Paul Turner, once with LSU, hopes to stick with Saints – (NOLA.COM) Saints News

NOLA.COM – Paul Turner, once with LSU, hopes to stick with
Saints – (NOLA.COM)

Paul Turner didn’t know at the time just how much talent sat in that room.

Over here was Odell Beckham Jr. Over there was Jarvis Landry. Other wideouts on the LSU football team then were Reuben Randle, Russell Shepard and James Wright. All five have played multiple seasons in the NFL.

“It was a lot of talent,” Turner said. “Definitely a lot of talent.”

The former West Monroe football star arrived at LSU in 2011 in the same recruiting class as Beckham and Landry. Travin Dural arrived the next year. After another season, his second in Baton Rouge, Turner transferred to Louisiana Tech and played his final three college seasons 30 minutes from his home town.

He’s now going through his third NFL offseason, his first with the New Orleans Saints. The Saints signed him in January, and he recently completed four weeks of organized team activity and minicamp workouts with the Saints, trying to make an impression on a 90-man roster that includes 13 wideouts.

The Saints are likely to shuffle the roster some between now and the start of training camp in late July. Whether Turner stays with the team will be up to coach Sean Payton and his staff.

One thing the 5-foot-10, 193-pound Turner has going for him is NFL experience. He caught the attention of Philadelphia Eagles fans in the 2016 preseason as an undrafted rookie with a one-handed catch against the Pittsburgh Steelers and with a 71-yard punt return touchdown against the New York Jets.

That punt return could be some of what drew the Saints to Turner. Payton said after the final day of minicamp practices Wednesday (June 13) the team had “five or six” players to consider as the primary punt returner when training camp begins.

Turner ended the 2016 preseason with an NFL-leading 17 catches for 165 yards, thinking he had done enough to make the 53-man roster to start the season. He didn’t. The Eagles waived him and put him on the practice squad.

“You were thinking that everything is kind of set in stone, that you were going to make the team,” Turner said. “At the end of the day they had other plans. It ended up working out for the best.”

Although the Eagles couldn’t fit him on the roster, they reportedly liked him enough to give him a full player salary, according to NFL Network.

The Eagles activated him for the final six games that season, with his best game coming against the Cincinnati Bengals, when he caught six passes for 80 yards. He caught three other passes for 46 yards in five other games that season.

Prospects for another standout training camp ended early the next summer, when a hard fall during an unpadded practice caused a fracture in the left scapula. That’s the shoulder blade.

The Eagles waived him that September. He went through months of rehabilitation, first in Ruston at Louisiana Tech, then for two months in Dallas. The Saints signed him Jan. 5.

Catching passes from Drew Brees during the Saints’ offseason program had Turner savoring the experience. “His understanding of the game, his knowledge, rubs off on you,” Turner said. “The biggest thing you can do is try to take in as much wisdom as you can.”

Turner said it was common for Brees to tell receivers how they can better run a route. “I’ve never played with somebody of that stature,” Turner said.

Turner awaits training camp with no guarantees. LSU showed just how much talent can be assembled in one place, and he learned with Philadelphia just how much work goes into earning a roster spot.

“Anywhere you go it’s always going to be a battle,” he said. “I could be in Cincinnati or Tampa or Houston, it’s always going to be a battle. That has to be the mindset.”

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