Two months into his time in New Orleans, Max Unger is starting to settle into his new surroundings.
Unger, who initially told a Seattle radio station that he was bummed about being traded away from the Seahawks, has spent the past month or so going through workouts with his new teammates, playing golf with the rest of the offensive line and getting used to his new city.
Any lingering hesitance — understandable given that the Hawaii native had spent all of his time in the contiguous 48 states, both in college at Oregon and in Seattle, in the Pacific Northwest — is gone.
“I’m over all of that,” Unger said. “It’s done with. I’m here, I’m very happy about it and I’m just trying to move forward.”
Unger, a six-year veteran who is generally regarded as one of the league’s best centers when he’s healthy, finally will get a chance to start working with the rest of the offensive line in earnest as the Saints begin organized team activities Tuesday, but he already has spent some time building a rapport with quarterback Drew Brees.
Botched snaps are rare in the NFL, but that harmony is developed during the offseason. Unger has spent the past three seasons snapping to the sound and timing of Russell Wilson’s voice; now he has to learn Brees’ cadence and rhythms.
With the exception of a few early miscommunications, Unger has gotten a feel for how Brees operates. Now that OTAs have arrived, Unger can start building an on-field rapport with the rest of the offensive line. Off the field and in the weight room, the affable veteran is already one of the guys.
“Max is an awesome dude,” guard Tim Lelito said. “We work out together every day, and we were actually playing out here last Thursday at Zach’s golf tournament, so it was a fun time, just hanging out. We have the same interests and stuff like that. He grew up on a farm in Hawaii; I grew up on a farm in Michigan. So he’s an outdoors-type guy, (and) so am I.”
Unger admits he was taken by surprise when he got the call that he had been traded, along with a first-round pick, for tight end Jimmy Graham.
Although several high-profile trades dotted the offseason this spring, the NFL normally doesn’t do a lot of wheeling and dealing of standout players.
“It’s something you don’t really factor into the equation very often, just because of the frequency,” Unger said. “It’s so infrequent.”
The good news for Unger is that the Seahawks sent him to another team that has spent most of its recent history in the playoffs.
In Seattle, Unger had been on a playoff team four times in six NFL seasons. By going to a team like New Orleans — the 2014 campaign notwithstanding — Unger has a chance to continue that trajectory.
“Obviously, a team with a lot of success, coming off of winning a Super Bowl a couple of years ago, a great organization,” Unger said. “It’s kind of the reputation that they have, as a team that wins a lot of games.”
The biggest adjustment Unger will have to make when the Saints take the field for organized team activities? The heat.
Average temperatures in New Orleans during the summer months are 15 to 20 degrees hotter than the same span in Seattle, so Unger’s helmet is going to be a lot hotter.
The good news is that OTAs happen in three-day spurts, offering some time for Unger to get used to the weather.
“That was like the first thing when I found out I was coming down here,” Unger said. “I was like, ‘Well, it’s gonna be hot, so you’re going to have to deal with that.’ But we play in the Dome, and for training camp, we’ll go up to West Virginia. So it’ll be manageable.”
If the heat is the biggest challenge Unger faces in his transition to New Orleans, the Saints’ offensive line should be just fine.