METAIRIE, La. — Sean Payton dropped by the New Orleans Saints’ new locker room to check it out on Sunday night, three days before players reported to training camp.
Payton figured it was around 9:30 or 10 p.m. So naturally the room was dark and empty — until he suddenly saw defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha, having just wrapped up a workout.
“I was like, ‘What are you doing here Sunday night at 9:30?’” Payton said of the third-year pro, who is coming back from a torn ACL that sidelined him for the entire 2016 season.
Kikaha also tore his ACL in his left knee twice in college, but he returned from those injuries to finish with 32 sacks over his final two seasons at Washington.
“My point being is that I think it’s awfully important for him to be successful and to contribute in a way that is centered around his strengths,” Payton said. “And that’s rushing the passer, playing with energy and effort, and remaining healthy. And I think that’d be a good starting point before specifically hitting any individual goals.
“He’s worked extremely hard this offseason. He’s cleared to go medically, and there’s a step about him — a confidence about him — that’s always good to see. He’s one of those guys that you know is working away from the building at a really high level.”
Kikaha said his Sunday night workout was about making up for lost time. He still was limited during OTAs and minicamp.
“I need to do as much as I can to improve,” Kikaha said. “It…
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