Winston appears healthy in return to practices, Saints approach third pre-season game

Published 4:02 pm Wednesday, August 24, 2022

John DeShazier

New Orleans Saints

NEW ORLEANS — There no longer appear to be questions regarding the status of Jameis Winston’s right foot, not after the New Orleans Saints quarterback rejoined team drills Monday and has displayed noticeable improvement of movement.

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Monday was two weeks to the day from Winston injuring his foot in practice, which led to him leaving the workout early, missing the first two preseason games and receiving very limited work in the two joint practices against Green Bay. Tuesday, the spring in his step was obvious (including a scramble and slide) and Wednesday, there was no trace that the previous two days’ work had an adverse affect.

“I feel a lot better,” he said. “I’ve been getting better every single day. It felt good (Tuesday), I could run a little bit more and move around a little bit more, because that’s part of my game. So I’m getting better every day.

“It’s literally getting better every single day. It’s not like a major injury. It’s just in terms of overcompensating, because I’ve got the (left) knee (recovery from ACL surgery) and we don’t want anything else to spring up just from me using one side more.”

He apparently wasn’t one-sided on the scramble and slide, which is an element he has been working on adding.

“I’ve got to be able to do that, so I was like, what better time to do it than now?” Winston said. “I had to practice it. Plus, R.C. (quarterback coach/passing game coordinator Ronald Curry), he’s been killing me because I told him I’m working on sliding and I’m bringing back my baseball days. He put on a little note, ‘Jackie Robinson.’ I was like, thank you. If I can slide and steal home like Jackie Robinson, I’m doing good.”

His teammates were pleased to see Winston back on the field.

“He’s got a mean out route,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “It’s like, real gas when he throws it. That’s probably from his baseball days. It’s good to just see him running around.

“Obviously, he can make every throw, but when does get out of the pocket and run around – (Tuesday) he slid and we all kind of held our breath, he popped right back up. I think all those things are good for the team and good for our spirit.”

Whether Winston will play in the preseason finale Friday against the Chargers in the Caesars Superdome hasn’t been determined. He would opt to take some snaps.

“I would love to,” he said. “I would love to play. Just in terms of getting out there when the bullets are really flying, and get out there and compete with the guys.

“I love the pregame experience just to get a chance to look in everybody’s eyes, dap people up and get that whole holistic team bonding part in the beginning of the game. That’s one of my favorite parts of football, that pre-battle moment. I would love to experience that before we really kick things up.”

But if the scenario unfolds that his first live action will be in the regular-season opener in Atlanta on Sept. 11, Winston said he’s prepared for it.

“I’m going to do my best to be prepared regardless,” he said. “Whatever the head coach decides, I’m going to be ready to play.”

CAMP BREAKS: Wednesday marked the last official training camp practice for the Saints.

“I feel like it’s been pretty good. I really do,” Coach Dennis Allen said. “The one thing I know is that our guys are competing extremely hard out here every day and we’re getting better. We still have a lot of things that we’ve got to clean up, but overall I think it’s been a pretty good camp to this point.”

Allen said Friday’s preseason finale is a pivotal one for several players.

“There’s still a lot of roster spots that are up for grabs and we’re still going through the evaluation process,” he said. “I think for a number of guys it’s going to be extremely important.”

BADGERING: Mathieu was one of the standouts in Tuesday’s practice, with an interception and a pass breakup. He said he’s settling into his role on defense.

“I think all great things take time, it’s just me being patient with it,” he said. “I’ve got some good coaches, good teammates so I do feel myself coming alive in the defense, so to speak. Just understanding it from a scheme standpoint, where I’m supposed to be, where my teammates are. It’s definitely picking up.”

He also sees the trust factor increasing.

“I play defense, so when I get it wrong it’s a touchdown, it’s a big gain,” he said. “So I think those things are important, just constantly building that chemistry with your teammates. Me and Marcus (Maye) being on the field at the same time, that’s helped. The more and more guys we get in our unit on the field, I think it’ll help progress all of us.”

HUNGRY LUTZ: Kicker Wil Lutz definitely wanted a crack at the 59-yard field goal he kicked against Green Bay. The kicked sailed through as time expired in the first quarter.

“That’s what preseason is for,” he said. “I think realistically, game management, you probably don’t hit that kick during the season in the first quarter of a game. It’s a low percentage kick. But that’s what this time of year is for.

“We had a good wind behind us, I hit the ball well that way in warmup and my operation’s been outstanding. So I was like, ‘Let’s do it, why not.’ And fortunately when I put my confidence out there, they take it and they let me have it.”

Part of the scenario involved Allen calling timeout with two seconds left in the quarter, to ensure a favorable wind.

“That was awesome,” Lutz said. “I didn’t want to rush that kick. When I looked up at the clock and there was only about eight seconds left, I looked over at him and I think D.A. and (special team coordinator Darren) Rizzi understood the strategy there. I don’t think I had to say anything for them to do it, they would have done it anyway. I think going the other way, probably wouldn’t have kicked it. They knew how badly I wanted it.”