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Porter Picking Up Right Where He Left Off

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Saints second-year cornerback Tracy Porter has picked up right where he left off. A year after earning a starting spot in the team's defensive backfield, Porter has once again found himself on the field with the top Saints defenders, and by all accounts, has re-acclimated himself quickly after missing two-thirds of his rookie season due to a serious wrist injury.

"It feels great being out here practicing again," Porter said today after the team's morning practice session. "I am pleased with how I have been able to get right back to playing before I was injured."

So impressive was Porter's work during his inaugural campaign that he worked himself into the starting role at right cornerback, and after impressive work in the practices and preseason games, found himself in the starting lineup for the season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In doing so, Porter became the first rookie to start at cornerback for the Saints since 2002.

"It was a pretty amazing feeling being out there as a starter as a rookie," Porter recalled. In the win against the Bucs, Porter was tested early and often but responded with six tackles and a pair of passes defensed. The following week at Washington, Porter posted nine tackles (eight of the solo variety), and bested his mark the following week at Denver with 10 tackles against the potent Broncos offense.

Porter intercepted his first career pass in the Saints' fourth game of the season, snaring a QB J.T. O'Sullivan pass in the Saints' end zone and returned the football 25 yards. In the same game, the 5-11, 186-pound Porter also sacked the 49ers passer on a corner blitz.

"Things were going well and I was gaining confidence on a daily basis," he said. "You hear guys say that the game starts to slow down a bit for them as they become more and more familiar with all that is thrown at them and I definitely felt th

The Indiana University product was often seen taking repetitions with the first-team defense during the grueling two-a-days of training camp and acclimated himself more than adequately into one of the starting corner spots and along with first round draft choice DT Sedrick Ellis, gave the defense a sudden infusion of youthful talent.

Porter did suffer a mild setback a week into training camp when he and speedster WR Devery Henderson sprinted down the sideline in hot pursuit of a QB Drew Brees aerial. Running stride for stride alongside each other, Porter and Henderson each left their feet simultaneously and became entangled awkwardly in mid-air. The result of the hard spill was a setback for both Porter and Henderson, with each suffering strained hamstring injuries that sidelined them each for roughly a week's worth of practice time.

However Porter got back to the field and again worked himself into the starting role at right cornerback, and after impressive work in the practices and preseason games, found himself in the starting lineup for the season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In doing so, Porter became the first rookie to start at cornerback for the Saints since 2002.

"It was a pretty amazing feeling being out there as a starter as a rookie," Porter recalled. In the win against the Bucs, Porter was tested early and often but responded with six tackles and a pair of passes defensed. The following week at Washington, Porter posted nine tackles (eight of the solo variety), and bested his mark the following week at Denver with 10 tackles against the potent Broncos offense.

Porter intercepted his first career pass in the Saints' fourth game of the season, snaring a QB J.T. O'Sullivan pass in the Saints' end zone and returned the football 25 yards. In the same game, the 5-11, 186-pound Porter also sacked the 49ers passer on a corner blitz.

"Things were going well and I was gaining confidence on a daily basis," he said. "You hear guys say that the game starts to slow down a bit for them as they become more and more familiar with all that is thrown at them and I definitely felt that way."

Saints QB Drew Brees said he was stunned by the rapid development he witnessed from Porter in such a short period of time. "The first thing I saw was his athletic ability and speed," the veteran signal-caller said. "The transition you usually see for a rookie is usually pretty bumpy, but he was playing so well. In fact, he was probably making as seamless a transition from college to the pros as any cornerback I have ever seen."

Porter and the Saints entered their key Monday Night game against the Minnesota Vikings at the Superdome on October 6 fresh on the heels of an impressive 31-17 victory over the 49ers and intent on posting their first two-game winning streak of the season. The highly emotional game that witnessed several lead changes and big plays from both offenses made for riveting action and Porter chipped in with three tackles and a pair of passes defensed in the contest through the first three quarters.

But fate struck a cruel blow to the rookie when he broke out of his back-pedal in the fourth quarter. As Porter was breaking on the ball, he stumbled in front of a wide receiver that had slipped while making his cut towards the sideline. "I was watching the ball, thought I could get my hands on it and then next thing I knew, I was falling down after our legs got tangled up," Porter said. "It was so sudden. I landed squarely on my right wrist and felt it pop right away."

Porter hustled over to the sideline to get it looked at by the Saints' training staff and doctors and when they removed his glove, saw immediately that Porter has suffered a dislocation of the wrist.

"I thought it would be one of those things, that despite hurting pretty bad, would only force me to miss a week or so," Porter said. "But then they said it required surgery to repair it and that it would mean going to injured reserve, and that ends your season."

Porter's disappointment was mirrored by the Saints' coaching staff, as Payton had mentioned several times leading up to the Monday Night game that Porter was playing well above the standard of play generally associated with a rookie defensive back. "He's playing well," Payton said early last season. "Very, very well."

Porter said the confidence Payton and the coaching staff exhibited in him served to fuel his confidence level and, despite the season-ending injury, spurned him on to continue to learn more and more throughout the season, if only as a partisan bystander. "You can always learn in this game, and granted, it's far from ideal to learn when you're standing and watching from the sidelines and during film study leading up to the games, but it was the only way I could stay in the game and support my teammates," he said.

Porter worked hard with the Saints' training staff and fully rehabilitated the injured wrist and was able to enjoy his first full off-season in the team's strength and conditioning program, which has only enhanced his already considerable skill set.

"Right now you see all of us on defense competing really hard and trying to do what the coaching staff is asking us to do," Porter said. "It's great working against what was the best offense in the league last year, because it is only getting us better and testing us on each play."

Porter echoed the words of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams when he said that each play, whether it is a one-on-man drill or team drill, is a full on competition that neither the offense or defense has any intention of losing.

"That keeps your focus all the time," Porter said. "There is no letting up. You want to be the guy making the play and creating a turnover or keeping the offense from making a play. Every play is a test and if you don't do it right, not only are you going to hear about it from the coaches, but you risk the possibility of someone coming into your spot and getting the chance to show that they deserve to be in there."

"That's motivation, in itself," he summarized. "I know every guy on this field wants to be out there making plays, I am no different."

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