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John DeShazier: Players education speeds up with start of Saints minicamp

Payton: 'The first significant thing with minicamp is at this moment, the term ‘optional’ is gone'

The pace still is fast for the rookies and first-time New Orleans Saints but, perhaps, it's not totally dizzying anymore. The first day of minicamp Tuesday for New Orleans was the next phase of a learning climb that is a little less steep than it used to be, even if a "little less steep" is a minimal increment.

"They're getting it," Coach Sean Payton said. "A lot's being given to them and it'll begin to slow down as we go through this installation again in training camp. Two things: It's important for us to make sure we're going at a rate where they can pick it up, and secondly, that we're repeating the looks and making sure that we're not moving on to something else if we don't have the install of that day figured out."

Actually, the education ensues for the entire team, though some players clearly are more knowledgeable and have a better grasp of the concepts that others. The best thing, Payton said, is that almost all of them were on the field.

Cornerback P.J. Williams was absent with the flu, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe had an excused absence and defensive tackle Nick Fairley remains sidelined while gathering a third opinion regarding a heart issue. But everyone else was present.

"The first significant thing with minicamp is at this moment, the term 'optional' is gone," Payton said. "It's mandatory, reporting dates will be mandatory and for the next seven months it'll be mandatory. Our turnout has been good up until this and for the most part, we haven't had any issues with guys being here."

Fairley has been absent during workouts. He re-signed with the team as an unrestricted free agent this offseason, but his heart condition was detected via a physical taken prior to signing his contract. Fairley was diagnosed with an enlarged heart at the NFL Combine in 2011, a diagnosis that did not prevent him from playing his first six NFL seasons.

But that initial diagnosis exhibited a change and Fairley is awaiting a third medical opinion on whether he can continue his career. The first opinion was that Fairley should retire.

"We'll weigh in on all of those things, we'll meet with him and his agent and kind of weigh in on the three different opinions," Payton said. "I anticipate that being sooner than later."

Also Tuesday, quarterback Ryan Nassib made his debut as a Saint.

Nassib, who played collegiately at Syracuse for Coach Doug Marrone – a Saints assistant under Payton from 2006-08 – and was a fourth-round pick by the Giants in 2013. In four seasons with the Giants, as a backup to Eli Manning, Nassib played in five games and completed nine of 10 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown, without an interception.

Payton said that Nassib, who injured his elbow and had surgery to end his 2016 season, will compete for a roster spot.

"He's someone we liked coming out of the draft," Payton said. "We had to wait for him to rehab an injury. We brought him in, he threw last week. He visited, I think, a couple of other teams and fortunately, we were able to get him signed. He had finished the rehab process.

"We had tried to get him in a little bit earlier and he wasn't 100 percent, and so we waited. I think a couple of teams, like us, waited. And then once he was healthy to throw, we brought him in.

"He's competing. We'll see where it all sorts out. We had a pretty strong opinion of him as a player when he was in college."

Go inside the action on Day 1 of 2017 Saints Minicamp presented by Verizon

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