Morgan hopes slow, steady wins the race

METAIRIE, La. -- Speed has been Joe Morgan's defining characteristic since he first joined the New Orleans Saints in 2011. But for the second time in three years, the wide receiver has been forced to develop his patience.

Morgan hasn't returned to the Saints' practice field yet after suffering a major knee injury last August. He said he's about 80 percent recovered and expects to be back in time for the start of training camp. For now, he's been working off to the side with trainers during organized team activities.

Morgan didn't want to get into all of the specifics of his knee injury since he knows the Saints like to keep that information close to the vest. But he said this was the projected timetable because the injury was "more complex" than just an ACL tear and required two surgeries. When Morgan was first placed on injured reserve last summer, it was also reported that he tore the meniscus.

"I'm confident that I'll be able to bounce back and do the things that I'm capable of," said Morgan, who said he thinks he's handled the long wait well -- though he admitted he got anxious earlier in the process when he wanted to progress faster.

"I mean, you think about it in the back of your mind, like, 'Am I gonna bounce back, am I gonna be even half the player I was, have half the speed that I had?'" Morgan admitted. "I mean, you think about it, but you gotta tell yourself, 'Don't think about it.' You've gotta just continue to do the rehab and have faith and confidence."

Morgan went through a similar process during his rookie season as an undrafted rookie out of Walsh University in 2011, when the Saints placed him on injured reserve after he tore the meniscus in his knee late in the preseason. But that was more of a minor injury and repair.

"I didn't lose any speed from that," Morgan said. "I might've got faster because I got a little stronger and everything."

Clearly, the Saints felt good enough about Morgan's progress this time around to re-sign him as a free agent this offseason. But it was a one-year minimum-salary deal, so nothing is guaranteed.

And he's battling for a roster spot at a crowded position group that now includes another blazing-fast burner in first-round draft pick Brandin Cooks.

Morgan (6-foot-1, 184 pounds) needs to prove to the Saints that he can return to the level he was at before the injury. He had a mini-breakout 2012 season with 379 yards and three touchdowns on just 10 catches (an astonishing 37.9 yards per catch). Then last summer he was the front-runner for the Saints' No. 3 receiver job before he suffered the injury early in training camp.

When asked if he feels like he can pick up where he left off, or if he needs to act like that undrafted rookie trying to prove himself all over again, Morgan said, "First of all, I'm always gonna have that mindset regardless."

"It's a mindset you get as an undrafted guy as myself, that you always want to go out there and prove your worth," Morgan said. "Some guys get to that point where they have proven themselves, like for example Junior (Galette), but he still comes out every day and he's gonna prove himself every day, every year. That's the same way I am.

"But the expectations I had, the expectations the team had of me going into 2013, I will try to get healthy and try to carry those things into this year."

For the record, Morgan admitted that Cooks and young Saints receiver Charles Hawkins might both be faster than him even when he gets back to full speed. ... At least in the 40. Morgan said he might take them in the 100-yard dash.

"But that's OK. If I'm in that top three out of, what, 90 guys, I have no problem with that," Morgan said. "Plus they're smaller than me. So they've got a little advantage."