Payton praises Ellis' minicamp performance

METAIRIE, La. -- This would be one time when Sedrick Ellis, the New Orleans Saints' top draft choice, won't mind his new coach calling him a "pain in the rear."

Defensive linemen are supposed to be disruptive, forcing blockers to stumble, quarterbacks to scramble and running backs to change course after the handoff.

The Saints drafted Ellis seventh overall last month to do just that.

While he has yet to be tested against NFL veterans, coaches appear pleased by Ellis' performance during the first few practices of this weekend's three-day rookie camp, which started Friday and ends Sunday.

"He's been a pain in the rear for a couple days now, splitting double-teams and getting in the backfield," head coach Sean Payton said.

Practices have been closed to the public and media, but by Payton's account, Ellis, who starred at Southern California, appears to be in good shape and has performed as expected. "It's real important to him. He's got a lot of the things we're looking for," Payton said. "He's an explosive player. I think he's got a want-to. He's been a part of a winning program. I like him. I like what I've seen."

In 13 games last season for USC, Ellis had 58 tackles, 12.5 tackles for losses and 8.5 sacks. He also was credited with breaking up seven passes. He was an All-America selection and the Pac-10 Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

Coaches hoped he'd be a dominant force this weekend against fellow rookies, and Ellis did not want to disappoint them.

"Being a first-round pick, you have a level of pressure. You want to make a good impression," Ellis said. "I'm going to work my hardest to put my stamp on this team. ... I'm going to compete for everything I can get."

Payton said Ellis could play at either defensive tackle position, meaning he could be the nose tackle, lining up opposite the center, or at the other tackle spot, taking on an offensive guard.

Ellis, meanwhile, said he benefited from having been recruited by and playing for Saints defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, who was a defensive assistant at USC when Ellis joined the Trojans.

"I definitely know what to expect from coach O," Ellis said. "He's been the same since the first day I met him until now. He knows my strengths and weaknesses, so I think that's a good combination."

Ellis, who grew up in Chino, Calif., said he had never been to New Orleans before this weekend. The 6-foot-1, 307-pound lineman is well aware that his new in-season home is a place renowned for fine dining, something he's eager to try out. He points out he'll do so in moderation, however.

"As a professional now, you have to be disciplined, get your workouts in and watch your eating habits," said Ellis, who was a teammate of Saints running back Reggie Bush when both were at USC three seasons ago. "Maybe I will give Reggie a call and hit the spots, see what is good down here."

Living in a place like New Orleans, where the food is rich and some bars never close, can have it's pitfalls for young men experiencing new levels of celebrity and wealth.

Payton, however, doesn't seem too worried about that.

"He's another player you'll be impressed with off the field," Payton said. "He'll bring a presence to us. He'll have to work and earn his spot ... as all these guys will, but I think it's not going to be too big for him."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.

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