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Cadre of leaders set the tone for New Orleans Saints

'Leadership is a lifestyle'


For 15 years the predominant face of the New Orleans Saints was steely-eyed and laser focused, so routine oriented that it bordered on obsession and so optimistic that it warmly was labeled "annoying."

Now, entering the 2021 training camp presented by SeatGeek, one of the faces of the Saints wears locs and a grill, inhaled Airheads at such a rate that the candy created a flavor for him, and wore red and green cleats on Christmas Day that earned him a fine after a record-tying performance.

Another face is a spirit-filled family man who gives goosebump-inducing pregame speeches while wearing a "Man of God" headband, then crushes opponents on the field with a ferocity that is downright frightening, then stands against social injustices off it.

Still another is a rapper whose words fill the locker room on weekdays and the Caesars Superdome on gamedays, who often handles defensive ends as a bouncer would a tipsy patron, and aims to build schools when his playing career ends.

And another has made no secret that he wants his career to begin and end in New Orleans, has rooted his family in the city, and has been a towering presence for his community work while crafting one of the best careers as a defensive player in franchise history.

From quarterback Drew Brees then to running back Alvin Kamara, linebacker Demario Davis, left tackle Terron Armstead, defensive end Cameron Jordan and others now, New Orleans hasn't lacked in faces that defined the franchise.

So there's little concern that the Saints won't have the caliber of leadership that has led to the team winning four consecutive NFC South Division titles.

"Leadership is a lifestyle," Davis said Thursday, following the Saints' first training camp practice. "It's not something you turn on in the locker room, it's not something that you turn on on game day. There's so much that goes into that, and most of it is just about being an example.

"Any year you come in, it's on those leaders to step out in front to exemplify and be an example of what our culture is. There's a reason why we've had so much success over the past three, four years; it has to do with the culture.

"That's the leaders on this team, and that's not one or two guys. It's a group of them, and that's how you have that consistency and that continuity and that chemistry that continues to show itself every year on gameday. I think the guys in the locker room that have been doing it will continue to do it, and that's what makes it so fun and so easy here."

Like the faces, the styles vary, but the objective is the same.

"With me, my leadership, I'm not as much of a vocal leader as Drew was," Kamara said. "I think I lead by example. I don't know how to explain it; I think everybody understands my leadership style.

"Obviously, (Brees) is not here no more, and guys are looking to be led by somebody. Me, coming in, I would be misleading everybody to trick myself into believing that I need to be Drew to lead this team. I think my biggest thing is just focusing on being me and how I lead and doing that every day and being an example for the new guys, the younger guys, even some of the older guys that are looking for the next leader.

"I don't think it's hard. It's just guys are looking for guys that are doing the right things and guys that know what's going on, and I feel like I know what's going on. I've been here awhile. That's all it is, being me and bringing the energy I have every day and doing the right thing."

That's the focus for Armstead, the second-most tenured Saint on the roster. He's entering his ninth season with the franchise, two behind Jordan.

"I try to help anywhere and any way I can, with any player that seeks or something that I see," he said. "I'm more vocal. I'm doing my job being a captain, being a leader. We've got great leaders on this team on both sides of the ball, so I don't think anybody needs to just try to overtake '9'. There's no replacing Drew. So we just fill in our role and do it to the best of our abilities."

The New Orleans Saints take the field for Day 1 of Training Camp presented by SeatGeek at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center.

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