Bradley Handwerger / Sports Writer

METAIRIE, La. ―Jon Stinchcomb sat on a bench beneath a gallery at the Saints' facility Monday drenched in sweat and slowly catching his breath.

You'd think he'd say he was miserable.

You'd be wrong.

'I feel better than I thought I would,' Stinchcomb said. 'I'm pleasantly surprised with the way my knees feel right now and I'm encouraged to actually be able to bend again.'

Indeed, Stinchcomb caught loads of flak a season ago for not producing like he did in 2009 when he earned a Pro Bowl berth.

But in 2009, he wasn't injured like he was in 2010.

Namely, ne didn't have a torn quad tendon in his left leg. That happened during the Oct. 24 Cleveland game.

He was never the same after, playing the final 10 games with a severe injury that limited his movement.

'For 10 weeks I wasn't able to play the way I want to play,' Stinchcomb said. 'It was frustrating for me.'

So Stinchcomb had surgery on Jan. 18. He spent the offseason rehabbing in Athens, Ga., with Ron Courson, the lead trainer at the University of Georgia (where Stinchcomb played). He finished his rehab in Metairie with Troy Bourgeois at the Movement Science Center.

In a way, it helped Stinchcomb that the NFL was in lockout. He couldn't work out at the team's Metairie facility and had to rely on himself to get his rehabilitation done.

'With the lockout, there comes a certain sense of self-accountability,' Stinchcomb said. 'You don't have the facility to go to. You have to stay on yourself to continue to do the things to put you in position to be successful.'

And if you listen to quarterback Drew Brees, the team needs a healthy Stinchcomb to be successful.

'What he provides for the locker room, the media room, and as a leader of that bunch is beyond what anybody else might realize outside of our building,' said Brees, who added that Stinchcomb has single-handedly blocked some of the league's top defensive ends.

Brees added, 'He's everything you would want in a teammate and a player.'

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