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2008 Training Camp Review - Day 3

Welcome to another episode of "As the Knee Turns." In this episode, our main character, Deuce, suffers a minor setback and must miss morning practice to have an MRI taken. As bad luck would have it, at that very moment, the Oakland Raiders were cutting ties with running back Lamont Jordan, leaving everyone, including the Saints front office to wonder if Jordan was really what this team needed and whether Deuce would be forced to make an early exit. Luck was on our hero's side however, as his MRI results were negative and Jordan declined an offer, and he was able to make a triumphant return to the practice fields that very afternoon, never knowing how close he had come to being replaced. Don't miss the next episode of "As the Knee Turns," when cornerback Mike McKenzie's recovery takes longer than expected and Jason David sleeps with his wife.

In all seriousness though folks, there was even more to this story. ESPN had a quick article about the whole situation.

The Saints made a better financial offer than the Patriots, but the source said Jordan chose New England because he wanted to be with a Super Bowl contender.

ALWAYS practice safe sex. (Photo Source)

Man, that is insulting. First of all, I have to say I am honestly surprised. I would say it is pretty rare that a player accepts less money. I will give Jordan credit for that. He must really want to win. However, the Saints are no Pop Warner team, I mean we have put together quite a nice little squad here. We are making the playoffs, that is for darn sure. So Lamont, why not take more money and play for a good team. Your loss. Here is where I actually get angrier.

New Orleans has Reggie Bush, Aaron Stecker and Pierre Thomas on the roster, but none of those three is a proven feature back.

This is where I really get angry, and its mostly because Pierre Thomas' name was included in that mix. Reggie? Yeah, I understand that one. He's not an every down, between the tackles kinda guy. Stecker? A little old, maybe has some nagging injuries, never really proven he can carry the load, whatever. I get that too. But Pierre? What the heck does this kid have to do? Everything he has ever done proves he can be a feature back. He wins out a spot on the team over a draft pick. He excelled on the few touches he got throughout the season. When he had the chance to actually start against Chicago he broke a team record by both rushing and receiving for over 100 yards and had one of the best games at the running back position in the last eight years in the NFL. Show me what he has done to make you not believe in him. Why shouldn't he get a chance? I think it is great what the front office has done bringing in quality players at every position of need, but in this case, I think we could certainly look to promote from within, no?

Moving on, we saw a little more of the kicking battle. I really do think Mehlhaff is gonna win this one. At the very least, they are probably equal and if that's the case, why not go with the younger kid with the stronger leg. Here is what Payton said about it today.

With the two kickers, do you see them as competing for one spot or could there be a shared situation there?

“There’s no definite that it would be just one position, but I see them both competing for one spot right now..." - New Orleans Saints official website

"Why am I up this early?" (Photo Source)

Sounds a lot like something a certain blogger said yesterday.

And with the depth at other positions like wide receiver, it would seem a waste of a roster spot keeping two kickers. Expect only one of them to stay. - CSC

Wow! Whoever said that is a genius! Sign that guy up. Like he's a psychic or something.

While we are on the topic of me being a semi-clairvoyant football savant, here is another prediction: Sedrick Ellis will agree to a contract today. With Glen Dorsey all signed up in KC, that should give big Sed's agent the green light. God I am gonna look like an idiot if I am wrong because this should be close to a sure thing.

Linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar continues to impress people. Could he be a pleasant surprise on defense. It would be nice enough if we got great production out of the players we are expecting to produce, i.e. Vilma, Ellis and Gay. Getting any sort of production out of a guy like Dunbar would just be awesome.

Here are the rest of the notes from yesterday.

