Joe Morgan hoping to impress Saints again
e_SDLqIf you’re consistently doing good, that will speak volumes for you. So I have to stay healthy and show up.” JOE MORGAN, Saints reciever
METAIRIE — It didn’t take New Orleans Saints fans long to find out who Joe Morgan, an undrafted free agent from tiny Walsh College in Ohio, was last summer.
This season, they hope to find out a lot more about him.
A 6-foot-1, 184-pound wide receiver, Morgan made a major splash in his first two preseason games with a zig-zagging 78-yard punt return for a touchdown and two receptions for 77 yards — including a 56-yard TD.
It all happened pretty quickly for the speedy Morgan, who even got to meet the Baseball Hall of Famer he shares a name with — former Cincinnati Reds second baseman Joe Morgan — when the Saints practiced in Oxnard, Calif.
But almost as quickly as he burst onto the scene, Morgan, the wide receiver, was gone. He tore the meniscus in his right knee, perhaps in the second preseason game with the Houston Texans, and wound up on injured reserve after having arthroscopic surgery.
While the injury didn’t require a total knee reconstruction, it was devastating enough for Morgan — derailing his bid to make the 53-man regular-season as the longest of long shots.
“Naturally, it was rough,” Morgan said Thursday after the team’s first training camp practice. “When undrafted free agents come in, the first thing they tell you is that you have to show up on film.
“That’s what I was doing,” he said. “I was showing up and film and then, all of a sudden, I get this random injury.”
Morgan’s mercurial rise started with the electrifying punt return for a score in the exhibition opener against San Francisco and it continued the next week with a long touchdown grab at Houston.
The flashes he showed to the coaching staff gave him hope that he would be able to secure one of five roster spots that usually go to wide receivers.
But he started having pain in his knee and doctors diagnosed the torn meniscus, although it wasn’t known exactly when and how it occurred.
“The doctors said it was one of those tears you don’t feel,” Morgan said. “I may have aggravated it in one place and then fully tore it in another. I got hit right above the knee on a kick return in the Houston game, but I practiced for two days after that before I felt anything.”
Regardless of how it happened, it ended the season for Morgan, who transferred in his junior year from the University of Illinois to Walsh, where he caught 79 passes for 1,317 yards with a 16.7-yard average and nine TDs.
“Losing the year was a downer, but it was also a blessing in disguise,” said Morgan, who’s been timed at 4.40 seconds in the 40. “I got to sit in on all the meetings and learned the playbook and stuff like that. It was like a redshirt year, so it was pretty good.”
Then again, Morgan said the season seemed to be moving in slow motion because he wanted to get back on the practice field even though players on IR aren’t allowed to do so.
“It seemed like the season took forever,” he said.
Morgan said the best thing he did during his brief time in training camp last summer was to let people know who he was by showing up on film when he had the opportunity.
“Coach (Sean) Payton told me last year just before the 49ers game that all it takes is one (play),” he recalled. “He told me that I not only was auditioning for our team, but for all 32 teams in the NFL. He said, ‘If you show up on film, guys will remember who you are. That’s all you have to do.’ ”
It’s a mantra he’s trying to keep in mind this year as he competes for a job behind the Saints’ big three of Marques Colston, Lance Moore and Devery Henderson.
The fourth and fifth spots are considered to be wide open even though the Saints used their fourth-round pick in the draft to select Nick Toon, the son of former New York Jets’ star wideout Al Toon, in an effort to replace the departed Robert Meachem.
If Toon earns the fourth spot, Morgan could be battling veterans Adrian Arrington and Courtney Roby for a job.
Morgan knows what he has to do, besides staying healthy, if he wants to earn a roster spot.
“I’ve improved my route-running, that’s the thing I had to work on this spring,” he said. “Everybody knows me as a speed guy, but the speed guys are always questioned about their cutting ability. How they get in and out of their routes.”
Showing up like he did a year ago won’t hurt, either, he said.
“That will determine who you are,” Morgan said. “If you’re consistently bad, you’re going to be let go. If you’re consistently doing good, that will speak volumes for you. So I have to stay healthy and show up.”