METAIRIE, La. — Nick Toon is neither a rookie nor a veteran.
He’s neither experienced nor inexperienced.
And he’s also not assured of a roster spot with the New Orleans Saints, the team that drafted him in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL draft out of Wisconsin.
The 6-foot-4, 218-pound receiver was having what appeared to be a standout training camp last August when a foot injury sent him to the injured reserve list.
Now in his second minicamp, he’s not looking at roster spots as much as he’s looking for positives.
“Obviously I’m still a young guy,” said Toon, all of 24 years old. “That’s what it boils down to. … Still have a lot to learn. Obviously last year was beneficial in terms of being able to be here, be around the guys and get acclimated to this level and get acclimated to the offense.”
Yet, his maturity stood out when asked about the Saints drafting another receiver in April’s draft. For some, especially other young receivers, that could have set off a rash of negative thoughts.
For Toon, it was merely the selection of another teammate.
“Kenny is a great player,” Toon said of Kenny Stills, whom the Saints took in the fifth round this year. “He had a great collegiate career. He’s a great addition to the room and we’re happy to have him.”
Toon wasn’t too bad in college, either. The son of former Pro Bowler Al Toon finished his four years at Wisconsin with 171 catches for 2,447 yards and 18 touchdowns. He was a second-team all-Big Ten selection by the coaches in 2011, his senior season.
But that was in the past and now he’s battling for the one receiver position that’s open this year for a team that has had little turnover there since 2006. New Orleans didn’t re-sign Devery Henderson, leaving the team with a battle for the spot he held down for nearly nine seasons.
That’s where Toon, who said he is 100 percent recovered from the foot injury, might have the advantage. Though he didn’t play in 2012, he was around the team and had his eyes trained in the playbook often enough that’s there aren’t the normal rookie questions floating in his mind.
“This is a complex game,” Toon said. “We run an offense in which you have to know a lot in order to be able to participate. I feel comfortable with the playbook. I just try to go out there and learn and detail my look, do the little things correctly and just go out there and get better every day.”
That should help coach Sean Payton make a decision this fall on Toon. This is the first time Payton has seen the young receiver because of the coach’s suspension in 2012.
That Toon says he knows the playbook should help him shine to Payton.
“I think we always would value someone with size at the position, and the key is going to be production consistency,” Payton said. “Does he know what to do and is he doing it on a consistent basis?”
Still, Toon knows that sometimes patience provides the best path in the long run.
“Those guys have been here a long time,” Toon said when asked what it will take to become a regular in the offense. “A lot of what they’ve accomplished have come with time and experience and just going out there and making plays. That’s all it really is.”