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John DeShazier: Saints training camp at Greenbrier ends but work remains

Team has joint practices with Texans before returning to New Orleans

The final day of Saints Training Camp presented by Verizon at the Greenbrier Resort on Aug. 17, 2016. Photos by Layne Murdoch Jr./New Orleans Saints

White Sulphur Springs, W. Va. – The portion of New Orleans Saints training camp that was held at The Greenbrier reached its conclusion Wednesday.

That's not the same as saying training camp ended.

It will pick up again Thursday, in joint practices with the Texans in Houston for two days before a preseason game Saturday night at NRG Stadium, and will extend through the Saints' homecoming to the team's practice facility in Metairie.

But the work that was done at The Greenbrier – players reported July 27 and worked through Wednesday, including a four-day stint in Foxborough, Mass., that included two days of joint practice against the Patriots and the preseason opener at Gillette Stadium – was exactly what Coach Sean Payton hoped it would be.

Payton said before training camp opened that this year's workouts would be more physically demanding and competitive.

"I think we were able to (make it more competitive)," he said. "I think we had a great environment, the weather was cooperative. We got a lot of good work done, we had a lot of competitive drills. That's going to continue. I think the players handled it well, too.

"This facility is, I think, very conducive to getting your team ready to play. It allows your players to have that focus and it eliminates a lot of the distractions. Even on their off days these guys are together – they're over here getting treatment, watching tape or eating together. I like to see that.

"This is a group that I would say is very focused, very driven. It has been a competitive camp. I think they're only going to get better. We're in a race with the other 31 teams on finding the right 53 and preparing for the Week 1 opener. But that's still a ways away right now as we evaluate these p

The continuation of the process includes players like running back C.J. Spiller.

Spiller, a prized free agent signee from Buffalo last season, never was able to hit his stride last season due to a leg injury that was sustained in training camp and lingered throughout the season, until he was placed on injured reserve.

This year, he was able to participate and only was held out as a precautionary measure. Otherwise, his speed and change-of-direction skills appear to be in pre-injury form.

"It felt good," Spiller said. "Last year, I really didn't really have a training camp because of the injury. To get out there this year, it felt good to run around and continue to get the playbook down and get the timing down.

"Any time you can go into a season healthy, it's always a plus. That's the main thing, but there's still work to be done before the season starts. I've just got to continue to get better, continue to do what I need to do to make sure I'm ready to go.

"We're finished here but once we get back to New Orleans, there's still a lot of work that needs to be done before that first regular-season game."

Before the homecoming, there remains the work that is to be done against the Texans.

"It's another chance, another stepping stone for our team to see where we're at, especially as an offensive unit, to go up against another top five defense," Spiller said.

Another chance to expand on the work that already has been done.

"I think camp was positive in that guys came to work and we got a lot out of it," right tackle Zach Strief said. "We have a lot of guys working the right way."

RANKINS UPDATE: Payton said he visited with defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins on Monday, the day the rookie was injured, and that Rankins was upbeat despite his injury. Payton said the injury is not a season-ending injury. "It's a fracture right down by the fibula," Payton said. "The rehab and process, surgery and all of that, should be fairly smooth. We're fortunate that it wasn't more significant and yet, I'm sure he'll approach and attack the rehab just like he has everything else."

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