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Healthy Alvin Kamara prepared to show off his old, new self with New Orleans Saints

'I'm healthy now so I'm happy to be in this space'

Redskins Saints Football Alvin Kamara
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) celebrates his game-tying two-point conversion in the second half of an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017. The Saints won -34-31. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)

Alvin Kamara assures that he'll be ready to hit the ground running when the New Orleans Saints get ready to play.

He often couldn't say that with confidence last season.

Literally, sure, the former NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, 2017 All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowler could run. But it wasn't the Kamara-level running that Kamara has grown to expect to deliver, and that he was delivering until he said he injured his knee six weeks into the regular season, against the Jaguars.

"Jacksonville week, I tore my knee, basically," Kamara said. "That was something I was dealing with the whole season. Had to miss some time, which I don't like to do, came back (and) tried to play as best I could, tried to manage it throughout the week.

"Our training staff did the best they could. They were working with me behind the scenes every day, trying to get me as close to 100 percent or as close to A.K. – (to) feeling like myself. I tried to put my best product out on the field, and sometimes it was enough, sometimes it wasn't. I just didn't want to let my team down. At times, there were situations where in my head, I'm like, 'I shouldn't be out here.' But it's just that kind of urge in me to be like, 'I need to be here to help my team. What if I'm not in and there's something I could have done?' "

In the five games before Jacksonville, Kamara averaged 68.4 rushing yards (4.56 per carry) and 48.2 receiving yards (9.3 per catch) per game, and posted his only game with a touchdown rushing and receiving.

In his final nine (he missed two with injury), he averaged 50.6 rushing yards (4.7 per carry) and 32.6 receiving (5.3 per catch).

He totaled 797 rushing yards and 533 receiving, scored six touchdowns and went to the Pro Bowl, but after 805.5 rushing yards, 767.5 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns in his first two years, Kamara was a bit dejected that he couldn't do what he's capable of doing. And it showed.

"Just dealing with that, it was frustrating," he said. "Body language – not being able to move my leg how I want to. There's times where my body language was terrible and I did not know it. It's one thing for fans to say it, but it's another when my teammates (say it). My teammates, that's all I'm really concerned about. They knew what I was going through and at times, it's like, 'A.K., I know you're hurting, but come on.' So I'm like, 'All right, come on, I've got to snap back.'

"I'm healthy now so I'm happy to be in this space."

"This" space is the shifty Kamara. The powerful Kamara. The first-defender-doesn't-get-him-on-the-ground Kamara. Offseason work put him back in that sweet spot.

"Any type of lower extremity injury – whether it be knee, ankle, hip, anything – I think once you get out of playing mode and you get into recovery mode, it's kind of like, 'What can we focus on to strengthen whatever was injured and strengthen what's around it?' " he said.

"We really locked in and focused on trying to fortify my ankles, knees, hips – just create some more flexibility, mobility. Strengthen those ligaments in my knee and create some more stability. We did a good job of that, so I feel good. I'm excited about being able to get back to playing how I know I can play."

Getting back to where he was, and improving on it. Like he does every offseason, Kamara said he targeted specific areas to strengthen.

"Identification, with my eyes," he said. "I play pretty fast and sometimes I get ahead of myself, might miss some things that are pretty simple. My mind moving ahead of my body, with pass protections or just catching the ball – sometimes I take my eyes off the ball just because of that confidence that I can catch any ball that comes toward me.

"But you've still got to look at the ball. You've got to get down to the fundamentals. Just breaking a lot of things down to fundamentals and going back and revisiting things, and just fortifying them and making them stronger. Because there' a lot of things that we take for granted in this game.

"Something as small as catching the ball – there are so many components that go into catching the ball that you don't even really think about it until you break it down. And it's like, the art of catching the ball, there's really an art to it. Or pass protection, something as simple as blocking the linebacker. But there's so many aspects that go into a blitz that you might miss one thing, (it causes you to) miss a block."


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