Center choice clear; Goodwin, Lelito react

METAIRIE, La. -- Although the New Orleans Saints haven’t made any official announcement, it is apparent that veteran Jonathan Goodwin has won the starting center job over Tim Lelito.

Lelito said that is what he thinks from talking with coaches and reading the tea leaves. Though Goodwin refused to get ahead of himself, he said he did take it as a good sign that he was held out of the preseason finale along with several other veteran starters, while Lelito played in all four quarters.

"The positive thinking side of me would take it as a good sign," Goodwin said.

Lelito is thinking positive as well, though. Although the second-year pro wasn’t able to take over the job this summer, he still loves his position as a backup center and guard behind three veteran Pro Bowlers.

"I’m excited. I’m probably in the best position out of any young offensive lineman in the entire NFL," Lelito said following Thursday night’s game. "Because Ben Grubbs, Jon Goodwin and Jahri Evans, that’s probably the best three interior that you’re ever gonna see. And then you got (Zach) Strief out at right tackle, who should probably have a couple Pro Bowls himself. ...

"Who knows where I’m gonna play in the future, center or guard? But I’m just learning from Jon and Ben and Jahri, just trying to get better."

Believe it or not, Goodwin feels like he is still getting better in his 13th NFL season, as well. Last week, Goodwin talked about how he thinks this was his best training camp yet in his career spent with the New York Jets, Saints, San Francisco 49ers and back to the Saints. He reiterated that on Friday.

"A lot of guys hold on too long, and I don’t want to do that,” Goodwin said. “But I really felt like I could still play this game, and I think this last month has proven that."

The Saints should be feeling awfully positive about the center position, as well.

Nobody won this job by default. Goodwin's fountain-of-youth performance probably exceeded expectations. And they also must feel comfortable that Lelito is capable of stepping in at any of their interior line positions if needed this season.