<
>

Lelito: Goodwin both rival and mentor

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- On the field, the competition between Jonathan Goodwin and Tim Lelito for the New Orleans Saints' starting center job is as intense as it gets. But Lelito insisted that’s not the case off the field.

The second-year pro said the 13-year veteran Goodwin has actually taken both Lelito and rookie center Matt Armstrong “under his wing” since the Saints signed Goodwin to compete for the job in June.

“It’s definitely a competition. We’re both going for the starting center position. But it’s nice to have a guy that will actually work with you and teach you things,” said Lelito, who said they’ll break down things over lunch or dinner, as well as the meeting rooms. “He’s not going to dog-cuss me or [say], ‘I’m not saying anything to you because you’re my competition.’ We’re both trying to make this team better.”

However, when asked if he has returned the favor by teaching Goodwin anything, Lelito said, “I don’t know if you can teach someone who has been in the league for 13 years something. That’s kind of hard to do.”

The competition is too close to call for now as they’ve taken turns working with the first-string offense so far during camp.

Goodwin has probably stood out a little more during one-on-one pass-rush drills the last couple of days. But both players would quickly point out that the center position is as much mental as it physical -- maybe more so, since the center calls out blocking assignments before the snap.

In one sense, this summer is a big change for Lelito, who cracked the roster as a backup last year after being undrafted out of Grand Valley State.

But Lelito said it’s also very much the same.

“I still come into it the same way mentally, as, ‘This is do or die today,’” Lelito said. “I don’t think you can take any plays off or take days off or anything like that, especially when you’re going for the starting center position.”