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SUDDEN IMPACT: Saints WR Brandon Tate Looks to “Revive” His Career in NOLA

"Camp Body". In the sport of Pro Football, a 'camp body' is a term used to describe a player that's considered less talented than the team's "stars"; but who still gets signed to eat up reps during the length of Training Camp (so that the starters don't wear out or get hurt) until they are eventually cut or released. In the case of recently signed 10th year veteran Saints WR Brandon Tate however, that term doesn't seem as fitting as some had first thought.

After only 1 practice, it was evident that the Saints organization has a lot bigger plans for the dual threat receiver and kick returner, who after a NFL career that seemingly was nearing the end of the line, appears to be ready to "revive" it for one last final run in NOLA.

Yesterday, Tate made one of the highlights of practice when he caught a deep ball from back-up QB JT Barrett after running a "9-route" down the left sideline. And as expected: he also got reps at returner, both on punt and kick returns.

If Tate was supposed to be a "camp body", it sure was hard to tell. He looked more like a starter, and gave a solid performance that you'd expect for a player that's now entering the second decade of his playing career.

A former 3rd round draft selection by New England nine years ago in the 2009 NFL Draft out of the University of North Carolina, Tate has 71 career catches and 10 total touchdowns as a receiver with the Patriots, Bengals, and Bills.

But his bigger impact has come in the kick return game, and yesterday it became apparent that the Saints will not only give him a shot to compete for that role, but to outright win the job and become the starter.

Photo by Michael DeMocker, | The Times-Picayune

The 30-year old Tate has developed a reputation over the years as a premier kick returner, totaling over 7,000 return yards in his time with the Patriots, Bengals and Bills; with his best seasons in that department coming in 2010 and 2011. 

Tate played in 13 games for Buffalo last season, when his most significant contributions came in the return game. He returned 28 kickoffs for 548 yards and 20 punts for 193 yards.

Tate is more than likely to see plenty of action for the Saints during the Pre-Season games in that designated kick returner role, beginning with next week's 1st game of the Pre-Season at TIAA Bank Stadium against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

But as Saints head coach Sean Payton noted yesterday, it was Tate's experience that was the biggest reason why the organization decided to allow the Burlington, North Carolina native and former high school basketball star, an opportunity to give his playing career one more "boost".

MEDIA QUESTION: What was it about Brandon Tate that made you want to bring him in?

Payton: “Well, he had a good workout, (and) we’re familiar with the players just with his experience. We’ll have a chance to take a look at him both in the punt-kick return game and then also at receiver.”

MEDIA QUESTION: Is the kick return game causing you more anxiety than usual?

Payton: “No, we just want to be better in that area.”

It's quite evident that Payton and special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff were NOT exactly "blown away" by the other players that were trying out for the kick returner role recently, including 6th Round rookie and Baton Rouge native Boston Scott out of Louisiana Tech; but Scott has had a "muffed" return already and apparently was among a handful of players that quickly fell out of favor with the coaches — prompting the decision to sign Tate.

As the rest of the month progresses, we'll see if anyone else 'steps up' to give Tate a significant challenge in the 4 Pre-Season games yet to be played.

But one thing that you can be certain of: Brandon Tate is much more that just a "camp body'; and if things work out right: he could unexpectedly become the new designated kick returner for the Saints, while "reviving" his NFL career for one last final run, here in NOLA.....


Big Easy Magazine contributing writer and Saints News Network columnist Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and writer previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

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