Kristian: Lofton ready to step in
The Saints pulled off a pretty big upset stealing linebacker Curtis Lofton from the Atlanta Falcons in free agency. Lofton admitted that he didn't think too highly of the Saints prior to joining the Black and Gold.
"When I was going through the process and they said the Saints were interested in me, I only took one visit and that was here. Up in Atlanta, I hated these guys. That is the rivalry, you hate each other," Lofton said.
Soon after that visit he came to terms with what the Saints had to offer. "Once I got here, hanging around Coach (Sean) Payton, Mickey (Loomis), Coach (Joe) Vitt, and Coach Spags, it felt right. It was family. Before I made my decision, I called Harp (Roman Harper), I called Will (Smith), and they were very receptive. They talked to me and said 'Hey, we need you. Come be a part of something great," Lofton recalled.
Lofton came over from the Falcons as a man that has been extremely productive, tallying over 100 tackles in three of his four seasons with the Dirty Birds. With Jonathan Vilma out for the season serving a season long suspension (pending appeal) Lofton is ready to step up as one of the leaders on defense.
"I am excited. They expect a lot of me, and I expect a lot of myself too. The reason why I came here is to win a championship and that is what everyone's expectations are. You just have to keep taking it day by day and getting better. That is the number one goal right now."
Before landing in New Orleans as a free agent, the knock on Lofton was that he couldn't play all three downs in the middle because he wasn't a very good pass defender. Lofton was quick to shoot that down.
"When you are a free agent, every weakness you have, they are going to look at. If you look at my time in Atlanta, my first year I was a first and second down linebacker. My second year, I played more than 95% of the snaps. The past two years, I played 99% of the snaps. I guess, if you play 99% of the snaps, you couldn't say that I was a first and second down linebacker."
The Saints placed heavy emphases on upgrading the line backing corps this offseason. New Orleans signed three free agents this spring including Lofton, David Hawthorne, and Chris Chamberlain. Assistant Head Coach Joe Vitt had high praise for the trio during the first week of organized team activities.
"These guys are special. They are all business. You guys saw practice today. When you look at their athleticism and range, (you are impressed). They are in great shape. We have been pleasantly surprised with their mental capacity to absorb the new system that is going in. Curtis has done a lot of what we are doing in Atlanta already. Those two guys have been everything we thought they would be and more. They have some natural leadership qualities and they want to win. It has been great," Vitt explained.
In a few short hours of watching the Saints on the field and in the locker room, you can clearly see Lofton assimilating himself as one of the leaders on the defense. Lofton is well liked by his teammates, and that's a big first step in earning the respect in the locker room. Give General Manager Mickey Loomis and his scouts plenty of credit, they seem to have an uncanny ability to target a player that fits exactly into their plans. The transition from Vilma to Lofton appears smooth at this point.