White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. – If you see Marques Colston standing idle on the sideline during training camp, or not participating in quite as many drills at The Greenbrier resort as he has in the past, it's significant to note that it's not because he can't do the work.
After eight NFL seasons, 607 receptions, 8,337 receiving yards and 63 receiving touchdowns – the latter three, all New Orleans Saints records – he has more than earned a lighter camp load.
But it's always better when the respite comes via choice (Coach Sean Payton wants to make sure Colston is fresh and healthy for the regular season) rather than injury. And last year, as Colston recovered from a foot injury, he barely participated in any drills and didn't suit up to play until the final preseason game.
"It's a totally different experience for me, being able to really rest and come into this season feeling healthy," he said. "It's a totally different ballgame."
"There's been a pretty good balance of where I'm able to come out and work every day without getting too sore and irritated. We'll continue at this pace for as long as (Payton) feels necessary."
Said Payton: "We've paid attention to how much he's going. We've got some younger receivers that are getting a lot of reps. I think with guys like Marques and (cornerback) Champ (Bailey) – there's a handful of veteran players that you've just got to really pay attention to, what they're doing daily and making sure it's not too much and still making sure it's enough to where they're not rusty.
"He's doing well. His weight is down for this training camp and I think that helps him."
And whatever helps Colston, helps the Saints.
He consistently has produced – six 1,000-yard seasons, six seasons of at least seven touchdown catches, only one season with fewer than 70 receptions.
The one-time seventh-round draft pick (No. 252 overall) in 2006, who almost didn't play well enough during the offseason to warrant a trip to training camp that year, also is the team's all-time leading postseason receiver (58 catches for 788 yards and four touchdowns).
"It doesn't feel like year nine for me," Colston said. "I look around the room and I'm the oldest guy by far. I don't have Lance (Moore) anymore, don't have Devery (Henderson) anymore. I've still got Meach (Robert Meachem). It's just a different situation.
"One of the reasons you can play long in this league is, you figure out what works. I'm definitely not the same 22-year-old guy who came in here in '06. My game has definitely changed and little subtleties that have changed but you've just got to continue to get it done."
And Colston believes he still has what it takes to get it done. Last season's 943 receiving yards ended his streak of consecutive 1,000-yard seasons at four.
"There's an end for everyone in sight," he said. "I'm enjoying my days and my practices here, just trying to get better. When it's time to hang them up I'm pretty sure I'll know and everyone else will know, but it's surely not that time yet. So I'm continuing to grind."
Part of the motivation for that stems from the fact that the Saints were eliminated during the divisional round of the playoffs against Seattle. That, more than numbers, is what has stayed with Colston.
"Really, (I) just came out of the season knowing that I had to get healthy coming into this season," he said. "Numbers really don't make a difference to me.
"We didn't end up where we wanted to, ultimately, and that's really what I took out of the season more than anything else."
To get there this season, an older, wiser Colston is taking on more of a teaching role with his younger receiving colleagues. That has taken a little getting used to for Colston – he's not nicknamed "The Quiet Storm" for nothing. Since joining the Saints he has been one of the quieter, though most thoughtful, members of the team.
"They ask a ton of questions and I'm glad to answer them," he said.
"I think guys can lead different ways," Payton said. "We don't want their personalities to change. He's someone that's always been fairly quiet. He does a lot of his talking on the field. He's very productive."