When asked if there is one thing he wants to work on this offseason, Darren Sproles was quick to answer.
"Be more patient," responded Sproles. "I need to let the play develop just a little bit more. Let more holes open up and visualize my route before I take off."
That vision Sproles is talking about is what FB Jed Collins says is the key to Sproles' knack for making big plays.
"I don't think the average fan understands how great his vision is," said Collins. "He has even helped me in knowing where people are going to be after the snap, their responsibilities and coverages. His vision helps in setting up blocks, making the first guy miss and knowing where the second guy is coming from."
Although his approach might change slightly, his goal every time he touches the ball remains the same.
"To help us win," said Sproles. "As long as I get in the end zone it doesn't matter how I got there."
Coming into last season, Sproles hoped to break his NFL record of all-purpose yards (2,696) that he set in his first season as a Saint in 2011. However, a hand injury halted his chances of reaching that milestone again. Sproles' injury forced him to miss three games. It was the first time Sproles had missed a game since the 2007 season.
"It was hard to sit out that much time but I have already moved on from that," said Sproles. "Last year was last year. I am anxious to get next year started."
In 13 games with six starts in 2012, he carried 48 times for 244 yards (5.1 avg.) with one touchdown and had 75 receptions for 667 yards (8.9 avg.) with seven touchdowns, to lead NFL running backs in receiving.
Without knowing who Sproles was, the average person wouldn't predict that the 5-6, 190 pounder was an NFL player or the league's all-purpose yards leader since 2007.
His size might make the success he's had a surprise to some but not to those who know about Sproles' work ethic and will to win. Sproles has utilized his throng of skills to become one of the most dynamic playmakers in the league.
Collins said Sproles is very vocal on the sidelines, helping his fellow running backs and the offensive line understand what the defense is showing.
"He is the ultimate professional and a lot of coaches want us to emulate him," added Collins. "He earns your respect with his intensity and work ethic."
NFL Network Analyst and former NFL running back LaDainian Tomlinson and Sproles were teammates in San Diego from 2005 to 2009.
Tomlinson said his former teammate maximizes his skill set as well as any player.
"I honestly don't think there is any area Darren needs to improve on because he has proven that he can play all positions," said Tomlinson. "He can line up wide, he can line up in the backfield and he can return kicks. He has gotten the best out of his abilities. What he came into the league to do, he has done it as well as anybody could ask him to do."
A great example of Sproles' intense approach came during the Saints game against the 49ers on Nov. 25.
Midway through the second quarter, QB Drew Brees threw to Sproles on a screen when Aldon Smith, a 6-4, 258 pound linebacker, came hauling towards him.
Sproles took Smith head on, twirled him over his back and slammed him to the ground. Sproles' acrobatics were not enough as Smith was able to keep his grip and eventually bring Sproles down. However, the play showcased the small-statured Saint won't go down easy.
Sproles said he didn't realize he flipped him until the next day when he saw it on film. He said he was just focused on keeping the play alive.
"When I saw (Smith), I didn't know if he was going to come at me full speed or if he was just going to try and shove me out of bounds," said Sproles. "He went at me and all of a sudden he went over my back. I couldn't get away though because he still had a good hold. It was a nice play by him."
One thing that has helped with Sproles' strength and durability is the offseason training regiment he started in 2010.
Prior to signing with the Saints, Sproles and Brees were good friends from their time together on the San Diego Chargers. Sproles has trained with Brees and QB Chase Daniel on the West Coast the past two offseasons. Brees' training program consists of a lot unique movements that help with core strength, conditioning and joint protection.
No Saints skill player touches the ball more than Sproles and he credits the rigorous offseason training sessions with Brees in helping his endurance for those touches.
"I can tell that all the time spent with Drew helps me during the season," said Sproles. "It keeps me up. It was more core work and endurance training than I had ever done before. That has helped me a lot in staying healthy. I have been blessed with this opportunity, so I try to make the most of it with my training."
Sproles said he plans to continue and add to that workout routine this offseason.