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Training Camp

New Orleans Saints rookie receiver Tre'Quan Smith is catching on fast

'Am I impressed with myself? No, because I know what I can do'

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It was indistinguishable as to who was the rookie after the leaping, contorting sideline catch that saw the receiver land on his back after plucking the football away from the defensive back, on a throw that the quarterback made sure that the receiver – and only the receiver – had a chance to catch.

Thirty-nine-year-old Drew Brees almost immediately broke into a celebratory sprint, a beeline that ended where 22-year-old rookie Tre'Quan Smith was on the ground, clutching the ball even though New Orleans Saints defenders correctly had ruled that Smith landed out of bounds, making it an incompletion.

"(Brees) was like – because the defense was yelling, 'Out of bounds! Out of bounds!' – he was like, 'Man, it don't matter. Way to go up and get the ball, big man,' " Smith said.

"I was like, 'Thank you, man.' Coming from Drew Brees, my quarterback, that's a big (compliment) on my part. My quarterback running up to me, he's hyped, I'm hyped – that feels great."

So far in training camp, Smith, the Saints' third-round draft pick, has been hype you can believe in.

Whether in jerseys and shorts or full pads, the rookie from Central Florida has made the spectacular seem routine. He has gotten behind the defense, split seams and operated in traffic, and the results have been consistent: Catches.

"It's a process," Saints Coach Sean Payton said. "He's healthy now, he's moving around well, and this is where you begin to see the growth. With young receivers, sometimes it comes early, (and) sometimes it takes a while. Mentally, he's picked things up pretty quick and this will be an important camp for him."

Already, Smith has looked like he can be an important addition for the Saints' offense. And for all the oohs and aahs he has generated, Smith, who caught 54 passes for 1,082 yards and 13 touchdowns in his final college season, remains unimpressed with his theatrics.

"Actually, I'm just out here trying to impress everybody else," the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder said. "Doing the things that people have seen so far, it's kind of normal for me but other people haven't seen it yet. Am I impressed with myself? No, because I know what I can do.

"I know how I am. I'm a competitor, so I expect myself to come out here and compete and no matter who is in front of me, the ball is in the air, it's my ball as a receiver."

Likely, that's the mind-set that lured Brees to make the sideline throw. That, and the trust developed through several training camp catches and a week of offseason workouts in San Diego with Brees and fellow receiver Michael Thomas.

"That definitely helped," Smith said. "They gave me a lot of pointers, what to expect. It helped, before I came out here, to get the timing down with Drew and what routes he wanted to see me running. It really helps.

"Basically, you're getting away from the coaches and it's really one-on-one time with you and your quarterback, and it helps you all get on the same page even off the field. He was just telling me what to expect and how to become a great player, on this team and not just on this team, but in life."

Smith estimated he has learned about 75 percent of the playbook. It's enough that he has been able to take reps with the No. 1 offense.

"It's a good opportunity because basically, when it comes game day, that's where you want to be playing," he said. "You want to go with the (No.) 1 quarterback, and I'm grateful that C.J. (receivers coach Curtis Johnson) is throwing me in there with the 1s, so I get the feel and I get comfortable going with Drew. But I've also got to be prepared if I don't play or whatever, going with the 2 or 3 quarterback. Either way, I'm just trying to get reps with whoever it may be. But I would like for it to be Drew."

He has been, and it hasn't appeared to be too much, too soon for Smith. In fact, it has been about what he anticipated it would be.

"I'm not afraid of expectations," he said. "I know I'm a competitor and just being a competitor, you want things to be hard. You don't want nothing to come easy. You want things to be hard as a competitor because you know when you're competing, that's when you're at your best."

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