WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. (AP) Through the first few weeks of his second NFL training camp, the only thing Brandon Coleman has had to apologize for is pretending to be Saints all-time leading receiver Marques Colston.
Coleman signed some fake Colston autographs as a joke after a recent practice because so many people had been comparing the two tall targets in the Saints' receiving corps. But Coleman quickly regretted and posted an apology on social media.
''That was just me apologizing to the fans if I personally hurt somebody or they were offended,'' Coleman said after practice on Tuesday. ''Just a little training camp humor, trying to lighten the mood a little bit.''
Having spent most of last season on the practice squad and never playing in a regular season game, the 6-foot-6 Coleman is more than 9,000 yards receiving away from approaching what the 6-4 Colston has done. Yet, even coach Sean Payton sees merit in comparing the way Coleman has looked in this year's camp to the way Colston looked as a rookie during 2006 training camp.
''Brandon has made similar strides that way and so I'm excited about his growth,'' Payton said. ''He's very smart. He's very detailed. So we just need to get him more snaps.''
If Coleman's recent form in practice translates to games, it won't be long before he plants seeds of regret in front office personnel across the NFL.
Coleman left Rutgers with one season left of eligibility, opting instead for the NFL draft. But scouts apparently were concerned about the way knee surgery seemed to limit Coleman during the 2013 season, when he caught 34 passes for 538 yards and four TDs for the Scarlet Knights. That was down from 2012, when he caught 43 passes for 718 yards and 10 touchdowns.
No one drafted him.
The Saints, however, lured him to New Orleans as a rookie free agent, then cut him at the end of 2014 training camp, but quickly signed him to their practice squad when no other team claimed Coleman off of waivers.
''Stuff like that happens every year,'' Coleman said, expressing seemingly no bitterness over his path to pro football. ''I just got an opportunity and I'm trying to make the most of it.''
As for his training camp form this summer, Coleman said, ''I'm happy, but I've got a long way to go. I'm just trying to stay consistent, do my job and keep putting days together that I can be proud of.''
The Saints currently have 11 receivers on their roster, so in the preseason opener last week at Baltimore, other players received more snaps. Coleman was thrown at only twice and did not have a reception.
''There was no specific rhyme or reason'' why Coleman played so little in Baltimore, Payton said.
''Obviously, there are a lot of guys at that position. But he's been playing too well and we feel like you'll see him get a lot of work this week'' with the first team in practice and in Saturday's preseason game against New England, Payton added.
During Tuesday's practice, Coleman was targeted several times during 11-on-11 drills, once making a tumbling catch on a route across the field as he was dragged down by rookie cornerback P.J. Williams.
Rookie middle linebacker Stephone Anthony, a first-round draft choice who has been practicing with the first-team defense, said Coleman has been a tough cover for anyone who has to drop back on passing downs.
''Incredible length - that's the biggest challenge for a lot of DBs on our team, or for anybody,'' Anthony said. ''A 6-6 guy being able to run like he can presents a great challenge. (The quarterback) just has to put the ball somewhere near him.''
Notes: Tight end Ben Watson has returned to West Virginia after spending several days with family for the birth of his fifth child. His return comes just in time for him to practice against one of his former teams, the New England Patriots, who'll practice at the Greenbrier resort Wednesday and Thursday. ... Defensive tackle Austin Brown, a former Arena Football League player in his first practice with New Orleans on Tuesday, had to be carted off the field after apparently injuring his right knee. Later Tuesday, the Saints signed 6-2, 301-pound defensive tackle David Hunter, a 25-year-old who played for the Houston Cougars in college and spent part of the 2012 NFL regular season on the Houston Texans' roster. ... The Saints have also added former Missouri tight end Michael Egnew and former Arizona State Chris Young while waiving long snapper Chris Highland, receiver Kyle Prater and nose tackle Lawrence Virgil.
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