<span style="">The New Orleans Saints took the practice field for their second morning practice. While the temperatures still crept into the 90's this morning, a slight breeze from the south seemed to almost give the impressions that it was one of the coolest practice sessions in recent memory on the Millsaps campus.
However, the sweat steadily dripped off the players and nearly every exposed portion of undershirts were soaked through on virtually every player roughly 45 minutes into the morning practice.
The Saints practice on the lower athletic field on the Millsaps campus, which gave the fans in attendance a birds eye view of the practice session. The team wasn't able to practice on the lower field last season as the field was being renovated, but Head Coach Sean Payton displayed a proclivity to utilizing the field during his inaugural season at the helm. He expressed satisfaction that the field is in good shape and indicated that the team will rotate to different fields throughout training camp. This afternoon the team will practice on the Millsaps stadium field.
RANDALL'S ROLE: Randall Gay, a former undrafted free agent and Super Bowl winning cornerback with the New England Patriots, has started to work his way into the regular base defense packages and has lined up in a variety of positions already in just three practices, including as cornerback with the first-team defense and also moving inside to a nickel-back spot in certain drills.
Gay, with five career interceptions and 83 total tackles in his five-year career, signed a four-year contract with the Saints on March 4, 2008 as an unrestricted free agent. His versatility and experience made him a valued commodity on the free agent market this past offseason and the former rookie free agent jumped at the opportunity to return to his home state of Louisiana to continue his career.
With two Super Bowl aappearances and one Super Bowl ring in his in his collection, Gay was asked what advice he can impart on his teammates about what it takes to make it to the Super Bowl, and the former LSU standout explained that a team simply cannot start focusing on a Super Bowl berth during training camp, rather the focus has to be on improving each day.
"Right now, no team is at a Super Bowl level, there's a lot of work to do, you need training camp to improve in order to get to the Super Bowl," he said.
He said it is human nature to think of "the big prize," but that daily goals have to supersede the long term goals not only through training camp, but throughout the season and his experience has been when the team takes the approach that the only game that matters is the next game on the schedule, good things tend to happen.
Gay was a popular figure with the local media assembled this morning at the conclusion of practice, with many picking his brain regarding practicing against his former collegiate teammates such as WR Devery Henderson and WR Skyler Green.
He good-naturedly said that they players were used to completing against each other and that it felt comfortable working against them since he has done it so many times in the past.
"Like old times," he said. "The good old days."
Gay also went on to say that he credits some of the success he has had on the pro level to the type of competition he faced in the SEC as a collegian.
"The receivers in the SEC were so fast, that it was the same speed when I arrived at my first NFL training camp," Gay said. "The most difficult task was playing with quarterbacks like Tom Brady. Any little misstep and they'll take advantage of you."
The transition from the New England Patriots to the New Orleans Saints hasn't been that big of a change for Gay, other than battling the heat everyday.
"The heat is something that you just have to battle through and not let it get in your head," he said. "It's there, you know it's going to be hot and you just have to work through it. We'll be a better team because of it, no doubt about it."
STINCHCOMB'S STANCE: Veteran right tackle Jon Stinchcomb, a fixture on the starting line the past seasons, explained how the off-season additions have already started to affect the team.
Stinchcomb, going into his sixth year in the league, has been an integral part of a offensive line that only surrendered 16 sacks from 652 passing attempts in 2007. The former second-round pick from Georgia in the 2003 draft has progressed throughout the years after having to be compared to his brother Matt, a former first round pick of the Oakland Raiders. Jon explained that he never felt the pressure from his older brother and that Matt was a measuring stick for his work ethic.
There have been key additions to the roster including Bobby McCray and Jeremy Shockey. When asked about how he felt about the progress of the defense, from an offensive point of view, Stinchcomb said that you could sense the different speed and schemes incorporated by new defensive line coach Ed Orgeron.
"The have ratcheted it up a bit, I would say," said Stinchcomb. "They (the defensive linemen) are flying off the ball and it's making us all better. The battles are just starting but the pace is pretty intense."
On the offensive standpoint, the loss of Jeff Faine was replaced by Jonathan Goodwin last year when Faine suffered an injury. Stinchcomb believes that this year's offensive line is once again going to be a formidable unit and that the expects the group to continuing progressing into one of the top units in the NFL once again in 2008
He went on to mention that the tight end position, with the recent acquisition of Jeremy Shockey and the return of Mark Campbell (missed all of 2007 with a back injury). Campbell, who made a tremendous diving catch in practice off a deflected pass, is known as one of the finest blocking tight ends in the league and has been a dependable receiving option when on the field throughout his career.
"They're two more weapons," Stinchcomb said of Shockey and Campbell. "Obviously they're talented players who have had a great deal of success throughout their careers. Anytime you can add players that are multi-dimensional and add that to your offense, your offense is always going to be a plus no matter how you look at it."
NEWS AND NOTES: The Saints weren't slowed on the second day of camp by any new injuries of note, with the exception of rookie wide receiver Carlos Robinson, who suffered a hamstring injury. TE Jeremy Shockey, RB Deuce McAllister and WR Marques Colston all participated and received their normal amount of reps.
McAllister stated that he felt a little soreness in his knee, which he said that he expected, on Friday morning after going through his most complete practice to date the day before. But he stated that he continues to be optimistic about his steady progress. The veteran runner will most likely work on the side this afternoon, just as he did yesterday afternoon, and will for the next week or two.
Shockey worked with the different offensive groupings during practice and is learning the Saints' offense on the run, so to speak.
"Like I said, I'm just trying to work like I'm trying to make the team," said Shockey. "I'm getting there. I'll keep getting better."
PLAY OF THE MORNING: Reserve safety Tuff Harris, a first-year player out of Montana, intercepted a Mark Brunell pass and raced 50-yards for a TD in team drills.