<span>Saints defensive tackle Lynell Hamilton/Rod Coleman.aspx">Rod Coleman needed a break.
Following a tough 2007 season with the Atlanta Falcons, Coleman said the break he needed had as much to do with mental fatigue as it did with his body. "That season was simply crazy," he said of 2007 with the Falcons. "The situation with Michael Vick, the coaching change, and the constant battles just wore me out."
Coleman, a 32-year old former Pro Bowler, took refuge in his various businesses, ranging from a day care center to a construction company. "I was happy doing those things and they kept me very busy," he said. "But my body and mind finally healed up and I felt refreshed. Then, when November came, I was watching the action in the NFL and knew I had to come back. That I had unfinished business."
The native of Philadelphia said he had fielded calls from various teams last season and into the 2009 offseason, but knew he needed a bit of extra time before he decided where he wanted to play this season. Then, when the Saints named Bill Johnson as their defensive line coach, the decision became a lot easier for the product of East Carolina to make.
"Coach Johnson was my position coach in Atlanta and I think the world of him," Coleman said today after his morning workout during the team's strength and conditioning program. "He got the best out of me in Atlanta and I just love the way he coaches."
Coleman said that the respect he has for Johnson stems from fact that Johnson worked diligently with Coleman and his former teammates to bring out the best in him and taught him techniques that consistently made him a better player. "He's a great motivator and believes whole-heartedly in the overall team concept. He makes everyone better and he fires you up all the time to go out there and compete beyond what you think you can do. He puts things on you and constantly challenges you. There are no plays off around him."
Plays off are hardly anything that anyone has ever accused Coleman of taking, as he forged the reputation as one of the quickest and most penetrating defensive tackles in the NFL during his initial go around in the league. That concept, he said, was instilled in him early in his career and carries forth to this day. "I judge myself and my play against the numbers defensive ends put up, not defensive tackles," Coleman stated. "It inspires me to make plays, get to the quarterback and make tackles. Defensive tackles numbers are naturally lower in almost all the cases because of the constant double team blocks and fullbacks that stay in to protect, so you're always battling more than one guy. But, I set the bar higher because I know I can do it."
Inspiration, he says, he drew from watching Pro Bowl linebacker Lawrence Taylor when Coleman was a youngster. "He was a beast and he was relentless," Coleman said of L.T. "My two favorite players growing up were (former Minnesota Viking DT) John Randle and Taylor, because they never gave up on a play and just hustled non-stop. They were the guys that I admired because they never gave up on a play."
Coleman said he is a bit surprised how quickly he has fit into the Saints' locker room after just four days in the system, but credits it to the camaraderie he instantly felt after just his first day. "It's pretty amazing," he said. "The talk around the league was that the Saints locker room is a good one and that guys enjoy playing here," he said. "Then I got here and felt it right away. There is an atmosphere of enjoying being around each other and pushing each other. That's not the case everywhere."
With 293 career tackles and 58.5 sacks as a professional, Coleman thinks he will fit in nicely not only into the locker room, but also on the field, where he plans on joining forces with the likes of Will Smith, Charles Grant, Sedrick Ellis, Bobby McCray, Garrett Hartley/Paul Spicer.aspx">Paul Spicer and Will Smith/Kendrick Clancy.aspx">Kendrick Clancy, among others, to form a fearsome front. "We all need each other," he said. "A team these days needs those seven or eight guys to spell each other and keep each other fresh, not just in the games, but all season long. The fresher everyone is, the easier it is to makes plays down the stretch of a game and the season, and we all know how important that is."
The former Raider and Falcon said he was aware that the Saints had some games slip away late last season and senses that the new defensive regime is intent on not letting that occur again in 2009. "We haven't spent too much time on the playbook, yet," he said. "But I do know that this defense will be aggressive, attacking and bring a lot of different looks. When you talk to people that have played for (defensive coordinator Gregg) Williams, they all say he puts the players in positions that they will succeed in. He finds out what you do best and he designs things off of that. He isn't a guy that tries to put square pegs in round holes, so to speak."
Coleman mentioned that he is looking forward to standing on the home sideline for Saints games in the Superdome this season, and even evoked a memory of the Saints' moving homecoming game against the Falcons in 2006, a 23-3 victory that holds a special place in Saints' fans hearts.
"All week long we talked about how the crowd was going to be," Coleman recalled. "Our intention was to try to quiet the crowd and stem the tide a bit. The fourth play of the game was the blocked punt for a touchdown and it was the loudest noise I have ever heard in my life. I remember thinking, 'I guess the plan to take the crowd out of the game didn't work so well.' Things snowballed from there and it was like we were behind the eight-ball the whole night."
"But it's a new start for me and New Orleans has always been a place I have loved to visit and play, so this is really exciting for me," Coleman said. "I'm just glad these fans will be cheering for us, instead of what I had to deal with while on the other sideline."