  • Jason David is actually looking pretty good.
  • Hollis Thomas had a good day. He beat Jonathan Goodwin a few times yesterday. Add that to the fact that he actually showed up underweight,
  • Colston is fundamentally solid as a rock. Every thing everyone ever says about him is positive and he is always impressive. Listening to people talk about him makes me want to be at training camp so badly.
  • Tracy Porter is gonna give it a shot at returning punts. Watch out Reggie.
  • Glad to see the hype surrounding Shockey is cooling off. He went full in the morning than took it easy in the afternoon.
  • Coach Ed Orgeron seems to be impressing a lot of people as much as any coach can impress a fan. And he is freaking loud.
  • Jammal Brown was back from the funeral.
  • Josh Bullocks participated today. Not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing.
  • Brian Young and McKenzie both did not participate.
  • Usama Young is not impressing enough.
  • Arrington had another good day. He might not even need special teams to win a spot at this point.
  • Wade Dada made a nice interception.
  • Bush burned Simoneau on a 40 yard pass from Brunell after a fumbled snap to qualify for the play of the afternoon.

Must Reads

Larry Holders notes on the afternoon practice from his blog.

New Orleans Saints official website notes from afternoon practice and interview with Deuce McAllister. Transcript it below.

How does the knee feel?

“Unfortunately, I know what the ACL feels like if it’s going. Probably the biggest concern this time was the swelling. Throughout the whole process I hadn’t had a lot of swelling. That’s really why we were precautionary with the MRI this morning, just to find out exactly what it was. Everything came back fine and I’m pretty much on schedule; we just flip-flopped the practices from usually in the morning to this afternoon.”

How soon did you know you hadn’t done any major damage?

“Pretty much when I was able to finish, because I actually did it early Friday morning as far as twisting the knee, but I was able to finish the practice. Knowing that, it just got a little stiff and a little sore but other than that I knew it couldn’t have been anything too serious. Anytime that ACL goes, you’re not going to be able to finish.”

Was there any thought of holding you out this afternoon at all?

“Doc told me to be careful, but I just wanted to go out there and compete with the guys. I just wanted to keep it warm as possible – we switched the braces that I normally would wear and I just tried to go make plays.”

You’ve said that you’ll have to deal with the pain that comes along with the operations you’ve had. How is that going?

“That’s a part of it because you’re talking about a major injury. You’re talking about taking a piece that was really not there and putting another in there. That’s just going to be a part of it; there will be good days and bad days as I’ve learned. One thing about it is that you can be precautionary now, but during the season you have to make plays and step up.”

Have you changed the way you practice now?

“It’s pretty much day-to-day. I always want to at least get one in a day, try to get one practice in a day. If it’s too stiff or too sore in the morning when I normally would practice, then we’ll try to get it warm enough for that afternoon practice. If I can’t go one day, then it’s really not a big deal now. But later on as the season gets closer, then we might have some worry. But I just want to be able to go out there and contribute.”

Did they put a new limit on your reps this afternoon?

“No, it was normal reps. It was just me and Reggie and maybe Stecker or Pierre splitting the ‘1s’ reps.”

Do you view this as a setback at all?

“No, it’s not necessarily a setback. It was somewhat of a concern last night when we had to drain it and get an MRI, but my ultimate goal was to be able to participate in the practice and that’s what I did.”

Here is your daily dose of pictures from the Clarion-Ledger.

The Times-Pic had an article about Deuce but also had a bit about Reggie's desire for a role in punt returning.

"I want to be the full-time punt-returner, " Bush said. "And it starts right now at practice, with just proving to the coaches that I can be the guy back there to make it happen and them giving me a shot."

"The only thing you can do is notify the coach and let him know that it's something that you want to play, it's something that you have in your arsenal, " Porter said. "And the coaches, they do know that I played that at Indiana. So they have me back there in the rotation, catching punts, getting reps, and ultimately it's going to be the coaches' decision on who they want back there."

This one is for Hollywoo! It's another one of Mark Campbell's "Soup of the Day" blog posts on the New Orleans Saints official website.

