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Saints WR Joe Morgan vows to shed character-issue label

METAIRIE, La. -- Receiver Joe Morgan declined to reveal why he was suspended by the New Orleans Saints for the past two weeks, saying it was an "in-house" issue between himself, coach Sean Payton and the team. But Morgan said he takes accountability for it.

And he said it's up to him to shed the label that he's a "character-issue" guy after he has now had three high-profile off-field issues, dating to college.

"I mean, I do them things to myself. If you get labeled as a character-issue guy, that's something that you've done to get that label," said Morgan, who was also dismissed from the University of Illinois for undisclosed disciplinary violations in college and then was arrested on suspicion of driving drunk in 2013.

"So everything I've done to this point, I'm accountable for. But the thing I'm doing is trying to show everybody that that's not who I am. I'm not that person. I'm not a character-issue guy," Morgan continued. "I've made mistakes like any other person. But I'm doing all the things I can to make myself better, to separate myself from what people think of me."

When asked what he learned from the suspension, Morgan said, "I mean, being suspended sucks. … The learning experience I can take from it is just don't take things for granted and handle things in a different way."

Morgan's entire NFL career has been a roller-coaster ride since the Saints took a flier on him as an undrafted rookie from Walsh University in 2011. He dazzled with his speed and big-play ability that summer but spent his rookie season on injured reserve with a minor knee injury. Then he had a mini-breakout in 2012 with 10 catches for 379 yards and three touchdowns. But he missed all of 2013 with a major knee injury.

Morgan came back this year, but even before the suspension, he was inactive for almost every game as the Saints' fifth receiver.

Morgan, however, credited the Saints for "believing in" him and sticking by him -- comparing it to being a family member. And he said he plans to "do everything I can to stick by the team" by continuing to grow both on and off the field.

It does seem apparent that the Saints continue to believe in Morgan despite the fact that his career has been derailed so many times.

Coach Sean Payton said that is "absolutely" the case when he, too, refused to offer any specific details about the suspension on Wednesday.

And one of the first words that quarterback Drew Brees used to describe Morgan on Wednesday was "likable."

"Joe's a really talented young player. And like most young players, they go through growing pains," Brees said. "That might be professionally, that might be personally, but regardless, Joe is a very likable person. He's shown signs to be a very productive player. He's had a tough road, and you talk about the injury bug as well. ...

"I know there was that little hiccup there, but he's back, we're excited to have him back. I see him champing at the bit, I see a level of focus with him right now and we'll see where that leads him and how he can help us."