Saints' Kamara aims to expand his game as 3rd season nears
METAIRIE, La. (AP) — When Saints star running back Alvin Kamara walked out to Thursday's minicamp practice wearing reserve quarterback Teddy Bridgewater's red practice jersey, teammates including Drew Brees were amused.
They also found it fitting, given the dynamism and versatility Kamara has come to embody in his prolific first two NFL seasons.
"He's definitely a guy that could probably get out there and do it; that's the scary thing," Brees said of Kamara playing quarterback. "He's such a phenomenal athlete — and he always talks about wanting to throw the ball."
Kamara rules out very little when it comes to what he might do next to provide a new wrinkle to New Orleans' already prolific offense. He also sounds very open to trying new things — whether in his training, diet or on the field.
"That's where the anxiety comes from with me; it's not a bad anxiety, but a good anxiety — like, I'm anxious to see: What else?" Kamara said. "Where else could I line up? What else could I do? How else could I be successful?"
Kamara has been one of New Orleans' top two rushers and receivers in each of his two pro seasons since the Saints made him a third-round draft choice out of Tennessee. He was the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2017, when he had 1,554 yards and 13 touchdowns from scrimmage (728 yards and eight TDs rushing, 826 yards and five TDs receiving) to go with a 106-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. And there was no sophomore slump. Last season, he gained 1,592 yards and scored 18 TDs from scrimmage (883 yards and 14 TDs rushing, 709 yards and four TDs receiving).
Improving on that kind of production year after year is a challenge, but Kamara says he's determined to adopt offseason goals that give him a chance to do so — and to evolve as a player.
"Anything new, anything one of my teammates has to lend me, like some advice or somebody with some experience in the field of nutrition or strength or training — I try to take little gems from everybody," Kamara said. "Changing diets and looking for new things to get faster, stronger, get in better shape — I'm looking for all of it."
Certain unusual elements of Kamara's offseason workouts have become sensations on social media.
This offseason, he could be seen catching a three-pronged HECOstix with each hand while standing on a BOSU ball .
Kamara describes his balance as "pretty elite," and that was a workout designed to keep it that way.
During the 2018 offseason, there was a popular video of the 5-foot-10, 215-pound Kamara pulling a Jeep attached to a harness around his waist while balancing weights on his shoulders.
Meanwhile, Kamara has sought to emulate his record-setting quarterback's mental approach to the game.
"My rookie year — everybody says it was easy — I'm like, 'Man, look, there was sometimes I was out there, I didn't know what was going on,'" Kamara said. "I kind of took a step back and was like, 'All right, well, if I want to be the best, then I got to know what the best knows, and I think Drew is probably one of, if not the smartest people playing football right now."
Brees calls Kamara "inquisitive."
"There's a level of awareness with him that I think that's unique," Brees said. "He picks up on things very quickly. I think that's unique. And so then combine that with exceptional athletic skills and you get the player that he is."
Saints coach Sean Payton touts Kamara's "real, real, exceptionally high football IQ" and even gave the running back a fidget spinner as a funny, friendly way of saying he realized Kamara might need something to occupy himself while coaches are explaining things to his teammates.
"He can get bored with it, and that's why we give him one of those," Payton deadpanned.
Perhaps this season, coaches could have Kamara spinning footballs instead.
Payton, known as one of the NFL's more inventive play designers, affirmed his belief in Kamara's throwing ability, recalling a touchdown pass the running back threw at Tennessee out of a "wildcat" formation.
The throw was "like a tight end pop pass that was pretty good," Payton said.
But the coach also stressed there's good reason to avoid too much tinkering with the running and receiving plays Kamara has executed so well the past couple of seasons.
"Some of the stuff he does extremely well now — that still sells," Payton said. "That's still really, really good."
Notes: Brees said missing two voluntary practices last week and one mandatory practice this week to testify in his lawsuit alleging fraud against a San Diego jeweler was "Very tough." Brees added, "Obviously I'm quarterback of his football team and I want to be with the team, but unfortunately there were things that were a bit out of our control that we had to take care of. So take care of that and take life as it comes."