I can see the defense getting comfortable with their schemes all ready. Jonathan Vilma has really stood out to me. I’ve played against him before, when he was with the Jets, and the guy can flat out play. He’s always around the ball, which really means he’s fast and smart. You can always tell who the guys are that have that ability to be a pain to the offense. If they’re not on my team, I can’t stand them, but if they wear the black and gold…I love it. There’s nothing worse for an offense to see a play that would be great, except for one of those “ball hawks” on the defense. You will all be ecstatic and proud to watch Vilma ruining plays for other offenses.

The tight ends were talking about how remarkable it is that it only rains when we’re not on the field. During this discussion, Coach Payton walked up and said he has ALL controls. He went on to describe himself as the controller, like in the “Truman” movie.

Things went well on the field, but not as well off it. We found out the team had released Eric Johnson. That’s part of this business. Eric was a great player, fighting off an ankle injury that wouldn’t go away the entire season. It’s a business, but we can’t help building friendships. Think about it. How would you like to go to work and see your buddy in the cubicle next to you gone? It’s tough, but it is what it is. You can bet like in an Ice Cube movie, I will pour out a Gatorade for Eric tomorrow.

That is great! That is stuff you won't get anywhere else. In fact, is he allowed to be telling us this?

"What did you call me?" (Photo Source)

Here is another article about new Saints cornerback Randall Gay, this time from the Clarion Ledger.

"I still feel a little rusty," said the former New England Patriot, who was among New Orleans' biggest free agent acquisitions this offseason. "Just trying to adapt to different things because my defense in New England was kind of the same as what I ran in college.

"So, it just felt natural (catching on with the Patriots) and I wasn't really learning, I was just out there based off what I knew. Now I'm still learning so I feel a tad bit slow."

"Well, football is football," he said. "It's just getting it to how they want to (run man-to-man or zone) and learning the Saints terminology and getting the terminology that you've been taught (in the past) out of your head."

"That's the best thing for a team," Gay said. "People who want to play are going to compete their hardest to play. Everyone wants to be on the field. Nobody wants to be that guy left out.

"So, you're gonna give that much more effort to play. That's going to make the team better."

"I've always felt that I want to play as much as possible," Gay said. "So wherever they want me to play - if they want me to play safety or anything, I want to do that. The more you can do, the longer you stay around."

"Coming out of college I wanted to come to the Saints," the Baton Rouge native said. "It's home for me. So coming home was the biggest draw and it didn't hurt that a year ago they were a game away from the Super Bowl."

"What I did in New England," Gay said, "what anybody did, what Jason did in Indy - we won Super Bowls. But now with the Saints, we're all even. We're all trying to get to the Super Bowl. And that's the only thing we're focusing on right now."

The Times-Pic brings us some insight into the battle for conerback through the eyes of new cornerbacks coach Dennis Allen.

"I think right now we have a lot of good competition, " Allen said. "That's the main thing about training camp; you want to have competition. We've got people pushing each other. I'm real anxious to see how it plays out over the next three to six weeks.

"The key thing is we have that many players who can play the game of football. We have a nice mix of some veteran players and some younger players. These young guys are awfully talented, but they have a lot to learn. Some have been around a long time, and they understand the game.

"Everything is open. It's a battle. It's a battle every time. In our situation with Mike coming off the injury, everyone is fighting for a position. There's no positions been settled, yet. We'll see who wins the fight."

McKenzie spoke on his own behalf.

"I'm ready to go, " McKenzie said. "Right now, the team is being smart (concerning his injury). They've been advised just to be smart. It's far more important to be ready for Week One of the games than Week One of practice. We are just being on the cautious side."

"We're all getting steadily adapted to a new system, " McKenzie said. "Guys out there now are doing a great job of paying attention to detail, making plays. I'm just paying attention to what they're doing and paying attention and preparing myself to get out there.

"This team, the talent level has gone up tremendously. We've added corners, we've added more linebackers, we've added more defensive linemen. Depth won't be a question any longer. It's really just a matter of coming out here and getting everything sound, and we'll be ready to go."

Dennis Allen then weighed in on Jason David.

