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John DeShazier; Keenan Lewis looks close to his old self

Lewis missed Saturday's preseason game


Anyone who saw Keenan Lewis' left knee after the San Francisco game last season, when it appeared to be swollen to the size of a cabbage ball, and saw him play significant snaps after injuring his knee and start the next week, knew that whatever injury had him sidelined this preseason, it wouldn't have him there for long.

As distorted as was Lewis' knee last year, and as diligent as it forced him to rehab, he started against Cincinnati and was the only member of the New Orleans Saints' secondary to start every game in 2014.

So unless hospitalized and bound by handcuffs, there wasn't much doubt that "West Bank" would be back on the field before training camp concluded. Sunday, he rejoined his teammates for practice at the Saints' training facility and Tuesday, he looked to be close to his old self.

"I'm getting there," he said. "It's training camp, injuries happen all the time but I feel like I'm getting better every day."

Lewis' injury remains undisclosed, but disclosure wouldn't have mattered because if the Saints had been in their regular season, he'd have played with it.

!"I definitely (could have played if it was regular season)," Lewis said. "It's Coach's call – whatever they think is best for me and the team, I'll be ready."

Lewis' readiness as a Saints can't be questioned. As the team's top cornerback, he has started all 34 games (32 regular season, two playoffs) since being signed by his hometown team as an unrestricted free agent from Pittsburgh in 2013. He started all 16 games for the Steelers in '12 and played in all 16 in '11.

In two seasons as a Saint, Lewis has a team-leading six interceptions and 22 passes defensed, and quickly he established himself as the Saints' best cover corner. The addition of free agent Brandon Browner, Lewis' college teammate at Oregon State, provided a complimentary cornerback.

But with Browner out with an injury he sustained against the Ravens in the preseason opener, safety Jairus Byrd having sat out all of training camp so far, safety Kenny Vaccaro being inactive several days because of injury, cornerback Delvin Breaux missing time and Lewis being sidelined, it has given other defensive backs opportunities to make an impression.

"Our top five (defensive backs) has been playing in the league for a long time, so they know how to adjust, they know how to prepare, they know how to get ready for big games," Lewis said. "It's a rare opportunity for some of the young guys to get that experience.

"Last year, a couple of guys went down and they were new to the system and (the young players) really didn't know how to adjust on this level. So to see them going against quality quarterbacks like (New England's Tom) Brady (in the second preseason game) and those guys definitely helped them.

"They did a wonderful job. Guys went in, competed, made plays, contested every throw like Coach tells us to do every day. I don't feel like they got beat, they didn't drop off."

Lewis has returned to help them continue the ascension, just like most expected that he would. All it takes is a look to the past to know that it wasn't going to take him long.

Photos of Keenan Lewis from the 2014 season. Photos by Michael C. Hebert. (New Orleans Saints photos)

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