METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Even as Ted Ginn Jr. enters his 13th NFL season, the 34-year-old Saints receiver still considers his foot speed his most distinguishing asset.
New Orleans hopes the former Ohio State football and track star can live up to the hype he himself has promulgated this offseason — namely by publicly inviting anyone to race him for $10,000 and by entering the "40 Yards of Gold" competition that purportedly will determine the NFL's fastest player.
"When you think about speed, and you come to the New Orleans Saints, you think about one guy," Ginn said. "We've all got our labels of who we are. We've all just got to go out and man up to it."
Whether Ginn's outward confidence is genuine or a means of self-motivation is difficult to discern.
He is less than a year removed from arthroscopic knee surgery that wiped out most of his 2018 season. He said the experience caused him at one point to view retirement as a "50-50" proposition.
"Going through the different things I went through and seeing the different doctors made me a little scared," Ginn said.
The Saints designated Ginn to return from injured reserve late last season and the move quickly paid dividends when he caught a late, 25-yard pass that helped the Saints defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 16. He added six receptions for 102 yards in two playoff games, including a 43-yarder in the NFC title game.
Ginn said he has not been formally timed in a 40-yard dash in "a long time" but suggests that he can still sprint that distance in 4.38 seconds or faster.
He said his training and diet regimens have evolved as he has gotten older. He is less focused on weight training now and spent part of this offseason on what he calls the "Alvin Kamara plan," working in Miami with the Saints' third-year star running back on drills designed to optimize agility, balance and explosiveness. He has given up eating meat, opting for more of a fish-focused, "pescatarian" diet.
"I'm just taking different precautions to try and stick in this league," Ginn said. "When you get to an older age, I pay attention to the young guys around me and their different little things. Weights are great, but they're kind of going out of style right now. When I was young, I'd do weights a lot.
"Certain stuff works for certain people; that's what I've figured out in this league," Ginn continued. "You just try to go out and figure out what's good for your body. Once you do that, you try to maintain that."
Ginn played in only five regular season games last season, catching 17 passed for 209 yards and two touchdowns.
His first season with the Saints — in 2017 — was among the best of his career: 53 catches, 787 yards and four TDs in 15 regular season games, followed by 12 catches for 187 yards and one TD in two playoff games.
The Saints will be hoping Ginn rediscovers his 2017 form this season. While New Orleans added receiving tight end Jared Cook in free agency, the club stood pat with its receiver corps headlined by Michael Thomas and Ginn.
"They believe in us," Ginn said. "They believe in what they have."
Ginn's enduring speed was evident in a 20-yard end around for a touchdown during 11-on-11 drills this week in one of the Saints' last voluntary, unpadded practices of the offseason.
The pads go back on during minicamp next week. The tournament-style, 40-yard competition featuring Ginn among two dozen NFL players is scheduled June 29. Competitors include Kamara, although Ginn suspects he'd outrun his teammate as easily as Kamara outperforms him during balance beam drills.
"That's what he's good at," Ginn said with a laugh. "Let's let people stick to what they're good at."
Ginn said he has not scheduled any one-on-one races for $10,000. He said his mention of doing so was more of a light-hearted, off-the-cuff public relations ploy to bring attention to his Pop Warner football program in his native Cleveland called Ginn Elite.
"It came to be a huge deal, and now the whole world is all over it," Ginn said. "But everything you try to do in life, you try to win. You try to do your best at all times. Just go out and do your deal, and whatever happens, happens."