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Taysom Hill focuses on quarterback during training camp with New Orleans Saints

'Right now's kind of a special time for me where I get to hone in'

Right now, Taysom Hill is the jack of one trade.

Quarterback.

Of course, he still is capable of playing the myriad positions that he has for the New Orleans Saints, whether that be tight end or punt protector, punt rusher or kickoff coverer, or wherever else he has been asked to play.

But training camp is his time to isolate and sharpen the quarterback skills that the Saints believe will make him a future NFL starter.

"As I get into the offseason, I'll tell you my focus is really on becoming as good of a quarterback as I can," Hill said. "I'd say through my workouts and stuff I made sure that I try to implement enough strength training, conditioning to make sure that I can do all the things that I'm asked to do.

"But right now's kind of a special time for me where I get to hone in, really learn from Drew (Brees) on the field, from the coaches, be coached hard, and it is a really fun time for me to do that. I think as we look forward to the (regular) season, we all know there are going to be different things to what I'm doing. But I also think that can continue to expand as well. Maybe it means a little more quarterback looking into the future and season. But some of those things we'll continue to see how it plays out."

This year, practice is where he'll have to continue to hone his skills, because there are no preseason games. And for Hill, the absence of preseason games means the absence of live reps.

"Yeah, it's a little disappointing not having preseason games for a guy like me because it really is an opportunity to make sure that I'm getting live reps, game time reps in those games," he said. "But I think right now the focus is making sure that I take every practice rep that I get like it's a game situation.

"(I need to) make sure I go out to practice having everything ready to go. And I think we've really done a nice job this year of treating practices like game reps, making sure we're taking care of each other. But even if it's not a full-speed tempo, making sure mentally we're sharp, I'm sharp as a quarterback to make sure that when we get to these first games, we're ready to go."

Coach Sean Payton said Hill has a good grasp on what the Saints are doing offensively.

"We keep pushing the tempo, but he understands our protections well and I think that with the reps that he's getting and the reps that (quarterback) Jameis (Winston) is getting, all those things we're building on, making corrections," Payton said. "So it's a process with those guys."

What isn't a process with Hill, is his other roles.

To call him a natural might be an overstatement, but maybe, not by much.

"As I've had conversations with other position coaches, the way that this whole thing started was I never really did it in training camp," Hill said. "This was an experiment that happened in the middle of the season.

"So as we look at how that evolved, I wasn't practicing this in training camp, I just kind of went and did it. And I think we've just kind of adopted that mentality. I think as we're getting closer to game time, I'll start to take a few more reps doing different things. Just so the week leading up to Tampa is not the first time that I'm doing some of this stuff."

Whatever stuff Hill is doing, he leaves a footprint. He'll run over linebackers and defensive backs as easily as he'll run past them, and he'll tackle as ferociously as he'll break tackles.

"Get ready to get physical," second-year defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson said. "Because he is tough (and) he is an athlete. He is the ultimate competitor. He's a definition of a Saints player and the Saints way – somebody who's going to get it done regardless, on offense, special teams, which is considered a defensive player (on some of what he does on coverage). So he's somebody that you got to really take home to because that's a guy that really gets the team going with how he plays.

"And you can see last year, I think it was Minnesota (in the Wild Card playoff game loss). We were down, (Hill) made a couple big runs, big plays and sparked the whole team and got everybody going. So a guy like Taysom is somebody you can really rally around, because you see him make plays on special teams, blocked punts, you see him do a lot of things.

"So a guy like me just sits back and (has the opportunity to) just learn from him. Because sometimes it might not be his day. Sometimes it might be the next guy's day to make a play on defense or special teams. So just learning from a guy like Taysom and seeing him step on that field and give his ultimate and give his all, is just something that you've got to see, so you got to go and match him."

NOTES: The Saints' Friday practice was full pads, and full contact for several periods, with an officiating crew present. Cornerback Patrick Robinson intercepted a pass and broke up another one, receiver Michael Thomas caught a couple of short touchdown passes, and Hill and Winston also led scoring drives. Players not practicing included running backs Alvin Kamara and Ty Montgomery, right tackle Ryan Ramczyk, defensive end Marcus Davenport and safety Malcolm Jenkins.

Photos from New Orleans Saints training camp practice on Friday, August 28, 2020.

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