|Center Matt Tennant watches newcomer Olin Kreutz during his Saints first practice (Photo: Parker Waters).|
METAIRIE - Olin Kreutz had signed his contract with the New Orleans Saints in the late morning. By the time their 4 p.m. practice hit, Kreutz donned the number 50 jersey and was out taking snaps with the first team at center on Friday.
Then practice was moved indoors after 30 minutes because of rain.Â In the league since 1998, Kruetz was with his second team ever. The ex-Chicago BearÂ brings not only veteran leadership but also excellent years anchoring the offensive line in Chicago.
"This is a different season where you have free agency as training camps are going on. One thing that is impressive about this guy (Kreutz), he looked at this as an opportunity and he left a couple of options on the table that paid a lot more money," said Saints head coach Sean Payton. Â "He was scheduled for a morning flight, and he never got on it. Fortunately for us, he agreed to a deal today."
Better still, Kreutz brings the mentality of a teacher to a willing student in second-year player Matt Tennant.
Tennant is a competitor but also recognizes the opportunity to learnÂ how to grow and improve at the center position. Few players are better in the NFL at any position than Kreutz, who has gone toÂ six Pro Bowls as a dominant center.
"I look at it as a great opportunity to learn from a future Hall of Famer at this point. I trust the coaching staff, and whatever they're doing I'm for it. I just have to continue to learn and be a better player," said Tennant.
The main focus on the defensive side of the ball is the linebackers. How the final roster at that position will shake out will be the most intriguing story left in camp.
Jonathan Vilma is the anchor in the middle. On Friday, he was flanked by Scott Shanle on the weak side with a rotation between Danny Clark and Drew Herring on the strong side.
Once the teamÂ moved indoors to practice, Vilma met Pierre Thomas at the line of scrimmage on an inside hand-off on the first play. The defensive captain's performance in the middle is no surprise.
There isn'tÂ a questionÂ of familiarityÂ with the system with the linebackers that lined up with the first team, but there is the a clear opening as Vilma's back-up. At this point, Jo-Lonn Dunbar has the inside track on that spot. The Boston College product lined upÂ in the middle with the second team.Â
Clint Ingram and Jonathan Casillas saw most of the second team reps on the outside.
Where there seems to be more depth this year for the Saints is in the secondary. That spot is highlighted by the improved play of second year corner Patrick Robinson. He attributes his improvement to a better understanding of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams' system.
"It's a lot different. I know what to expect. I think I'm more comfortable for the most part," said Robinson.
He also added that he "is feelingÂ good" despite being stretched out on the sidelines shortly before the end of practice.
- Jabari Greer also continues to look solid. The starting cornerback made a couple of impressive plays that included jumping a route for a deflection of a Drew Brees pass and snagging a jump ball away from Korey Hall.
- Rookie cornerback Johnny Patrick received encouraging words from Williams on a couple of occasions during practice. His effort and effectiveness in drills were encouraging signs.
- Is Joique Bell a dark horse to make the roster? Chris Ivory had sports hernia surgery in Philadelphia
"It's a 3-week procedure," explained Payton. "I think the feeling was 'let's get this done now'.Â The report back to us is that it went real well."
Ivory is also recorvering from foot surgery. Bell, who joined roster late in the regular season, hasÂ impressed so far in camp with his decisive running.
- The biggest hit of the day was delivered by an offensive player. Fullback Kolby Hurt dropped Fabian Washington in the open field after catching a pass.
SIGNED: OLIN KREUTZ (C)
WAIVED: MICHAEL GALATAS (WR)
PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM: CHARLES BROWN (OT), CHRIS IVORY (RB)Â HAD SPORTS HERNIA SURGERY IN PHILLY FRIDAY MORNING, TRACY PORTER (CB), GREG ROMEUS (DE)
DID NOT PRACTICE: EZRA BUTLER (LB-HAMSTRING), JERROD FAYSON (ANKLE), MARQUES COLSTONÂ (REST)
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