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Rookie Alvin Kamara catching on as runner/receiver for Saints

METAIRIE, La. -- Forget about Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram. The play that might have drawn the loudest "oohs" and "ahhs" from the fans at last week's New Orleans Saints minicamp came from rookie running back Alvin Kamara.

Kamara earned that reaction when he made veteran linebacker Manti Te'o whiff with a nasty cut in the open field -- showing off the explosiveness that made New Orleans trade up to get Kamara in the third round of the draft.

"It was definitely cool, definitely fun," Kamara said of the crowd reaction, though he was quick to praise Te'o's skill as well. "I'm just working on my craft ... understanding the nuances of what I'm doing."

Let's face it, Kamara is still going to play third fiddle to Ingram and Peterson -- for this year, at least. But the 5-foot-10, 215-pounder from Tennessee adds even more potential to New Orleans' dynamic and versatile offense.

The Saints were clearly thrilled to land Kamara with the 67th pick in this year's draft after they had considered him 25 spots earlier with their second-rounder.

And they clearly have a vision for him as a pass-catching "joker" back in the mold of Darren Sproles and Reggie Bush.

Kamara said he has heard those comparisons -- and he has even gone back and watched film of how Sproles and Bush were used in New Orleans' past offenses. But he said coaches haven't been directing him to be a carbon copy.

When asked if he invites those comparisons or wants to say, "Whoa, let's not go there," Kamara replied:

"I wouldn't say, 'Whoa.' But it's definitely something that I know about, people talk about. And I just try to focus on getting better every day, just trying to do what's asked of me and excel in that and add on top of it every day."

Kamara said he has often been described as a "dual-threat running back" and a "versatile running back" in the past. He had 74 catches for 683 yards and seven receiving touchdowns over the past two years, to go along with his 1,294 rushing yards and 16 TDs.

But Kamara said he thinks the Saints will use him even more in that pass-catching role.

During portions of practice in minicamp and OTAs, Kamara would split off and work with the receivers instead of the running backs -- much like Saints veteran Travaris Cadet, who has a total of 19 rushes and 94 receptions in five years with the Saints.

"I knew that was one of my strengths, and I think just ending up here was a good situation, a perfect situation, to be able to utilize that strength," said Kamara, who got his first glimpse of what the Saints had in store for him during an impromptu private workout for coach Sean Payton before the draft.

Kamara said he wasn't expecting to work out. But as Payton explained during the draft, he strongly encouraged Kamara to catch some passes -- so Kamara ran back to get his shoes.

"He asked me to come and catch some balls, and I was just like, 'Whatever,' went and got my cleats. And it worked out," Kamara said. "I felt good. And then on draft day when he called me, he was like, 'That's the best thing you could've done, caught those balls.'"

Payton complimented Kamara last week as a "quick study" who is smart and understands the game. But he also said, "There is still that learning curve for a young player."

One of the biggest keys for Kamara's playing time will be his ability as a pass-protector -- something Ingram is very good at, which is why Ingram will likely be on the field during many of New Orleans' passing downs.

Kamara said he feels like he is pretty good at pass protection.

But he knows the stakes are a lot higher now.

"Coming into a new system, you've gotta learn just the new concepts," Kamara said. "I mean, it's pretty much the same. But it's just ... you've got Drew Brees back there."