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07 listopad 2011

UpdatedOct 6, 2011 7:38 PM ETMETAIRIE, La. (AP)When Jimmy Graham was first drafted by the New Orleans Saints,the tight end took down his page on the social media site Facebook.He still has yet to set up a Twitter account.''I kind of just wanted to focus and not have anydistractions,'' Graham said. ''I try to stay away from all thatstuff.''The second-year pro may be far behind many of his NFLcontemporaries in terms of virtual friends and followers. As forproduction on the field, that's another matter entirely.Through the first four weeks of this season, Graham ranks in thetop 10 among NFL tight ends in four key categories as he hasincreasing become quarterback Drew Brees' go-to guy. He is first inreceptions with 24, second in yards receiving with 367, fourth intouchdowns with three and eighth in yards per catch at 15.3.He has had no fewer than 100 yards receiving in each of his pasttwo games, becoming only the second tight end in Saints history toregister triple-digit receiving yardage in consecutive games.The first was Henry Childs back in 1979, and no Saints tight endhas even done it in three straight weeks, as Graham has a chance todo when he returns to his home state, North Carolina, this Sundayas the Saints (3-1) meet the Carolina Panthers (1-3).''I'm not even close to satisfied,'' Graham said after practiceon Thursday. ''One of my biggest goals this year was to make animpact play every game, so I want to be somebody that Drew can lookto in a tough situation and can count on.''Graham's growth as a tight end has been remarkable in that, whenthe Saints drafted him in the third round in 2010, he had playedonly one season of college football at Miami after spending fouryears as a power forward for the Hurricanes' basketball team.The 6-foot-6, 260-pound Graham is one of several NFL tight endswith a basketball background, following in the footsteps of playerslike Atlanta's Tony Gonzalez and San Diego's Antonio Gates. TheSaints were banking on Graham following suit when they draftedhim.Fewer expected that, four games into his second pro season, hewould have 102 more yards receiving that any other player on theteam.''At this point last year, he was talented but raw, so greenstill,'' Brees said. ''Even though it's been only a year, he'sgained a lot in experience. ... You see him having this mentalityof trying to be great and he loves football. He's his biggestcritic. .. I love seeing young guys like that who are going topolice themselves and do the right thing.''It seems that Brees' only concern is whether too much success iscoming too quickly for Graham, and how he'll respond to it.''When you look at the success that he's had so early, it's easyto assume that it's always going to be this easy, but it's not,''Brees said. ''The guy works extremely hard at it and we spend a lotof time together and I really think he's only scratching thesurface as to what he can do and how we can assimilate him intothis offense. So I'm excited for Jimmy Graham, but I never want toget too far ahead of ourselves here. He can get a lot better.''Graham is already noticing an uptick in the attention hereceives from fans when he walks around his downtown neighborhoodor goes out to eat. When word got around that he didn't have anestablished nickname yet, fans who saw him started sestingthem.''Every time I go out to eat someone's screaming out some crazyname, so it's been pretty entertaining,'' Graham said.He was a little puzzled when one fan sested ''Avatar.'' Hewas amused when another offered, ''The Graham Reaper.''This weekend, though, he'll just be ''Jimmy'' to some loved onesin the stands, including his adoptive mother and his biologicalmother, with whom he has re-established a relationship after aturbulent childhood that saw him left in a group home for boys whenhe was 11-years-old.If Graham never takes his success for granted, his roughchildhood will be a main reason why.When he thinks of what he overcame to graduate from college andarrive on the brink of NFL stardom, he'll always credit BeckyVinson, the woman who adopted him even though she was strlingfinancially at the time to pay bills and provide the way she wantedto for her daughter, Karena, who is also expected to be at thegame.''Whenever my guardian adopted me, she said, `One day you'regoing to be somebody,''' Graham recalled. ''So I wouldn't say thatshe's shocked (by his success). Every time I see her she tells me,`I knew it.' But she's happy for me. And for us, it's been prettyspecial.''Notes: WR Devery Henderson (calf) did not practice on Thursday.Coach Sean Payton said the injury happened during Wednesday'spractice and appeared minor. ... C Olin Kreutz (left knee) returnedto practice on a limited basis. ... RT Zach Strief (right knee) andTE David Thomas (concussion) did not practice.
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