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New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore going for the win, individually and as a team

'You've got to win. That's all that's on my mind'

The possibility of facing two of the most productive receivers in the NFL in the regular-season opener generates one thought from New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore.

"I just gotta win," he said. "By any means necessary, I've just got to win when it comes to that. Big-time receivers, I'm a big-time corner. For me, and everybody in the (defensive backs) room, we just know we've got to go out there and battle, no matter what.

"So you've got to win. That's all that's on my mind."

Lattimore's victories within the game would go a long way toward the Saints posting a victory over Tampa Bay on Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The four-year veteran – already a two-time Pro Bowler and the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2017 – has posted some of his best results against some of the league's elite receivers. In Chris Godwin (86 receptions, 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns last season in 14 games) and Mike Evans (67-1,157-8 in 13 games), the Buccaneers have two.

But Tampa Bay also added future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady (six Super Bowl victories in nine appearances, second all-time in passing yards and passing touchdowns in 20 seasons with the Patriots).

And tight end Rob Gronkowski, who sat out last season as a retiree but in his previous nine seasons, was a first-team All-Pro four times and a three-time Super Bowl champion as Brady's teammate in New England.

And running back Leonard Fournette, a New Orleans native and member of Lattimore's draft class who ran for a career-high 1,152 yards, and a career-high 4.3 yards per carry, last year for Jacksonville.

"We've got dogs over here, too," Lattimore said. "We're not really worried about that, we just know we've got to get our assignments down and just know what we've got out there. We've got to be smart players but at the same time, it's baller vs. baller."

Lattimore said Brady should add an element of surprise to the mix.

"It's Tom Brady, so he's going to have what he likes," he said. "He's going to have stuff in there that we haven't seen from Tampa Bay, and we know that. Everybody knows that. It's Tom Brady, he's going to go to what he likes.

"Plus, he's going to have an offensive coordinator that meshes well. We've just got to be prepared, we've got to be ready for anything. With him coming from another team, we just don't know. We've got to go out there and play and when we see it, we've got to play it well."

One of Lattimore's challenges will be to play it well even if Evans isn't on the field.

Evans, with whom Lattimore has had some monumental battles, didn't practice Wednesday with a hamstring injury. His playing status for Sunday currently is unknown.

In the past, the absence of a player like Evans has led to Lattimore having a mental letdown, and that's an area on which he has worked to improve.

"It really doesn't change, it just goes from you're not guarding him, you're guarding (another player). You've got to go in there with the same mentality. That's what I'm trying to really work on.

"I go against a hard receiver like (Atlanta's) Julio (Jones), I go against (Evans), and then I have to go against a receiver that's not as good and I lose focus. I'm trying to stay focused in. Whatever happens, happens. I can't control it, I've just got to go out there and show everybody what I can do."

He said losing focus totally was mental.

"You're out there and it's like, 'They're not going to throw it out here.' And you lose focus. But that's not a good mentality to have. That's what I've had in the past, but no more. I've got to go in and lock in every play, no matter who I'm playing.

"That was really just my downfall. It wasn't the lack of talent or anything like that, it was just the focus on the receiver. Because I go against No. 1s all day and then when I get an easier receiver, I feel like it's going to be a cakewalk. And I've just got to go out there and show them that it's a cakewalk instead of thinking it in my head. I've got to go out there and play like I'm playing against Julio."

LATTI-LESS: Lattimore said one of the areas in which he has worked to improve over the years is his physique. "I slimmed down, really tried to get more lean than bulk," he said. "Just being at corner, every play I'm running, chasing a receiver. So I just tried to get slimmer and be fast – be as fast and as quick as I can, because going against those receivers, they're getting better every year. Quickness, speed and everything, so I've just got to match them. So I just slimmed down. Of course, I added stuff to my game that I'm not going to say. You've got to look at that on film. But I've added some stuff, trying to get better each year, try to figure out what's my weaknesses and try to correct them."

RAMSEY'S BAG: Lattimore, of course, was aware of the contract extension that was signed Wednesday morning by Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey, as well as the one that was signed days earlier by Buffalo's Tre'Davious White. "I knew that was coming," Lattimore said of Ramsey's deal. "I'm proud of him. I'm not going to talk about me or how I look at the situation. I'm just proud that him, Tre White, all the corners are getting paid. I know them, so I'm happy for them. I still have a whole season to play. My play is going to speak for itself, so I'm not going to get too much into the numbers and all that. I'm happy for those guys."

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