Every player in the NFL handles the offseason differently.
Even the reigning Rookies of the Year. With 17 days left before the first practice of training camp, Alvin Kamara said he feels like the offseason has dragged on too long, and Marshon Lattimore feels like the Saints were just laying it on the line in Minnesota.
But both players have the same thing in mind for their second season in the NFL. Kamara and Lattmore, who were out at Tad Gormley Stadium on Monday to coach the 150 kids who showed up for Kamara's Rookie of the Year camp, said they can take things to the next level.
"We talk about it all the time, we're just trying to be the best," Lattimore said. "We won rookie of the year, now we're trying to win Defensive Player of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year."
Kamara was front and center Monday, holding his second camp of the summer; he also held a camp earlier this summer in Tennessee. For those who have been paying attention, Kamara said he feels like he has been everywhere this offseason, the NFL's breakout star both on the field and off after producing 728 rushing yards, 826 receiving yards and 14 total touchdowns.
For all of the fun he's had, though, Kamara is missing the football field.
"Everybody talks about how long the season is, but the offseason is long. I'm ready to get back with all my teammates and get back to practice and get back to work."
For players coming off of their rookie season in the NFL, like Kamara and Lattimore, the offseason is an adjustment. Instead of a spring spent training for the draft, showcasing skills in front of scouts and trying to figure out the NFL like they did last offseason, the Saints' star rookies had to work out their schedule on their own.
"You've got a lot of free time on your hands. You've got to know what to do with it," Kamara said. "Year one, you're dealing with combine and pro day and draft. Now, the offseason is like I've got some money now, I've got time, what do I do? You've got to manage your workout schedule, make sure you eat right."
The difference is a blessing.
Preparing for the NFL draft is nothing like preparing for the rigors of an NFL season, and rookies are left trying to get back into football shape in the summer after a spring spent training to be track stars.
"When you're training for the combine, you're really training for the 40," Lattimore said. "Now, I can focus on my game and my technique. I'm trying to be better than I was last year."
There's also a level of familiarity and confidence neither player had last year. When Kamara and Lattimore opened training camp last season, they were raw rookies trying to learn the Saints' scheme on the fly and carve out a space for themselves on an entirely new team.
A year later, they come back to camp as key cogs on a surging Saints team with big dreams, and they know exactly what to expect.
"That process, the draft-combine-pro day, it's a tiring process," Kamara said. "It's hard, coming from college, transitioning from being an amateur to a pro. It's hard, there's some growing pains. I was learning as I go, but now I have some experience, I know how to manage my time."
Having each other — and a promising draft class that also includes tackle Ryan Ramczyk, safety Marcus Williams, linebacker Alex Anzalone and defensive end Trey Hendrickson coming off of solid starts to their NFL careers — helps.
By virtue of their sweep of the NFL's Rookie of the Year awards, Kamara and Lattimore will always be linked, and that creates both motivation and healthy competition.
Lattimore, for his part, wants to raise his profile to the level of his teammate, who has a distinct advantage because of his position. Lattimore may have picked off five passes, broken up 18 more and shut down some of the NFL's best receivers, but to raise his visibility, he knows he has to do even more.
"Alvin's the superstar," Lattimore said. "They love the offense. … nobody cares about defense. … I'm trying to get on AK's level."
Lattimore joked that he might have to become as colorful as Deion Sanders to get there, raise his profile with a little extra personality on the field.
Whatever the Saints two young stars do, though, the arrow is only pointing up if they can somehow be even better than they were as rookies.