WHITE SULPHUR SPRING, W.Va. (WGNO) – It was not your typical first Saints training camp practice. Temperature at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia at 9:30 Friday morning was 67 degrees. The players felt it, and it felt good.
“Back in New Orleans I might lose 10 pounds (in a training camp practice),” said linebacker Curtis Lofton. “Here, maybe two pounds.”
Saints offensive tackle Zach Strief was drafted by the club in 2006. He did three summers at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi.
“This is the best first training camp practice we have ever had,” said Strief.
“As much as we liked the hospitality at Millsaps,” said Strief. “It was 98 degrees. It was brutal.”
On the field, Saints tackle Tavon Rooks, defensive tackle John Jenkins, and safety Jairus Byrd did not practice.
Byrd was the Saints big pick up in unrestricted free agent. But, he had off-season back surgery, raising a few eyebrows.
Head coach Sean Payton said Byrd will begin camp on the physically unable to perform list. But he’s expected to practice soon.
“His progress is ahead of schedule,” said Payton.
Byrd looked anxious to get to work. He worked out with a trainer, wearing his helmet while he did so.
Tight end Jimmy Graham practiced with the Saints for the first time since January. Graham called his off-season contract stalemate with the club “an extended vacation.”
Graham was franchised tag by the team in March. He reached agreement on a four-year contract with the Saints, hours before the July 15th deadline to do so.
“I didn’t get into football to learn litigation,” said Graham.
He was referring to his request to be franchised tag as a wide receiver, not a tight end. An arbitrator ruled against him.
Friday, Graham referred to himself as an All-Pro tight end. He said much of what the media reported about his contract issues was inaccurate. He said he was frustrated. And, he used former Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma as a sounding board.
Graham also worked out with Vilma in Miami.
“Jonathan Vilma dedicated his summer to me,” said Graham.
Quarterback Drew Brees was in the same situation in the summer of 2012.
He missed an entire off-season of team workouts while being franchised tagged.
“From a time standpoint, he’s got some work to do,” said Brees. “But, I think he will get caught up very quickly.”
Saints first round pick, wide receiver Brandin Cooks, made a great catch on a pass from Brees over the middle. Cooks leaped high in the air to make the catch.
Wide receiver Kenny Stills left practice with what head coach Sean Payton described as a quad injury.
Payton said Stills tweaked his quad two weeks ago. Payton didn’t think the injury was serious.