Preseason for some is the beginning of the dream for others.
So when New Orleans Saints linebacker Demario Davis, entering his 10th NFL season, huddled his teammates for his pregame speech before Saturday’s preseason opener against Baltimore, rookie quarterback Ian Book said he was juiced because it was the opener for his career.
"I was fired up," said Book, who played the entire second half of the 17-14 loss to the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Book completed nine of 16 passes for 126 yards and an interception.
"The quarterbacks were telling me to relax because I wasn't going to go in until the second half, so they didn't want me to waste all my energy," he said. "But I was fired up, just ready to go.
"It's everything I've wanted to do since I was a kid, have that opportunity. So going out there, I had a second where I was like, 'I'm here, this is my opportunity, this is what I've wanted.' And that was his pregame speech. He said the same thing, that's what it reminded me of. I've been playing this game for a long time to get to this level, and that was my first time playing in an NFL game so I was really, really excited about it."
Coach Sean Payton said Book did some good things in his performance.
"There's a lot to coach off of in that tape," Payton said. "There's a couple of plays where he's holding on to the ball a little too long. It's going to be a little faster than what he's used to. (It's) just seeing him adjust to the speed of the game and then getting through some of his progressions but ultimately, leading the offense.
"Overall, there was a lot of stuff for us to coach off of, no different than out here at practice. It's every day for him, but he's handling it well. He's got a little poise to him, which I like."
Book said he enjoyed the experience, the largest regret being the interception. With 1:49 left and the Saints trailing 17-14 with possession of the ball and facing second-and-10 from the Ravens' 35, his pass intended for Kawaan Baker down the left sideline was intercepted by Baltimore's Shaun Wade.
"Obviously, I had the opportunity to win the ballgame for the team, (which) is what I wanted to do," Book said. "It didn't end up going that way but you live and you learn. Just from watching the film with all the quarterbacks and coaches I've learned so much already, great film to go back and just dissect it and learn and get better from that. But I thought it was a good start and can get a lot better."
One of the main things he learned?
"Probably the last play, situational awareness. Wanted to win the game, give my guy a shot, got to throw a better ball," he said.
FILLING THE ROLE: Rookie cornerback Paulson Adebo didn't play much special teams in college at Stanford, but he looks comfortable doing so for the Saints. Payton has noted several times how good Adebo's work was on special teams against the Ravens. He had one tackle, but that didn't encompass his total impact.
"He's got good speed," Payton said of Adebo, who also totaled three tackles on defense. "He's got good quicks. He's done a good job playing the gunner, he's done a good job at jammer.
"So it starts with a physical skillset and then, enough savvy to understand what the job is specific to that down in the kicking game. He's one of those guys that has stood out in that area."
WE'RE TALKIN' BOUT PRACTICE: But in a good way, because receiver Tre'Quan Smith returned for limited work, and linebacker Kwon Alexander participated in some defensive lineups.
Smith hadn't practiced since Aug. 3 and Payton said he hopes to see him in Monday's preseason game against Jacksonville in the Caesars Superdome.
"I would want to get him into a preseason game, and hopefully this week we're able to do that," Payton said.
Alexander ruptured his Achilles in the Christmas Day game last season, but was re-signed on Aug. 3 and has said that he's ready for game action.
"To be out here and getting work relative to the date of his injury – I said it when we signed him, obviously he's ahead of schedule, we just have to be smart and patient," Payton said.
ODDS AND ENDS: The notable transactions for the Saints are that defensive back KeiVarae Russell tested positive for COVID-19 and was placed on the Covid list (he doesn't count against the roster), and that the team Tuesday didn't have a kicker after designating Brett Maher waived/injured.
Regarding a kicker, Payton said, "We could go for two and go for it every time on fourth down. Our plan will be to have somebody, but we'll just see where that's at."