White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. – Where Joe Morgan is, isn't quite where he was, or likely needs to be as an impact receiver for the New Orleans Saints.
He's not yet back to being the two-years-ago Morgan, who only caught 10 passes but absolutely made the most of them, totaling 379 yards and three touchdowns. After tearing his meniscus and partially tearing his ACL last year during the Saints' training camp scrimmage, he hasn't yet reached the level he'd attained in 2012, when the undrafted speedster shocked unsuspecting defenses with his blow-by wheels.
"I wouldn't call myself 100 right now," Morgan said. "Right now it's still doing my thing and trying to get there. I'm close. I would say I'm like 85 or 90 right now.
"The thing that I'm doing is trying to transition from doing a lot of the rehab and stuff on my own to more on-field stuff so I can get a legitimate look and see how my knee reacts to that stuff.
"During OTAs and minicamp, I felt fine. I was running and stuff like that, running routes and everything. It was more of taking baby steps and trying to ease back into it. One day I could be feeling 100 percent and the next day I could be feeling like 75."
Now, whatever percentage he chooses to designate it, it's clear that he feels good enough to give it a go and coaches feel good enough to let him. Because after not working in team drills during minicamp, he hasn't yet missed a practice at training camp.
"The progress from when we finished in the spring has been significant," Coach Sean Payton said on the first day of training camp. "When we broke after the minicamp and we went through the injury report and we talked about (Jairus) Byrd and (John) Jenkins and Morgan, there are a handful of guys that you're anxious to see their progress in the next five weeks prior to the start of camp.
"Fortunately, all of those guys have done well. There haven't been any setbacks. Joe, I would say, particularly really has recovered well. The knee injury he had was significant. It was much more than just an ACL. So to see him out here, to see him with the conditioning test and do all those things, it takes a full year with the injury he had, and then some."
A year ago from Sunday – Aug. 3 – is when Morgan suffered his injury, and he went from being a receiver that the team was hoping it could count on, to a player who had to be replaced.
This year the competition for a spot at receiver could be even tougher for Morgan, especially given that he hasn't caught a pass in an NFL game since Dec. 16, 2012. But so far in training camp he has shown the ability again to be able to beat defenders deep, though his sync with his quarterbacks needs fine tuning – quarterback Drew Brees overthrew him on a deep route.
Also, Morgan has shown a bit of durability, taking on more snaps with the first team offense Sunday when fellow receiver Robert Meachem sat out practice because Meachem's back locked.
"Some days you have good days, and (Sunday) was one of those days," Morgan said. "I just came out and felt good. I've been limited the (first) two days. They actually came out and gave me more reps (Sunday) because Meach was actually down a little bit.
"They needed another guy, I stepped up and did the routes and it worked out because I actually felt good. I should've gotten to that ball, but it was the first one. I'm glad they threw me in for a deep route."
Likely, they'll keep coming, as will other assignments. Morgan has had a chance to sit and learn many intricacies of the position.
"That's one of the greatest things because when I first started doing my on-field stuff during OTAs and minicamp, when I started running routes on air, it humbles you," he said. "I'm a speed guy and I can't get up to the speed that I'm used to going.
"I just took that and am working on little stuff like the top of my route, pumping my arms, and keeping my feet moving, just trying to transition better. This is, I guess, a blessing in disguise."
Photos from the fifth practice of 2014 New Orleans Saints Training Camp presented by Verizon at The Greenbrier on Tuesday, July 29, 2014. Photos taken by Richard Crank (New Orleans Saints photos)