<span>It's been 91 days since the New Orleans Saints last convened as a team.
Today, at the start of the team's 2009 off-season strength-and-conditioning program at the team's headquarters in Metairie, a combination of holdovers and freshly signed new additions embarked on a 12-week program specifically designed to strengthen and boost cardiovascular conditioning for each individual players, build and strengthen all the muscles and, in general, improve the overall level of fitness for the modern day Saints.
Under the direction of Head Strength and Conditioning Coaching Dan Dalrymple and assistants Adam Bailey and Charles Byrd, the program features a mixture of running, plyometrics and weightlifting geared towards building a foundation that the players can take into the Saints' opening mini-camp on June 5.
"We're just looking to find out where they are and what they've been doing prior to getting back here, both with their cardiovascular and strength training," said Dalrymple, who is now in his fourth season with the Saints. "We approach it with a team-first approach at this point, and then we can get a sense of where they are individually and go from there. We are very pleased to see that all of the guys have been active and working on their own the last three months. That gives us a good foundation to build off."
"We had a good first day," Dalrymple said. "Each player is given a program and we work with them to achieve both short term and long term goals. Everything is done with the intention of getting them into peak condition so that they can go out and perform on the football field. What I like is the seriousness that you see from the players and their devotion. Guys are working with a purpose and have that desire to improve."
"At the end of the day it is about everyone working harder than ever in order to get better," Dalrymple said. "It's about getting functional strength for each position specific group of players and getting their cardiovascular levels up to areas that will allow them to compete and make plays."
Newcomers such as S Darren Sharper, DT Lynell Hamilton/Rod Coleman.aspx">Rod Coleman, CB Jabari Greer, LB Dan Morgan, to name but a few, joined their new teammates such as RB Reggie Bush, QB Drew Brees, LB's Scott Fujita and Jonathan Vilma, DE's Will Smith and Charles Grant, TE Jeremy Shockey and many others on the field and in the weight-room for the standard three-hour sessions. Groups of players can choose from morning or afternoon workout sessions.
"The strength-and-conditioning program is one of those things that is critical to getting everyone back in top flight shape," said Brees. "It's also a time for team-building and getting back together with the guys and getting together with some of the new faces that have joined the team since the start of free agency. That's the chemistry aspect of the program and it's an important facet of it."
In the bygone days of yesteryear in professional football, training camps often served as the time and place for players to get into shape. But in the modern day NFL, with roster size limits, fierce competition for coveted roster spots, and only two weeks from the start of training camp until the first preseason game, players need to report to training camp at the peak of their physical conditioning.
"The train doesn't wait for anyone," said Dalrymple. "It left that station this morning and it's heading down the proverbial tracks. That's why it is very encouraging to see all the faces here today. They are ready to get started."
Today's groups worked through a combination of plyometrics, running, agility drills and finally sessions in the weight room during their three-hour sets.
"We will change up the workouts on a daily basis, in order to keep it fresh and interesting and challenging, and also in order to constantly and consistently work different muscle groups that are vital to success on the football field," Dalrymple said. "It all starts now."