Jimmy Graham ready for takeoff

METAIRIE, La. – If you thought New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham soared last season, wait until you hear this.

GrahamGrahamGraham has earned his pilot’s license and he’s instrument rated. He also is working on his aerobatic certification. Yep, Graham is flying planes -- and sometimes flying them upside down.

“Flipping planes is pretty neat,’’ Graham said.

Graham said he flew every day last week and gave some friends and teammates an over-head view of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and the city of New Orleans. Flying has becomes Graham’s passion.

“I remember the first time I went up, it was in a little aerobatic plane and we were inverted for quite a while,’’ Graham said. “I’ve been addicted ever since. It’s very challenging. It’s something you always have to pay attention to.’’

That attention to detail could translate into football success. Although Graham had one of the best seasons ever by a tight end (99 catches for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns) in his first full season as a starter, Graham wasn’t completely happy with his season.

“I see a lot of room for improvement,’’ Graham said. “Whenever I watch film, there’s a lot of stuff I left out there that I’m still agitated about and I’ve got to get better at those things."

What can Graham possibly improve after putting up such huge numbers?

“Just all the little things, the things I guess people don’t notice,’’ Graham said. “I see an extra 30 receptions that I left out there. I see things that I could have done better in blocks and spring running backs free for a couple more yards. I’m a young player, plus I’m young to the game. Every day’s a learning experience for me.’’

This is the first year Graham’s had a full offseason program. As a rookie, he obviously couldn’t join the team until after the draft. Last year, the lockout prevented the offseason. In addition to improving physically, Graham said he’s watched a lot of film this offseason.

“It’s helped me a lot,’’ Graham said. “The chance to watch all the plays from last year – all the drops, all the missed opportunities and that’s what I’ve focused on film-wise. Just getting better, watching defenses and trying to recognize things faster.’’

On the field -- and in the air.