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James Hurst's versatility, readiness again proves valuable for New Orleans Saints

'He's someone that I think guys have a lot of confidence in and he's earned that'

For James Hurst, the end game was to win the game against New England, and whatever was required to do that, he was willing to do.

"That's the most important thing every week," he said. "It's what we're all focused on, so just coming in and doing your part – whatever that is – each game. That's what the job is and I feel like I played well enough to get the job done, and so I'm excited about that."

Winning the game for the New Orleans Saints, 2-1 entering Sunday's game against the New York Giants (0-3) at the Caesars Superdome, became a lot more achievable because of Hurst. The offensive lineman entered the game as part of the Saints' "jumbo" lineup (as a tackle-eligible), but in the first half he was needed to replace injured left tackle Terron Armstead. With Armstead (elbow) unable to practice this week, Hurst projects as the starter at left tackle for the immediate future.

It wasn't the first time the eight-year veteran had been pressed into action mid-game as an injury replacement; he previously has filled in at guard and at tackle. That versatility is one of the reasons that New Orleans re-signed him last offseason as an unrestricted free agent.

"His experience is one thing but also, his ability and flexibility," Coach Sean Payton said. "He's one of those guys that has filled in and played guard for us, he's a guy that's played 'jumbo' for us. He's someone that I think guys have a lot of confidence in and he's earned that."

There wasn't a better example of Hurst's readiness than against the Patriots, and it's a preparation that he'll continue to maintain.

"You have to (be prepared)," Hurst said. "If you don't, you can find yourself in a pretty bad situation. You just have to stay in your rotation each week, who's going to be up for the game. Some people may be out or some people go down during the game, so just understanding what can happen on gameday, making sure you're prepared to go in at whatever spot that can be."

For Hurst, being prepared has meant being productive.

"It's a really cliché phrase, but the more you can do," he said, smiling. "I take a lot of pride in that. I've had a lot of opportunities in my career to play different spots.

"I know the coaches, they're looking for guys that they can trust, and that's what I want to be, that's the type of player I want to be. So making sure that my preparation each week – the film room, the gameplan, the weight room, the training room – all the parts of it have to be there in order to be ready to play on Sunday.

"I take a lot of pride in it and I look forward to the challenge of that. Maybe a lot of weeks you don't know where you might end up playing on Sunday. Just going in and doing the best you can."


The key for Hurst is being able to devote time to each position during practice, despite limited opportunities.

"You get as many (reps) as you can," he said. "We've only got so many reps every single day in practice, but understanding how many reps you have and how you divide those reps and where you feel like, if you don't feel as comfortable at a certain position, making sure you get those reps.

"Our coaches do a great job of understanding that as well and making everyone aware of the gameplan and the substitutions. Really, it comes down to you've got to put yourself in a spot, you've got to make sure you get those reps so that on Sunday, whatever spot you might end up in, you're going to be comfortable there."

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