Sean Payton was asked Wednesday about one of the few longtime veterans still remaining on the New Orleans Saints' roster -- receiver Marques Colston. Payton praised the way Colston finished strong last season despite continuing to battle soreness in his foot, among other injuries.
Colston, 30, has battled a number of nagging knee injuries over the years. And his production was down a bit last season. But it speaks highly of him that the Saints remained committed to him while parting ways with so many other aging players. Colston is due $5.6 million in salary and bonuses this year.
Payton said the key for the Saints will be to keep Colston fresh.
"He played some of his better football late in the season. So he battled some soreness in his foot, and that wasn't easy, but he's such a target and competitor inside," Payton said. "I think the key is just monitoring his snaps during training camp. The thing you have to start doing with a player like him during the season with regards to practice time. I know he's someone inside who's very strong-handed, very disciplined with his routes. He knows all the positions, so he's been a very consistent, steady player at this time."
Colston missed one game last season with a knee injury and also appeared on the injury report at times with foot and back ailments. The foot injury has been nagging for at least two years now since he had a plantar fascia issue. But that can be spun both ways:
On one hand, you could say Colston has been injury-prone. On another hand, you can say he has consistently shown an ability to play through nagging ailments.
Colston finished last season with 75 catches for 943 yards and five touchdowns. It was the first time since 2008 that he finished with less than 1,000 yards or seven TDs. But as Payton said, he did finish strong. Colston caught 28 passes for 347 yards and three touchdowns over the final four regular-season games. He then caught 11 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown in the playoff loss at Seattle.
Payton didn't expand much on some of the Saints' other injuries. But he was generally positive when asked about players such as Kenny Vaccaro, Patrick Robinson and Victor Butler, who finished last season on injured reserve.
"They're rehabbing. All of it is going well," Payton said.
That's not surprising since all three players are expected to fully recover in plenty of time for offseason practices.