By his own admission, Marques Colston wasn’t in a good place last season.
He didn’t want to be bothered with the media. He didn’t play up to his own standards. Colston was fully invested in New Orleans, and he played to the best of his ability, but it wasn’t his most enjoyable season.
When it came to a close, Colston took time to evaluate what he wanted. It’s a process he goes through every offseason. He lets his body heal, waits until his mind is clear and then determines whether the game is still something he wants to pursue.
This offseason, however, the decision wasn’t limited only to whether he still wanted to play football. Colston had to determine whether he was willing to take a reduction in salary to remain in New Orleans, or go somewhere other than the place that first gave him a shot.
The decision, surprisingly, wasn’t as difficult as it might seem.
“I probably could have went somewhere else and maybe got a little more money,” Colston said. “The priority for me was to come back to an organization that I really enjoy playing for. I enjoy coming to work every day and being in this locker room. It’s an organization that took a chance on me Day One. That loyalty means something to me.”
Colston dropped his salary-cap charge from $9.7 million to $6.5 million as part of his salary reduction. The drop in salary, which resulted in a $3.2 million reduction in actual cash value in 2015, didn’t bother the 32-year-old.
Some NFL players see their salary as a badge of honor, a way to measure their worth. Colston doesn’t see it that way. He feels financially secure and blessed to have made as much money as he has — and it’s not like his current salary will leave him destitute.
But it’s more than that to him. Not only did he want to remain in New Orleans, because he loves the city and feels comfortable here, but he also believes in the system, and he’s smart enough to know that he might not enjoy the same level of success in another franchise.
“You look at the position I play, I’m kind of dependent on everyone else along the offense to have success,” Colston said. “Just being in football, I’ve seen guys in my position chase every penny and not really have the career or the success they are accustomed to. I always say I’ll never be in a hurry to leave a Hall of Fame quarterback.”
Colston doesn’t know how long he wants to play. He scoffed at the notion that people start putting a clock on players once they turn 30. He feels he’s still a productive player and has plenty to offer this team.
He isn’t wrong. While his past two seasons might have been down by his personal standards, he still finished 2013 with 943 receiving yards and last season with 902. Those are good numbers, and they’re even more valuable to a New Orleans team with a young receiving corps.
The difference, now that he’s on the other side of 30, is that he has to manage his body. Colston isn’t taking part in every organized team activity and missed Tuesday’s minicamp practice. He takes part in practices — just not all of them.
Colston, however, was coy when asked whether he’s dealing with an injury.
“There’s not one injury per se,” he said. “When you play nine, 10 years in this league at a skill position, mileage is mileage. ... I’m just kind of in a mode where they want to manage that process throughout the year.”
When he isn’t on the field, he stands on the sideline with a play sheet and does everything he can to help the young receivers, such as Brandon Coleman and Seantavius Jones.
Summer snaps are more valuable to the young players who are trying to learn the system. He isn’t going to get loud or do things to pump them up, but he’s more than willing to talk with them and help them get better.
“I’m never going to be a rah-rah guy,” Colston said. “If that’s what you’re looking for, you’re looking at the wrong guy.”
Coming back from last year, Colston is motivated to get the bad taste out of his mouth. The fumble against Atlanta in overtime during a Week 1 loss stuck with him, and he dropped more passes than he would have liked. He said late last year that he felt like he was part of the problem more often than the solution.
It hurt, but that’s behind him. He’s in a better state of mind now. He’s happy and eager to help this team in any manner he can — whether it’s through his individual production or helping the young receivers develop.
“At this point in my career, it’s not necessarily about maximizing every penny of every contract,” Colston said. “I’ve been blessed to be in a position where I’m secure financially. It was important to me to come back and finish what we started here collectively and to play for a city and organization that gave me so much.”