METAIRIE, La. (AP) Saints punt and kick return specialist Marcus Murphy had done his research, and wasn't about to fall victim to self-doubt after dropping to the seventh round last spring in the NFL draft.
''I have a lot of friends - close friends - who have made it to the NFL in the first through seventh rounds,'' Murphy said this week. ''I've talked to them and I've developed an understanding that you can only control what you can control. You can't control when you get drafted. You can't control what the coaches think. The only thing you can control is, whenever you do get drafted, go out and take advantage of whatever opportunity you have.''
After scoring on a 74-yard punt return last Sunday, Murphy has left little doubt that he belongs in the NFL.
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Now the Dallas-area native is eager for his next opportunity against the team for which he grew up rooting, the Cowboys.
''I didn't get drafted by the Cowboys. I'm a hometown Cowboy guy - Dallas guy,'' said Murphy, who starred at DeSoto High School before his college career at Missouri. ''I want to go out and show them that they made a mistake.''
As a senior at Missouri, Murphy rushed for 924 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. He also caught 28 passes for 212 yards and a score. He stood out most to NFL scouts on special teams because of his two touchdowns on kickoff returns and another score on a punt return.
But at 5-foot-8, 193-pounds, Murphy apparently lacked the physical stature to convince many scouts that he was sure-fire NFL material.
The Saints, however, saw Murphy's potential as a returner, and weren't about to give up on him after a couple of muffs - both of which Murphy recovered - in the past two games.
''Part of you has to trust your instinct in the evaluation,'' Saints coach Sean Payton said. ''Coming out of college, his ball security was very good.
''It is no different from the quarterback early on who, in his first or second year is getting his first start, sails a few passes over the head or throws an interception,'' Payton added. ''Aside from just working the fundamentals and technique of catching the football, part of it is calming down and saying, `Listen, you do this, and not only do it, but do it well.' That is kind of what went into the decision right after (the muffed punts) happened. It was almost like you are mad and saying, `You have to do it again.'''
All the while, Murphy was confident he was close to breaking a big return because of the potential he saw during several long kick and punt returns during the preseason, which won him the job to start the regular season.
''We finally executed and I got one and I feel like it's just the start,'' Murphy said. ''That return has helped my confidence and I think it has got the guys' confidence in me that I can be a good returner.''
Notes: Quarterback Drew Brees was among those players listed as limited in Thursday's practice. Receiver Willie Snead said he thought Brees appeared to be well on his way to playing against Dallas on Sunday night. ''Drew looks good. It looks like he's back to normal,'' Snead said. ''He's throwing the ball with a lot of zip.'' ... Four other players were listed as limited during practice: Safety Jairus Byrd (Knee), receiver Brandin Cooks (Ankle), linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (Toe) and cornerback Keenan Lewis (Hip). ... Two players sat out practice: right guard Jahri Evans (knee) and defensive end Cameron Jordan (back).
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