METAIRIE — Victor Butler has yet to make his first tackle with the New Orleans Saints, and already he’s making an impression.
Butler, an outside linebacker who was one of the Saints’ limited free-agent acquisitions this offseason, said Wednesday evening he is ready for the next stage of his NFL career.
“Everybody wants to make that adjustment from fitting in to standing out,” said Butler, who started his career with the Dallas Cowboys, playing in the shadows of DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer.
“I’ve done four years in Dallas of fitting in. It’s time for me to stand out.”
Butler, 25, wants to do it here, putting to use many of the tactics he learned from his former veteran teammates.
Butler, who participated in the Ben Grubbs #66 Foundation celebrity softball game at Zephyr Field, also offered a glimpse into how Rob Ryan, his former defensive boss in Dallas who brought him to New Orleans, will team with coach Sean Payton to decide who starts in the Saints defense’s new 3-4 scheme.
Butler, of course, wants that job — a job he will compete for against fellow pass rusher Martez Wilson and others.
This is why Butler left his comfy, nonpressure-filled role in Dallas to serve as Ryan’s prime example of how to execute his defense. It’s also why Butler has embraced the uncertainty of joining a revamped unit — from the change of alignment to last season’s horrific efforts.
The 2012 Saints allowed 7,042 yards during the regular season, setting a NFL record for futility. First-year defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was fired within hours of Payton returning from his Bountygate suspension. Within weeks, Ryan, fired as defensive coordinator in Dallas, was en route to Saints headquarters.
Butler draws a contrast between the defense’s horrid performance last season and terrible players, most of whom are still on the roster.
“These are guys that were Super Bowl champions at one point, Pro Bowlers. Great football players,” he said.
“We’ve already got the players to be a No. 1 defense. You get a defensive coordinator in there, and a guy who’s going to be passionate and can convey that passion on to the players. And I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re No. 1 in all categories next year.”
Butler played in all 16 games (one start) last season for Dallas, finishing with 25 tackles and three sacks. In four seasons, he’s never had more than three in a season.
Butler said Ryan has an anti-depth chart history. First, the best players will reveal themselves at training camp. Then Ryan will shape the lineup based on those players.
“We don’t have a No. 1 Sam (linebacker), or No. 1 Jack (linebacker). It’s guys going out competing, and the best guys are going to play,” he said.
Backup quarterback Luke McCown won the Home Run Derby, although he hit two in the first round and linebacker Will Herring hit eight. McCown beat Dree Brees for the second tiebreaker that went three rounds, then Herring in the final. McCown played baseball until high school.
“In Tampa Bay, I won Mike Alstott’s home run derby one time, so I came in here with quiet expectations,” he laughed.
Advocate correspondent Guerry Smith contributed to this report.
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