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John DeShazier: Rookie Kenny Vaccaro quickly making an impact with New Orleans Saints

Posted Jul 30, 2013

Safety from Texas not afraid to be physical in practice

If Kenny Vaccaro had come to the New Orleans Saints equipped with a speedometer, it’d be broken.

The needle might’ve put up a fight but, eventually, the spring would’ve worn down and snapped due to the constant pressure of being stretched to the maximum level. And as a result there’d be no way truly to know exactly how fast the rookie safety from Texas was moving.

Just register his effort at “All Out, Every Play” level and leave it at that. That’s about as accurate a reading as there’s going to be for the first-round pick, who covers in motor what he might lack in anything else.

Five days into training camp, an obvious consensus has been reached: Vaccaro plays fast, hard and physical. Three practices in pads, and he leads the pack of defenders in thumping offensive players to the ground, even though (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) there hasn’t been any official tackling.

“I think within the framework of what the drill is, we talk about what the tempo is and he is someone that flies around,” Coach Sean Payton said. “I think he is someone who is very instinctive.

“We don’t necessarily want to throw our own players on the ground, that’s not the drill.  We will get that cleaned up, but he is an instinctive player and I know he is anxious to be in the pads.  One of the things you find with a young player, especially rookies, they know and they feel that sense of urgency to make an impression and so the key thing is making it the right way.”

Vaccaro absolutely is leaving an impression and, likely, a few bruises, too. He has greeted offensive teammates, and not always warmly, since the day camp opened.

Tuesday, it was running back Pierre Thomas who was on the receiving end of a love tap after Thomas bounced a run outside left. Later, he jostled with tight end Jimmy Graham for a pass, which led to a flare-up.

“We actually both had our hands on the ball and I was trying to rip it from him,” Vaccaro said. “At the end I kind of flicked it back and it hit Jimmy in the head and it almost turned into a brawl. But we’re both cool. We understand that we’re just competing and sometimes things get heated.”

The fact that he’s applying it doesn’t bother his defensive teammates one bit. The edginess with which he plays is a welcome addition to a unit that intends to play exactly that way this season.

“It’s good,” said veteran safety Roman Harper, a two-time Pro Bowler who also has been known to inject some physicality into a game. “It’s perfect. We’re not going to slow him down. Let him keep playing and we’ll correct him as we go. But right now he’s doing just fine.

“I’m loving the aggression. I love that. Because you can’t train that, so he’s got that naturally in him. The best thing you could do is turn him down just a little bit, but we’re not gonna do it. It’s too early for that.”

There’s no guarantee it’d work, anyway.

Vaccaro said he simply is wired to play one way. He said that his game film from Texas would offer supporting evidence.

“That’s just the way I am,” he said. “I have a physical nature. If anything, you have to slow me down before you speed me up. I approach every practice like that and I’m not going to stop until somebody says, ‘Hey, relax, take care of yourself.’

“I think every team needs a guy that’s going to be like that, a little craziness, a little edge to him. You’ve got to be smart. There’s a lot of guys that we’re going to need in the upcoming season. But it’s still early in the training camp and I want to establish my physical presence early on.”

Consider that mission accomplished. Vaccaro hasn’t yet seen a challenge from which he’ll back away, hasn’t yet found a scenario from which he’s unwilling to stick in his helmet or shoulder pad and create havoc.

“All the guys are, ‘We love it. Keep doing your thing, keep balling,’ ” he said. “Everybody’s watching. Everybody sees. Real recognizes real.”

It’s hard not to recognize Vaccaro when he’s on the field.

No name or number is necessary. Simply, he’s the guy running fast, harassing whomever is in his area wearing a white jersey. There seems to be only one speed he understands and acknowledges.

All out, every play.
Kenny Vaccaro

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