METAIRIE — Young Joseph Morgan understands what he must do to win the No. 3 wide receiver job for the New Orleans Saints.
It’s simple. The talented but raw third-year prospect from obscure Walsh University must out-perform the competition on the field in training camp and “stay clean’’ outside the lines.
By Morgan’s own admission, he currently is participating in Stage One of the league’s substance abuse program after being arrested for DWI over the Memorial Day weekend. His court date is Aug. 23.
In the meantime, Morgan, 25, is going about his business in training camp, battling Nick Toon, fifth-round draft pick Kenny Stills Jr., special teams captain Courtney Roby and others for the third spot on the depth chart behind veteran wide receivers Marques Colston and Lance Moore.
“I’ve put it behind me, because the most important thing to me is football,’’ Morgan said after Friday’s opening practice of training camp. “I can’t say the arrest is not affecting me, because I really can’t be done with it until my court date, but I’ve got to concentrate on football first.
“Once all that is done, then hopefully I won’t have to worry about it.’’
Under Stage One of the league’s intervention program, a player will undergo a “medical evaluation to determine if he should undergo appropriate clinical intervention and/or treatment and subsequent development of a treatment program,’’ according to the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
“Because of what happened, they’re going to put me in the program,’’ Morgan said. “It’s something that I’ve got to get through. It’s not going to be a hard thing. I’ve just got to stay clean and that won’t be hard at all.’’
Morgan said team officials, coaches and teammates have been supportive since his arrest.
“But at the same time, they understand and I understand, too, that this situation isn’t peaches and cream,’’ he said. “It isn’t something that is acceptable, by no means at all. But they’ve been working with me. That’s testimony to the type of character and the type of guys who are in this organization — not just players, but the guys upstairs, too. They see something in me, so I’m not going to let them down.’’
That “something’’ translates to 10 catches last season for an eye-popping 37.9-yard average and three touchdowns in 14 games. Regarded as a “sleeper’’ in the world of fantasy football, it’s that big-play potential as a downfield threat that probably sealed the fate of veteran wide receiver Devery Henderson in New Orleans.
There were no attempts by team officials to re-sign Henderson, who now plays for the Washington Redskins.
“Joe’s a good kid,’’ Moore said. “People make mistakes. But he’s bounced back, and he’s definitely going to show people the type of guy he is. He’s definitely faced adversity, but he’s showing up. He’s become more of a professional, and the thing that I’m encouraged about is that he wants to work and he’s willing to work.
“He works extremely hard. He’s come a long way. If you had seen him a couple years ago, a lot of people probably would have counted him out.’’
Toon, too, has something to prove after being sidelined his rookie season while recovering from surgery on his left foot.
A son of former New York Jets All-Pro wide receiver Al Toon, Nick Toon (6-foot-4, 218 pounds) had drawn comparisons to Colston from Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. before an old college injury flared up late in training camp. Until then, Toon had played himself into the mix for a roster spot for the fourth wide receiver position.
Now, Toon plans to make up for lost time and win one of five wide receiver spots on the 53-man roster in what amounts to his first NFL season.
“It was a tough year last year to sit out and watch, but it was best for me in the long term,’’ said Toon, a fourth-round draft pick in 2012 from Wisconsin. “I’m glad we got my foot taken care of. It feels great, my body feels great and it feels great to be back out here.
“Obviously, I wish I would have been able to play last year, but that’s just the way things happen. I got a chance to to get immersed in the playbook, observe some of the other receivers and get familiar with my teammates. So last year wasn’t a waste at all. It wasn’t the situation I would have hoped for, but I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.’’
Morgan might share that sentiment.
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