Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Writer
METAIRIE, La. ― The Saints continued with their defensive mindset in the 2011 draft Saturday, taking Pittsburgh defensive end Greg Romeus and Illinois linebacker Nate Bussey with their two seventh round picks.
And listening to Saints coach Sean Payton, despite waiting nearly six hours, they were able to nab two players they believe can help the team out.
“Really out feeling with the seventh round (was) is there a player that stood out,” Payton said. “It was really trying to find guys we think can make our football team.”
Romeus (6-foot-4, 264 pounds) entered 2010 with early-round grades, but two major injuries dropped him precipitously.
He missed most of 2010 with a herniated disc in his back, an injury sustained during the Panthers’ Sept. 2 game against Utah. Two months later, in his first game back, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in
Additionally, Romeus’ mother died of cancer in September.
Maybe because of his rough 2010, Romeus realizes how special it is that he was drafted at all.
“Just hearing your name and being drafted is such an accomplishment,” Romeus said. “That was great. I know with everything that’s going on in free agency, it’s not looking good right now. It was definitely a great, great, great feeling just hearing my name.”
The injuries might not cause him to miss any time once training camp begins. Romeus said his back “hasn’t been a concern since my surgery. That’s a non-factor.” And his surgeon has told him that his knee should be ready by August.
“I’ve been running, doing explosive stuff,” Romeus said. “My surgeon told me I’d be ready for camp. I’m just going to keep rehabbing it and be patient.”
He went into his final season in Pittsburgh as a consensus All-American and an All-Big East preseason selection after earning the All-Big East Conference co-Defensive Player of the Year honor in 2009. He finished his junior season with 43 tackles while causing three fumbles and recovering another one.
In 40 games, of which he started 28, he finished with 19½ sacks and 38½ tackles for a loss. He forced five fumbles and recovered three more in his three-plus years playing for the Panthers.
He spoke with several Saints scouts and coaches at the combine in Indianapolis in February and knew New Orleans was a place he’d like to play.
“They were asking me general questions,” Romeus said. “We were going over the film and they brought up good plays and brought up bad plays and asked me what went wrong. They told me what would be acceptable and what wouldn’t.”
As for Bussey, he’s a player who moved position after position after position at Illinois, going from quarterback to safety to linebacker in one season.
That versatility is what Payton likes about him and why the coach feels like Bussey could contribute immediately on special teams.
“We worked him out specifically last week,” Payton said. “We kind of knew with possibly that second seventh-round selection…that this would be a good or wise pick for us. We felt like he’d be able to come in and contribute in the kicking game immediately.”
Bussey finished second in tackles last season at Illinois with 83, including 8½ tackles for a loss and a sack. He was All-Big Ten honorable mention and shared the Outstanding Special Teams award.