Curtis Lofton fitting perfectly with Saints

At about the time he hit free agency, the whispers started around the league that the Atlanta Falcons no longer thought Curtis Lofton could be an every-down linebacker.

The word was that new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan didn’t think Lofton had the quickness to be effective in pass coverage. True or not, Lofton wasn’t quickly signed to some massive contract. Although the Falcons had a standing offer for him to return, Lofton took his time and eventually signed with the New Orleans Saints at a price that was similar to what Atlanta had offered.

Lofton is a guy with a lot of pride and I think he wanted to go somewhere where he could be an every-down linebacker. I don’t think the fact he went to Atlanta’s main rival was a coincidence, either.

So far, it sounds as if the Saints have plans to use Lofton all the time. It also sounds like Lofton has done some things to improve his speed.

“Number one, he’s lost some weight and body fat,’’ New Orleans assistant head coach Joe Vitt said after Thursday’s workout. “His ability to change direction in space, his ability to drop his weight and burst on the ball, and then his angles to the ball and his closing speed have been shocking to me. They’ve been shocking to his teammates too. We know what we’ve got; we’ve got a thumper. We’ve got a guy who loves the contact, he’s a downhill linebacker. To watch his athleticism in space, his ability to flip his hips and burst, has really been a nice addition.’’

Hmm, the Falcons weren’t raving about Lofton’s athleticism back in February and March. But the Saints are doing that in May.

Assuming Jonathan Vilma’s season-long suspension is upheld, Lofton will be expected to work at middle linebacker and be in charge of the defense.

“In order to be a great signal-caller and in order to be a great teammate, you have got to put the needs of your teammates above yourself,’’ Vitt said. “And that is what Jonathan did a great job of and that’s what I see Curtis doing now. He puts himself in the toughest positions to take the burden off his teammates and that earns the respect of his teammates. Without me ever saying that, you watch him do that and it comes very naturally. I think that’s where his leadership qualities come in and that’s where his teammates being confident in him.”