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tiggerpolice 05-20-2005 08:13 AM

McAllister stays busy year-round
 
For someone who always has a lot on his plate on and off the field, New Orleans Saints running back Deuce McAllister looked like a man of leisure Thursday afternoon.
For a few minutes anyway, the two-time Pro Bowler was able to sit down and relax after completing the first week of coaching sessions -- a series of 14 practices held over a 3‰-week period in helmets and shorts.

But don't mention the word offseason to the man who's poised to become -- most likely in the regular-season opener with the Carolina Panthers on Sept. 10 -- the franchise's all-time leading rusher.

"Offseason?" he asked mockingly. "What's an offseason?"

That's a good question. Two and a half months after the Saints closed the 2004 season with a four-game winning streak, they were back on the field for the start of strength and conditioning drills.


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In addition to getting ready for the upcoming season, McAllister has been busy with his Catch 22 Foundation and several other charitable events, and also took part in the team's recent Eastern Regional Caravan to northeast Louisiana and Mississippi.

He's also preparing to open a used car dealership in Jackson, Miss., which will eventually become a Nissan new-car dealership, and is working on a project to restore a landmark Jackson hotel.

On top of that, McAllister is hoping to work out a new contract with the team before training camp begins July 29. The rookie contract he signed in 2001 was scheduled to expire after the 2006 season, but the final year of the deal was voided.

Even that will come in due time, he said. McAllister mentioned the possibility of holding out of training camp or the regular season, but only if negotiations don't move forward in a positive manner. He said he's leaving that up to agent Ben Dogra and Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis.

"I'm just enjoying this right now," he said. "I'm trying to recover and get back to 100 percent. This is the only time of the year that a running back is 100 percent, so I'm looking forward to the season."

Getting healthy and remaining healthy are the only goals McAllister is concerned with right now. He missed two games and all but one series of another in 2004 after spraining an ankle in the second game, which slowed him the rest of the year.

The ankle injury kept McAllister from using his speed and explosive power and resulted in just 1,074 rushing yards. In the previous two seasons, the five-year veteran piled up 1,388 and 1,641 yards, respectively.

Saints coach Jim Haslett cited McAllister's conditioning and productivity last year as reasons for dismissing running backs coach Dave Atkins and replacing him with former Green Bay Packers coach Johnny Roland.

Because of the injury, McAllister said he couldn't keep his conditioning up which kept him from peaking around the middle of the schedule and the latter part of the season.

"That (Haslett's words) doesn't bother me because everybody has their opinion of this, that or the other," McAllister said. "Whether it was positive or negative, you take it in stride and you continue to go about your business.

"Some of it may have been said out of frustration, some of it may have been actually true. I know I go out there and put it on the field every week whether I'm 90 percent or 100 percent (healthy). I'm going to put whatever I've got out there."

Haslett knows he'll get that from McAllister, but said the bruising 237-pounder needs to be more decisive hitting the hole than he was a year ago.

"He needs to use that big body and run through plays," Haslett said. "We'll run the ball a little bit more than last year, but that might mean Antowain (Smith) and Aaron Stecker will get more carries.

"We want (McAllister) to take advantage of the holes, take what you can get. If somebody gets in your way, run them over."

McAllister agrees with Haslett.

"He's the coach and I'm going to listen," he said. "It's criticism in a positive way. He has his outlook on plays and I'm going to have my outlook on plays, that's why I have to play my game.

"On certain plays, I know what he's talking about as far as going and getting those 3 or 4 yards. But on certain plays I'm looking for that home run because that's what a back looks for. You're not looking to take it the distance every play, but a great back is always going to want to take it 40, 50 or 60 yards."

McAllister said that's possible because of the offensive talent the Saints have. He said it makes it easy to go out and play because of the presence of wide receivers Joe Horn and Donté Stallworth and quarterback Aaron Brooks.

"I just love going out and playing," McAllister said. "With the guys and the talent I have around me and the playmakers, I just love going out there and competing with them. We're not being selfish, we want to compete."

McAllister isn't worried about getting the contract done because he's confident both sides will reach an agreement soon.

"They'll get everything done, so that's the least of my concerns," he said. "I don't know the timetable, but hopefully we'll get it done before camp.

"It's out of my hands. My job is to go out and perform on the field no matter whether you feel like you're getting paid at that level. That is for somebody else to judge, but I'm getting ready to play. I'll let them handle that because I've got enough to keep me busy."


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