Saints' Emmanuel Butler has patience tested, now '100 percent' healthy

Christopher Dabe

METAIRIE, La. -- The last 10 days or so have tested Emmanuel Butler's patience.

The undrafted rookie receiver was the talk of training camp for the New Orleans Saints until he limped off the field with an undisclosed injury July 30. Since then, the Northern Arizona product has slowly worked his way back onto the field.

He returned to practice for the first time Wednesday but did not participate in team drills. On Friday, he went through pregame warmups before the preseason opener against the Vikings but did not play.

Back on the practice field Saturday, he ran routes and caught passes. Then Sunday, in the first play of team drills, the 6-foot-4 Butler came across the middle and caught a pass from Drew Brees.

In a training camp where there's competition for the receiver roster spots behind Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn, Butler could ill afford to miss much time. He spent the time off the field studying the playbook. The Saints primarily use him in at the "X" receiver spot, but he's trying to learn all the positions. 

Anything to earn an edge.

He also leaned on his faith, he said, to keep proper perspective.

"Just because things got derailed doesn't mean that it's denied," Butler said.

Butler made a quick impression in the early days of training camp, enough for Sean Payton to speak positively of him.

"He's somebody we've noticed," the coach said July 27, one day before the first practice in pads. "Advancing in what we're doing, understanding the system and terminology, minimizing the mistakes. That is half of it."

The best chance for Butler to keep showing the physical half of his skills will come this week. After a practice Monday, the Saints will be off Tuesday and will travel Wednesday to Los Angeles, where they'll hold two joint practices with the Chargers Thursday and Friday before a preseason game there Sunday.

What Butler does through the course of the week could put him on track for something more.

While at Northern Arizona, Butler topped 1,000 receiving yards in 11 games in his sophomore and junior seasons, scoring a total of 23 touchdowns over that time. A season-ending injury limited to two games in 2017. Last season, he caught 35 passes for 676 yards and frequently found the end zone with seven touchdowns.

Butler called the chance to go through warmups and be suited up for an NFL preseason game last week a great experience.

The next step comes this week.

"This is what I've been dreaming about since I was a kid -- playing NFL football," he said. "I didn't get to step on the field last week, but I can't wait to do it this week."