By Mark Robinson
The New Orleans Saints came to The Greenbrier for another round of practices, arriving Wednesday, July 27, and starting practice the next day. Five days of practice were scheduled for Thursday through Monday, with work on the field before lunch, and time with film and classes in the afternoon. Fans could buy tickets to watch practices, and several hundred did so, some local, and some following their team all the way from Louisiana. After taking off Tuesday, Aug. 2, five more days of practice were to follow.
Starting quarterback Drew Brees is backed up by veteran Luke McCown and second-year player Garrett Grayson. Brees has enjoyed a Hall of Fame career with the Saints, winning the Super Bowl following the 2009 season. McCown entered the NFL in 2004, and has played for Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, and Atlanta, before coming to the Saints in 2013. In practices, all three quarterbacks wear red jerseys, so these 300 lb. linemen realize it isn’t someone to wallop.
The quarterbacks split time doing passing drills, sometimes just quarterbacks and receivers, at other times throwing in the whole offense and defense, practicing reads and breaks and timing. Some drills are non-contact, and others involve limited contact. Full-speed crunching hits are not encouraged, although there is quite a bit of shoving and pushing and wrapping.
Mark Ingram was drafted in the first round by the Saints in 2011, out of Alabama. He led the team in rushing last year. He is joined by C.J. Spiller, acquired from Buffalo before last season. Tim Hightower was a fifth-round pick by Arizona in 2008, who has also played for the Redskins, where he tore his ACL in October of 2011. After four years out of the NFL, he was signed by the Saints in 2015, and finished the year with good output in the last four games.
Travaris Cadet saw limited action with the Saints from 2012-2014, before brief stints with Patriots and 49ers. The Saints picked him up again last December. Marcus Murphy was a seventh round pick in 2015 and has seen more plays as a returner than as a running back. Austin Johnson, with the Saints in 2014 and 2015, has run the ball 12 times, and made three catches. Daniel Lasco (University of California) and Sione Houma (fullback, Michigan) are rookies.
The Saints travel to New England Monday, Aug. 8, where they will have two days of joint practices with the Patriots before playing them in an exhibition game Thursday, Aug. 11. The Saints resume practices at The Greenbrier Saturday, Aug. 13. The last day of practice at the Greenbrier is Tuesday, Aug. 16.