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Saints think practice squad’s J.T. Gray is a special teams star in the making

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; As rookie safety J.T. Gray walked through the New Orleans Saints locker room a couple weeks ago, Justin Hardee pointed at him. That guy has been kicking my butt, Hardee said. Hardee is one of the top core special teams ...

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Old 01-02-2019, 12:14 PM   #1
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As rookie safety J.T. Gray walked through the New Orleans Saints locker room a couple weeks ago, Justin Hardee pointed at him.

That guy has been kicking my butt, Hardee said.

Hardee is one of the top core special teams players in the NFL, and he said Gray has made him better by providing tough competition on the scout team for most of the 2018 season.

For anyone who forgot, Gray made the 53-man roster to begin the season. The undrafted rookie’s inclusion on the roster was the biggest surprise on cut-down day, but Gray made the team because of his special teams skills.

Gray played for the Saints in the first five games of the season and made two tackles and had one penalty. Then, the Saints waived him and brought him back to the practice squad, instead relying on more experienced players on the special teams unit.

Gray said he’s “improved a lot” during the past three months of practice, and special teams coach Mike Westhoff agrees.

“I think he has really progressed because he’s a guy that came in here raw as could be,” Westhoff said.


Westhoff spoke about Gray before the Saints’ Week 15 game against the Panthers, and the coach said he’d feel confident in Gray if the Saints had to activate him for that game. Gray feels the same way.

“I’m ready right now,” he said. “I’m ready now.”

The Saints special teams have been excellent this year, particularly covering punts. They rank in the top three for fewest punt returns, punt return average and total punt return yards allowed.

Heading into the playoffs, it’s tough to see the Saints altering their lineup to give Gray a chance, but he should certainly have a chance to make the roster next year.

Gray has already experienced a taste of NFL games, and he said starting his career on the active roster was “sensational.”

“It was everything I dreamed of,” he said.

Since being relegated to the practice squad, Gray said he’s watched a lot of special teams and defensive film as he tries to see what makes other players so good. He’s also talked to veteran players who’ve gone through trials and tribulations to better understand how he can return to playing games.

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Old 01-02-2019, 04:30 PM   #2
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Re: Saints think practice squad’s J.T. Gray is a special teams star in the making

This is what I love about sports. A guy with mediocre skill that works hard to be able to compete with the best. To me that's what it's all about. It's not who's the best, but who overcame himself to be counted among the best.
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