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Rookie defensive end Payton Turner pays early dividend for New Orleans Saints

'It was quite the experience, but I had a really good time'


The wait for Payton Turner was worth it.

The New Orleans Saints' first-round draft pick missed a chunk of training camp, both preseason games and the regular-season opener against Green Bay before finally making his NFL debut.

And while the result wasn't what the Saints would have wanted in a 26-7 loss to Carolina, Turner was a lot of what New Orleans hoped he would be – disruptive, and noticeable.

He had five tackles (four of them solo), three tackles for loss, a sack and a quarterback hit in 31 snaps on defense. The rookie defensive end was one of the few bright spots against the Panthers.

He wasn't as effective against New England – no tackles in 32 snaps against the Patriots – but New Orleans believes it has added another valuable player to the defensive line rotation as it enters Sunday's game against the New York Giants in the Caesars Superdome.

"(It was) exciting," Turner said of his debut. "Got my first plays under my belt, got my first everything: Got my first penalty, got my first sack, first TFL. It was quite the experience, but I had a really good time."

Turner, in fact, picked up a personal foul against Carolina. But he said the adaptation to the NFL has gone smoothly due to the manner in which the Saints practiced.

"You come out here to practice, they make practice harder than the game," he said. "So it was kind of what I expected."

What the Saints expected was an impact player at No. 28 overall in the draft. New Orleans made an attempt to move into the top 10 but once the Saints decided to stay put, Turner became the choice even though the team was returning three defensive ends (Cam Jordan, Marcus Davenport and Carl Granderson) from last season and had signed unrestricted free agent Tanoh Kpassagnon.

The franchise added a 6-foot-6, 270-pound player with an easy smile and a readiness to play. In fact, Turner was ready for the season opener, but was a healthy scratch.

"Always ready, always ready to get some action," he said. "But when I got the thumbs up (for Game 2), I was ready to go. Excited for that first opportunity."

Having had that work, and the next game against New England, Turner said there's much more work to be done.

"Keep getting better at every aspect, whether it be technique, pass rush, run stopping," he said. "Just everything."

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