Photos: New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson stops by camp, key players begin to show off _lowres

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Saints G Jahri Evans (63) works in drills during the Saints morning practice Monday at White Sulphur Springs, WV.

In his 10 seasons in the NFL, Saints guard Jahri Evans has learned that the day after Thanksgiving is not the when you want to do your weekly weigh-in.

“Nah, I got that out of the way early,” Evans said. “I’m like everybody else on Thanksgiving.”

That Evans admits he probably overindulged Thursday is one of the few times you will find the six-time Pro Bowler not taking increasingly good care of himself — especially as his career reaches the uncertain stage of double-digit seasons. For Evans, that included a pay cut that reduced his salary cap number by $4 million.

While his listed weight of 318 pounds is the same as it has been for several years, Evans appears slimmer around the middle although his upper and lower body remain block-like.

Evans’ reputation is that of a self-motivated player who never has to be reminded to keep himself in shape.

And despite the usual aches and pains that come with playing a position with violent collisions on every snap, Evans says he’s feeling better at this stage of the season than he has in years.

Maybe that’s because of the arthroscopic knee surgery he went two weeks into the season which cost him the next three games.

It was only the second time in his career that Evans has been unable to go, the other being two games in 2013 because of an ankle injury.

Sunday’s game at Houston will be his 150th, going back to the 2006 season opener, when Evans, a fourth-round draft pick out of Division II Bloomsburg State, claimed the role he holds to this day.

Evans’ 150 games played will put him one behind Jim Dombrowski for 10th on the Saints’ career list and three behind Drew Brees, who made his Saints debut on the same day as Evans.

“He’s a stud, a war daddy, who’s always been there,” Brees said. “He’s fought through countless injuries, yet again has always been there. It’s a sense of relief know a guy like that is in front of me. I know what I’m going to get out of him every day at practice and every game.”

This season, Evans has done enough to earn a seventh Pro Bowl berth, which would tie him with Pro Football Hall of Famer Willie Roaf for the most by a Saints lineman.

“The way I measure myself is how well I keep Drew upright (Brees has been sacked 15 times in the seven games Evans has played in) and how many yards per carry Mark (Ingram) is getting (4.6),” Evans said.

“We try to grade out 100 percent, but it rarely happens. I still feel like I’m at an elite level in this league, though.”

What Evans is far-less pleased about is the Saints’ 4-6 record, which matches the two previous worst ones through 10 games in his career.

Computer projections give the team less a 3 percent chance of making the playoffs. The Saints are a three-point underdog Sunday against the Texans, who have won four of five after a 1-4 start and are tied for the lead in the AFC South.

“Now they’re saying our chances of making playoffs are extremely low, and we understand that,” Evans said. “But that doesn’t mean the opportunity still doesn’t exist and we’re going to continue to play that way.”

That attitude doesn’t surprise tackle Zach Strief, a fellow 2006 draftee and his rookie roommate who not only has started alongside Evans since 2011 but who has occupied the same corner of the Saints lockerroom for the same period.

“Jahri is the most competitive guy I’ve ever been around,” Strief said. “He’s pretty quiet during the week, but when you get in a game, he’s a different person.

“To him, it’s a fight and that’s always his mentality. He’s out there trying to finish people off and bury them.”

Evans said his competitiveness comes from the start, when he felt he was looked down on as a Division II player.

“The moment you let your guard down, you can get beat very easily,” he said. “That’s why I’m the way I am in games.”

It’s a quality Saints coach Sean Payton admires.

“You don’t ever take a player like that for granted,” he said. “Jahri’s a special person and a big piece of the things that we have been able to accomplish here.”

But despite all that, Evans — who along with Strief, Brees and Marques Colston, are the remaining four players from Payton’s first season — has an uncertain future with the team.

While Evans’ actual cut was for this season was only $400,000 and his salary is $9.5 of the $12 million owed him this year and next, there was an element of pride involved — especially since the Saints basically put he and fellow Ben Grubbs on the market to see who would draw the better offer (Grubbs was dealt to Kansas City for a fifth-round pick).

“I’ve known this was a business since the day I’ve been here. ... The main thing is that I get paid what I’m worth,” he said. “Sean and I had a conversation about that before the season began and agreed on some things.”

So does that mean Evans sees himself with the Saints again in 2016?

“I’m not planning on being anywhere else,” he said. “Maybe you’ve heard something different.”

Nope. And hopefully we won’t.

Jahri Evans is a good man to keep around.