Saints' Vaughn and Arnoux feel like rookies again

METAIRIE, La. (AP) — After playing four years together in college, close friends Chip Vaughn and Stanley Arnoux had the good fortune to be drafted by New Orleans in the same year that the Saints won their first Super Bowl.

The pair of former Wake Forest defensive standouts only wished they could have been healthy enough to get on the field even once.

Vaughn has already told his mother that she'll be getting his Super Bowl ring because he doesn't believe he earned it.

"Any competitor at heart, you want to play," said Vaughn, who spent all of his rookie season on injured reserve with a torn meniscus in his left knee. "So when you don't, there's a piece of you that feels like that championship is not really yours. ... I'm not going to wear (the ring) and that's just something that drives me to where I'm trying to go with my NFL career."

Arnoux, a linebacker, tore his left Achilles tendon on the first day of 2009 rookie camp.

He said the best he and Vaughn could do to help the club last season was to look for tendencies of upcoming opponents during film sessions.

"We were a part of it, but not how we wanted to be part of it," Arnoux said. "I definitely would rather be out there banging with those guys and putting in the blood, sweat and tears like all of them invested into the team last year."

Both players are healthy now, practicing at full speed during minicamp this past weekend. Although they've been working at Saints headquarters for a year, they say there are times when they feel like rookies all over again.

"We're just very anxious," Vaughn said. "Mentally we were there. We just have to go out there and physically just show that we can take the stuff that we learned the past year and translate that to the football field. I'm very excited just to get the pads on and get the season started back up."

Arnoux said he believes he's ahead of the typical rookie in the meeting and film rooms, "but just actually getting out there and doing it and messing up on it, that's how you really learn in football. It's more of a hands-on sport."

Arnoux and Vaughn have not been in a game or even a full-contact scrimmage since they were still in college more than a year ago. During minicamp, players wore helmets, jerseys without shoulder pads and shorts.

"Both are anxious I'm sure to get acclimated and prove themselves," coach Sean Payton said. "It's a little hard to do that right now without the pads on, but both those players are going to have plenty of snaps in training camp, and they'll use this time period to get the rust off. ... Hopefully those two guys can stay healthy and do some things."

Vaughn is not expected to be a starter, but can play both safety positions and expects to be in the mix for playing time. Arnoux will be part of a group of several young linebackers looking to fill the void left by starter Scott Fujita's departure to Cleveland in free agency.

Arnoux and Vaughn figure their plight could have been worse. At least they had each other.

They first met during their official recruiting visit to Wake Forest as teenagers and have been friends and teammates ever since. They were even taken by the Saints in the same round (the fourth) of the 2009 draft.

"It's kind of weird that we both got drafted here in the same round but then we both got hurt," Vaughn said. "Everything happens for a reason so you just got to wait and see."

Vaughn stressed that his down time gave him a chance to focus on being a student of the game.

"I just feel like my whole football IQ grew exponentially," he said. "It's a godsend, really. I don't think that I was ready to play last year. Upstairs I really didn't grasp the whole (concept of) being a pro, you know?"

Arnoux, meanwhile, said it helped both of them to have friends as a rehabilitation partners.

"Having somebody with you that knows you, that's supporting you, that's pushing you in the weight room every day, never letting you slack off," Arnoux began, "That's a great person to have with you."