It was a 40-day stretch that could have left Cameron Tom a little discouraged and scratching his head.
First, the Saints signed center Nick Easton in free agency on March 17.
Then on April 26th, the Saints turned around and used their second round draft pick to select another center, Texas A&M's Erik McCoy.
But Tom, one of the two returning centers on the roster after Max Unger retired, says he wasn't fazed by the new additions at the position.
"Obviously they are going to put the best five out there," Tom said on Thursday. "The job is not going to be handed to anybody. It's a competition and competition brings the best out of anybody."
Tom, a Baton Rouge native who played at Catholic High, has been getting his chances to compete. During the first week of Organized Team Activities, he was the starter at center with the first team during the portion of practice that was open to the media. He is one of six centers on the roster during OTAs, joined by McCoy, Easton, Will Clapp, Marcus Henry and Ryan Groy.
Tom, McCoy and Easton got most of the work during the first week of OTAs.
"I feel like they are all capable," Saints offensive coach Dan Roushar said. "I'm anxious to see how they are when the pads come on."
This past Thursday, it was McCoy playing center in the session of practice the media watched.
Tom was right beside him, this time lining up at right guard. It's a position that he's familiar with. His first (and only) NFL start came at right guard this past year in the regular season finale against the Carolina Panthers.
"I just have to be able to play multiple positions," Tom said. "You never know what's going to happen so you just try to get as many reps as you can at every position."
Tom is entering his third season with the Saints. He went undrafted in 2017 coming out of Southern Miss. He feels like he has improved from Year 1 to Year 2 to now. He started off on the practice squad as a rookie but was on the 53-man roster for the final 10 games that season. He played in 11 games this past season.
"I think I've gotten a lot better, especially just understanding the offense," Tom said. "But also understanding the defense too."
His versatility bodes well, especially on a team that has had to reshuffle the deck throughout the past few seasons because of injuries.
And shifting positions is nothing new. He played tackle during his prep days at Catholic High. Then during his second season in college, he made the switch to center after two teammates who played center decided to stop playing football.
He admits going from tackle in to center in college was a big adjustment. Now he's adjusting to guard and center in the pros.
His ability to play both guard and center is something that teammates like right tackle Ryan Ramczyk can appreciate. Ramczyk, a second-team All-Pro selection last season, has spent his entire career only playing tackle, so he knows how difficult it surely has to be to play multiple positions on the line.
"For sure it's hard," Ramczyk said. "At center, you're snapping the ball and then worrying about what you have to do. Then you flip to guard, so it's a lot to know. But I think he's been doing really good. It's a lot to pick up and know all the positions. He's been here since my rookie year and every year in OTAs and camp he's been improving."
Now, he finds himself competing in one of the team's most intriguing position battles.
"The competition will bring the best out of the offensive line," Tom said. "And that will bring the best out of the team."