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John DeShazier: Saints safety Pierre Warren has knack for finding the football

Rookie came up with two interceptions vs. Bears

As the New Orleans Saints went through the paces during training camp in July and August at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., Pierre Warren made himself impossible to overlook.

The rookie safety appeared to have a magnet inside his hands, the football drawn to him as if the two were conspiring to guarantee Warren an NFL job. And the bond appears to be as strong as ever.

Warren's path from Saints training camp, to New Orleans' practice squad, to Minnesota's practice roster and, finally, the Saints' active roster took a circuitous route and a fairly extreme set of circumstances, concluding Nov. 18.

He was released by the Saints on Aug. 30, on the final cut, and signed to the practice squad Sept. 2. He was released from the practice squad Sept. 18 and signed to Minnesota's practice squad Oct. 7. But after season-ending injuries in New Orleans to safeties Jairus Byrd, Rafael Bush and Vinnie Sunseri, the Saints went back to Warren, who started against Baltimore six days after he was added.

And immediately, he showed that his knack for finding the football – and it seemingly finding him – hadn't diminished.

He forced and recovered a fumble near the goal line against Baltimore in his debut and in his fourth game, against Chicago on "Monday Night Football," he intercepted a pair of passes in New Orleans' 31-15 victory.

Warren said after the game that he was brought back to create turnovers, and that's exactly what he has done. In four games he's tied for the team lead in interceptions (two) and turnovers (three).

"He has real good hands," Coach Sean Payton said. "He's able to high-point balls. He did that the other night (in Chicago).

"Each year it seems to happen with a player or two in our league, a guy who maybe is on your own practice squad or someone else's. It happens more than you think. They end up playing; when you are really looking at a 53-man roster, you are not carrying that same depth you might see in a college game.

"So to his credit he has come in – having been here there is some advantage to knowing the system a little bit – but nonetheless, when you go somewhere else you really dive into another package. He's picked it up quickly. He made some big plays for us the other night."

Warren did much the same in college at Jacksonville (Ala.) State. In two years as a starter he returned two of his eight interceptions for touchdowns, had 29 passes defensed, forced a fumble and recovered five fumbles.

Sunday, he'll be part of a revamped Saints secondary. In the season opener, Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan completed 31 of 43 passes for a franchise-record 448 yards and three touchdowns, without an interception.

In the last three games, Ryan has completed 80 of 117 passes (68.4 percent) for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns, with three interceptions. And receiver Roddy White said the Falcons' passing game is rounding into form.

"I think right now guys are playing at such a high level," he said. "(Julio Jones) was playing great football until he got hurt, Harry (Douglas) has been playing outstanding and Dev (Hester) has been playing good the last three games. I just feel like all of our guys are playing at a very high level, and I love it.

"I love the way those guys are going out there and just making explosive plays. That helps win football games. We've been having red zone problems the whole year. We haven't figured it out yet. We've just got to be better down there.

"When we get down there we've got to score touchdowns instead of kicking field goals. I feel like the last couple of weeks we've put ourselves in bad situations, getting inside the 10, getting inside the 5 and basically kicking extra points. We've got to find a way to punch the ball in the end zone and we'll be better."

It'll be the job of Warren and the Saints defense to prevent that. And, again, he'll be looking to find the football, as if it's drawn to him and vice versa.

Second gallery of official team photos from the New Orleans Saints vs Chicago Bears game on Monday, December 15, 2014. Photos by Michael C. Hebert (New Orleans Saints photos)

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