In The Onside Kick’s first (ever) visit to Saints Training Camp, I got to observe two practice sessions over the weekend and speak with some of the members of the defending World Champions and a few others on the proverbial bubble hoping to literally “make the cut”.
There was an estimated 2,200 fans in attendance in the sweltering heat on Saturday morning though the crowd was lighter for the warmer Sunday afternoon public practice. Ironically those in attendance tried to cool themselves by waving paper fans sponsored by Crystal Hot Sauce. Others held Saints themed parasols or imbibed in beverages, alcoholic and otherwise, being hawked by vendors lugging tubs of drinks.
They were days were A breeze was as welcome as THE Brees.
Being out there makes one wonder if moving many practices indoors is as much an act of mercy for a traveling fan base that is willing to weather any conditions as much for the players. I can vouch that the press welcomed the end of practice horn as much as the athletes they were covering.
After observing the players stretch, the crowd reacted loudly whenever quarterback Drew Brees, running back Reggie Bush or tight end Jeremy Shockey executed a play in closer proximity to the stands. They also cheered when major television outlets did “fan pan” shots.
The players wore helmets missing the Saints trademark (key word garage t-shirt makers) fleur-de-lis and the jerseys didn’t have names, making the job of discerning who was making certain plays a challenge. Even more so when the squads were split and simultaneously conducted drills.
Seen Around Camp
“Construction Yarmulkes”: Because special teams includes players from both sides of the football, the return team wears bright orange helmet covers that resemble a yarmulke someone in the construction business would wear while rushing off to temple.
A Visit from The Boss: Team owner Tom Benson and his wife Gayle made appearances at both public training sessions over the weekend, as the duo road past his enthusiastic “investors” in a golf cart while waving his championship ring adorned finger and exhorting the crowd to yell “Two Dat!”
Who Dat Taking Notes? In addition to WWL 870 AM radio sportscaster and ex-Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert, another former Black and Gold warrior has transitioned to the realm of journalism. Bred Edelman, who played for the Saints from 1982-1989.
The ex-offensive guard is covering Saints training camp for WDSU.
Edelman is associated with another part of the local sports’ hagiography as he was one of the five players providing the “Who Dat” chant in the original popular Saints song that featured Aaron Neville.
Wide receiver Lance Moore looks to have healed well after struggling with injuries in the 2009 season. The “Two-Point Hero” from the Super Bowl XLIV consistently made catches, including grabbing passes that many receivers would not have caught. In lieu of “Mighty Mouse”, an unappreciated sobriquet that was assigned to him, perhaps “Magnet Hands” would be more appropriate. It’s no wonder why #16 is a favorite target of Brees.
The run defense looked stout in drills, not giving up much yards.
However, one player who had some success was re-signed running back P.J. Hill. The “human bowling ball” managed to go forward in the midst of a defensive crowd. Hill has been popularly touted as the “new” Lynell Hamilton, who has since been dubbed the “new’ Mike Bell. Hill was originally signed by the Saints as a free-agent after the 2009 NFL draft.
Despite having a productive pre-season, Hill didn’t make the 53-man roster in 2009 but was signed to the practice squad. From there the Philadelphia Eagles signed Hill and after being waived and then signed to their practice squad was signed by the Washington Redskins.
Coming full-circle, the Redskins waived him earlier this year and Hill was then re-signed by the Saints. The Saints would be wise to make Hill their fourth back, though the team is reportedly looking at a free-agent running back.
Kick-returner and kick-off gunner Courtney Roby made a good case for himself as a wide receiver this past weekend. In a rare unwise move by the Saints front office last year, Roby was cut last season but was quickly re-signed. Roby’s status with the team appears secure.
Patrick Ramsey did a good job making Saints fans have a greater appreciation for Mark Brunell. The just-signed quarterback’s passes were low and didn’t inspire much confidence in his capacity to step in for Brees if the unthinkable ever happens. Contrary to what has been said since Ramsey joined the Saints (including by yours truly), the number two slot at QB is far from resolved.