The experience level for the New Orleans Saints on the practice field skyrocketed this week, when the veterans joined the rookies for the team's first session of OTAs. But that doesn't mean there still wasn't a measure of inexperience among the additions.
While linebacker Demario Davis (entering his seventh season), cornerback Patrick Robinson and safety Kurt Coleman (ninth, respectively) have combined to play in hundreds of NFL games, this season in New Orleans will be the first for Davis and Coleman, and the first for Robinson since 2014. There's an acclimation that each must process.
"They're doing well," Saints Coach Sean Payton said. (This is) the first time that we can give them books and begin teaching in phase two. They are veteran players, so after you've been in this league awhile you begin to understand scheme and really, there's three or four strains - if you will - of terminology. And so it's a little bit quicker for a veteran player than it would be for a rookie."
All three are expected to play pivotal roles for the Saints' defense, and Davis' exposure is accelerated by the fact that linebacker A.J. Klein, who is rehabbing an injury, currently is unavailable.
"So far, so good," Davis said. "I've been excited about it. The defense is a very talented defense - a great defensive line, a veteran group of linebackers and some defensive backs who can fly around the field and make plays. I'm just excited to be a part of the unit.
"I've played with a bunch of different defensive coordinators and so a lot of synergies are there. It's not too crazy to pick up. I'm not going to act like it's not a lot; you've still got to come in and learn your stuff, learn your terminology. But it's just been exciting and I'm excited to get started playing football."
There was a first-hand viewing of the play-making ability to which Davis referred, when Robinson intercepted a pass that possibly was a long throwaway that he simply wouldn't concede.
"Well, let's say he's that much further along as a player, and you know the way he played last year," Payton said of Robinson, who arguably was the league's best slot cornerback last year, when he helped the Eagles win the Super Bowl. "I mean, shoot, the interception he made on, you know, just a late down-the-field throw was impressive. So you know, like anything else, there's a confidence level that you can see.
"I say all the time, the confidence you can wish for or hope for, but it really is a result of demonstrated ability. And so, he is a player that has played on the biggest stages and then had success. He looks the same - he still looks young and it's good seeing him back in our building."
Davis, too, is pleased to be in the building and eager to get comfortable in his new environment on the field.
"The longer you've been around the game, you kind of know what to expect so it's not like a rookie walking into an NFL locker room for the first time," Davis said. "You know what the offseason process is like, that you've got to build it brick by brick, that nobody's winning the Super Bowl right now.
"You understand that this is the time to take care of your body, learn the little nuances of your defense. It's a step by step process. (OTAs) lead up to minicamp, and minicamp leads up to training camp, and training camp leads up to preseason. I think that's a part of being a veteran. But everybody has to come in and put their work in every single day. It's doesn't matter if you're a vet or a young guy."
The New Orleans Saints hold their first week of OTA's at Ochsner Sports Performance Center on May 24, 2018.