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Saints program cover story: Cameron Jordan

Relentless energy leads to high-level performance for Saints defensive end

Photos of Cameron Jordan at 2014 New Orleans Saints Training Camp presented by Verizon. (New Orleans Saints photos)

There is no "off" switch, no limit to his energy and precious little joylessness that darkens his days.

All you have to do is watch Saints defensive end Cam Jordan play football (like in today's noon home opener against Minnesota in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome), practice, eat lunch with teammates (or team employees) or entertain media in the locker room to reach that conclusion.

In fact, he only can conjure one situation that's guaranteed to agitate him.

"I'm in a bad mood when I'm not getting enough pressure on the quarterback," he said.

That means Jordan's bad moods probably were few and far between last season, because he spent a significant amount of time in opposing backfields en route to producing 12.5 sacks, 66 tackles, four passes defensed, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and one invitation to the Pro Bowl, the first of his career.

But it also means that even during his bad mood, Jordan is a man in motion, creating and perfecting ways to get better.

"You get his best every day," said Saints right tackle Zach Strief, who has had his share of training camp face-offs with Jordan. "He kind of seems to have this endless amount of energy, which really is probably his greatest attribute. It's so rare.

"Cam is going to wear you down, and that's great for me during training camp because he's going to push me every day. And yet, I'm glad that he's on my team for the game. Because you see guys kind of get worn out – he's relentless.

"Honestly, I think it's partly his effort and his attitude and it's partly how much he loves playing. He's just a guy that you can see genuinely enjoys it, and obviously he has become a really good player in this league. And a guy that we're lucky to have."

Photos of Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan's Playworks school visit to Lycee Francais School on Tuesday, August 2, 2014. New Orleans Saints photos.

Rob Ryan knows full well how beneficial it was last season to have Jordan on the field, wreaking havoc. Ryan, in his second season as defensive coordinator, took over a unit that in 2012, allowed the most yards in an NFL season, 7,042.

Jordan, with eight sacks, 76 tackles, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries, was named defensive MVP by his teammates in 2012. The look on his face spoke of how hollow it felt to win the award even if his words hadn't.

But even then, Jordan's motor never shut down, or even idled, during that season. Last year, it only appeared to ramp up.

"They're rare," Ryan, a coaching veteran of 27 years – 16 in the NFL – said of players with Jordan's energy. "They really are rare. He's special. He's just scratching the surface of how good he's going to be and by that I mean he works so hard, greater things are more to come for him. You don't see them very often.

"I know (New Orleans native and former NFL cornerback) Aeneas Williams was that way, and he made the Hall of Fame. These guys, they're very rare. You see guys with high motors but they don't have all the athleticism that he has. He's got everything. He's got athleticism, he's smart, he's so talented but his work ethic is tremendous. Those guys always make it.

"He loves his teammates; he's got great teammates who love him. It's hard work out here, but he loves it. It's something that I think people that are successful in their careers, when they love their work they're going to be successful. And Cam is definitely one of them."

But then, with Jordan, it never really appears to be work.

He smiles. He jokes. He laughs. He challenges.

And above all, he works. As far as he knows, a lack of energy never has been a problem, even for a man who now checks in at 6 feet 4, 287 pounds.

"I've always been an energetic kid," Jordan said. "I was born this way, I've grown up this way, I'm looking forward to passing away this way and at the end of my days, at my funeral, it'll be like, 'The kid just had too much energy and he was always youthful.'

"So even when I'm 65, 70 (years old), I'm still gonna be riding around, getting it."

His parents learned that lesson early, Jordan said. His father, Steve, a former NFL tight end who played for the Vikings his entire career (1982-94) and was a six-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro, and his mother, Anita, were challenged by Jordan's rambunctiousness.

And, Jordan said, they attempted to tamp it down to a degree.

"Isn't there always a situation where Mom and Dad try to kill the vibe?" he said, laughing. "That's what parents do. They don't just allow you to be who you are. Parents, they have lives too, they try to get some stuff done, but at the end of the day, I was pretty easily focused if you allowed me to sort of direct my focus in my way.

"From the time I was probably 5 to 8, I had a spider-webbing frenzy. I'd get, like, two or three spools of yarn and web the whole house up. And at the end of the day, you just go through with some scissors – a couple of snips, couple of snips, pull everything down and that was like, three or four hours of my time. And at the end of it all, I'm sort of tuckered out. I've had a great time putting out a maze.

"Now, the only thing is, when they left for two weeks, Grandma didn't know about it. She walked down, got caught up in the web. That was the whole point of the web to begin with. Some friends came over, they didn't know about the web, got caught up, things broke, (but) that was the whole point of the web. And then I got disciplined for it. Thoroughly. But that's not my fault. Everybody in the house knew that's what I was doing."

The webs he constructs now are on the football field.

He'll speed rush. He'll bull rush. He'll knife in between. He'll twist and spin.

But what he won't do is stop.

"It's all a buildup," Jordan said. "It's all strategic moves on pass rush, setting things up according to how I want them to so when they finally fall it's like, 'Yo, I meant for that to do that.' "

They've fallen fairly well for him since the Saints made him their first-round draft pick, No. 24 overall, in 2011. The high point so far is last season, when Jordan had moments of dominance. He had three multi-sack games, six games with at least five tackles and a four-games-in-five stretch where he registered a pass defensed.

"I'm not seeing last season as a pinnacle, I'm looking at it as a stepping stone," said Jordan, who never has missed an NFL game. "So last season is a progression in my years but at the same time, I've got to advance further than what I have before.

"You've got to love being a part of a defense that is really enforcing its will upon other teams. That being said, we've got to find the new focus, we've got to find the new attitude and re-emphasize what we did last year onto this year. Last year was last year, we can't get that back. This year, going forward, we have to make our names known once again and make everyone revere us and fear us."

Perhaps he isn't yet revered as an individual player but, absolutely, there's an appreciation for him in the organization. Even from the teammates who have to deal with his motor the most.

"I think Cam has really figured out that fine line between working hard and pushing you, and being a jerk," Strief said. "There's a line inside of there. Cam, at the end of the day, is out at practice to get better and work on his stuff.

"He's not out there to embarrass somebody. I've never felt like that with Cam. I've felt like we've always been able to work well. You think about how many times we block each other or go against each other in a training camp, and I don't ever remember even having a disagreement with Cam – which is pretty unusual, compared to some of those other guys.

"He's a great teammate and he's a guy that we're lucky to have, not just as a teammate but as a guy."

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