The New Orleans Saints took to the practice fields this morning for their first-of-five mini-camp practices at the team's headquarters in Metairie.
The only player not in attendance was 2009 first round draft pick, CB Malcolm Jenkins, who under NFL guidelines is prohibited from attending the practices due to the fact that his school, Ohio State, has not yet concluded their spring semester. Jenkins, though, graduated today and is headed to New Orleans this evening and is expected to be at practice tomorrow morning."Fortunately, he's graduated," Payton said. "He's flying in tonight. He was able to graduate and get his exams done. He'll be in tonight. You guys will see him on the field tomorrow. That's pretty important. That gives us Saturday and Sunday and all these OTAs. I think the learning curve for him will be smaller than if he would have been had he had to wait longer."
The first practice session, though, gave the Saints coaches an opportunity to witness the team together in a full squad setting, although contact is held to a minimum since players are only required to wear helmets. Yet, the tempo of the practice session was brisk, with the majority of the rookies and veterans having already acclimated themselves to the basics of the offense, defense and special teams principles through off-season meetings and a handful of organized team activities.
Saints Head Coach Sean Payton said following the morning workout that he was generally pleased with the work his team put in this morning. "I was pleased with the tempo and the overall execution in all facets," Payton said. "There were some good things happening and some things that we can work on and clean up. But overall, I was generally pleased."
The Saints' top-ranked offense, which averaged 410.7 yards per game in 2008, presented a formidable challenge to the Saints' new-look defense, which now falls under the guidance of highly respected defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Both the offense and defense took turns making big plays, which was to be expected said quarterback Drew Brees. "There were a lot of guys flying around out there on both sides," Brees said. "There is that feeling of 'we are getting close to the start of football season. I can feel the excitement and I think it's shared.'"
Among the notable plays turned in during this morning's team session were:
-DT Will Smith/Kendrick Clancy.aspx">Kendrick Clancy batting down a Brees pass.
-WR Devery Henderson catching a pass along the sideline from Brees and getting both feet down before his momentum carried him out of bounds.
-CB Jason David diving to break up a pass thrown by Mark Brunell intended for WR Courtney Roby.
-RB Lynell Hamilton bursting through a hole in the line created by a G Jamar Nesbit block for a 10-yard gain.
-S Usama Young knocking down a pass intended for Lynell Hamilton/Skyler Green.aspx">Skyler Green on a quick slant.
-OLB Dan Morgan meeting Hamilton at the line of scrimmage on a quick dump off pass.
-QB Anthony Hargrove/Joey Harrington.aspx">Joey Harrington firing a pass into the flat to TE Dan Campbell after backing coverage away with a deep pump fake.
-Rookie DE Jeremy Parnell, at 6-6, swatting a pass down at the line of scrimmage.
RB Pierre Thomas scampering through for a nice gain on a draw play.
-Brees to a diving TE Dan Campbell on intermediate route. On the play, Pierre Thomas picked up a blitzing defensive back, allowing Brees an extra second to hang in the pocket.
-Devery Henderson shaking tight coverage from CB Tracy Porter. Henderson made a nice comeback catch on a pass from Brees.
-TE Jeremy Shockey was very involved this morning, making several nice catches and runs after the catch.
Rookie RB Garrett Hartley/P,-d-,J,-d-, Hill.aspx">P.J. Hill making a nice reception in the flat during skeleton drills.
RB Reggie Bush catching a pass over the middle and putting a few nifty moves on pursuing defenders. One the play, newcomer FB Heath Evans peeled back and appeared to have DT Sedrick Ellis lined up for a big hit. Evans shied away, though, as contact is frowned upon without pads.
-Thomas appeared to have a hole, but Ellis and LB Jonathan Vilma quickly closed it at the line of scrimmage.
-OLB Scott Fujita tracking down Bush on a dump off pass shortly after Bush made a reception.
-Brunell firing a pass in the face of heavy pressure to RB Mike Bell, who take the pass in stride for a nice gain.
-DT DeMario Pressley making several nice impact plays along the interior of the defensive line.
-Shockey making a sliding catch despite tight coverage from MLB Mark Simoneau.
-Bell making a nifty catch down the middle of the field on a pass from Brees.
-DE Jeff Charleston showing good quickness on a pass rush move.
-LB Troy Evans sniffing out a screen pass to Garrett Hartley/P,-d-,J,-d-, Hill.aspx">P.J. Hill and breaking it up.
-S Pierson Prioleau nearly intercepting a pass along the sideline, and instead having to settle for a pass break-up.
-Shockey getting loose down the seam on the final play of practice against the reserves for a long reception.
Notes: The Saints will hold an afternoon practice session that is open to the public beginning at 3:00 p.m. (weather permitting). The gates will open an hour before the start of practice. The team will also hold an open practice on Saturday morning, at 10:15 a.m. (weather permitting). Fans are encouraged to bring a canned food item for donation to the Second Harvest Food Bank's drop off locations at the entrance to the fields … CB Jason David has changed his jersey number from #42 to #29, S Darren Sharper, a free agent signee during the off-season, is wearing #42, just as he did with the Minnesota Vikings and prior to that, the Green Bay Packers … the Saints have signed WR Rod Harper, a first-year player from Murray State and waived WR Kenneth Harris, a rookie free agent from the University of Georgia. Harper spent time with the Green Bay Packers in 2008 and also spent time with the Arkansas Twisters of the af2, where he was the leading scorer (38 TD) and receiver (107 receptions) in the current season that is being held this spring/summer … rookie punter Thomas Morstead was excused today due to a funeral he attended … Payton said TE Darnell Dinkins and TE Dan Campbell each suffered injuries during this morning's practice and needed to be further evaluated in the training room after practice … WR Adrian Arrington is recovering from a hamstring strain he suffered during an OTA and was held out. Payton indicated Arrington is not too far away from returning to action … Payton said he felt this off-season has been the team's best off-season during his regime in terms of off-season strength and conditioning and overall participation … WR Devery Henderson is seeing playing time at different receiver positions and Payton said he has been very pleased with his continued development as a professional … Drew Brees on the team's new look secondary: "I notice a big difference. Darren Sharper has added a lot to that mix and infused a lot of confidence. There are guys flying around back there and doing a lot of different things and making plays." … Brees also remarked that CB Tracy Porter has caught his eye continues to be a player that needs to be accounted for each snap. He's very confident in his abilities," Brees said.