Saints WR Morgan looks to rebound from knee injury
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Joe Morgan knows he will have to wait a little longer to prove he has fully recovered from the torn anterior cruciate ligament that wiped out his 2013 season.
Unable to practice in minicamp, he expects to be ready for the start of training camp in late July. Meanwhile, he is dealing with the frustration of watching his teammates compete on the field while he watches from the sideline.
After averaging an eye-popping 37.9 yards on 10 catches in 2012, he thought his role would increase last year. Instead, his year ended during an early August scrimmage.
“The most frustrating thing about it was it happened even before a preseason game,” he said. “I just have to focus on getting back healthy and trying to come back this year. I guess I have the same goals that I had going into last year.”
The primary goal is to become more of an every-down receiver after a debut season that featured several spectacular plays. His three touchdown catches went for 80, 48 and 34 yards. The 48-yarder, which came against Tampa Bay, was particularly memorable. He spun off a tackle attempt by safety Mark Barron. kept his balance even though his knee almost hit the ground and, with his back to the goal line, flipped cornerback Eric Wright over his head before running into the end zone.
“With the expectations we had for him going into last season, (the injury) was just a downer,” quarterback Drew Brees said. “He had worked so hard to put himself in that position. Now all of a sudden you have to revert your mindset to how can I come back and be better than I was before. It’s easy to get frustrated and feel overwhelmed.”
The ACL injury was not the first for Morgan, who went undrafted in 2011 out of tiny Walsh University in Canton, Ohio. He missed the 2011 regular season with a torn meniscus after returning a punt for a touchdown and scoring on a 56-yard reception in the preseason.
Brees’ advice has helped him cope with his second major rehab, including minor setbacks like the Saints’ first OTA in May when he tried to run before practice and experienced soreness.
“Drew told me you have to focus on creating little goals for yourself and knock little pieces away at it,” he said. “The hardest thing is trying not to plateau and keep the rehab going forward. You’re always thinking, where am I going to be at and am I going to play at the same level?”
If he can’t return to his old form, a roster spot is far from guaranteed.
After Morgan signed a one-year contract in March to remain in New Orleans, the Saints took wide receiver Brandin Cooks, another speedster, in the first round of the draft. They also re-signed veteran wideout Robert Meachem, who caught 16 passes for 324 yards last season after rejoining the team in September.
“We have a lot of good candidates,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “There will be some good competition here.”
Morgan insisted he was not worried about anyone else. His sole concern is reporting to training camp with the same speed he exhibited before his latest injury.
“I’m working on becoming a more complete receiver, but the best skill set I have is pretty much my speed,” he said. “There’s always going to be competition every single year. You have to go out there and work for it.”
NOTES: NFL.com reported Tuesday that defensive tackle John Jenkins, a third-round draft pick in 2013, had surgery for a torn pectoral muscle and will return for training camp. Payton refused to talk about the status of Jenkins, who made 21 tackles as a rookie backup.