None of New Orleans Saints veteran Marques Colston’s team-leading 851 receiving yards could ease the agony it caused him to lose a fumble in overtime that set up a game-winning field goal for the Falcons at Atlanta in the season’s first week.
And none of his four touchdown catches this year can console him for the team-leading seven passes he has dropped, perhaps the worst of which was in the second quarter of a 27-24 overtime defeat at home to San Francisco on Nov. 9 that could’ve resulted in an 81-yard score on third-and-4 — but instead set up a punt.
Colston suggested as much when he spoke to reporters Friday for the first time this regular season, two days before the Saints (6-9) finish their campaign at Tampa Bay (2-13) in a contest that offers them no possibility of making the playoffs.
“Putting the ball on the ground, that’s just something that I shouldn’t be doing,” Colston said while discussing how he thought he had fared during a season that saw the Saints get eliminated from playoff contention after Sunday’s home defeat to Atlanta. “I pride myself on trying to be part of the solution. Instead this year, I feel like I was part of the problem at times.”
That’s certainly not a spot Colston is accustomed to being in. After the Saints selected him late in the last round of the 2006 draft, he has improbably set regular-season franchise records for catches (664), receiving yards (9,188) and touchdowns (67). He helped the Saints win their lone Super Bowl title in his fourth year.
He has caught at least 70 passes in seven of his seasons in New Orleans. He has amassed six campaigns with at least 1,000 receiving yards. And he has never griped about his role, even as tight end Jimmy Graham became the Saints’ primary passing target.
“As a player, person and teammate, he’s everything you would want,” said quarterback Drew Brees, who has thrown every one of Colston’s touchdown catches. “He’s a mainstay — there’s not any person who I have played with who has been more steady, more consistent in every way. He’s the consummate teammate.”
Yet, as is true of most around him, Colston has had better years than the one he has delivered in 2014. Colston needs 93 yards at Tampa Bay to avoid registering the second-fewest yards total of his career, and he needs a touchdown catch to avoid a personal low in that category.
On top of that, he had prominent miscues — the fumble at Atlanta and the drop against San Francisco — in close losses that could’ve allowed the Saints to clinch a playoff berth had they been victories. And he hasn’t gone easy on himself about all that.
“(He’s) a guy you would generally say is not super emotional play-to-play,” said right tackle Zach Strief, another 2006 seventh-round pick by the Saints. “(But) I’ve seen him throw a helmet this year and be very upset.”
Colston on Friday said that’s only natural.
“It’s not a secret I didn’t play up to my own standards,” he said. “I’ve got to live with that.”
Nonetheless, Colston had a message for anyone who thinks a life beyond the Saints or the NFL is at the front of his mind as he reaches the end of his ninth pro season.
He won’t deny he envisions a not-too-immediate future for himself in sports ownership. He already has purchased a majority stake in the Harrisburg Stampede, a Professional Indoor Football League team in his Pennsylvania hometown. And he bought part of the Arena Football League’s Philadelphia Soul, too.
“There’s obviously an avenue there I’d like to pursue,” Colston said. “There is a ... vision that I have that one of these days hopefully takes flight.”
But he was in no mood to entertain any questions about whether he would return to the Saints for a 10th season, would accept a pay cut to do so if necessary or would consider playing elsewhere in the NFL.
“We have one game left,” he said. “And the focus is on going to Tampa and getting a win.”
It may not be what the public or media wants to hear, but it hints at why the former late seventh-rounder has stuck with the Saints for almost a decade.