There was no doubt that quarterback Jameis Winston would be on the field, full go for the first New Orleans Saints training camp practice Wednesday. Still, Winston bubbled over at the enormity of it after missing the final 10 regular-season games last year due to a torn left ACL.
And given that Winston's countenance is perpetually bubbly, it was noticeable even for him.
"Blessed and grateful," he said. "Grateful to be back out here with this team, grateful for another opportunity to come out here and play some football.
"It's still going to be a progression, but I worked my tail off and I'm going to continue to do that."
Winston said he actually has been ready to go since minicamp, but that caution was exercised and he was prevented from participating in certain drills to limit injury exposure.
"I would say I got more explosive (since minicamp)," he said. "I was good, I was ready to go right then. But it's a progression. The healing process really never stops. I feel stronger right now, but with practice increasing, I know I've got to harp on a couple of things and continue to build."
Coach Dennis Allen said Winston looked good in his first practice.
"I thought overall he did a nice job, I thought our offense got in and out of the huddle, it was crisp," Allen said. "There weren't a lot of repeated plays or anything like that, so that's always a good thing."
Receiver Michael Thomas, who is returning after missing all of last season due to ankle surgery, said he's ready to work with Winston as each returns to form.
"Jameis, he's a competitor," Thomas said. "He's the ultimate competitor. He always shows up ready to work. It's like, you're not gonna outwork him. You're not going to deny him. He brings that energy and passion and you just feed off that. I'm excited to play with him and I'm excited to help him move the chains."
Winston closely will be monitored, but he balked at the suggestion that he'll be on a pitch count during training camp.
"No," he said, smiling. "I'm sorry, no. That's not going to be the case."
EXTRA PROTECTION: It was impossible to not notice that several Saints players were wearing extra padding attached to their helmets during team drills Wednesday. Defensive end Cameron Jordan likened to look to being human bobbleheads.
The padding serves as extra protection against concussions, and only is mandatory for several groups: Offensive and defensive linemen, tight ends and linebackers.
"It's league-mandated, we voted on it in the spring," Allen said. "It's really a precautionary measure."
The fashionable Jordan was a thumbs down on the cosmetics, but said he'd comply.
"A PRO": Rookie receiver Chris Olave has given the vibe of being ready for the task since he walked into the Saints' locker room. Count Winston among his fans.
"He's just smooth," Winston said. "I classify it as, he's already a pro. I don't want to do comparisons but I had Chris Godwin in Tampa, and Chris Godwin you could just see in his eyes when he came in that he already was a pro. And I see that in Chris. The moment isn't too big for him. He's just an excellent player. He's smooth, and he can run. We always like that."
FULL DUTY: Safety Marcus Maye, who tore his Achilles in November 2021, was on the field for a full practice for the first time as a Saint. He was a partial participant during OTAs and minicamp.
"I'm not surprised at all," Maye said. "I've been working real hard to get back to this point, it's just an everyday grind. It's been a long journey, a long process but the goal was always to get ready for the season. We're here now and I'm ready to go.
"I feel good. I've been working, doing football like movements throughout the whole offseason to get to this point. Working hard in the weight room and the training room to get my body back football ready."
The New Orleans Saints took the field for practice during 2022 Training Camp presented by Rouses Markets on Wednesday, July 27.