Even Marshon Lattimore has to acknowledge that for him, it's been Clamp Camp.
The New Orleans Saints' seventh-year cornerback, a four-time Pro Bowler and NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2017, is at the height of his powers. Receivers coming down with a catch against Lattimore during training camp – and mainly, he has geared his work to line up against Michael Thomas and Chris Olave – has been no small feat, because he has treated his coverage areas in such a way as to be insulted if the ball finds a receiver's hands.
"It's been all right," Lattimore understated Tuesday evening. "I just try to be better every year, and I feel like this is one of my best camps as far as everything I've been doing. I can always be better, though, in my eyes. I'm just working right now."
Only his performance can surpass the modesty. Whether it be one-on-one, seven-on-seven or team drills, Lattimore has been a smothering presence. It fits with his desire to be the best in the league. He was a Pro Bowler for three straight years (2019-21) before an injury last year limited him to seven games.
"I'm close," he said. "I've got some work to do. It's not going to be easy, I want to put that on myself so I can work hard. I just want to be the best corner in the league, help my team win."
To that end, Lattimore especially has found his way across the line of scrimmage from Thomas.
The receiver is working his way back after a series of injuries limited him to 10 of the last 50 regular-season games; his last full season was 2019, when he was the record-setting NFL Offensive Player of the Year.
Lattimore, whose battles with Thomas go back to their days at Ohio State, looks forward to the challenge of helping Thomas regain his dominance.
"I've been checking Mike for like eight years," he said. "That's my brother and all that, but I just like the competition. He's going to make everybody better just from competing.
"I've got to get him every time. The best man is going to win. He's still getting there, getting back. I ain't really tripping on that, I want to see him during the season."
The season is where it will count most, for Thomas and Lattimore. Coach Dennis Allen said defensively, Lattimore carries much responsibility as a cornerback who can take away an opposing team's top receiver.
"I just know I've got to be conditioned," he said. "I've got to be the top conditioned corner in the league, because I'm just chasing around fast dudes out there. I know I can do it, it's just staying in shape and being the best I can be every time in step on the field."
EXITS: Right guard Cesar Ruiz left practice early with a shoulder injury. Allen said Ruiz "banged up" the injury in Sunday's preseason opener against Kansas City, but that he didn't expect the injury to be significant. Also, tight end Taysom Hill strained his oblique. That injury may require a couple of days rest.
KENDRE UPDATE: Rookie running back Kendre Miller, who injured his knee against the Chiefs, will accompany the team to the joint practices against the Chargers.
"It's good news," Allen said of the injury. "Now, how long will that be? I don't know exactly. But I don't expect him to be out for any (significant) length of time. He'll travel with the team. I think there's a chance that he might be available for the game (Sunday against the Chargers)."
NEW ADDITION: Running back Darrel Williams, a six-year veteran who played his first four seasons with Kansas City, had his first practice with the Saints on Tuesday. With Miller injured and possibly missing time, New Orleans' depth at the position had to be addressed.
"He's had some success in our league," Allen said of Williams, who has 1,014 rushing yards, and 11 touchdowns, and 771 receiving yards, with four touchdowns, in his career. "He had a really good workout the other day, he moved around really well. He's a big, physical runner and we felt like he'd be somebody that would be good to bring into the mix and see what he can do."
JOINT PRACTICE: The Saints will travel to California on Wednesday for joint practices against the Chargers on Thursday and Friday at the Jack Hammett Sports Complex in Costa Mesa.
"They've got some really good players, on both sides of the ball," Allen said. "They operate really well offensively, we'll get a chance to see what they look like for the new offensive coordinator, so that will be a little bit different for us. It should be some good work.
"It's been a good trip for us (in the past), it gives us an opportunity to kind of get out of the elements here, a little bit cooler weather. And get a chance to work against a really good football team."
Full coverage of the New Orleans Saints workouts during 2023 Training Camp presented by Rouses Markets on Tuesday, August 15.