If you didn't know that New Orleans Saints kicker Wil Lutz had been cleared for football activity, you possibly weren't paying attention and you unequivocally aren't a Saints fan.
Likely, no kicker in NFL history announcing his return to activity has been received with more fanfare than Lutz, who was flooded with love Monday, when the seven-year veteran announced on Instagram that he completely has recovered from the injury that forced him to miss the entire 2021 season.
"It's awesome," Lutz said. "A lot of people say about this city, if you embrace them, they embrace you. We really love it here – I've said it, this is going on Year 7, we've got the best fans in the country. It's just really nice for everybody to be happy I'm back."
It helps, obviously, that Lutz has been one of the best kickers in franchise history – 86.6 percent (142 of 164) on field goals and 97.3 percent (253 of 260) on point-after attempts. His reputation grew epically last season when he was injured and four Saints kickers combined to make 83.3 percent of their field goals (25 of 30) and 81.6 percent of their PATs (31 of 38).
A missed second-quarter field goal was detrimental in a 27-21 overtime home loss to the Giants, and two missed extra points helped hamstring New Orleans in a 23-21 road loss to Tennessee.
Watching, Lutz said, was awful.
"It sucked," he said. "You want to be out there. That's not to say anything bad about any other guys. Everyone in here is very talented and it's a lot of hard work to do what we do and so, I was pulling for every single one of those guys knowing that if I'm not out there I want everybody to make their kicks."
Now, he's back fully in hopes of making his own.
"I feel good. I just feel excited to be back with the team. It's been a long time coming," Lutz said.
"I had a core muscle injury, similar to a sports hernia and unfortunately, it took multiple surgeries to fix. That area is what I use on a daily basis, so it's different than other guys that have that kind of injury. I rely on those muscles and it's just a longer process than other people, but fortunately we got through it. Training staff did a great job and I'm finally back."
"Any time you get anybody in there feeling completely healthy – this is probably about the only time of the year where you're going to have a guy that's going to feel completely healthy," Coach Dennis Allen said. "I think it's good to have him out here, I'm excited about getting him back, getting him going. Certainly, it's been a long process for him. I know he's excited about getting out here and trying to help the team win.
"There's three phases to the game and every one of them is vitally important to being able to win. One of the issues that we had last year is that we didn't kick it through the uprights as many times as we needed to. That's something that we've got to focus on, we've got to be better in that area this year and we hope that we will."
Lutz is positive that he can regain his form.
"I'm always confident," he said. "I feel good. I feel really good. We've been working with the operation the last few weeks, kind of a ramp-up period. I'm really confident with where I'm at, how I'm hitting the ball."
PRESENT AND ACCOUNTED FOR: Allen said all players were accounted for on Tuesday, the first day of the teams' three-day, mandatory-attendance minicamp. Included with the on-field participants were linebacker Demario Davis, receiver Deonte Harty, cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Bradley Roby and running back Alvin Kamara, who'd skipped the voluntary OTAs. Others who were rehabbing from injuries, at the facility but not practicing, included receiver Michael Thomas and defensive end Payton Turner.
SCORCHER: Yep, it was hot during New Orleans' first minicamp practice, and no cold front is forecast to sweep through on Wednesday and Thursday. Allen said the team will be mindful of its work.
"It's certainly a factor that we're always monitoring," he said. "We're always monitoring our players' health, we're monitoring how they're recovering, and so that's always a factor. Down here we've got the heat that we've got to take into account.
"I think there's also a mental toughness aspect to pushing through some of the elements and not allowing that to be a distraction that then causes you to make mistakes. The only way that you can make good decisions in a stressful situation is if you practice being in a stressful situation. I think that's part of what we do here. I actually think it's a benefit to us that we do have to practice some out in this heat, but certainly we've got to pay attention to it and be smart with it."