The Saints went through arguably their most impressive practice of training camp this afternoon during another marathon session on their outdoor grass fields at their Metairie headquarters. The afternoon practice in front of the general public was notable, among other reasons, for the fact that it marked the first time the team wasn't forced inside for a previously scheduled open afternoon workout due to rain and/or saturated fields.
But more importantly, according to those that took part, it represented a high water mark for the team still in its first week of practice.
Head Coach Sean Payton remarked soon after practice that, "I was pleased with a lot of things from today. The efficiency was there, the tempo was good and the players were making plays on both sides of the ball Payton said. "That was encouraging."
Saints middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma, soaking wet from perspiration and the steady rain that fell over the last hour of practice, said, "There are days in practices when you see things start to come together and the rhythm is great. Today was great. There was a lot of pride out there and we went after it. The offense made plays and so did we on defense. People like to say 'the defense won today, or the offense won today.' But I will tell you right now, the Saints won today. That was an impressive practice and you can't help but to feel really excited after being a part of something like that."
The Saints worked on practically every phase of the game, beginning with a walk-through, stretching, individual position skill drills, one-on-ones, special team periods, and team drills, focusing on situational scenarios, which featured both work in the running and passing game (and conversely, the run and pass defense).
TE Jeremy Shockey had an outstanding day, making catches all over the field, particularly in the red zone and recording at least four touchdowns, and was equally as impressive in his blocking assignments with his trademark intensity. Other players who opened eyes included running backs Mike Bell and Lynell Hamilton, who displayed great toughness and grit in their assignments and ran exceptionally hard in the face of aggressive defenders flying to the ball.
Defensively, Mark Brunell/Charles Grant.aspx">Charles Grant, Vilma, Scott Fujita, Randall Gay and rookie Jonathan Casillas flashed throughout practice, while feisty safety Chris Reis was involved heavily in his reps on the field.
Bell and Reis had at least two big collisions, both along the sidelines and neither was willing to concede an inch after the whistle blew.
Payton said the intent of the practice was tilted a bit more towards red zone work, where the quarterbacks were forced to make quicker decisions and the tempo was ratcheted up. The team even went through a 12-play sequence featuring live tackling to the ground and the spirit and tone of the practice was established early. Although the later sessions of the practice did not feature live tackling, hitting was still brisk and crisp.
"It was fun to be out there, it felt like a game," said third-year wide receiver Robert Meachem, who made a leaping touchdown reception in the pouring rain and drew a rousing reception from the 2,437 in attendance that hung in there throughout the steady rain. "You'll see a lot of smiles from guys because today was a lot of fun."
Tomorrow's Scheduled Workouts: The Saints are scheduled to work out twice tomorrow, (Wednesday, August 5), with a practice open to the public (weather permitting) beginning at 8:50 a.m.-11:00 a.m. The team's afternoon practice will be held in their indoor practice and will be closed to the public due to space limitations. The team will return to practice in front of their fans on Thursday afternoon (3:20-5:45 p.m.), weather permitting. Friday will see the team with an open practice (8:50-11:00 a.m.), followed by a closed session in the afternoon. Saturday's Black-and-Gold scrimmage will be closed to the public this year, and the players will be given Sunday off from the practice fields.