In his first week back with the New Orleans Saints, it seemed like Roman Harper had a teleporter — because he was everywhere.
The veteran safety, who returned to the Saints earlier this month after two seasons with the Carolina Panthers, was moving all over the practice field during minicamp, putting his fellow defenders where they needed to be. After a pass deflection, he jogged back to the sideline as his teammates celebrated by patting him on his helmet and shoulder pads.
And when the defense made stops during the two-minute drills, he congratulated his teammates with jumps of excitement or a simple pat on the back.
Fellow defensive back Jimmy Pruitt quickly took notice. To the undrafted rookie out of San Jose State, having Harper around has been helpful.
“He is a guy you can go to, always open to questions,” Pruitt said. “He plays fast, knows the defense and understands offensive schemes as well.”
Harper went from second-round draft pick in 2006 to Super Bowl champion with the Saints less than four years later. During his nine seasons in New Orleans, he played with Jonathan Vilma, Darren Sharper, Will Smith and Jabari Greer, among many others, as part of a team full of defensive leaders.
So he understands what it takes to win.
“I want to get to know the guys, show them the way of winning,” Harper said. “It’s so hard to win if you don’t know how.”
Harper’s mere presence is significant to cornerback Delvin Breaux. Breaux just met Harper last week, but one of the things that stood out, he said, was knowing the 33-year-old is there to listen and learn.
“That’s my guy,” Breaux said. “His presence is just amazing, just knowing that he has an open ear and we can help each other out. I think his presence is going to be big for us this year.”
Secondary coach Aaron Glenn knew what the Saints were getting when they brought Harper back.
“He’s been there, done that,” Glenn said. “He’s able to talk to the guys through all the pitfalls, through all the ups and downs he’s had. He’s been on other teams, he’s seen how they’ve done it, and every team has their own way of doing it. And I think he has a chance to come in there and talk to the guys and say, ‘Here’s what I’ve seen. Here’s what I think it’s going to take for us to be the kind of team we need to be.’ ”
Harper’s success with the Saints created a tremendous amount of respect for him within the organization, head coach Sean Payton noted, and the defense’s many new players have taken notice, too. The group has a balance of youth and veteran leadership, and new linebacker Nate Stupar recognized Harper’s impact right away.
“He is such a smart guy,” Stupar said. “He’s got a lot to say. He has a lot of influence, too, with tons of respect. Out there at minicamp, we will just have a conversation, and it just opens up your eyes about his mentality on defense. He’s just trying to put players in the right position at the right time in the best situation.”