The Associated Press
Sounding contrite and determined to atone for his DUI, Saints wide receiver Joe Morgan said he is working hard to win a starter's job in training camp while dealing with the fallout from his arrest over Memorial Day weekend.
Morgan, 25, said his actions on May 25 that landed him in Stage One of the NFL's substance abuse program and likely will require him to undergo random testing under terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
His court date is set for Aug. 23.
In the meantime, Morgan is going about his business in training camp, battling Nick Toon, fifth-round draft pick Kenny Stills Jr., special teams captain Courtney Roby and others for the third spot on the depth chart behind veteran wide receivers Marques Colston and Lance Moore.
"I've put it behind me because the most important thing to me is football," Morgan said after a recent practice. "I can't say the arrest is not affecting me because I really can't be done with it until my court date but I got to concentrate on football first.
"Once all that is done, then hopefully I won't have to worry about it."
Under Stage One of the league's intervention program, a player will undergo a "medical evaluation to determine if he should undergo appropriate clinical intervention and/or treatment and subsequent development of a treatment program," according to the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
"Because of what happened they're going to put me in the program," Morgan said. "It's something that I got to get through. It's not going to be a hard thing. I just got to stay clean and that won't be hard at all."
Morgan said team officials, coaches and teammates have been supportive since his arrest.
"But, at the same time, they understand and I understand, too, that this situation isn't peaches and cream," he said. "It isn't something that is acceptable, by no means at all. But they've been working with me. That's testimony to the type of character and the type of guys who are in this organization, not just players but the guys upstairs, too. They see something in me, so I'm not going to let them down."
What they see is 10 catches last season for a gaudy 37.9-yard average and three touchdowns in 14 games. It's that big-play potential as a down-field threat that probably sealed the fate of veteran wide receiver Devery Henderson in New Orleans.
"Joe's a good kid," teammate Lance Moore said. "People make mistakes. But he's bounced back and he's definitely going to show people the type of guy he is. He's definitely faced adversity but he's showing up. He's become more of a professional and the thing that I'm encouraged about is that he wants to work and he's willing to work.
"He works extremely hard. He's come a long way. If you had seen him a couple years ago, a lot of people probably would have counted him out."
A product of obscure Walsh University in his hometown of Canton, Ohio, Morgan caught the eye of Saints officials in 2011 training camp as an undrafted rookie by scoring touchdowns on a pass reception, and kick- and punt returns.
But a season-ending knee injury ended his chances of catching on the 53-man roster.
"Even though I did pretty good last year, it shows just how raw I was," Morgan said. "It showed my ability but it showed how much farther I need to go. One thing I won't get is complacent. I'm an undrafted guy. I'm going to have that chip on my shoulder as a guy who has to prove something every day, every practice, every snap. If you continue to work on your craft, you'll get better."
Slowly but surely, Saints wide receivers coach Henry Ellard said Morgan is getting better.
"He's a speed guy and we're trying to teach him how be a route runner, how to get in and out of his cuts," said Ellard, a prolific wide receiver for 16 seasons in the NFL. "It's just repetition for him.
"The good thing about him is he's just starting to scratch the surface. He has a lot to learn. But what he brings to the table is he can run. He can run by people, and you can't teach that. You can't teach speed."