For the third straight year, the Saints are hoping linebacker Cie Grant can be the player they thought he could be when they picked him in the third round of the 2003 draft.
The speedy Grant, 6-feet and 235 pounds, has shown flashes and some ability when he gets on the field. Unfortunately, that hasn't been that often for the linebacker-thin Saints -- who have been looking for an impact player there since Jim Haslett became the team's coach in 2000.
That's why they get excited when they see that Grant has remained healthy during the off-season strength and conditioning work, coaching sessions and minicamps. But when the team reports for training camp on July 28 and puts on the pads a day later, Grant knows his NFL career will be on the line.
Whether he can battle through the calf and knee injuries that limited him to just seven games in 2003 and landed him on injured reserve all of last year remains to be seen.
"I'm hungry right now, and I think it's pretty much a do-or-die situation for me," said Grant, who was projected to be the starting middle linebacker after being drafted. "I think my back is really against the wall."
Plagued by a chronic left knee injury, Grant was told by doctors in the spring of 2004 that he'd have to play with the pain. When training camp began, he was sidelined by inflammation in his patellar tendon and the Saints eventually shut him down for the season.
Grant, however, has been encouraged by the fact that he was able to work since March this spring and is hoping 2005 will be a different story. Yet, he won't go out on a limb and predict what will happen when the pads go on -- especially after the Saints moved him to the weak side this year to reduce wear and tear on the knee.
"The past couple of years, I was always talking about, `I'll be back, I'll be back,'" said Grant, who had no injury problems in high school or college. "But now is no time to talk. Every day I get out here and get another opportunity to show I'm ready instead of telling people I'm ready.
"I feel pretty good, but I'm sort of keeping it to myself," he added. "I thought I felt good last year and the year before that. So now it's just that actions are going to speak much louder than any words. I think people are pretty tired of hearing, `Hey, I'm all right.'"
Training camp opens July 29 (players report July 28). The annual Black and Gold Scrimmage will be played Aug. 6 at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson, Miss.
RE: Inside slant
Cie was such a promising prospect and I was high on him for a while... but his injuries have been devastating. I'm rooting for him, but I'm unfortunately not expecting much. We'll see I guess.
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