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Nick Saldiveri hopes to seize opportunity to start at left guard for New Orleans Saints

'There's some things that we're asked to do that I feel I'm very apt to do, and I feel like I've gotten better every day'

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The book on Nick Saldiveri didn't accumulate many pages during his rookie season, when the offensive lineman who played at Old Dominion saw action in four games as a reserve and didn't see any game reps at all in the final 10 games.

But the chance to add pages it is at hand, as the New Orleans Saints offensive line undergoes a makeover and Saldiveri, a fourth-round pick last year, has the chance to start at left guard this season.

The line possibly will have three players starting at new positions, with Saldiveri joining rookie Taliese Fuaga (left tackle) and Trevor Penning (right tackle) if the three are able to hold on.

"I came here to play football at the end of the day, and that's what I want to do and that's what I love to do," Saldiveri said Wednesday, following the second day of the Saints' mandatory veteran minicamp. "That's what I want to do for the rest of my career. Every day is an opportunity, so coming in with that beginner's mentality and trying to get better every day is what's important, and I'm going to continue to do so.

"There's no better way to get better at playing football than playing football. Having a year under my belt, seeing how everything works helps things slow down. I didn't do OTAs last year, so being able to do OTAs this year and just get these needed reps and just bank reps going into camp is going to be very beneficial."

Coach Dennis Allen said this offseason that he wanted to get a good look at Saldiveri, and the view only will increase at training camp. That's where Saldiveri – really, all the linemen on offense and defense – will have the best chance to show what they can do.

It'll be the first opportunity for them to play physically, with pads and providing resistance against opponents who are just as eager to make an impression.

"I think he's doing some good things, and yet I don't think you can get too high or too low or read too much into what we're seeing out here," Allen said of OTAs and minicamp, a mantra he repeatedly has stressed. "We'll get a really good evaluation where everybody is once we really put the pads on and we start playing real football.

"But all that being said, in terms of execution, in terms of knowing what to do, in terms of getting to the right spots, I think he's done a pretty good job."

Saldiveri, Allen said, possesses the athleticism that offensive line coach John Benton desires.

"He fits the profile, and I like his mind-set and I like his demeanor," Allen said. "I'm excited about seeing him once we get to training camp."

"I feel like I do, for sure," Saldiveri said. "There's some things that we're asked to do that I feel like I'm very apt to do, and I feel like I've gotten better every day and I'm going to continue to get better every day and continue to perfect my craft."

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Despite the sessions being non-contact, they've been invaluable for Saldiveri, who played 18 offensive snaps last season. He's honed his hand placement and second-step quickness, among other areas he has worked to improve.

"I think you can learn a ton, especially mentally," he said. "You get a ton of mental reps out of these practices and the individual stuff you do with Coach John Benton – working on our technique and things like that – I feel I've gotten a ton of things cleaned up throughout this time. And I'm very fortunate to be out here, doing OTAs and doing vet minicamp.

"I feel like I've gotten way better every day, and I'm going to continue to stack and keep perfecting my craft. It's a very valuable time. I think it can be taken for granted sometimes and I think just being able to be out there with my teammates practicing, you can't take it for granted."

Too, Saldiveri said he learned from his teammates last year even if the lessons weren't always applied on gamedays.

"I had a lot of good vets in front of me, and they showed me the way about how to be a pro at the end of the day," he said. "How you handle every day and how you handle your business. So, I'd say having a good room of vets around me, I was very fortunate for that. I learned a lot, I'd say."

New Orleans Saints players participate in Day 3 of 2024 Saints Minicamp at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center on Thursday, June 13, 2024.

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