Goodwin feels 13th camp has been his best

Jonathan Goodwin said he knows it's probably hard for people to believe. But, the New Orleans Saints center said, "In 13 years, I think this was my best training camp."

Goodwin said that goes for how he's been performing as well as how healthy he's feeling and how quickly his body is still moving at age 35.

Clearly, Goodwin has been revitalized by his return to the Saints after spending the past three seasons with the San Francisco 49ers.

He also wasn't ready to give up his NFL career just yet.

Although Goodwin admitted toward the end of last year that the possibility of retirement had crossed his mind, he knew he wasn't ready to make the full-time switch to the rec-league softball and kickball teams he plays on during the offseason.

"Honestly, playing in those (rec leagues), I realized I was still moving well and still could do it," said Goodwin, who just had to be patient enough to wait for the Saints to sign him after June 1 -- the deadline for free-agent signings to no longer count against a team's compensatory draft-pick formula.

"In this day and age, being a 35-year-old free agent, you don't know what's gonna happen. So I felt like I still could play, but I didn't know if I'd get the chance to play," said Goodwin, who always had New Orleans ranked as his top destination.

"I think being able to come back here and play here in a place that I love, I think it gave me a lot of extra motivation," Goodwin said. "That's turned out to be a valuable thing for me so far."

The battle between Goodwin and second-year pro Tim Lelito for the Saints' starting center job is still too close to call.

But based on Saturday's performance against the Indianapolis Colts, Goodwin might have the slight edge.

Goodwin started for the second straight preseason game, and he played extremely well. Among other examples, he took out two defenders to help open a hole for Mark Ingram's 17-yard run in the first quarter.

And Goodwin got way down the field to take out a defensive back, helping Pierre Thomas gain an extra 10-15 yards on his 26-yard screen pass in the first quarter.

"You know, Pierre does a good job setting it up. And I was able to read Jah's (Jahri Evans) block, and I could tell he was gonna kind of take two guys out," Goodwin said. "So I turned it up and tried to show off the wheels."

Saints quarterback Drew Brees said he hasn't noticed any drop-off in Goodwin, who was first with the Saints from 2006-10, making a Pro Bowl during the Saints' 2009 Super Bowl season.

"Goody is Goody," Brees said. "I think he's had a great camp. I think also just maybe the way his body feels, he looks really good and he's moving really well. He's strong and powerful.

"Tim Lelito has done a great job, too. I don't know how that's going to shake out, but both of those guys are certainly very capable and will be key contributors."