Kenny Vaccaro went through the reports written about him last season. He didn’t like what he was reading.
The critics called him a jack of all trades, someone who was good at a lot of things but was great at nothing. Vaccaro wanted to be considered great. That’s how he views himself, and he believes he can be that player. But he also realized he wasn’t going to get the recognition he desired if he continued in the role he filled as a rookie.
“Like (San Francisco’s) Eric Reid, for instance,” Vaccaro said. “He plays free safety. He’s sitting back there and that’s all he’s doing. He went to the Pro Bowl his first year. I’m like, ‘Dang, maybe if I played one position.’”
So, beginning in training camp and at various moments this year, Vaccaro expressed a desire to play strong safety exclusively. His wish was granted, but he struggled at times and was moved back to the role he filled as a rookie following a meeting with coach Sean Payton last week.
The move was initially described in the media as a demotion. Vaccaro, however, does not view it that way. He says his “natural habitat is being” around the ball. In his current role, which requires him to cover slot receivers, line up in the box, and do whatever else is asked of him, he’s always right in the thick of things.
“I like when (defensive coordinator) Rob (Ryan) puts me in those positions and counts on me that much and makes me step my game up that much more,” Vaccaro said.
“I thought (moving to strong safety) might help me make more plays, I guess,” Vaccaro said. “But not really though. The position I was in last year — that’s where you want to be. You want to be that guy (Ryan) designs the whole thing around.”
Instead of serving exclusively as a strong safety, Vaccaro has now set his sights on becoming a player like Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu, who moves about the field and could probably be best labeled as a playmaker.
In time, Vaccaro said he would like to develop into being an elite strong safety. But for now, he’s happy to be the chess piece that moves around the defense and fills in wherever he can. It suits him.
“I got caught up in trying to be simple,” Vaccaro said. “Maybe simple isn’t me. Maybe I can be great at all of them.”
The Saints (6-8) were forced to limit Junior Galette’s snaps last week against the Chicago Bears because of a knee injury that he’s been managing. He doesn’t expect his situation to change Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons (5-9).
“Basically the passing situations, probably the same thing going into this game,” Galette said. “Trying to ease off the knee a little bit.”
Galette played 29 snaps against the Bears during Monday’s win. He did, however, manage to record two of New Orleans’ seven sacks.
Though he’s admittedly not 100 percent, Galette was not listed on the injury report earlier this week and was not limited in any way.
When he returns to full health, Galette is not sure if he will go back to playing a full slate of snaps.
“Whatever is working for the team right now,” Galette said. “Right now, my knee is not 100 percent. So just being smart and making sure I’m not playing 60 snaps on half of a knee.”
The Saints might be without left tackle Terron Armstead against the Falcons.
Armstead (neck) and safety Jamarca Sanford (hamstring) are both listed as questionable for Sunday’s game after missing Friday’s practice due to injury.
Defensive tackle Akiem Hicks (ankle) is also listed as questionable. He was limited Friday.
If Armstead is unable to play, Bryce Harris will likely start in his place. If Sanford cannot play, Vaccaro could move back to strong safety.
For Atlanta, guard Jon Asamoah (back) and wide receiver Julio Jones (hip) are questionable.