Trevor Penning is going to be Trevor Penning, because it's all Trevor Penning knows how to be.
So, the New Orleans Saints' rookie left tackle is going to play from snap to whistle. Sure, a little extra mustard got him tossed from practice early Aug. 3, but taming the mustard is on the menu, not removing it.
"You've just got to play smart," Penning said Thursday. "Play physical, play my game, but be smart.
"I think, personally, I went to the whistle, I played my game and we're competing. Football is physical, it's tough. There's maybe a couple (of plays) that were like, 'OK, I gotta maybe chill.'
"Coaches said that. They were like, 'You can't do that.' I'm like, OK. Then you learn from it, and you get better from it but I'm not going to take away the physical part of my game. I'm going to be smart with it."
The "smart" part appears to be coming through. Penning's early dismissal from practice capped a third consecutive day in which the No. 19 overall pick engaged in a bit of after-the-whistle jostling with a teammate. Since, no after-whistle events have occurred involving him.
Penning said an adaptation likely has occurred from him and his teammates.
"Probably a little bit of both," he said. "People know kind of how I play and they're going to know what they're getting when they go against me."
The Saints knew exactly what they were getting. They liked it then, and now.
"I think it's getting way more attention outside of our building that it probably needs," Coach Dennis Allen said. "I see a guy that plays hard, extremely hard, on every single play.
"Are there some times where we've got to pull back the reins a little bit? Yeah. But I wouldn't classify that any differently than anybody else. He just plays hard and he plays from snap to whistle, and that's what you want him to do. I kind of like it."
On Saturday against Houston, Penning will have his first chance in the NFL to show it off against an opponent rather than a teammate when the Saints play the Texans in their preseason opener. A broad grin split his face at the prospect of playing an unfamiliar foe.
"Really looking forward to it," he said. "Get back out there, play football again. It's been a while since I've played an actual football game. I'm super excited to get back out there and play football again."
He'll play the way he plays, because it's the only way he knows how to play.
"Nothing's nice about football," Penning said. "You've got to be mean. You want the guy across from you to hate your guts. If the guy across from you hates you, you're doing your job."
ROTATION TALK: Allen said that play-time rotations would be discussed in more depth Thursday evening. While he didn't tip his hand whether quarterback Andy Dalton would start and play much, he did say that Ian Book, the Saints' fourth-round pick last year, will get a long look.
"I've definitely seen some improvement (from Book)," Allen said. "He's still got a ways to go, but I've seen some improvement just in terms of understanding the offense, being able to get in and out of the huddle. Simple things that you don't really think of, I think he's much improved in that area.
"I think he's more confident with what he's doing. I think one of his skill sets that I really like is his ability to go off schedule a little bit. I think that's, at times, when I've seen him be at his best. I see him getting some significant action in this preseason game."
BACK BATTLE: Don't expect to see much, if anything, from primary running backs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram II. And there probably won't be much work for Dwayne Washington, either. But Tony Jones Jr. , Devine Ozigbo and Abram Smith will be on the clock for New Orleans against Houston.
"We've got some guys that we really need to see," Allen said. "Ozigbo and Abram Smith, those are guys that we want to be able to see. We want to be able to see Tony Jones get out there and carry the football. I think that's a good competition that we've got in that room and we want to have an opportunity to evaluate what those guys can do."
Allen said the goal will be for each to establish a rhythm.
"I do think that it's important to kind of allow guys to get in and get a few plays and kind of get in a groove a little bit rather than subbing out every other play," he said. "We'll have a plan to work those guys and try to have a rotation where they're getting in and getting a little bit of work and not really just in and out."
The New Orleans Saints took the field for practice during 2022 Training Camp presented by Rouses Markets on Thursday, August 11.