METAIRIE, La. (AP) -- Marshon Lattimore counts himself among members of a New Orleans Saints' secondary seeking redemption for an NFL-worst ranking last season -- even though he wasn't here.
"We were last in passing defense last year, so of course we've got to prove ourselves," said Lattimore, an 11th overall draft choice out of Ohio State last spring. "People think we're still at the bottom of the barrel. I love proving people wrong anyway, so I'm ready for it."
Lattimore figures the Saints brought him in specifically to improve a pass defense that allowed 273.8 yards per game -- right away, ideally. So he's not making any public pleas for patience with his adjustment to the NFL. If anything, he sounds like he doesn't believe he needs one.
"Even though I'm a rookie, I'm still playing amongst of some of the greatest players to ever play this game. So I have to step up and be a key contributor," Lattimore said. "I can't use that I'm a rookie as a crutch. I've just got to be prepared, got be ready for everything."
Lattimore is set to make his NFL regular season debut in Minnesota on Monday night. He said he hadn't been told whether he would start, but he smiled broadly and his eyes got wide when discussing the prospect of beginning his career in a nationally televised, prime-time game.
He said he is eager to show fans "I belong in this league."
Lattimore seeks to demonstrate his readiness after a maiden training camp that was anything but ideal.
Five practices in, he left for the trainers' room with what coach Sean Payton described as a "tweaked knee." He was out about two weeks before returning shortly before New Orleans' second preseason game against the Los Angeles Chargers. But by the end of preseason, he'd played a number of live snaps and hadn't been beaten much. He gave up a few receptions underneath, but wasn't beaten deep and nothing got by him.
"That's what I do," Lattimore said. "I've got to be a lock-down corner."
The 6-foot, 193-pound Lattimore was a first-team All-Big Ten selection in 2016, when he had four interceptions. That was his first full season with the Buckeyes after overcoming nagging hamstring injuries during his first two years with the program.
In New Orleans, he is reunited with former Ohio State safety Vonn Bell, a second-round draft choice in 2016.
"We were close. Being out there playing with him is great," Lattimore said. "He has talked to me and tells me certain things that are happening. All the safeties do that, it's just with Vonn it was just more comfortable from the start."
He said being with Bell, along with former college teammate Michael Thomas, who is now New Orleans' top receiver, and an older Buckeye, receiver Tedd Ginn Jr., has helped soften the blow of not being a top-10 draft choice.
"I thought I was going to go higher," Lattimore said. "I'm here for a reason. I'm glad I'm here. I like the locker room."
Notes: The Saints resigned veteran fullback John Kuhn, who had been listed among the Saints final preseason cuts. NFL teams at times gain needed short-term roster flexibility by releasing veterans they intend to bring back soon after. To make room for Kuhn on the roster, New Orleans waived offensive tackle Bryce Harris. … Payton discussed his rationale for signing rookie receiver Austin Carr after his release from the New England Patriots last week. "We felt he was pretty advanced in his route running for a young player," Payton said. "He has real good balance, strong hands in traffic. We knew the player coming out of Northwestern. He put together a real good preseason, so he was just somebody that we had kind of kept our eye on." … Payton said he also kept undrafted rookie running back Trey Edmunds on the roster because "he was exceptional" on special teams.