||08-02-2005 09:34 AM
No French Quarter visits for A-Mac
McPherson limits "going downtown" to the ball field
8/1/2005, 4:51 p.m. CT
By BRETT MARTEL
The Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS (AP) ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Â Saints coach Jim Haslett talks about "the map" he gave to rookie Adrian McPherson, the supremely talented quarterback who threw away his college career by getting into trouble with the law.
It's really more of a directive that McPherson avoid New Orleans' often rollicking French Quarter and surrounding downtown, Haslett explains like a father, "unless he calls me first."
But Haslett is smiling the whole time, pleased by the fact that McPherson ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Â quiet, humble, friendly and hardworking ever since arriving at Saints headquarters ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Â hardly resembles someone characterized as a risky draft pick.
"I love the kid. He's a great kid," Haslett said. "I just like being around him."
The former Florida State quarterback takes responsibility for his troubled past without hesitation and smiles as he explains Haslett's restrictions on him, adding that most of his free time consists of strolling through a suburban shopping mall near the shores of Lake Pontchartrain.
"I'm here just to do whatever they ask me to do, and if that's not going downtown, then it's not going downtown," McPherson said this week, several days into his first NFL training camp.
One hint about McPherson's approach is the car he intends to buy with his new contract, which pays about $1.1 million over three years. No luxury sport utility vehicle, no sports car, just a mid-sized, affordable sedan known for good gas milage and low maintenance.
"Probably a Toyota Camry," McPherson says. "All the neat cars and things like that don't mean anything to me. I don't want to be flashy. I just want to get the job done."
With his 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash and cannon arm, there are times when McPherson can't help but be flashy on the field, as he often was at Florida State.
He joined the Seminoles as the first athlete in Florida high school sports history to be named both Mr. Football and Mr. Basketball.
In 2002, his sophomore season, he completed 80 of 155 passes for 1,017 yards, 12 touchdowns and only one interception before being booted off the team for allegedly stealing checks and cashing them for more than $3,500. He also faced misdemeanor charges of betting on football games, including his own, but that case was dismissed after a mistrial when a juror refused to convict.
In July of 2003, as part of a plea bargain in the bad check case, McPherson pleaded no contest to all felony charges. He was sentenced to 90 days in a work camp, did 50 hours of community service, and was on probation for 30 months. Probation ended April 18.
"When I went to college, everybody wanted to be around me ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Â kind of wanted a piece of Adrian ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Â and I was letting so many people be around me who shouldn't have," McPherson said. "When I was in trouble, there was no one who wanted to be around me."
While he's only fighting for a roster spot right now, his popularity is growing again. But he has limited what he calls his "circle" to family and a couple of close friends, who are "going to be there for me no matter what."
"I just kind of forgot the way my parents had raised me ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Â to be humble and patient and do the right things," McPherson says. "I kind of lost focus on that part and then the negative things started to happen. So for me it's going back to the way my parents raised me ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Â and that's humble and respectful."
He's one of the more soft-spoken people in the locker room, but usually smiling, knowing for the first time in more than two years that there's a good chance his life could turn out how he had hoped.
He still has to live with the regret of what could have been at Florida State, where he fully expected to play for a national championship, "but there's nothing I can do about it now."
"I wish things would have worked out a little differently, but my ultimate goal growing up was to get a chance to play in the NFL," he says. "I'm here and I'm just trying to make the most of it."
Currently, the Saints have four quarterbacks. Aaron Brooks will be the starter, backed up by Todd Bouman. McPherson and Kliff Kingsbury are competing for the final roster spot, although Haslett noted that the loser would likely be kept on the practice squad.
Coaches and teammates say McPherson's potential remains obvious.
"Athletic-wise he's got all the tools in the world," Haslett says. "If he can pick up the offense and work hard, he's going to be a heck of a player. We'll see how he plays in the preseason."
McPherson's throws during practice have been strong and accurate, even zipped safely into tight coverage at times. McPherson just needs to adapt to the speed of the NFL, tight end Ernie Conwell says.
"He's late on some things, but that's just the way it's going to be," Conwell said. "He's thinking about the plays, what his checks are going to be, his drop, his mechanics. There's a lot going through anybody's mind right now, especially a rookie at quarterback. Their brains get overloaded."
McPherson's only football experience since college has been one season in the Arena Football League in 2004. Playing for the Indiana Firebirds, he was rookie of the year and fourth in the league in passing. He also rushed for 19 touchdowns.
His first chance to play in the NFL is expected to come in the Louisiana Superdome on Aug. 12, when the Saints host Seattle in their preseason opener.
"That's going to be my Super Bowl," McPherson said. "I'm working real hard to study because I understand whenever I have the opportunity, I might only get one chance."