 200 pounds, has drawn praise from Haslett and Venturi for making a smooth transition to safety in training camp. They list him among the top five on the depth chart with Jones, Mel Mitchell, Jay Bellamy and Steve Gleason.
"Michael's done a real good job about dedicating himself to making the switch to safety," Venturi said. "He's been real good about it. We'll see how it plays out the next couple of weeks, but so far, so good.
"If he could do both, it would give you some flexibility. He can cover a lot of range in the back end, and he would give you another cover guy with some corner ability. He's always been a good force on the inside part of the field where the safety and extra corner play. But time will tell."
Time appears to be on Hawthorne's side.
"The way I look at it, the more versatile I am, the more valuable I am," Hawthorne said. "In the NFL, it's all about the more you can do. If you can play two or three positions on defense, that's better than just being able to play one. It gives a team multiple options.
"I know all the corner stuff so that's not a problem. From my perspective, I'm just looking to land in a spot where I can play the quickest. Whether it's here or somewhere else."
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