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New Orleans Saints defensive end Payton Turner knows expectations, prepared to meet them

'I feel great. I haven't felt this good playing football in a long time'


Don't dare accuse New Orleans Saints defensive end Payton Turner of lacking self-awareness or of ignoring the Tyrannosaurus rex in the room.

The third-year pro missed 12 games in his rookie season and nine game last year due to an assortment of injuries (ankle, chest, calf, elbow, shoulder). This year is a significant one for him, and opportunity has been presented.

With defensive end Marcus Davenport now playing for the Vikings, Turner has a chance to start at right end, or at least be a heavy rotation player with Carl Granderson and Tanoh Kpassagnon.

"It's no secret, big year for me," Turner said. "Big for us, but especially for me and my situation. The past two years haven't been what I expected them to be, and what the front office expected to be just with the injuries and stuff. So it's a big year for me.

"(It's been) a little frustrating. I feel like I get something going, I felt like I got on a good stretch coming off that shoulder injury I had in the offseason last year, finally got going a little bit and then midseason, got my ankle crushed in that Rams game. So it's tough, but it's part of the game. Just trying to do everything I can to stay healthy this year, and I think I've done that."

The most Turner has played is a four-game stretch in each of his first and second seasons. Last year's stretch was the better one – two sacks (both against the Raiders), four tackles for loss, three quarterback hits and 13 tackles. But the final game in the string was against the Rams, when he played just 13 snaps before the injury occurred.

That has led to the 6-foot-6, 270-pounder looking for the best ways to combat injuries.

"I think you've got to think about it," he said. "This offseason, I did a lot of prehab stuff to try to avoid anything. Some stuff is not in your control, but everything that is in your control, you've got to be able to put that in your back pocket and say you put yourself in the best position. So, I think I did that.

"I feel great. I haven't felt this good playing football in a long time. I'm coming in healthy, I feel great, I feel like I've put myself in position to be successful this year. So I'm excited."

Turner understands that only by being available can he have the type of season he wants to have for himself and the Saints.

"First thing is being on the field," he said. "That's something I've struggled with, but I think I've done a lot this offseason seeing specialists, seeing doctors, seeing body work people – whatever it may be.

"(Chiropractors), body doctors, whatever it may be just to put myself in the best position. So, first just being available and second just going out there and being productive."

Turner said he believes he can be a dominant NFL player.

"I feel I can be that person, I feel I can be that player," he said. "I feel like I have been that player in my career as a football player, and I just want to get back to it."

The only way to do that, is to get back on the field consistently.

"You can't just forget about the injuries," Turner said. "That's part of my career, that's part of my past. So taking that and being like, 'How can I make sure that my ankle is going to be good this year?' Even if it's not my fault, how can I strengthen, how can I work on my mobility? So just taking pieces from that and making it routine. I feel like I'm in a really good routine right now."

The New Orleans Saints took the field for workouts during 2023 Training Camp presented by Rouses Markets on Friday, July 28.

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