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John DeShazier: Carl Lewis delivers powerful message to New Orleans Saints

Posted Aug 14, 2017

'Be a 24-hour athlete'

Marcus Allen is a Pro Football Hall of Fame running back, Super Bowl champion and Super Bowl MVP (XVIII), three-time All-Pro, six-time Pro Bowler and former NFL Most Valuable Player (1985) and Comeback Player of the Year (‘93).

Joe Dumars, a Basketball Hall of Famer, was a two-time NBA champion (1989 and ’90) and NBA Finals MVP (’89), a six-time All-Star and five-time member of the All-Defensive team and, as Detroit’s President of Basketball Operations, also won an NBA title in ‘04 and was named league Executive of the Year in ’03.

Avery Johnson, a New Orleans native who played at St. Augustine High, was an undrafted player who helped the Spurs win the NBA title in ’99 while crafting a 16-year career, had his No. 6 jersey retired by San Antonio and was named NBA Coach of the Year in ’06.

The New Orleans Saints have had an impressive array of speakers to address the team during Sean Payton’s 11 seasons as head coach. Perhaps none were more acclaimed than the man who stood before the team Sunday night.

Carl Lewis won nine Olympic gold medals, one silver, and 10 World Championships medals (eight gold) as the world’s premier sprinter and long jumper from 1979-96.

He’s one of three Olympic athletes to have won a gold medal in the same event in four consecutive Games. And after attending Sunday’s morning practice, he spoke to the team later.

“He’s someone that – I’m going to say, we’ve probably had 10, 11, 12 speakers in my 11 years and I can’t recall one as decorated as he was,” Payton said. “Until you start looking it up and going through his numbers, the idea of being a gold medalist in four different Olympics is pretty impressive. He just talked about work and the will to win, basically. Very impressive.”

Few have been as acquainted with winning as has Lewis. He had 65 consecutive wins in the long jump over 10 years, and won Olympic gold in the event in ’84, ’88, ’92 and ’96.

“It was really cool,” right tackle Zach Strief said Monday. “Carl gave us a couple things that I think really hit home for a lot of guys. One was, be a 24-hour athlete. If it’s not contributing to your success as an athlete, then don’t do it. That’s not just in the building, that’s outside the building – your nutrition, your sleep. All those things.

“For a guy that does what he did, it doesn’t happen on accident. Those guys – no different than for us a guy like Drew (Brees) or Adrian (Peterson), there’s a different level of commitment that those guys have. I think a lot of guys were really inspired by Carl last night. It was awesome to hear him speak and to get to meet him and shake his hand.

“The guy was voted sportsman of the century by, like, 10 publications. That’s pretty amazing to get to meet that kind of a guy in person. I think that 24-hour athlete message really struck home with a lot of guys.”

Strief said that Lewis also emphasized the importance of preparation.

“It’s part of the process,” Strief said. “It’s all in an effort to succeed when the cameras are on. When it’s live bullets, when it’s the real deal, everything that you’ve done up to that point should be built to give you confidence that you can execute it in that moment.”

SHORT MONDAY: Monday’s practice, the Saints’ third consecutive outdoor practice in sweltering heat and humidity, was an abbreviated one, cut short by more than an hour of the previously scheduled conclusion.

“I thought (Sunday) was a good, long one and part of plan was to kind of get their legs back under them a little bit, and yet, still get some good work,” Payton said. “We did some walkthrough inside and then came out, but overall I thought we got done what we wanted to accomplish. A couple of situations are important in regards to understanding where you’re at in the game.”

BREAUX REPORT: Payton did not delve into a report that the Saints were exploring trade options regarding cornerback Delvin Breaux. “We would never comment if we were, to begin with,” Payton said. “It rarely works that way. It’s very normal throughout training camp for teams to discuss different players and possible trades. We’ve seen a couple already. But I wouldn’t comment on that. That would be club business.”

Breaux has missed much of training camp with an injury. “I think it’s important to be out here but again, I wouldn’t want to get into specifics as to each one of these guys,” Payton said. “But availability is probably as important as everything else.”

UNGER UPDATE: Center Max Unger remains on the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform list while he continues rehab from foot surgery. But he wore pads Monday (the rest of the team, save a select few, was in shoulder pads, helmets and shorts) and did some individual drills. The team had forecast that he would be available for the third preseason game. “It’s on schedule,” Payton said. “What’d I say, the third preseason game? It’s on schedule.

“That is the goal right now. The question would be how we handle the third preseason or maybe the fourth preseason, but I’m pretty confident that he’s going to receive some preseason work in a game. He’s doing well and I do not know if he’s going to receive team reps this week. But he’s out there now in shoulder pads so now it’s just a question of just moving him into and catch up to where everyone else is.”