"I think as with most professional athletes, these guys are competitors and they want to be good. I talked to Jason during the offseason, and there are a couple of minor things he has to correct, and I think if he does, he has a chance to be a very good player. I think he's come into camp and had three excellent practices (through Friday morning), and he's a competitor, hard. I'm anxious to see, second year into a new program, where he's at."

Don't forget about Randall Gay.

"Any time you're on any team, it doesn't matter if you have a one-year deal or a five-year deal, you want to play as much as possible, " Gay said. "In order to do that, you have to start. So your goal has to be to start. You can't set a standard that I'm going to go here and play nickel or play on special teams. You have to go there with the mindset that you're going to start. I want to be the best I can be, so I want to start. If you don't get that job, you have to work in whatever role you're given."

"We just have a lot of competition out there, which is good for the team, " Gay said. "Competition brings out the best in everyone. It's going to make me play harder, make everyone play harder.

"But there's a lot of guys. A lot of guys. It makes me, Jason, Mike, everybody out there play harder."

Allen sums it all up.

"There are definitely some things we have to correct back there, " he said. "Obviously, as a team, we all fell short of our goal, but we're all in this thing together. But as a position group, we've got to work together to be as good as we can be."

Orgeron is making a splash this summer. (Photo Source)

The Associated Press had a story that I found on Fox Sports talking our shiny new and improved defense.

Scott Fujita

"On defense, where we have had a lot of struggles, a lot of the guys who were starters last year feel a lot of pressure to come out and they've go a chip on their shoulder," said linebacker Scott Fujita, one of the Saints' defensive captains last season. "That's important. I don't feel like I performed well enough last year. I think a lot of guys feel the same way."

Charles Grant and Hollis Thomas both entered a weight loss clinic at Duke University during the offseason.

"If we had gotten to the quarterback a little more there would have been fewer big plays," Thomas said. "The pass defense starts up front. That's pretty much our philosophy."

"I was heavy, heavier than usual and it was evident. I had do something different," Thomas said. "Them sending me there let me know they cared about me as a person, more than just a football player. It let me know not only that I should do it for myself and my family but also not to let them down and make them feel like they were wasting their time."

Will Smith

"Those guys worked hard in the offseason, sacrificed not going out to eat what they want and just doing the things they know will help us," Smith said. "You can tell when a guy really worked his butt off. You can tell Hollis' clothes are a little looser, that Charles' clothes are a little looser."

"Everyone always says they're going to be better than they were the year before," Smith began. "You really don't know until you get out there and start playing the games, but we can tell a little bit in these practices. The way guys are flying around, just guys' attitudes, we can tell we're going to be a lot better."

Gary Gibbs

"No question about it - We've got better competition right now out there ... at every position," Gibbs said. "That competition is the impetus, I think, that will allow us to be a better football team because everybody knows that no job is secure."

Yet another one about the Saints defense, this time from The Advocate. This time it's all Gary Gibbs.

“You are what you are, and we were 7-9,” third-year defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs said. “We didn’t coach as well, we didn’t play as well, we didn’t win some games we had opportunities to win. We were outside looking in (at season’s end), so we were no different than any other club.”

“You look at all those things, and one of the things Sean indicated to you guys is we needed some more pieces and that was across the board,” Gibbs said. “You never stay the same. If you stay pat, you are going to fall behind the other 31 teams.”

“I thought Sean and (General Manager) Mickey (Loomis) did a great job of identifying some players,” Gibbs said. “We were fortunate to bring some players in, and we think those guys are going to help us.”

“If you can play better in those specific areas, you’re going to be better keeping the score down and you’re going to win more ball games,” Gibbs said. “Really, scoring defense is the key. But as we all know, you can’t give up a bunch of big plays in the passing game and you can’t allow a team to rush for 200 yards or whatever.”

The Sun Herald and The Advocate both have articles about the possibility of Sedrick Ellis signing as well as random notes from yesterday. No big deal. The Sun Herald also had an article covering the whole Deuce thing.

I am going to take it easy today, but I will bring you some sort of update.