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John DeShazier: Less could be more for Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro this season

Vaccaro: 'I know when I can take gambles and I know when I need to be disciplined'

There's so much more to see from New Orleans Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro, a multifaceted weapon as a rookie whom defensive coordinator Rob Ryan moved around like a chess piece last year, giving him a workload and responsibilities that possibly would mentally and physically exhaust players eight years his senior.

This year, the Saints figure that the best way to get more out of Vaccaro will be to ask less of him.

Not because he suffered a broken ankle in Week 16 last season, which kept him out of the regular-season finale and both playoff games. He's fully recovered from that, able to participate in Offseason Training Activities with no restrictions.

Rather, because fewer responsibilities will mean that the intense Vaccaro can tunnel his focus more, and sharpen his instincts.

"I just feel real comfortable," Vaccaro said Thursday. "I learned the defense extensively last year, played a number of positions. Rob Ryan is toning me down a little bit – I don't have to play five or six (positions), maybe three or four now. I can get guys lined up, I can make every check, I can do things to try and trick Drew (Brees, in practice), but it never really works. But I try it.

"When guys understand the defense as a whole, you can work with each other, you can play faster and I can just count on them being back there. I know when I can take gambles and I know when I need to be disciplined."

Which may not necessarily be good news for Saints opponents.

Vaccaro, an All-Rookie team member after totaling 79 tackles, an interception, a sack and eight passes defensed, has eyes on bigger individual accolades and team accomplishments.

He said that fellow safety Jairus Byrd, a free agent signee from Buffalo who's a three-time All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowler, said that Vaccaro has elite ability and can be a better safety than Byrd.

Already, he's one of the biggest hitters in the league, who announced his arrival with the Saints by pretty much hitting every offensive player who ventured into his vicinity during training camp, whether or not it was a contact drill, whether or not pads were being worn.

Of the two regular-season games Vaccaro missed last season, the first was because of a concussion he suffered on a big hit.

"The way I play, a lot of guys are like that," Vaccaro said. "I'm reckless, I like to bring the physical aspect to the game. But I know now, the way the league is going, you're going to get fined. And turnovers are way more important.

"So for me, if there comes a point where I can hit a guy or get a pick, I'm going to go for the pick. But I'm not ever going to slow down just because I knocked myself out."

And now, he'll be faster partly because he'll have fewer responsibilities, partly because he's a year older in the defensive system.

His less could be more for New Orleans.

"Your rookie year is your longest year," he said. "You go straight from college ball to the (NFL) Combine, so it's been a relief.

"The rookie stuff, you don't have to do any more. I feel like I'm one of the guys now and you feel a lot more comfortable and it makes you play better."

Photos of the New Orleans Saints OTA on June 5, 2014. Photos by Matthew Sharpe (New Orleans Saints photos)

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