Saints WR Henderson gets back to catching the ball SHELDON MICKLES 8/5/2006
JACKSON, Miss. — After an impressive spring and early summer, all the work Devery Henderson put in since late March was beginning to unravel in three training camp practices last weekend.
When the New Orleans Saints opened camp with a single workout on Friday and two more Saturday, Henderson hardly looked the part of a wide receiver playing with the first-team offense.
There were a couple of dropped passes in the first practice and two more on Saturday. It wasn’t the kind of start that Henderson, a former LSU standout and a second-round draft pick in 2004, had envisioned going into his third NFL season.
The quiet and unassuming Opelousas native quickly became frustrated at his uneven performance, which sent him into a deeper funk before wide receivers coach Curtis Johnson intervened.
“The first couple of days, he was too relaxed and he dropped some easy balls,” said Johnson. “Devery just had to get his confidence back. The big thing was he was letting the dropped balls linger. I told him that he had to get amnesia, so I had to stay on him a little bit.”
With Johnson’s help, Henderson snapped out of his funk and is now, according to first-year coach Sean Payton, doing what he did all spring — catching the football.
Henderson, who caught 22 passes for 343 yards and three touchdowns in 2005 after being active for just two games as a rookie, figures to get more opportunities in the next three weeks than he did in his first two pro camps.
With four-time Pro Bowler Joe Horn being excused from today’s intrasquad scrimmage to attend a funeral and 2005 starter Donté Stallworth likely out because of a strained groin, Henderson will surely be put to the test. The scrimmage in Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium is closed to the public.
“It’s just something I had to fight through,” said Henderson, who was battling Stallworth and newcomer Bethel Johnson for practice repetitions earlier in the week. “I was frustrated at first, but I realized I had to prepare mentally, focus and pay more attention to detail.
“I had a real good spring, it just didn’t carry over into camp,” he said. “But (the coaches) know that I can catch the ball and I know I can catch the ball. I just had to get through it mentally.”
Henderson said he’d rather have the drops now than later in the season, but wide receivers who can’t catch the ball are usually unemployed or have coaches who don’t have any confidence in them.
But Johnson said he never lost confidence in Henderson.
“I pulled him aside Saturday or Sunday and said, ‘You’ve got one shot at this,’ and then compared him to myself,” Johnson said. “Basically, I told him I had one shot at being a coach with New Orleans and that I was going to do everything I could to be a winner.
“I had to make him realize that we all are going to make mistakes. The big thing when you make a mistake, you move on. Bad plays are going to happen in games, the key is shaking them off and making something good happen.”
Henderson quickly got the point.
“I was carrying a bad play to the next day or the next practice, and it was getting to me,” he said. “When coach Johnson came to me, I kind of knew what he was going to say. He knew I was pressing and he said we had to take a different approach to things.”
Johnson said he liked the way Henderson responded, doing a much better job in subsequent practices before dropping a sure touchdown pass in a red-zone drill on Wednesday. As Johnson approached him to talk about it, Henderson looked up and said, “I forgot about it already.”
Henderson said he caught two or three passes right after that drop.
“It’s all about concentrating, learning and focusing,” he said.
“You never want to see a guy drop a pass,” Johnson said, “but again, you want him to forget about it and move on to the next play.”
Payton was asked Friday if he was disappointed in Henderson or Stallworth, who has been out since Wednesday.
“In Devery’s case, he’s working hard and he keeps going and going,” Payton said. “There are things he’s working on and improving. There’s some things he does real well. I thought he came off a pretty good offseason.”
Henderson knows he has to show it today in the scrimmage. At the same time, he knows what he won’t do.
“The think I can’t do is put any pressure on myself,” he said. “I just have to do what I have to do. I think I’ve learned my lesson about pressing.”
"DAMMIT!!!!! I knew it, I knew it, I KNEW IT!!!!"-Immortal words of The Captain
Good that Devery is improving his mental game. He has always been fast and shifty, but the last thing we need another WR that can get wide open and drop the pass. I would love to see him step up this year - I don't think Donte can hold down the #1 WR spot once Horn retires.
Something tells me he'll always be best known for that immaculate catch in his senior year at LSU. Beating out Stallworth doesn't really say as much for Henderson. It just states that Donte can't keep his head on straight.