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Monday, May 14, 2012
Checking in on the Saints

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

We’re finally reaching the point where there’s some football news out of the New Orleans Saints.

The team had its rookie minicamp over the weekend and assistant head coach Joe Vitt, who is stepping in for suspended coach Sean Payton, and the coordinators met with the New Orleans media Monday afternoon. There was no major news, but I’m looking at the transcripts and seeing several items that are worth discussing.

The veteran Saints have yet to hit the field in their offseason workouts, but that will come next week. With the contract situation of quarterback Drew Brees still very much up in the air, the Saints have to prepare to take the field without their leader. The Brees situation could change with a phone call, but the Saints are preparing to begin their on-field workouts with Chase Daniel and Sean Canfield as their quarterbacks.

“We’re going to throw the volume of offense at them that we would in a normal week,’’ offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. said. “It won’t be any different in that aspect.”

The Saints aren’t ruling out the possibility of adding another quarterback before they hit the field. They had Brian Brohm in for a tryout during the camp and could possibly sign him or someone else in the coming days. But, for the moment, they’re looking at proceeding with the quarterbacks they have under contract.

“This is going to be an opportunity for Chase and Sean to get more reps and get a good look at those guys,’’ Carmichael said.

There have been reports the Saints and Brees have made no progress toward a long-term contract. Vitt said the negotiations are between general manager Mickey Loomis and Brees’ agent, but still remained optimistic that the quarterback will have a contract before training camp.

“I’ve never been a math major and I’m not an accounting major so there’s nothing I could advise Mickey to do that what he already knows how to do,’’ Vitt said. “Those guys are both on the same page and have the same aspirations and same goals. This is going to get done. I don’t (believe) anybody ever thought it was going to be easy. I think they’re both working to the same goal.”

Vitt and the coordinators also addressed several other topics of significance.

The Saints have re-signed veteran kicker John Kasay, who stepped in last year when Garrett Hartley was injured. Special teams coordinator Greg McMahon said neither kicker is guaranteed a roster spot.

“We’re going to make it competitive, absolutely,’’ McMahon said. “All phases of our team are. We re-signed John for a reason. Garrett knows that and it will certainly be good competition. It’s healthy. It’s good for us.”

Uncertainty remains about the status of linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith. The NFL has suspended Vilma for the entire 2012 season and Smith is scheduled to be suspended for the first four games of the season for their roles in the bounty program. But those suspensions are on hold because both players have appealed.

“Both of those players were in the building today and we’re moving forward,’’ Vitt said. “We had a great film session with these guys. I think I have to go back to what we said a couple weeks ago. We’re trying to win today. Today, we got a little bit better than yesterday. This weekend we got a little bit better than the previous weekend. We’re going to adjust those challenges when we have to face them.”

Vitt also said the Saints will open training camp at their facility in Metairie, but suggested they will spend some time practicing against one of their preseason opponents. The Saints open the preseason by playing in the Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio against the Arizona Cardinals. They follow that with a road game in New England, home games with Jacksonville and Houston and close out the preseason with a game at Tennessee.

“We’ll open up (camp) a little early because we have the Hall of Fame game and then we’ll probably go and practice against one of our upcoming opponents in training camp,’’ Vitt said. “I think Mickey’s ready to talk about it in a week when it gets settled, but we’ll go away, kind of like we did in California (last preseason) for a week. We did it two years before that in Houston. We’ll go away and practice with an opponent that we have in our preseason schedule.”

Vitt also addressed the status of running back Mark Ingram, who recently had arthroscopic knee surgery.

“I think anytime you see a player limping around with a late-season offseason surgery like he had, you’re concerned,’’ Vitt said. “What I’m not concerned about is his dedication to getting better and his accountability to his teammates. He’s shows up to treatment on time every day. He’s not late. He’s taken a good business approach to this thing. The surgery is probably something that he didn’t have to get done, but as an organization we all agreed that he should get it done to make him a stronger player. Mark a dependable guy now. He’s not going to miss his treatment. He gets his work done. You’re concerned obviously with this, but not much with him.”

Vitt said the Saints may proceed cautiously with Ingram at the start of training camp, but have no doubt he’ll be ready for the beginning of the regular season.