Seeing his team on the practice field for the first time since February was a welcome sight to Tulane coach Curtis Johnson.
However, one face may have been more welcome than the rest and at least one other face is missing.
Fewer than four months after being booked on one count of simple rape, Niguel “Teddy” Veal participated in the Green Wave’s first practice of 2014 fall camp. Tulane officials confirmed that the Orleans Parish District Attorney refused to pursue the case, freeing Veal of any internal consequence and immediately lifted his team-imposed suspension.
“It feels great being back to doing something I love to do,” Veal said. “The first day of camp, I had a good practice it feels good to be back.”
Meanwhile, Johnson said redshirt sophomore wide receiver Kedrick Banks is no longer with the program.
The former McDonough 35 standout withdrew from the program Monday. Banks redshirted as a freshman in 2012 before playing in 11 games last season at wide receiver.
The speedy target was used often on the perimeter, hauling in 19 receptions for 118 yards. He was listed as No. 2 on the Z-receiver depth chart coming out of spring practice, behind senior Xavier Rush.
“He is transferring to another program,” Johnson said. “I think that’s what’s best for him. That’s what he wanted to do. He was good here. No issues. No problems. But he thought it was best for him to go elsewhere.”
The fact Banks’ absence and Veal’s return coincided was convenient for the Green Wave, since the pair of small, shifty and speedy receivers possess similar skill sets.
Veal, a true freshman wide receiver, was an early enrollee who joined the Green Wave after graduating early from West Jefferson High School. He participated in spring practice, but his future with the program became unclear after the arrest.
However, he never stopped attending school, so his reinstatement into the program was seamless, allowing him to participate in practice at the New Orleans Saints facility on Monday.
“I was just really excited to be back and part of the program,” Veal said. “My mindset wasn’t focused on (the potential trial), I just had to stay positive and confident.”
Not only is Tulane’s staff relieved to lift a potential black-eye from the program, but it regained an explosive offensive threat. Veal flashed his ability at the slot receiver position in the spring, flashing an ability to stretch the field for a passing game in need of a spark.
Tulane’s offense stagnated a year ago, ranking 112th nationally in total yards and 104th in passing yards per game. The loss of senior receiver Ryan Grant (drafted by the Washington Redskins) and running back Orleans Darkwa (Miami Dolphins) left an even greater need for production.
Veal, though young, has the ability to make up for some of their absence according to several of the Green Wave coaches.
“He’s got all of the natural ability you could ever ask for,” receivers coach Keith Williams said in the spring. “He will pick up the technique in time, but if he wants to move up, he’s going to have to learn the playbook and know where he’s supposed be. I can work through or work around his technique, but he needs to continue to learn the offense at the pace he is right now.”
Having the charges dropped over the weekend ensured Veal wouldn’t miss a practice snap because the off-field incident, since it fell between spring and fall sessions.
However, he was away from his teammates during their offseason workouts.
Still, Johnson said, the time away didn’t adversely affect his speed. And that’s what Tulane needs most.
“He can really run,” Johnson said. “I think he’s just really happy to be out here and playing football more than anything.”