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Trevor Penning came to the New Orleans with a reputation as a physical and unrelenting offensive lineman who plays to the whistle — and sometimes goes a little beyond.
And that previously often caused a predictable reaction in that Penning’s teammates loved his aggressiveness and attitude. And opponents thought him something of a jerk.
But now in the second week of the New Orleans Saints training camp, Penning is practicing against teammates. His guys.
And the rookie’s fighting them!
The stuff he did in college against opponents he’s brought to the Saints practice field in Metaire, LA., and using it on defensive teammates.
“I personally love the kid’s attitude but we have to get him using his brain and technique as much as his emotions,” one Saints source told OutKick Wednesday.
That came after Penning got into a brief scuffle with defensive end Payton Turner during practice Monday. That came after Penning exchanged blows with defensive back J.T. Gray and took defensive end Scott Patchan to the ground after the whistle had blown during practice Tuesday.
And that was after Penning and defensive tackle Malcolm Roach got into a scuffle during Wednesday’s practice and both players were ordered off the field by coach Dennis Allen.
“We don’t have time for that,” Allen said. “And so I sent two guys in today. We’ve got to get our work done. So we have to learn as a team how to compete, and how to play and how to practice and push ourselves to the limit yet not take it over the edge.”
Both Allen and teammates seemed to enjoy Penning’s demeanor early in camp, saying his feistiness wasn’t really a problem. That changed a bit by Wednesday.
“Probably that we’re in, you know, about the third day in a row in practice and people begin to get a little bit tired and things get a little bit more chippy,” Allen said. “It’s not unusual for something like that to occur in a training camp, certainly something we don’t want to see happen and it’ll be addressed and move forward.”
Allen said he’d speak with Penning and Roach before Thursday’s practice. But let’s be honest here, this isn’t about Roach, who is a third-year backup.
This is about Penning, the team’s first-round pick and the one the organization hopes can eventually win the starting left tackle job and be the successor to Terron Armstead, who left in free agency after nine seasons to join the Miami Dolphins.
This is about how Penning grows up after getting a career chat from Allen. About how he reacts in practice Thursday after being tossed the previous day.
And this can eventually go one of two ways:
Penning can begin to mature (fast, preferably) and become the heartbeat of the offensive line. He can set the unit’s attitude that maybe stretches a bit beyond toughness to disdain for the defense — all while staying under control.
Or Penning can cross the line and become unmanageable because he’s fueled mostly by emotions.
The Saints had a player like that in Kyle Turley decades ago. And it was entertaining watching him lose his cool and fling his own helmet that one time, or the other time when he came to the defense of his quarterback by ripping off the helmet of a New York Jets defensive back.
Turley was interesting and popular with fans. But it wasn’t sustainable.
And it might not be with Penning unless he plays with more discipline.
Saints teammates are hoping for a more controlled Penning even as they’re explaining his approach so far — even the defensive guys.
“He’s an aggressive guy,” Gray said Wednesday, one day after his run-in with Penning. “Good o-lineman coming in, going to be known. He’s putting his name out there right now.”
Saints left guard Andrus Peat is seemingly the antithesis of Penning. Peat is calm, often times deliberate and thoughtful. But he thinks very highly of Penning.
“I think he’s a talented player,” Peat said. “He’s got all the tools to be great.”
And this is where Penning might lift the Saints line if he channels his gifts and emotions just right:
Peat was asked what he’d do if Penning gets into a fight with another team?
“I’ll hop in there with him,” Peat replied.
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero