METAIRIE, La. (AP) For much of the past nine years, Marques Colston has been consistently mentioned as a prime example of a late-round draft steal by New Orleans.
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound receiver out of Hofstra was taken with the 252nd pick in 2006. Only three players were taken later.
In the time since, he has become the Saints' all-time leading receiver in three separate categories. As his ninth season is set to end after New Orleans' game at Tampa Bay on Sunday, it doesn't appear he's any closer to stepping away from football.
Colston is set to make nearly $7 million in 2016 and has a salary cap number much larger. With the Saints (6-9) missing the playoffs for the second time in the past three seasons, changes are likely in the future.
While the business of football could force Colston or the Saints to make a decision on the receiver's future in New Orleans, he said now isn't the time to look at that.
''I understand that there's a business side to the offseason, and I'll cross that bridge when I get to it,'' he said.
Friday marked the first time Colston has spoken publicly since the before season opener against Atlanta. In that game, he fumbled on the second play of overtime, a play that ended up costing New Orleans a win on the road; the Falcons kicked a winning field goal on the ensuing drive. As he came off the field, he slammed down his helmet before brushing off overtures by teammate Benjamin Watson.
But Colston said that play had little to do with why he hasn't talked, referencing only vaguely that something had been in the media about the Saints he didn't agree with.
''Just some of the stuff that was in the media earlier in the season, and a lot of it didn't have to do with this locker room,'' Colston said without elaborating. ''I just really wasn't a fan of how it was being handled.''
Whether he's talking or not, he certainly has the full support of his teammates.
''I've been lucky to have him for nine years and I'm going to be lucky to have him for a few more,'' quarterback Drew Brees said. ''He's a mainstay. There's not any person who I have played with who has been more steady, more consistent in every way. He's the consummate teammate.''
The combination has been fruitful for both parties.
Of Brees' 315 touchdown passes with New Orleans, 67 have gone to Colston. Only four quarterback-receiver combinations have more touchdowns in NFL history.
The 67 touchdowns are a Saints franchise record. So, too, are Colston's 664 catches and 9,188 yards receiving.
He's one of only four receivers since 2006 with at least 60 touchdowns, 600 receptions and 9,000 yards receiving. Of that group, which includes Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and Brandon Marshall, Colston is the only one without a Pro Bowl berth.
''There's not a lot of receivers that I can think of who have gone through a career which essentially has never been kind of given some of the credit he's due, and never asking for any,'' said right tackle Zach Strief, who also was taken by the Saints in the 2006 draft.
Colston is having statistically one of his worst seasons. The only year with worse numbers was in 2008, when he missed six weeks with a thumb injury.
Yet, his 851 yards receiving and 14.9 yards per catch average are a team best. He has been thrown to 92 times this season. Only tight end Jimmy Graham has been targeted more by Brees.
''Not being able to perform to my standards is tough, but it is what it is this year,'' Colston said. ''I've got a lot to build on this offseason and before we get to that, I've got to finish strong in Tampa.''
He'll spend this offseason working toward a 10th year in the NFL. Coach Sean Payton won't be surprised if he returns in good enough shape to survive another season.
''The way he trains and the way he keeps himself in shape - I'm sure there's an attrition to every one of these guys, myself included, that started in '06. But I would say he's one of those guys that does everything necessary to slow down that slope,'' Payton said. ''It has been effective.''
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