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Saints open minicamp minus Thomas, Brown


METAIRIE, La. (AP) -The New Orleans Saints' first mandatory practices since winning the Super Bowl opened Friday with their leading rusher from last season and a former two-time Pro Bowl left tackle both conspicuously absent.

Coach Sean Payton said he wasn't surprised running back Pierre Thomas and offensive lineman Jammal Brown failed to show up. Brown has yet to participate in a single voluntary workout and Thomas skipped a set of optional practices last week.

The pair are among four restricted free agents who have yet to sign their tender offers from the club. The other two are receiver Lance Moore and safety Roman Harper, who both have signed injury waivers and continued to practice.

Payton said there were no updates on negotiations, but noted that Thomas and Brown would not be fined because they were not technically under contract, even though the Saints have exclusive rights to them now that the period for restricted free agents to sign offers from other teams has passed.

We work really with the guys that are here,'' Payton said.Certainly you'd like to have everyone in your mini-camp and yet I'm sure there are a number of teams with the same issue with different positions and it is what it is.''

Harper said he never saw skipping voluntary workouts or minicamp as the best way for him to send a message to the club that he was unhappy with his contract.

I like being around my guys and I like playing football,'' Harper said.I can't worry about all these other issues.''

That could change when training camp opens and teams start practicing with full pads, but that's about seven weeks away.

Jeremy Shockey also missed the opening practice on Friday morning because of back spasms, but returned on a limited basis for the second practice in the afternoon. He caught passes on his own, then participated in drills with fellow tight ends and joined the full offense while the unit worked on formations.

Shockey did not speak with reporters, but Payton said the star tight end's limited status was unrelated to his hospitalization last week.

Last week he was dehydrated and all the tests came back,'' Payton said.Basically his blood sugar count was low and he had that fainting episode. What's holding him back right now is just his back. It's something that probably in the last 24 hours it began to tweak him and we're going to just play it day-to-day with him and make sure that he's ready, but that's unrelated to what happened a week ago.''

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