METAIRIE, La. — Ramon Humber and David Hawthorne have spent much of the Saints’ preseason bouncing between first- and second-team repetitions during practice.
Friday night, it’s possible both start for New Orleans against Oakland.
Curtis Lofton and Jonathan Vilma both missed practice Thursday, with coach Sean Payton confirming the latter will miss time after having his left knee arthroscopically repaired in Philadelphia.
And both Humber and Hawthorne feel ready for the challenge.
“If I just go out there and do what I do, I’ve been doing this for awhile and I’ve got 100 percent confidence in myself in everything I do,” Hawthorne said. “I’ll put it out there and everything else will kind of take care of itself.”
Added Humber, “I just see myself as helping the team out any way possible. If they need me in a different position, I’m willing to do it.”
While some would think the depth at linebacker could be a problem, Payton isn’t concerned just yet. Instead, he’s looking at the next three games as an opportunity for younger players to show him something.
“The most important thing is getting the chance to evaluate all these players,” Payton said. “A guy like Jon Vilma, I know exactly what we have in that player. It gives us a chance to see not only Hawthorne more, but then if he’s going earlier, the guys behind him are getting to play quicker, too.”
Hawthorne and Humber both took similar routes to the NFL.
Humber was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Colts in 2009 and was waived with an injury in 2010. The Saints picked him up and he has been around since, agreeing to multiple one-year contracts.
He has primarily been a backup, getting most of his work as a key special teams player.
Hawthorne, meanwhile, was signed by Seattle as an undrafted free agent out of TCU in 2008. He became a starter in 2009 and by 2011, was the team’s top tackler from his middle linebacker position in the Seahawks’ 4-3.
He signed a five-year contract with New Orleans in 2012, but was hampered throughout the season by injuries, first with a left knee injury and then with a hamstring issue.
Now Hawthorne is healthy and hoping to capitalize on the position he’s in.
“That’s kind of one thing that holds you back,” Hawthorne said of injuries. “With that out of the way, you can just focus on what you love to do and I what I love to do it play ball. I’ve been blessed enough to come out and be able and compete and just kind of showcase the reason why I came here.”
Humber has worked at the “Mike” inside linebacker, backing up Lofton throughout camp. But he’s comfortable playing at both inside positions, he said.
“I think as a linebacker, you kind of have to learn the whole defensive system,” Humber said. “You have to know what everybody is doing because you’re the quarterback of the defense so you have to know all the moving parts. So moving around won’t be an issue.”