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 METAIRIE, La. (AP) -David Patten jumped high in the air, his body twisted and his arms stretched above his head. He clamped his hands firmly on the spiraling ball, then acrobatically touched his feet down in the back of the end zone before crashing out of bounds on the Louisiana Superdome turf.
That was February 2002, when Patten wore a Patriots uniform in New England's first Super Bowl triumph.
Patten would like to spend more time touching down in that same end zone this season with a fleur-de-lis on his helmet. The question is whether he'll be the clutch receiver that helped the Patriots win three Super Bowls or the player who struggled to stay healthy with Washington, which released him last winter, only two seasons into a five-year contract.
``Forget about what happened in Washington. That doesn't matter,'' Patten said Monday after an offseason training session with his new team, the Saints.
If he said as much to Sean Payton, the Saints' second-year coach believed him. The two have known each other since 1999, when Payton was an assistant with the New York Giants and Patten played there.
``The thing I had the privy of knowing is the player,'' Payton said. ``That helped ... because I knew the work ethic and I knew he could run. He's been impressive in these camps. He's real bright. I think he's a good leader and I'm glad he's here. He's someone who's going to help us.''
Patten, who'll turn 33 in August, is entering his 11th season in the NFL, coming to New Orleans after stints with the Giants, Cleveland Browns, Patriots and Redskins.
In 2004, his last season with the Patriots, he played in all 16 regular season games, finishing with 44 catches for 800 yards and seven TDs, far better than his numbers for the past two seasons combined, when he appeared in 14 games, making 23 catches for only 242 yards.
With the Saints' passing attack focused mostly on receivers Marques Colston and Devery Henderson, along with running back Reggie Bush coming out of the backfield or lining up in the slot, Patten said he never expected the Saints to be interested in him.
``New Orleans was one of the last teams I thought would come calling for a veteran guy, especially with the young receiving corps and the production they had last year,'' Patten said.
So when Patten heard New Orleans was interested, he called Payton himself.
``I was like: 'Just tell me that you want to play the best man. If you're going to play the best guys, that's all I want,''' Patten recalled. ``He gave me his word at that and I felt comfortable that he's a guy I can trust.''
Patten said it wasn't only his past experience with Payton, but looking at last year's Saints squad that led him to believe he'd get a fair chance to re-establish himself in New Orleans.
The first example he cited was the emergence of Colston, who was selected out of Division I-AA Hofstra in the seventh round of the 2006 draft.
``That's like being undrafted, but the bottom line is he came in and made plays, made things happen,'' Patten said. ``Payton played the best guys who made plays. You see something like that, that's the kind of coach you want to play for.''
Payton also has made it clear that he hopes Patten will provide veteran leadership to the Saints young receivers, including first-round draft pick Robert Meachem.
``It's new territory for me, because I've always been with a veteran receiving corps,'' Patten said. ``Now ... I'm the elder statesman. It's fun. It's not so much leading by what you say as leading by example. I'll give pointers here and there, but the bottom line is to go out there and work and good things happen.''
Patten doesn't make a habit of showing off his Super Bowl rings, but he has brought them to the Saints headquarters when teammates have asked about them.
``I had a couple guys ask me to bring the rings in because you just want to see them. Once you get a chance to see them and actually hold them, it becomes a reality to you,'' Patten said. ``If nothing else, it's motivation to remind guys of what we actually play this game for.''
Colston said he hasn't seen the rings yet, but vividly remembers Patten's touchdown catch against St. Louis in the Super Bowl.
``It's funny. The first week he was here, I was watching the NFL Network and got a chance to see that,'' Colston recalled Monday. ``I'm just glad he's here - a veteran guy who knows what it takes.''
If Colston and Henderson continue to play well and Meachem matures quickly, Patten realizes he may not start. But Patten said he can live with that under Payton, a coach he senses is promoting the type of team-first, winning culture he experienced in New England.
``The way he's running things, he's bringing in guys where he trusts their character, their background,'' Patten said. ``You get good people, then they're going to do what they're asked or what's required of them. When you get enough of those guys around, that's what allows you to go to that next level and win championships - like the Patriots.''

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