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John DeShazier: Parys Haralson may be new to the Saints but he's no novice

Outside linebacker has started 68 games in his NFL career

Cap the trepidation before it oozes over.

Though Parys Haralson wasn't acquired in a trade until a week ago, after Will Smith was lost for the season with a torn ACL, and Haralson didn't play in a single preseason game for the New Orleans Saints, the outside linebacker who played his first seven seasons in San Francisco isn't exactly a novice.

He started 68 of the 86 games he played for the 49ers and was working for a spot in the rotation this year, after tearing his triceps and missing last season. So, deer-in-headlights rookie he is not.

"I played three preseason games over in San Francisco (this year)," Haralson said Monday as the team began its serious preparations for Sunday's opener against the Atlanta Falcons. "It's not like I've been sitting out the whole time and then just got off the couch and came here.

"They didn't come get me from the bar or somewhere. I was actually playing football and practicing. It's football. It's what I do. That's part of being a professional, getting in the playbook and understanding what to do and being able to go out and perform when you're called upon."

And the Saints, obviously, are counting on that professionalism.

In terms of experience at outside linebacker, Haralson's dwarfs that of his fellow Saints outside linebackers. Junior Galette and Martez Wilson played defensive end last year and are transitioning to outside linebackers in the NFL, though Wilson played inside and outside linebacker in college.

And Haralson's experience in the 3-4 defensive front also swallows the cumulative experience of his new teammates. While the Saints have spent the offseason and preseason installing defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's version of the 3-4, it's the only alignment Haralson played in San Francisco.


Thus, there's an expectation that he quickly will learn what is necessary in order to play soon, and effectively.

"I think as far as football goes, there's different terminology," he said. "I've been playing in the 3-4 since I came into the NFL and I think it's one of those things where, there are some things to work on right now. But it's just getting familiar with the terminology and understanding the way they do things."

After limited work with the Saints' defense, Coach Sean Payton said Haralson is on a fast learning curve.

"He's been real solid," Payton said Monday. "He's a quick study, he's picked up what we're doing. He's someone you can tell is a veteran, who has played real good football."

For San Francisco, Haralson had 295 tackles (170 solo), 21.5 sacks, four passes defensed, three forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and 24 special teams stops. His sack total is tied for second all-time for a 49ers linebacker.

The 6-foot, 255-pounder started all 16 games in 2011 and had 39 tackles (23 solo), two sacks and a career-high three forced fumbles, as the NFC West champion 49ers advanced to the conference championship game. In three preseason games this year he had seven tackles (six solo) and three sacks.

Even then, he said he wasn't shaken by being traded to New Orleans, and that he welcomes the challenge.

"I wasn't shocked because you can't be shocked by anything that happens," he said. "It was one of those things where, almost like you've been in a place so long that they get tired of looking at you and you get tired of looking at them.

"It's another chapter in my life, I'm excited to be here. It's a situation where you come into an organization that has a tradition of winning, the locker room is good, the organization is good. It's like a win-win situation.

"I'm just happy to be here. I'm back to playing football and doing what I enjoy doing."

And hoping to ease the concern that he didn't play a preseason game with the Saints.

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