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Alvin Kamara the New Orleans Saints veteran voice at running back 

'He's exceptionally smart'

If there are any of Alvin Kamara's beloved Airheads left in his locker from last season – footnote: the company has sent him new, not-yet-on-the-market, secret flavors to test – the candy possibly has spent as much or more time in the New Orleans Saints' locker room as his current running back teammates.

Mike Gillislee just joined the team Sunday, and Jonathan Williams, who's on the practice squad, didn't become a Saint until November 2017. So Kamara, the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, with all of 16 regular-season games (with three starts) and two playoff games (one start) under his belt, is the elder statesman of service with the Saints heading into Sunday's season opener vs. Tampa in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Good thing the 23-year-old has the mind and temperament to match his talent.

"A lot of these guys coming in, they don't really know too much (about the Saints' offense)," he said. "Whatever I know, whatever I feel like I struggled with when I first came in, I just tell them ahead of time.

"Any questions they have, I answer or I try to just stay ahead and tell them. Like, if I see a play coming up that one of these guys are on, I just tell them and, like, give them a little hint so they know before, so they don't have to hear anything from coach or anybody else."

His teammates could do much worse in a teacher than Kamara, who ordinarily would share such a responsibility with Mark Ingram, but Ingram is suspended the first four regular-season games.

As much as for the historic numbers he put up during an All-Pro, Pro Bowl season, Kamara was lauded for his football I.Q. That intelligence partially was attributable to his breathtaking season: 728 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on 120 carries, 826 receiving yards and five touchdowns on 81 catches, and 11 kickoff returns for 347 yards and a touchdown.

He became the first rookie since Hall of Famer Gale Sayers in 1965 to have five rushing touchdowns, five receiving touchdowns and a kickoff return touchdown in his first season.

"He's exceptionally smart," Coach Sean Payton said. "It's one of the things that I think makes him a special player. He's obviously very talented but he can learn a lot of different things."

"He's truly versatile, can do a lot of things," quarterback Drew Brees said. "You guys watched his maturation process as the year went on last year, once we were able to open up the offense and him and Mark started rolling.

"Obviously, I'm sure he's going to be a big point of emphasis for everybody that we play. But getting him opportunities and allowing him the chance to make some plays is important."

That's the primary job, making plays and helping make the Saints' offense become more effective.

The secondary one, as a teacher, is becoming important, too. Because in the running backs room, Kamara is the man who possesses the intricate knowledge and wisdom.

Dispensing it, he hopes, will be done as easily as sharing Airheads.


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