31 Jul

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Making an Early Impact: New Orleans Saints Rookie Safety Kenny Vaccaro

Image: Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Image: Cooper Neill/Getty Images

 

Saints first-round pick and former Texas Longhorn, Kenny Vaccaro walked off the Saints practice field carrying as much equipment as the veterans could pile on. In fact, none of the shoulder pads or helmets he carried belonged to him ... he had to make a second trip to retrieve his own equipment.

Such is life for an NFL rookie. Vaccaro may have a 1st round pedigree, but he is gets no special treatment. This is a role that Vaccaro willing accepts. He even cracks a smile about it, joking about fulfilling his duties as the new guy on the team.

On Friday, Vaccaro participated in his first day of training camp as a New Orleans Saints player. Afterward, he spoke to reporters and according The Times-Picayune, he made one thing clear -- he wants to be on the field early and often.

"Obviously, I want to play right away and make an impact on the team even if it's on special teams, but I understand I wasn't brought in to do that," Vaccaro said. "I want to play as fast as I can."

The former University of Texas standout said he's working extensively with Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan on becoming an integral player for a unit that's trying to learn a new system.  His athleticism allows the Saints to utilize him in different packages and positions. Vaccaro rattled off several positions he'll be practicing during camp, including nickelback, dime and strong safety.

Vaccaro said he spent considerable time during the offseason diving into Ryan's playbook, which has helped limit his mental mistakes.

"(Ryan) wants to use our skill sets to the best of our abilities and kind of mold his scheme around the players he has," Vaccaro said. "He does a good job of letting players speak up in meetings and just letting us -- because he always says we're the ones playing -- so just letting us do our thing."

Vaccaro is also keeping an open ear to the veterans, especially  Roman Harper, with whom he's competing for playing time. Harper has been giving advice to the rookie about adjusting to the pro ranks.

"He just helps me with little things -- little things rookies don't pick up," Vaccaro said. "He'll just tell me little tidbits out there that'll improve my game every day."

It certainly looks like his head is in the right place. We look forward to following Vaccaro along his NFL journey.

Source: The Times-Picayune

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James Schleicher is the publisher of Horns Illustrated magazine. He's also a fifth generation Texan and lifelong Austinite. Follow @HornsIllus twitter to keep up with all things Horns Illustrated.